SEMINOLE COUNTY, FL (RNN) - George Zimmerman, the man charged with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has filed a lawsuit against NBC Universal, claiming the network portrayed him as "a racist and a predatory villain" in the wake of the shooting.
The suit, filed in Seminole County, FL, claims "NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings" and, in their coverage, created a "false and defamatory misimpression" of Zimmerman.
In a news report, NBC edited Zimmerman's 911 call to make it sound like he said to a dispatcher, "This guy [Martin] looks like he's up to no good. He looks black."
The actual exchange with a 911 operator went as follows:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he's up to no good, like he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's walking around, looking about.
911 Operator: OK, this guy, is he white, black or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
The suit cites four other instances where the call was allegedly doctored and aired and accuses the network of "manipulating Zimmerman's own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made."
NBC fired three people and issued an apology after an internal investigation into the edit, saying "it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret. We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers."
The suit names two terminated employees, plus a reporter still employed at NBC.
In response to the suit, a spokesperson for NBC told the Associated Press, "There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly. We intend to vigorously defend our position in court."
The suit doesn't specify damages sought.
Zimmerman faces second degree murder charges in the death of 17-year-old Martin.
In February, Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person - Martin, who was unarmed - walking through his gated Florida neighborhood.
The two reportedly got into a scuffle, and Zimmerman shot him at close range.
Martin supporters say he, as a black teenager, was the victim of racial profiling by an overzealous neighborhood watch captain.
Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, claims he was acting in self defense, citing Florida's Stand Your Ground law which allows someone to use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger.
When will people quit trusting NBC news? I stopped trusting them when I remember watching this report about GM trucks and then GM found out that NBC put explosives in the gas tanks:
Dateline NBC aired an investigative report on Tuesday, November 17, 1992, titled “Waiting to Explode”. The 60 minute program was about General Motors' Rounded-Line Chevrolet C/K-Series pickup trucks allegedly exploding upon impact during accidents due to the poor design of fuel tanks. Dateline's film showed a sample of a low speed accident with the fuel tank exploding. In reality, Dateline NBC producers had rigged the truck’s fuel tank with remotely controlled model rocket engines to initiate the explosion. The program did not disclose the fact that the accident was staged. GM hired Failure Analysis Associates (FaAA, now Exponent) whose investigators studied the film, and discovered that smoke actually came out of the fuel tank six frames before impact. Acting on a tip from someone involved in the Dateline crash test, FaAA investigators searched through 22 junkyards in Indiana before finding the charred wreckage of the GM pickups. It was also later revealed that the Dateline report had been dishonest about the fuel tanks rupturing and the alleged 30 mph speed at which the collision was conducted. The actual speed was found to be higher, around 40 mph, and after x-ray examination of the fuel tanks from the C/K pickups used in the televised collision, it was found that they had not ruptured and were intact. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation/libel lawsuit against NBC after conducting an extensive investigation. On Monday, February 8, 1993, GM conducted a highly publicized point-by-point rebuttal in the Product Exhibit Hall of the General Motors Building in Detroit that lasted nearly two hours after announcing the lawsuit. The lawsuit was settled the same week by NBC, and Jane Pauley read a 3 minute 30 second on-air apology to viewers.
The General Motors lawsuit and subsequent settlement was arguably the most devastating blow for NBC in a series of reputation damaging incidents during the 1990s and early 2000s. Within NBC, Michael Gartner, who resigned shortly after the incident, was the source for much of the blame. Then-NBC News President Reuven Frank stated Gartner was hired in 1988, despite no TV news background, in an attempt to satisfy parent-company General Electric by replacing current journalists with cheaper, less experienced reporters and producers.
The following Dateline NBC producers were dismissed: Jeff Diamond, executive producer; David Rummel, senior producer; and Robert Read, producer of the report on the pickups. Michele Gillen, the reporter involved in the segment, was transferred to Miami station WTVJ. Michael G. Gartner, president of the news division, resigned under pressure.