On Thursday, George Zimmerman filed suit against NBC News and three NBC producers he accuses of intentionally painting him as a racist. Zimmerman and his attorneys have now done what many in the new media only dream of doing, holding the major media responsible for their biased and misleading output.
The language in the complaint is blunt. It calls NBC's coverage "yellow journalism" and refers to "journalistic crimes." Most broadly, the complaint accuses NBC of trumping up a racism narrative for ratings, with a name check of the Today Show and Rev. Al Sharpton in particular. Here are some of the highlights or, if you prefer, the media's lowlights from the complaint:
- NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain. Their goal was simple: keep their viewers alarmed, and thus always watching, by menacing them with a reprehensible series of imaginary and exaggerated racist claims.
- NBC created this false and defamatory mis-impression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman's own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.
- Defendants pounced on the Zimmerman/Martin matter because they knew this tragedy could be, with proper sensationalizing and manipulation, a racial poweder keg that could result in months, if not years, of topics for their failing news programs, particularly the plummeting ratings for their ailing Today Show.
- The defendants media arson was ignited on March 19, 2012, when NBC and defendant [Jeff] Burside broadcast from Sanford, Florida the first manipulated audio of the call.
- Defendants' improper juxtaposition of unrelated dialogue between Zimmerman and the dispatcher was specifically done to imply that Zimmerman had a racist motive.
- Only after defendants' malicious acts were uncovered and exposed by other media outlets...did defendant NBC "apologize" and terminate some of those in its employ responsible for the yellow journalism identified in this Complaint.
- In addition to portraying Zimmerman as a racist via their manipulative editing, the defendants also falsely claimed, without any legitimate basis -- and in spite of what the Sanford police had concluded -- that Zimmerman also stated a "racial epithet" during the call.
- Only after other news and internet media identified these outrageous manipulations did NBC address them, with a sham "investigation" that attempted to sweep their yellow journalism -- intended to exacerbate racial tensions, at the expense of Zimmerman and the truth -- under the rug; NBC's President, Steve Capus, made a bogus non-apology that claimed the doctoring was merely a "mistake."
- All of the defendant's actions have substantially contributed to a media frenzy including rallies provoked by NBC personnel such as the Reverend Al Sharpton (and employee of NBC, who reported on his own rallies on behalf of NBC) and public misunderstanding which has caused severe damage to the plaintiff, including death threats and a bounty for his capture.
- Due to the defendants' journalistic crimes, Zimmerman has been transformed into one of the most hated men in America. Plaintiff seeks substantial compensatory and exemplary damages to punish the defendants for their outrageous fraud upon the public, designed to mislead our nation, create a national uproar, forever ostracize Zimmerman, and taint his jury pool, all to profit and attract attention to their television news programs.
is not mentioned in the complaint by name, nor is any other new media outlet that did excellent work on this story. However it's worth pointing out that we were part of the "internet media" that was on this from the beginning. In fact, this March 28th post
by Dan Riehl was the first major story on the misleading edit at the core of this lawsuit.