Squeezing a Trayvon 'correction' out of the New York Times
Everyone in the media makes mistakes, and I am no exception. Last week, American Thinker posted an article of mine titled "Why the Washington Post Cannot 'Correct' Its Trayvon Tribute." The article was accurate in every single detail except for a rather major one — the offending party was the New York Times. We all agreed to pull the article pronto.
Once I recovered from my embarrassment, I asked the New York Times "corrections" department to address the mistakes in the print-video Trayvon tribute that the Times ran on February 26, the tenth anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death. The email read as follows:
Before listing the problems, let me establish my credentials to comment. I attended George Zimmerman's trial and wrote a book on the subject: If I Had a Son: Race, Guns, and the Railroading of George Zimmerman. I have since gotten to know George and his family well. In 2019, I edited Joel Gilbert's brilliantly researched book (and film), The Trayvon Hoax. I have a Ph.D. in American studies from Purdue.
Now for the problems:
Charles Blow tells us, “The contemporary civil rights movement unfolded directly in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin.” George Zimmerman was rightfully acquitted of murder. To launch a civil rights movement on a lie is a bad way to start one.
Barack Obama expressed his outrage at “the idea that this teenager who was walking down the street could be considered so threatening that a private citizen could initiate a confrontation resulting in that teenager’s death.”
Well, Trayvon wasn’t walking down the street. He was lurking in the shadows on a rainy night in a housing development plagued with break-ins and home invasions by young black men, and Zimmerman did not initiate the confrontation.
In the Times video, we hear George Zimmerman’s edited call to the dispatcher. What follows is the actual exchange:
GZ: Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh [near] Retreat View Circle. The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. 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.
SPD: Okay, and this guy, is he White, Black, or Hispanic?
GZ: He looks black.
Here is how the Times edited this exchange:
GZ: Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. He looks black.
The Times edited the call to make GZ look like a racist profiler. This was the first of two deceptive edits. When the dispatcher asked Zimmerman which way Trayvon was running, Zimmerman left the car “to maintain a visual.” Upon hearing the wind in the phone, the dispatcher asked:
SPD: Are you following him?
SPD: Okay. We don’t need you to do that.
The Times edited out Zimmerman's “okay,” all the better to preserve the fiction that GZ was stalking Trayvon. In fact, GZ stopped following Trayvon and looked for an address where he could meet the police who were on their way.
Writes Blow, "Martin was just 17 years old, a boy, and he was where he was supposed to be. He was unarmed. He was carrying Skittles and a can of iced tea."
No, Trayvon was not where he was supposed to be. He had been exiled to the townhome of his father’s new girlfriend in Sanford, Florida, after being suspended from school for the third time that school year and kicked out of his mother’s home. Having been caught with stolen jewelry and burglary tools, Trayvon avoided arrest under the same misguided policy that allowed Nikolas Cruz free to kill 17 of his Parkland high school classmates a few years later.
Zimmerman was right about Trayvon. He was high, and he was up to no good. He had gone to the 7-11 not on some innocent mission, but to buy some “blunts” and the makings -- Skittles, watermelon cooler -- of a drug concoction called “purple lean.”
This unarmed "boy" was an aspiring mixed martial artist nearly a half a foot taller than Zimmerman. Yet, in violation of all journalism standards, the Times only showed pictures of Trayvon as a little boy.
Trayvon had four minutes to run 100 yards to the townhome where he was staying. Instead, he circled back to the spot where Zimmerman was waiting for the police and sucker punched him. The only eyewitness, Jonathan Good, told the jury that he saw a “black man in a black hoodie on top of either a white guy... or an Hispanic guy in a red sweater on the ground yelling out help.” According to Good, the black man on top was “throwing down blows on the guy MMA style.” Trayvon pounded Zimmerman’s head for more than 40 seconds. A 911 call picked up Zimmerman’s screams. Losing consciousness, Zimmerman finally pulled out his pistol and shot Trayvon in the chest. The evidence for this scenario was irrefutable.
To compare Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till is disgraceful.
The case should never have come to trial. With the mob pressing hard, state authorities arrested Zimmerman only after attorney Benjamin Crump manufactured a “phone witness,” a grossly overweight and mentally challenged 19-year-old who claimed to be Trayvon’s “puppy love.” Gilbert found the real 16-year-old girlfriend. I would recommend Blow watch The Trayvon Hoax.
Zimmerman did not face not an “all-white” jury as the Times video claimed. One of the six jurors was an Afro-Puerto Rican. They acquitted Zimmerman because they heard and saw the evidence.
Although the Times chose not to share this info, Zimmerman was an Hispanic civil rights activist, the active mentor of two Black teens, and an Obama supporter.
I have never seen a more consequential story so grossly misreported. The Times has an opportunity here to tell the truth about what happened. That will take some courage. Happy to help or, if need be, shout out about this defamatory nonsense from the rooftops. I am not going to let this level of media malpractice pass.
I would prefer option A. Thanks for hearing me out.
To their credit, the editors got back to me promptly and said they would review my complaint. In retrospect, I was wishing the Post editors had gotten back to me when I emailed them and said, "Hey, numbnuts. We didn't run the piece you're b------ about," but they didn't.
Soon thereafter, I got an encouraging email from Times copy chief Jose Fidelino. It read: "Thank you for your message. I have forwarded your email to the video's editors to determine whether the dispatch call was edited inappropriately. They will delete and append a correction for the television commentator's mischaracterization of the jury's makeup."
I emailed Fidelino, "Jose, Thanks for getting back to me. Can you alert me when the changes are made. Of course, it would be nice if Charles Blow would retract his 'murder' comment." True to his word, Fidelino emailed me back a short time later, saying, "The video has been updated, and a correction has been added to the end."
I then received an email from Adam Ellick, the executive producer of Opinion Video at the Times: "This video was an Opinion analysis of an event and subsequent discussion and impact in society for years to follow, rather than additional news reporting on events that have been covered extensively."
Ellick continued: "Regarding your comment about the racial makeup of the jury, our video included a clip from news coverage at the time. To avoid misunderstanding by our audience, we have offered a correction to that matter and I appreciate you flagging it. On your comment regarding the 911 call, as is our standard, we conducted editing for time to encapsulate multiple lengthy calls that are only part of the overall story."
My foolish optimism fading, I sought out the "corrected" Trayvon tribute. I watched it all the way through the credits. Nothing had changed. (Still hasn't.) Zimmerman's exchange with the dispatcher remains almost criminally butchered.
Finally, after the credits, there appeared on screen this "correction": "An earlier version of this video included an audio file in which a television commentator mischaracterized the composition of a jury. It consisted of five white women and one woman of mixed race." That was it.
I emailed Ellick: "As much as I appreciate your quick response and understand your limited ability to make substantive changes, I have a hard time believing that that the editing out of Zimmerman's 'okay' to the dispatcher has anything to do with 'time to encapsulate.' Also, the 'mixed race' juror will probably be surprised to learn that she is now 'mixed race.'"
I included a video interview of that juror with the email.
I figured that it made no more sense for me to scold Ellick than it would to blame a Russian private for the Ukrainian invasion. Each is a cog in a corrupt machine, and I am not sure which machine is more dangerous. The New York Times once again lent its imprimatur to a recklessly dishonest narrative that has already resulted in thousands of needless deaths. The war in Ukraine will come to an end. The war in our streets... maybe never.
Image: Werth Media.