Based on history, most media watchers would probably expect NBC News to win the award for the most shameful coverage of George Zimmerman, the 29 year-old Florida man recently acquitted for the tragic shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. But an objective look at the coverage from major print, online, and broadcast outlets, makes clear that by a fairly safe margin, CNN is most deserving of this win.
Before we get to the nominating process, here is some crucial context and background:
On February 26, 2012, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman fatally shot 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Almost eighteen months later, a jury would unanimously acquit Zimmerman after his attorneys made a case that the shooting was an act of self-defense.
Zimmerman is Hispanic. Martin was black.
Under the mistaken impression (probably based on his last name) that Zimmerman was white, within a couple of weeks after the shooting, major media outlets begin to drive the story with a white versus black racial narrative.
The evidence that shows that the media mistakenly believed Zimmerman was white is convincing: On March 8, the Associated Press describes Zimmerman as “white.” March 13, NBC’s Al Sharpton hosts Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump on his primetime MSNBC show; Crump repeatedly refers to Zimmerman as “white.” That same day, Matt Gutman, the ABC News reporter covering the case for the network in Florida tweets that Trayvon was killed “bc [because] he was black.” March 19, CBS News falsely describes Zimmerman as white.
Apparently, sometime between March 19 and March 22, the media discovered Zimmerman is Hispanic.
The Media’s Dilemma
Once it was revealed Zimmerman is Hispanic, the media had a real problem on its hands. The white vs. black narrative was already in place. Sharpton was set to hold a high-profile rally in Florida on March 22; and In order to launch the story into the stratosphere, President Obama would — without a shred of evidence — inject race into the story the very next day, March 23.
In other words, this was already a runaway black vs. white train. But due to a lack of simple due diligence and fact-checking, the all-important “white” part was found missing — but only after it was too late.
What to do?
It was at this point that the media as a whole entered into an eighteen month push to prop up a fabricated white vs. black racial narrative. And before it was over, most every major news outlet in the country would sully themselves in some way to keep this manufactured reality alive.
But no outlet, not even NBC, would play as dirty or come out as tarnished as CNN.
Here, and in no particular order, are the six categories (and the winners in each) that led to CNN winning the award for Most Shameful Coverage of George Zimmerman:
1. Singling Out George Zimmerman for a Lack of Racial Purity
Due to the fact that a now-unstoppable black vs. white narrative train was already carrying the entire mainstream media, Al Sharpton, left-wing civil rights groups, and even the president of the United States, something had to be done to ensure it didn’t derail based on the inconvenient fact that Zimmerman is Hispanic.
Enter the term “white Hispanic.” The rationale…
Like Barack Obama, George Zimmerman has one white parent. Quite properly, the president has always been described as black for the simple reason that he is black. Historically and editorially, racial purity has never been an issue for the mainstream media when it comes to describing Hispanics, American Indians, blacks, Arabs, Asians, etc.
That didn’t matter, though, and the loophole the media came up with to deny Zimmerman his racial identity was that he failed a racial purity test. The white part of him would now be cynically amplified at every opportunity.
Though Zimmerman is as Hispanic as Obama is black, for the next eighteen months, various news outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, and CNN, would strip Zimmerman of his identity by making the previously unheard of editorial decision to describe him as a “white Hispanic,” or some variation of “self-described Hispanic.”
Thanks to a recent editorial by former CNN staffer Roland Martin, we now know that the network’s decision to focus on Zimmerman’s lack of racial purity was an institutional one — not a decision made on-the-fly by individual producers or anchors.
It is highly likely that the same institutional decision was made at other news outlets to use a racial purity loophole to artificially prop up the white vs. black narrative. For that reason, there is no clear winner in this category.
2. Fabricating Evidence Against George Zimmerman
Three major news outlets are responsible for violating basic editorial standards in order to frame George Zimmerman as a racist and/or murderer. The first network guilty of this was CNN.
On March 21, CNN falsely accused Zimmerman of using the racially explosive term “fucking coon” on a 911 call. Live, on the air, during Anderson Cooper’s primetime show, an audio expert listened to an unintelligible audio tape and incorrectly concluded Zimmerman had described Martin as a “fucking coon” just moments before he shot him.
This irresponsible and premature segment aired the very night before Al Sharpton’s high-profile rally in Florida.
After the audio was fully enhanced (something CNN obviously didn’t wait to do before falsely defaming Zimmerman), it became clear that Martin had either said “fucking cold” or “fucking punks.”
More than two weeks would pass before CNN would retract its falsehood.
On March 27, the “Today Show” would air audio of a 911 call that they had maliciously edited.
Here is what NBC broadcast:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
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.
After the fraudulent editing was discovered (first by Breitbart News), NBC News issued a full retraction and fired a number of the producers involved.
On March 28, ABC News proved themselves every bit as irresponsible as CNN by breaking a major story before the evidence was all in. Using surveillance video that hadn’t yet been fully enhanced, ABC claimed that “video taken the night that Trayvon Martin was shot dead shows no blood or bruises on George Zimmerman.”
This premature and completely false accusation would be retracted by ABC News four days later after a full enhancement of the video clearly showed lacerations on Zimmerman’s head.
Winner: CNN by a mile
Though Zimmerman and his attorneys have filed a lawsuit against NBC News for the malicious editing of the 911 tape, what CNN did is far worse.
NBC News was attempting to make Zimmerman look like a racial profiler. CNN, on the other hand, was attempting to make Zimmerman look like an enraged outright racist (there was no racial angle in ABC’s fraud). It also took CNN far longer to retract their story than either NBC or ABC.
Moreover, on its own airwaves, CNN would allow the complete fallacy that Zimmerman had said “fucking coon” to live on.
Which brings me to…
3. Outright Dishonesty
Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough room on the Internet to list all of the media dishonestly hurled at Zimmerman. To save time, rather than make a comparison, I will simply focus on the very worst of it, which undoubtedly came from CNN.
Nothing was more harmful to our country or to Zimmerman personally than the lie that race somehow was involved in this tragic shooting. Therefore, the worst of the media’s outright dishonesty came from their zeal to falsely prop up the false narrative that Zimmerman is racist or that race had anything to do with the shooting.
On two separate occasions (I’m aware of), even though CNN had retracted the falsehood back in 2012, the inflammatory lie that Zimmerman had described Martin as a “fucking coon” moments before shooting him was allowed to live on uncorrected during CNN broadcasts in July of 2013, when racial tensions were at their highest.
On July 16, 2013, on Erin Burnett’s primetime CNN show, guest Safiya Songhai claimed Zimmerman’s “on the tape saying F-ing coons.”
Burnett did not correct the record.
Even worse, however, is that three days earlier on the 13th, one of CNN’s own employees spread this lie. Nancy Grace falsely claimed Zimmerman said “fucking coon” during her HLN primetime show.
As far as I know, Grace has never corrected the record.
Again, the dishonesty throughout the media during this affair was everywhere, and at times staggering. But nothing I know of reached the heights of a cable news network intentionally allowing racial tensions to be enflamed by something they knew was an outright lie.
4. Phony Objectivity
It might be a little unfair to declare CNN the winner partly because of the fact that their phony objectivity is a 24/7 juggernaut, but there is more to condemn them than just that.
While ABC, CBS, NBC, the Washington Post , AP, etc. were all on the exact same dishonest narrative track in covering this case, they are not a 24/7 bullhorn across numerous media platforms. CNN is, and while it is true that MSNBC is not objective, unlike CNN, MSNBC does not pretend to be objective.
CNN, therefore, is far more sinister than MSNBC in how it disguises its leftism as objective truth. And when it came to the Zimmerman case, the network was especially toxic for all the reasons listed above.
There is, however, one CNN segment of outrageous bias that sticks out like no other.
Even if this particular segment had occurred on the openly left-wing MSNBC, it would have been worthy of note. But for it to happen on a network that advertises itself as “objective” made for an extraordinary thirty-minutes of television.
In 2012, and before there was a shred of proof race had anything to do with anything, President Obama injected race into the Martin shooting. His cynical goal was obvious: In a swing-state crucial to his upcoming reelection, Obama sought to turn a tragic local story into a national media obsession that would galvanize his Florida base via racial division
Post-verdict, what Obama did last week was even worse. After the trial and a thorough FBI investigation, the president knew that race had absolutely nothing to do with the shooting. Regardless, on July 19, the president made a surprise appearance in the White house briefing room and delivered the kind of racially divisive remarks unheard of from a sitting president in my lifetime.
CNN’s reaction from its “objective” anchor Brooke Baldwin and four “objective” analysts (Gloria Borger, Jessica Yellin, Sonny Hostin, and Candy Crowley) can only be described as orgasmic. The surreal segment is described in detail here.
The topper, though, was when “objective” CNN anchor Don Lemon joined the celebration by breaking down into tears.
5. Outright Racism
The mainstream media’s decision to single out George Zimmerman for his lack of racial purity was without question a shameful and bigoted act. But the only moment of outright virulent racism occurring in the mainstream media came from CNN’s Nancy Grace during her HLN primetime show.
With racial tensions at their peak as America awaited a verdict, a sneering Grace lashed out at the Hispanic Zimmerman with a racial tirade about him enjoying a life of “driving through Taco Bell every night, having churros” as Trayvon Martin lies dead.
In my two decades of watching the mainstream media, I have never once seen any media personality use this kind of open racism on the air. The fact that the rest of the media have ignored Grace’s statement is depressing. The fact that Grace still has a job is outrageous. The fact that neither CNN nor Grace have even acknowledged or apologized defies explanation.
In 2010, CNN fired Hispanic anchor Rick Sanchez for falsely accusing Jon Stewart of racism.
In 2013, a CNN anchor is using CNN’s own airwaves to hurl racism at a Hispanic, and there have been absolutely no consequences.
Winner: CNN not only wins this category, “The Most Trusted Name In News” stands alone.
6. Lies of Omission
The media almost made a game of not reporting proven facts inconvenient to their phony white vs. black racial narrative. This is a form of lying known as lying through omission. There are almost too many lies of omission to count, but let us focus on this:
George Zimmerman’s past indicates he is color blind. He has dated black women, tutored black children, once stood up for a black homeless man against the police (we’re told he so desperately wants to impress), has black relatives, and voted for the first black president.
Moreover, the investigative arm of Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the FBI, did an in-depth investigation into Zimmerman and found no evidence of racism in his past or the night of the shooting.
Every mainstream media outlet in America shamefully downplayed these facts.
Of these six categories, CNN tied in two and handily won four.
In a vast ocean of reprehensible media behavior surrounding the coverage of George Zimmerman, CNN — once one of the most respected and trusted news outlets in the world — stood alone as a bright, beaming lighthouse of falsehoods, racism, and fabrications.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC