In a statement to Reuters, Steve Capus, President of NBC’s news division, said that the decision to air the sliced-and-diced version of the George Zimmerman phone call to the police just before he shot Trayvon Martin was “a mistake and not a deliberate act to misrepresent the phone call.”
In case you missed it, not only was a misleading edit aired on NBC News, here is what appeared in print under the “msnbc.com staff and NBC News” byline two weeks ago:
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good… he looks black,” Zimmerman told a police dispatcher from his car. His father has said that Zimmerman is Hispanic, grew up in a multiracial family, and is not racist.
And here is the actual transcript of the Zimmerman phone call:
ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good, [begin NBC ellipsis] or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
911 DISPATCHER: Okay, is this guy, is he white, black, or Hispanic? [end NBC ellipsis]
ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.
Capus suggests that it was merely a convenient coincidence that the edit was cut in such a way as to make George Zimmerman seem like a bona-fide dyed-in-the-wool racist. It’s the height of intellectual dishonesty.
Capus also said that the network “takes its responsibility seriously,” which he clearly demonstrated by scapegoating one single producer–whom he refuses to name.
For the President of the NBC News team to suggest that this edit was anything but deliberate is arrogant beyond belief, but it comes as no surprise in light of the way NBC has handled Editgate thus far. First, it took over a week for even one anonymous scapegoat’s head to roll, and they rolled it on a Friday night–heading into a (double!) holiday weekend to minimize coverage of the scandal.
If it was the fault of only the one producer (which is unlikely within a network of that size, especially considering that the mistake was repeated in print), then that person is free to get another job race-baiting and corrupting potential jury pools elsewhere without the public ever knowing his/her name. And if it’s the fault of multiple people or an executive, NBC has demonstrated that it does not consider the act of publicly smearing a man as a racist (the most serious charge in American life) a fire-able offense and worthy of public condemnation.
And let’s not forget, this edit didn’t occur on blatantly biased MSNBC; it happened on the vaunted “TODAY Show.”
My colleague John Nolte put it best:
Either [an NBC executive] needs to be fired for putting a wildly irresponsible system in place, or a whole bunch of people need to be fired for allowing this travesty to skim through.
Simply put, Capus and NBC refuse to come clean as to how this edit occurred, and their credibility continues to deteriorate with each dishonest statement they release.
But with an intellectually dishonest person like Steve Capus at the helm, it’s easy to see why the network has a crisis on its hands.
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