Melissa Harris-Perry, a weekend host at MSNBC, said at a recent event at Cornell University that she hoped Trayvon Martin “whooped the shit” out of George Zimmerman during their fatal 2012 encounter in Sanford, Fla.
Harris-Perry made the remarks at a Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration speech at Cornell on Monday during a talk titled “We Can’t Breathe: The Continuing Consequences of Inequality.”
“I hope he tried to stay alive,” Harris-Perry said of Martin, who was 17 years old when Zimmerman shot him after being assaulted.
“I hope he knew that he lived in a state with a ‘stand your ground’ law. I hope he whooped the shit out of George Zimmerman.”
“He encountered a stranger who was prepared to kill him,” Harris-Perry continued. “You know how I know? Because he killed him.”
Harris-Perry’s remarks came a day before the Justice Department announced that it will not press federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman in the case. The federal investigation began shortly after the shooting as many believed that Zimmerman, who is half-Hispanic, targeted Martin because he was black.
Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in July 2013.
Harris-Perry’s remarks asserting that Martin was an aggressor stand in stark contrast to widespread claims Martin supporters made to the contrary as the case developed. It was initially claimed that Zimmerman followed Martin for no reason and shot him in cold blood. And even after evidence emerged that Martin assaulted Zimmerman and was straddling him and punching him in the face, many supporters denied that Martin was aggressive.
Harris-Perry’s also erred in her claim that “stand your ground” — a law which allows citizens to use deadly force in the face of an imminent threat without having to retreat — had anything to do with the case. Zimmerman never used that defense during trial. He claimed simple self-defense, based on evidence which showed that Zimmerman was on his back on the ground with Martin on top of him when he fired the fatal shot.
According to The Cornell Review, which published video from Harris-Perry’s talk, she also quipped that “We think of [Martin Luther] King as the one great voice, like Beyonce.”
“What would Dr. King, a pacifist, think of those who champion violence in his commemoration?” asked Cornell Review’s Casey Breznik.