Morning Joe Won't Let Go of Zimmerman Racism Claims

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough penned an op-ed at Politico Sunday which takes a long-contested claim as fact—that George Zimmerman used racially-charged statements against Trayvon Martin.

After a jury found Zimmerman not guilty on second-degree murder or lesser charges, the "Morning Joe" host wrote that the Florida man escaped justice for a multitude of alleged sins:

I am angry that George Zimmerman could chase a teenager through his neighborhood, ignore a dispatcher’s pleas, make racially charged statements, provoke a confrontation with a young man armed only with Skittles, and pull the trigger that ended that teenager’s life, only to walk away without as much as a misdemeanor attached to his name. [emphasis added]

Though Scarborough did not enumerate these racial statements, the reference likely points to one of two incidents, both chronicled in a timeline of Zimmerman coverage from Breitbart News's John Nolte.

In March of 2012, CNN asserted Zimmerman had called Martin a “f---ing coon” in his 911 call shortly before the altercation which left Martin dead and Zimmerman seriously injured. Weeks later, the network retracted the report, after an audio specialist cleaned up the recording and concluded Zimmerman said "cold" instead of the alleged racial slur. 

The other possible accusation of racial insensitivity comes from an incident wherein Scarborough's employer NBC News edited Zimmerman's 911 audio in a way which critics suggested racial profiling. The edit made Zimmerman sound as though he connected Martin's ethnicity to his suspicious behavior when, in fact, a dispatcher asked him directly to describe Martin's race. As told by Nolte:

On the storied Today Show, NBC News told America Zimmerman said this on the 911 call:

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

When the truth is that the unedited audio actually went like this:

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.

...

Eventually, several NBC producers would be fired (without being named), and Zimmerman would file a lawsuit against NBC; it remains unresolved.

Scarborough's editorial opened with an indictment of "the vulgar state of American political culture," attacking conservative and progressive media for "hyperbolic political pronouncements on a judicial process that few of them knew anything about." 

He ended with an admonition for Republican politicians and pundits to change their ways, lest they experience political fallout over the Zimmerman case. 

"[I understand] why over 90 percent of African American voters have been voting against GOP presidential candidates for most of my life," Scarborough wrote. "Conservative commentary and GOP stand-your-ground laws only exacerbated that divide. If Republicans are to take back the White House anytime in the next generation, that reality has to change."


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