NBC Apologizes For Editing Zimmerman Tape

NBC has apologized after being criticized for an editing of the tape of George Zimmerman’s 911 call — an editing that made his comments sound more incriminating and racist. The editing was substantial and the network has said that it is investigating the matter, which constitutes a serious journalist ethical question.

The “Today” Show segment played this version of the call:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

However, here is the actual conversation:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

That is a considerable difference in how race was referenced in the call. One makes it sound like Zimmerman raised race when it was the dispatcher who raised race as an identification element in the call.

This does not mean that race was not a motivation or critical element in the shooting. However, as we have previously discussed, there is a growing concern over the objective reporting of the case. The NBC editing has served to reaffirm that concern for some. However, we do not know how or why the tape was edited. NBC should commit to the fullest possible disclosure on the progress of its investigation. With tensions so high, it is important for the media to present an objective and accurate account of such underlying evidence in the case.

Source: Washington Post

49 thoughts on “NBC Apologizes For Editing Zimmerman Tape

  1. ” which constitutes a serious journalist ethical question.”

    Holy Smokes!


    That journalist will be reporting about rubber dog shit exports in the Hong Kong Business Times!

  2. I wish I could understand the mindset that makes it OK to do this sort of thing. Certainly they couldn’t think that they would get a huge jump in ratings & ad revenue. Certainly they had to know this would be inflammatory. It boggles my tiny mind to see what would make a person do this.

    At least we can stop wondering why Americans are so ill informed about the world. Its not just the lemons at FAUX News or CNN, it seems its every one of these outfits that has no standard of decency, no sense of integrity no understanding of public responsibility.

  3. Wide Racial, Partisan Gaps in Reactions to Trayvon Martin Coverage
    Most Republicans See ‘Too Much’ Coverage
    Pew Research


    The Trayvon Martin shooting is the public’s top story for the second consecutive week. But interest in the teenager’s death is deeply divided along partisan, as well as racial, lines. These differences also are apparent in reactions to news coverage of the incident: Far more Republicans (56%) than Democrats (25%) say there has been too much coverage of Martin’s death.

    Too Much Coverage?
    Overall, 37% of the public say that news organizations are giving too much coverage to Martin’s death; about as many (40%) say the coverage has been about right. Just 14% say the story has gotten too little coverage.

  4. I watch MSNBC and I was only aware of the full, unedited version. So I had known from the very beginning that the dispatcher was the one who brought up the subject of Trayvon’s race.

    See how easy it is to ruin your reputation as a trusted news source?

  5. It was only done on ONE show because I heard on many other news programs the WHOLE conversation. So WHAT? It is NOT like FAUX news which actually fabricates news footate to make their points. What was posted was only news to me because I don’t watch Today very often.

  6. This story is hot enough without NBC adding fuel. An apology is in order as well as an explanation. Senstionalizing people’s tragedies serves nobody’s interests except those trying to exploit them. Bad form.

  7. Arthur:

    I understand your sentiment and your well-founded belief that this plays right into the hands of people who are looking for absolutely any reason to exonerate Zimmerman. And what better that alleging a media conspiracy to frame him? That said, it’s still important to call out a wrong where you see it, lest you be lumped in with those ideologues who explain every misdeed of Zimmerman as some innocuous or justifiable act. The mark of the zealot is one who refuses to see the other side’s point even as it stares him stark in the face. Conceding the obvious truth makes your credibility on the main subject stronger –not weaker– in the eyes of the disinterested observer.

  8. “mespo727272
    1, April 4, 2012 at 9:59 am
    This story is hot enough without NBC adding fuel. An apology is in order as well as an explanation. Senstionalizing people’s tragedies serves nobody’s interests except those trying to exploit them. Bad form.”

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!

    And here it can be revealed mespo is a quantum mechanical superposition of pot and kettle.

  9. Full apology. Give a list of sponsors to us on the day the fabrication was published. Employ a matrix which tells the viewer, when it is sound that something has been omitted. Same matrix when a video has been edited.
    Fire the boss of the employee who did it. Ask the network where they got their information that Zimmerman was a Night Watchman, or a Neighborhood Watchman, or a Neighborhood Watch Captain, or a Neighborhood Watch Commander. If some entitly appointed him to some such duty, paid or not, they are on the hook on the civil suit which needs to be filed as soon as possible. Their job is to dig for news, not edit that which is provided to them. ABC is worse.

  10. mespo727272
    1, April 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

    “it’s still important to call out a wrong where you see it, ”


  11. eniobob
    1, April 4, 2012 at 11:01 am
    1, April 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

    “it’s still important to call out a wrong where you see it, ”




  12. Wait on here kids. Zimmerman will not be charged, if charged he will be acquitted. You need to think of the homeowners insurance liability if convicted. I just can’t believe how stupid you are in wanting Zimmerman convicted.

    Insurance costs go up for everyone.

  13. If I own coon dogs, am I racist? What if I trained my blood hound to track coons, would that be wrong? What does one have to say in order to be racist?

    I am white, I live in Mississippi and I hunt. My boys call me coon. Am I supposed to be offended?

  14. In late 2010 and early 2011 George Zimmerman, the Hispanic Sanford, Fla., man who shot and killed 17-year-old black teen Trayvon Martin, publicly demanded discipline in a race-related beating case for at least two of the police officers who cleared him after the Feb. 26 altercation, according to records obtained by The Daily Caller.

    In a letter to Seminole County NAACP president Turner Clayton, a member of the Zimmerman family wrote that George was one of “very few” in Sanford who publicly condemned the “beating of the black homeless man Sherman Ware on Dec. 4, 2010, by the son of a Sanford police officer,” who is white.

    TheDC has confirmed the identity of the Zimmerman family member who wrote the letter but is withholding that person’s specific identity out of concern for the family’s safety.


  15. All of you who jumped on this as a racial thing should slap yourself in the face for being race baited by the media. FOOLS

    ” Every Sunday, according to his family, Zimmerman would stroll through Sanford’s black neighborhoods handing out the fliers demanding justice for Sherman Ware, and calling for the police to hold their own officials accountable. Zimmerman would also place the fliers on people’s cars outside churches.

    “I challenge you to stand together and to have our voices heard, and to hold accountable all of those officers, and officials whom let this atrocious attack pass unpunished until the media revealed it,” one of the fliers reads in part. “This animal could have attacked anyone of us, our children or loved ones in his alcohol fueled rage.”

    The officers whom Zimmerman targeted for accountability in the Sherman Ware incident were all cleared by the Seminole County Sheriff’s investigation, despite Zimmerman’s repeated accusations that police gave kid-glove treatment to a white officer’s son who beat a defenseless, homeless black man.”

  16. I for one am not going to let NBC try to sweep this under the rug, as the saying goes.

    Zimmerman now may have a case against NBC for a number of torts. And IMO NBC won’t be able to rely on a NY Times v. Sullivan defense because this was intentional editing, obviously done with malice toward Zimmerman, or at the minimum a reckless disregard for truth.

    And NBC, MSNBC, the audio editor who did this, and whoever ordered it up, they all might suffer federal obstruction of justice charges led federal investigators astray, wasted time, tainted potential jurors, tainted public perceptions toward Zimmerman, the police, city govt., and the prosecutors, and impeded state and federal criminal investigations.

    (In fact, I am sending a request to the Dept. of Justice to look into this matter and consider charges. And NBC trying to sweep this under the carpet it pathetic, and arguably further obstruction because the viewers it incited are not aware of this revelation.)

    NBC’s acts, because it is a respected news organization, improperly (and criminally) influenced the public’s perception of Zimmerman, fomented hatred toward him and added gasoline to the fire.

    It most certainly was not an “error” as NBC has now taken to characterizing. At the minimum it was reckless behavior. But it is intentional considering that editing audio takes a lot of work.

    Cutting words and phrases, then splicing them back together, in an effort to say what the talent wants the audio to say, that takes a specialist.

    Even if Zimmerman does not sue or criminal charges not brought, this has tainted NBC as a news organization.

    Sidenote: I have to wonder if some NBC or MSNBC talent ordered the editing. I can picture Al Sharpton or Lawrence O’Donnell telling the editors “We need something with more punch, something proving Zimmerman was targeting blacks. Is there anything in that 911 audio we can use?”

    To be sure, I can’t picture some editing engineer sitting in the basement thinking “I am going to edit this audio just for fun, after I clock out.” Nope, top people asked the sound people to do this, I suspect.

  17. The people working in the media are not trying to push any political point out of Idealogy. Or any point, political, racial or fashion…. Its all for sensationalism. If Fox thought pushing a liberal slant would get the old juices running in the populace Hannity and all the others would be selling tickets for special events for “Occupy” NBC does a splice job that is trying to push the argument and hold it in the news cycle longer than the limited span of attention of the couch monkeys. Do they care about what really happened????/ Gawd no.! But wait a min…. Lady Gaga may appear at a Los Angeles restaurant in a dress made of used condoms and then who will care about Zimmerman or Martin.
    The librul media!!! A conservative takeover of the media!!! Bah Humbug, I say and I meant it to sting.

  18. What reason could NBC have to do this? When did they do it? I rarely watch that show, but all I have ever seen on MSNBC is the correct, contextual version.

  19. Jonathan Turley said:

    “. . .there is a growing concern over the objective reporting of the case.”

    Mespo said:

    “The mark of the zealot is one who refuses to see the other side’s point even as it stares him stark in the face.”

    Cogent & timely truths, both.

    I see no possible way that ignoring truth improves our lot as a society.

  20. It is also interesting that overall the evidence keeps mounting to support why Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged. (And this certainly explains why Trayvon’s parents and even some of the MSNBC talent have backed off their aggressive posture on the case.)

    For example of purported “facts” that the media, especially MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz, and the Martin family lawyers have been caught manipulating:
    MSNBC Talent May Be Legally Blind

    Last Friday, March 30, ABC broadcasted the police dept. video showing Zimmerman arriving at the police dept. All night MSNBC talent played the video on an endless loop, saying how it PROVES Zimmerman is a liar because “as everyone can see, he has no injury to the back of his head.”

    And MSNBC also said that the video evidenced the police were liars, who said on arrival on scene said they saw Zimmerman bleeding and observed cuts on the back of his head.

    On the weekend ABC had experts digitally enhance the video (improve it) and on Monday, April 2, broadcasted that the back of Zimmerman’s head does in fact show signs of trauma.

    On Monday night, April 2, MSNBC talent, who in unison just three days earlier had branded Zimmerman a liar, did NOT cover or talk about the injuries evident to the back of Zimmerman’s hears, that could be seen from the ABC enhanced (clarified) video.
    The Invisible Lead Detective

    Moreover, there’s MSNBC’s repeated accusation against State Attorney Wolfinger, whom all of MSNBC talent said had a meeting with Sanford police and that he trumped the lead investigators desire to arrest Zimmerman for killing Trayvon. Turns out there was no such meeting and the lead detective said no such thing (nor ever suggested that Zimmerman be arrested and charged).

    I recorded MSNBC’ nightly lineup each referring to the “lead detective” being overruled by prosecutor Wolfinger. (Just on this basis alone Wolfinger may have a case against NBC since the broadcaster’s malicious acts subjected Wolfinger to severe scorn and ridicule. Google his name and you will see thousands of comments that pillory Wolfinger as a racist, or at the minimum incompetent.)

    Come to find out in a recent interview with the Florida Orlando Sentinel the Sanford Police Chief (Lee) disclosed certain details of the investigation.

    At that interview lead detective Serino (yes, that’s the lead detective MSNBC talent kept referring to) told the Sentinel that his investigation “TURNED UP NO RELIABLE EVIDENCE THAT CAST DOUBT on Zimmerman’s account that HE ACTED IN SELF-DEFENSE.”

    In other words, the media was lying, as well as Crump, the Martins’ attorney who when asking the Dept. of Justice step in told the Department that lead detective Serino wanted Zimmerman prosecuted and in a meeting with the state attorney (Wolfinger) he told Serino to back off.

    The (phantom) lead investigator coverage alone has caused many to accuse the police department, prosecutors and courts to be racists and corrupt, guilty of a cover-up.
    Here Does Not Come Da Judge

    Many people heard from media that Zimmerman’s dad is a Judge with connections at the Sanford PD and prosecutor’s office. Even this was a media lie, as was obvious that the media had no evidence to back up their innuendo.

    “Robert J. Zimmerman” served in Virgina state as a full-time magistrate from 2000-2006. In Virginia magistrates are “judicial officers,” they are not considered judges, and have few judicial powers.

    The point is, the media’s spin on this is a lie too, or at best lousy reporting, implying that the police and prosecutors are marching to “Judge” Zimmerman’s tune and that they are all in cahoots.
    Slippery Slide Shows

    The media, and especially MSNBC, looping slideshows showing a cherubic, angelic Trayvon, some pics of him from seven to ten years earlier. Showing those against Zimmerman’s mug shot from a 2005 arrest.

    The media, and especially MSNBC, have not shown even the pics that Trayvon Martin posted on his social websites, a few showing Trayvon shirtless, one of his tattooed left arm, indicating the two tattoos took up most of his arm, and two showing off his “rail” of gold teeth, taking up the entire low part of his mouth. The media also fails to show any pics depicting

    I also find it interesting that the pics the media are looping on their broadcasts were supplied “By The Trayvon Martin Family” (actually their PR machine, tasked with shaping Trayvon as an innocent little child who was shot that night). No one in the media, no doubt out of fear of being accused as being racists, has produced an artist rendering, for example, of what a 6′ 2″ Trayvon Martin looked like that night.
    Comment Copyright © 1996-2012 Second Chair Publications, Business Litigation Group. All rights reserved.

  21. I think Zimmerman’s own 911 call is enough evidence to question his claim to self-defense. The Martin’s have always said this was a case of right and wrong, not black and white. Zimmerman had his wounds cleaned up in the police car and was then taken to the station. Had his head wound indicated any amount of severe trauma, paramedics would have routinely taken him to the hospital to be monitored for possible concussion. That didn’t happen.

  22. ItsMichaelnotMike,

    Jeez. Where were you when Breitbart was working? Are you similarly outraged when Obama is called a Muslim? Do you happen to be working on the legitimancy of his birth certificate? Please leave a contact number. We’ll be able to keep you very busy making sure things are not swept under the rug during the coming months.

  23. Curious… thanks for the thoughtful, detailed retort and analysis.

    Sidenote: Don’t even get me started on Oily Taitz.

    Bonus Comment: I did express exception (not really “outrage,” as you describe) in 2008 when the line of attack, stoked by Palin, was “Obama is a Muslim.” And I was going to say that was then, this is now, but it is sad and pathetic to see the GOP and teabaggers resurrecting that worn out strategy.

  24. Curious… I also have immense respect for Mr. Turley and can’t think of a better place to post my (admittedly long-winded) comments about the Zimmerman – Martin controversy.

    I am vocal because I don’t like it when someone the likes of Lawrence O’Donnell, an individual motivated by personal agenda and interests, slanders the reputation of law enforcement, specifically the police and prosecutors. It is disgraceful (and probably actionable) the way O’Donnell has attacked, derided, and belittled a prosecutor at the twilight of a distinguished career in law enforcement.

    While O’Donnell appears to fancy himself as the self-appointed prosecutor in the court of public opinion, dishing out what he thinks is a brilliant cross-examination to where in Perry Mason fashion one will confess on his show, he has evidenced that he is a hack, from the same gene pool as Nancy Grace.

  25. “he has evidenced that he is a hack, from the same gene pool as Nancy Grace.”


    Harsh. True. But harsh.

  26. “I am white, I live in Mississippi and I hunt. My boys call me coon. Am I supposed to be offended?”

    I guess that all depends, has it traditionally been used to insult, intimidate, and dehumanize you and others who look like you? If so, then I’m guessing you should be.

  27. DigitalDave
    1, April 4, 2012 at 9:58 am
    Obviously NBC should have gotten their video from Andrew Breitbart.

    they’d have to do a little digging to get that story

  28. Maybe someone should hold NBC and the rest of the race baiters liable for fueling hate.

    Shortly following Rev Al Sharpton’s Anti-George Zimmerman rally in Sanford, FL, two Sanford teens, enraged by hate and racism at the rally, decided to burglarize, terrorize and beat a white man to near death with a hammer. Following a rush to judgement by the media and black civil rights leaders as well as Black Panther thugs in the Trayvon Martin case, irresponsible individuals such as Al Sharpton began staging rallies with a false racist narrative that included angry and divisive comments and distorted news conferences. Many race-baiters such as Jessie Jackson, Luis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Spike Lee, New Black Panthers and Barack Obama, have succeeded in increasing already tense race relations in America.


  29. Six juveniles — the youngest 11, and the oldest 17 — nearly boxed in Dallas Watts, a 78-year-old man from East Toledo.

    Mr. Watts was on his way home from the nearby Gas Express Mart at Starr Avenue and White Street about 4:45 p.m. Saturday when the boys approached him.

    One pointed at Mr. Watts and said, “take him down,” the victim recounted in an interview Monday.

    Mr. Watts, carrying home two small bags of pork rinds to dole out as treats to his three dachshunds, looked at the youth and said, “Why you picking on me?” Mr. Watts recalled. “Remember Trayvon. Why you picking on me?”

    Man, 78, recounts assault by 6 youths in E. Toledo


  30. rippleton: Had his head wound indicated any amount of severe trauma, paramedics would have routinely taken him to the hospital to be monitored for possible concussion. That didn’t happen.

    right, any head wound, no matter how minor is treated as possible trauma, the fact that whatever treatment he received, he received in the back of a squad car should tell anyone with common sense that there was no head wound at all unless it was a scratch or something else minor.

    I’ve had head wounds before

    why, yes that may explain some things why do you ask?

  31. oh yeah screw NBC. race baiting sensationalists, wonder what Edwin Newman or Chet Huntley would think

  32. This does not mean that race was not a motivation or critical element in the shooting.

    No it doesn’t. However no evidence has shown that race was any motivation or critical element. Race has only been an element of the reaction to the shooting.

  33. We have a certain expectation that major networks, at least, would get the story right. What can we believe now that we know they doctor the news to get a certain response from their viewing audience? Edward R. Murrow has just rolled over in his grave.

  34. NBC Fires Producer of Misleading Zimmerman Tape

    NBC News has fired a producer who was involved in the production of a misleading segment about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

    The person was fired on Thursday, according to two people with direct knowledge of the disciplinary action who declined to be identified discussing internal company matters. They also declined to name the fired producer. A spokeswoman for NBC News declined to comment.


  35. Ah… here we are on September 4, 2012. What can I say except this is the most bizarre case I have ever had the DISPLEASURE to observe. (And during the OJ murder trial I had then-CourtTV cable fed to my office, where I could watch every moment of that circus and witness the spectacle.)

    Anyway, I thought this NBC filth was the worst it could get. Then Angela Corey-Nifong called Harvard Law School and spent 40 minutes on the phone threatening the School with a defamation lawsuit, and to attempt having Alan Dershowitz disbarred. All of this because she did not like Alan talking smack about her and the State’s bogus 2nd degree murder charging document.

    Not to disappoint a gawking audience and stunned legal community, Judge Lester decides to reenact the legend of Judge Roy Bean, not in a school drama as a favor to his kids, but from the bench on the Zimmerman case.

    Oy vey! Well, at least I was right on one thing, that the FL appeals court would try to salvage the remaining pieces of Florida’s trashed reputation by kicking Judge Lester off the case.

    *end update*

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