The Washington Post is trying to help its sister-Obama-outlet NBC News in its battle with George Zimmerman, the security guard who shot Trayvon Martin. Last week Zimmerman filed suit against NBC Universal alleging that when NBC News mis-edited the 911 call he made before Martin was shot, he was defamed because it looked as though he uttered racial remarks.
The Post argues that Zimmerman should be judged as a public figure, not a private one, which would make his case for defamation much harder to prove. The evidence the post uses to support its claim is absurd.
The Post asserts that Zimmerman was a public figure at the time of the mis-edited 911 call because he had appeared on Sean Hannity’s TV show. The Post whines that even though Zimmerman was a private figure before the shooting, that doesn’t count:
The Supreme Court has ruled that people who “thrust” themselves into the “vortex” of a public issue or dispute can become public figures for the purposes of defamation law, and thus create obstacles for themselves when it comes to filing a libel complaint.
The newspaper quotes Chuck Tobin, an attorney with experience in litigation involving defamation, asserting that Zimmerman’s appearance on Hannity’s show as well as Zimmerman’s use of a website of his own qualifies him as a public figure. Tobin argues, “There’s a very strong case to be made that he’s a public figure.”
James Beasley, Zimmerman’s attorney, disagreed: “Defendants [media outlets] try to make everyone a public figure…The press can’t create a monster and then say because this person’s now out, he’s a public figure.”
And here’s the kicker that makes the Post’s claims ridiculous: the NBC mis-edits occurred in late March; Zimmerman didn’t appear on Hannity until months later.
Zimmerman went on TV to fight the slurs against him, not to become a public figure. No matter how hard the Post spins for NBC, the news network should be taken to the cleaners – both morally and financially.