George Zimmerman sues NBC and other individuals for defamation

Zimmerman with bloody nose on night of the shooting of Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman has sued NBC and three of its reporters, Ron Allen, Jeff Burnside and Lilia Rodriguez Luciano. The suit is filed in Seminole County, Florida. The suit is based on the two causes of action: Defamation and Intentional Affliction of Emotional Distress. The main acts of the defendants of which Zimmerman complains are their manipulation of the 911 audio tape made when Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious person walking around in neighborhood. The complaint can be viewed here.

Breitbart Big Journalism was part of the internet media that did excellent reporting of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case from the beginning, and has selected 10 paragraphs from the complaint that pretty well set forth why Zimmerman is suing NBC and its reporters.  Here are those paragraphs taken directly from the complaint on file with the court:

1. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

7. 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.

10. Defendants’ improper juxtaposition of unrelated dialogue between Zimmerman and the dispatcher was specifically done to imply that Zimmerman had a racist motive.

20. 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.

53. 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.

69. 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.”

72. 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.

75. 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.

The worst thing one can be called in America in these times is to be called a racist.  A false claim that one is a racist should therefore constitute an aggravated form of defamation.  Nevertheless, Zimmerman should not be forced to prove his case against NBC under the Sullivan v. New York Times rule because until NBC slandered and defamed him he was not a public figure.  He still may not be because the widespread name recognition he now has is not of his own doing.

Even were Zimmerman required to prove his case under the Sullivan rule, he’d still have a good case, in my view, because of the way NBC doctored the 911 tape to make Zimmerman appear to be a racist.  It’s high time in America that those who make false and inflammatory accusations of racism be held to account for their malicious conduct.

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