It’s bad enough to see the media make assumptions in advance of the facts. What is so depressing about the coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting is the extent to which the media made assumptions not only before the facts were available but in spite of contradictory evidence that was already available.
The 911 call George Zimmerman made on the night of Martin’s death is perhaps the most crucial piece of evidence cited by the media to drive the narrative that Zimmerman attacked Martin. Yet listening to reporters and talking heads discuss the case, it is as though not a single one of them has ever bothered to listen to the full call. In fact, as Breitbart.com has already revealed, NBC deceptively edited the tape of the 911 call to make it look like Zimmerman was motivated by racial animosity or bias, something that has been widely reported as factual from the beginning.
To this day, even relatively responsible journalists and commentators begin their commentary by saying things like, “There is a lot about the Martin shooting we don’t know, but what we do know is Zimmerman continued following Martin even after the police told him to stop.” The original story, still maintained by various CNN analysts, was even worse: that Zimmerman hunted down and murdered Martin in cold blood.
I have no idea where this assertion of fact could possibly have come from, but it is absolutely universal. Even now, pundits on every channel maintain that Zimmerman disobeyed a police order (though it wasn’t even an order) and continued chasing Martin. Zimmerman’s story from the beginning to police and to the media has been that he stopped following when the dispatcher told him to. There have been no witness statements to the contrary. For that matter, there are no witnesses claiming to have seen what happened before the physical altercation took place. But what does the 911 tape tell us?
From the call released by the Sanford Police:
At 2:07, Zimmerman tells the dispatcher, “He’s running.”
At 2:09, you can hear a car door open and an alarm begins that is undoubtedly the “door open, keys in ignition” warning on Zimmerman’s truck.
At 2:13, you can clearly hear the car door slamming shut, and the alarm stops.
At 2:17, Zimmerman’s voice wobbles and he starts breathing heavily into the phone, indicating that he has started running.
At 2:22, without any prompting other than the aforementioned noises and breathing, the dispatcher asks “Are you following him?” to which Zimmerman responds, “Yeah.”
At 2:26, the dispatcher says, “Okay, we don’t need you to do that,” to which Zimmerman responds, “Okay.”
Zimmerman proceeds to give the dispatcher his name. Then he says, “He ran.”
Zimmerman can still be heard breathing into the phone until about 2:39, at which point the heavy breathing stops entirely, a mere 13 seconds after the dispatcher asked him to stop following. A very calm and collected Zimmerman then proceeds to give the dispatcher his own information, directions and a description of his location for another 1 minute and 33 seconds.
The difference between someone running while on the phone and not running can be heard quite clearly, and I encourage readers to listen for themselves.
There’s another reason to believe that Zimmerman stopped following Martin: After he gives the dispatcher his personal address, at 3:35, he says, “Oh crap, I don’t want to give that all out. I don’t know where this kid is,” meaning he is worried Martin might hear where he lives. If Zimmerman doesn’t even know where Martin is, would it even be possible for him to still be following Martin at this point? Would it even be possible for him to have continued following Martin after hanging up the phone — a full two minutes after he first got out of his car and a minute and a half after he fully stops breathing heavily — unless Martin came back and revealed himself?
It was a mistake for Zimmerman to leave his car in the first place. But while the audio may not decisively prove that Zimmerman stopped following Martin when the dispatcher asked him to, it is very strong evidence that he did, especially when coupled with his testimony to police the night of the incident. But that isn’t even the point.
The point is this: With no witnesses stating that Zimmerman defied the dispatcher’s wishes and continued following Martin and no evidence to suggest he did, how did the idea that he pursued Martin after the dispatcher told him not to become a universally recognized, undisputed fact?
That it did is a testament to Al Sharpton’s ability to manipulate the media — and the media’s willingness to be manipulated.
Simon Templar planned and executed the NPR sting published by The Daily Caller in March 2011, along with Shaughn Adeleye.