NBC completed its internal investigation into why the middle of the audio of George Zimmerman’s 911 call was edited out, making him sound like a racist. To recap, here is what was on the recording:
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.
And here’s the version played on NBC, MSNBC, and posted on the MSNBC website:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
This was no boating accident: this was the Great White shark of intentional news media misrepresentation and tape doctoring, in the middle of a racially charged incident, with one man dead and his killer being subjected to credible death threats, and irresponsible demagogues accusing him of a hate crime. This could not have been accidental, but if by some miracle it was, NBC is under an obligation to explain how it could have happened, though such an explanation would probably look like the famous photo of loyal Nixon secretary Rosemary Woods gamely showing reporters how she “inadvertently” erased a key 18 minute segment of the incriminating Watergate tapes.
But no. Here is the complete text of NBC’s announcement following its inquiry:
“During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret. We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.”
Would NBC ever accept such a whitewash from a politician or a corporate executive after a scandal of similar proportions? Well, maybe if the politician was President Obama, but generally, no. By intentionally attempting to color public perception of George Zimmerman by doctoring evidence and representing it as accurate, NBC stopped being a reporter of the Trayvon Martin death and became a participant in it.
It had already allowed its broadcast personnel to do this, by standing by as Rev. Al Sharpton to simultaneously leads rallies during the day and reports on the story on MSNBC at night, but this conflict of interest is even worse that Sharpton’s. NBC has a duty as a news organization to report on this historic episode in which a major U.S. network lied to its audience to fuel a lynch mob. But if it does so, and evidence that the sinister editing was not the work of a technician possessed by the demon Pazuzu but rather the result of inadequate controls and oversight at the network, or worse, ideologically motivated deception by NBC officials, NBC will have simultaneously destroyed its reputation and handed George Zimmerman a massive libel suit verdict.
The result: weasel words and a cover-up. There was also, you will note, no apology to the man NBC smeared, George Zimmerman. At the Washington Post, Eric Wemple writes, “In light of all that’s happened, Zimmerman may be a tough person for a news network to apologize to, but that’s just the point: Apologies are hard.” Wait a minute: what’s “in light of all that’s happened” have to do with anything? NBC is supposed to be objective and neutral, and fair to everyone on all sides of a story. Why does NBC, as a professional news organization, have any feelings about Zimmerman, and why should they make an apology “hard” when NBC is the party that violated core ethical principles to intentionally make him look guilty, to inflame activists, some of whom want to kill him, and to mislead its own audience and the public at large? “In light of all that’s happened” Zimmerman would be justified to throw NBC’s apology back it its peacock face.
If American journalism had any remaining integrity, the other networks and investigative reporters from newspapers far and wide would be independently investigating their corrupt colleagues at NBC, and find out when NBC knew it was using a fake transcript and recording, and how they made it onto television and the internet.
And I have to ask: now are all those liberal defenders of the mainstream news media’s objectivity willing to admit that the it has become untrustworthy and biased to a frightening degree? When Shirley Sherrod sued Andrew Breitbart for deceptively presenting the middle of a speech she gave to the NAACP, where she admitted discriminating against a white man, but leaving out the end, where she talked about her realization it isn’t race but class that matters, the episode was cited as proof of the conservative media’s dishonesty and bias. (I never trusted Breitbart’s websites again.) The editing done by NBC was much, much worse, and this wasn’t an admittedly ideologically driven website, but NBC, a pioneer and icon in broadcast journalism.
Go ahead…tell me that this isn’t symptomatic of the lack of ethics and fairness in today’s journalism. Tell me that what NBC did couldn’t just as plausibly have been done by any of the networks. Tell me that NBC’s brethren aren’t going to let the network get away with its vague, protective, lawyer-drafted cover-up. Tell me that the American journalistic establishment doesn’t routinely slant and manipulate its news to appeal to the biases of its imagined audience and the political views of its reporters and editors.
You can tell me, but I won’t believe you.