George Zimmerman Considering Defamation Lawsuit Against NBC
George Zimmerman is considering suing NBC for defamation. He is accused of murdering Trayvon Martin in February. NBC aired an edited version of the 911 phone call Zimmerman made during the incident. In the unedited version, the dispatcher is heard asking Zimmerman to identify Martin as white, black or Hispanic. Zimmerman answered, “He looks black.” NBC cut out the dispatcher’s question, making it seem like Zimmerman stated in sequence, “This guy looks like he is up to no good. He looks black.”
Martin’s death quickly garnered national attention and Zimmerman was branded as a racist by much of the media for shooting the unarmed teen. Days after airing the unedited tape, NBC issued an apology, but Zimmerman
and his attorney may try to argue that it caused his reputation damage.
To prove defamation, Zimmerman could have to prove that the video was false, that it damaged his name, that he had a good name to damage, and NBC knew it was false or acted recklessly. These requirements only apply if he is a public figure. Legal analysts Lis Wiehl and Mercedes Colwin agree that Zimmerman is a public figure, albeit an involuntary one.
Wiehl said, “NBC will respond that it wasn’t actual malice, it was an editor’s error … [an] honest mistake.”