Part 3—Carr averts his gaze: What sorts of lessons can we learn from the killing of Trayvon Martin?
Even without fully knowing the facts, we can perhaps agree on these points:
If you go to Target at 7 PM, you might think twice about bringing a gun. If you see someone you think is suspicious and you call the police, you might think twice about attempting to follow this person yourself.
Here’s a third lesson we might learn from this incident: Police departments play very key roles in our communities. If you listen to the six or seven 911 calls which were made on the night of the killing, you hear deeply concerned ear-witness citizens being assured that the police were on the way to the scene.
You can hear these people's sense of relief when they see, or when they are told, that police have arrived on the scene.
People rely on the work of police. For that reason, police departments should be held to professional standards. But then too, police departments shouldn’t be recklessly slandered, even if it helps corporate entities and their overpaid hirelings build their cable ratings.
With that in mind, let’s consider the way MSNBC has reported on the work of the Sanford police. This is part of this channel’s “aggressive coverage of the incident,” as described by David Carr, the New York Times’ train wreck of a media columnist.
Has MSNBC presented “aggressive” coverage of this tragic, important event? Or might some other term apply? With respect to the work of the Sanford police, MSNBC personnel and guests have made these charges:
For weeks, MSNBC viewers were told that the Sanford police let George Zimmerman “walk away with his gun” on the night of the shooting. By now, it seems quite clear that this inflammatory charge was false.
For weeks, MSNBC viewers were told that the Sanford police didn’t collect Zimmerman’s clothing for forensic analysis. No one is making this claim any more—and the Orlando Sentinel has reported that this claim was false.
Did Sanford police take crime scene photos, including photos of Zimmerman’s possible injuries? For weeks, viewers were told that this didn’t occur. No one is making this claim any more. We’ll guess that this claim was false.
At Salon, MSNBC contributor Joan Walsh told us rubes that the Sanford police didn’t even take Zimmerman down to the station. By now, everyone knows this ludicrous statement was false—though Walsh’s piece at Salon still bears no correction.
These points barely scratch the surface of the disgrace this channel has authored. At MSNBC, viewers heard weeks of false, inflammatory charges about the work of the Sanford police. These claims were part of a thrilling crime novel, in which the cracker-laden Sanford police didn’t care if the son of a former Virginia magistrate shot a black teen-ager.
Nothing would stop this channel’s hacks from extending their thrilling crime novel. At one point, the channel began reporting that the lead investigator at the scene, Chris Serino, had wanted to charge Zimmerman with a crime on the night of the shooting. This created an obvious logical problem: If the lead investigator viewed the matter this way, why would he have led a bogus investigation?
This contradiction would have occurred to a distracted six-year-old child. But it didn’t occur to the corporate hacks who pimp their manifest bullshit on The One True Liberal Channel. These circus performers simply continued extending their novel, offering all manner of “evidence” to support their exciting narrative.
Logic plays no role in such novels. When the case was handed to Angela Corey, Florida’s craziest prosecutor, it took her a full three weeks to file a criminal charge against Zimmerman. But on MSNBC, the novelists continue to rail against the fact that the Sanford police didn’t charge Zimmerman with a crime on the very first night. By the way: Who made that initial decision? What role was played by the Sanford police? We still have no clear idea about that—in party because we watch this channel, a channel which has made no effort to sort out this obvious question.
On Monday night, Charles Blow finally jumped the land shark in the attempt to craft this novel. Speaking with the dim-witted Lawrence O’Donnell, Blow lodged two new complaints against the Sanford police: They wiped their feet on a mat when they took Zimmerman down to the station! And someone leaned against a wall! (No, we really aren't making this up. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/24/12.)
We don’t understand those claims either. But Blow actually lodged them—and O’Donnell thanked him for his service, telling him that he had presented “a perfect summary of where we stand.”
This is part of this disgraceful channel’s coverage of the Sanford police. Concerning their coverage of Zimmerman himself, consider a recent development:
Last Friday, ABC News released a photograph taken at the scene of the shooting. It shows the back of Zimmerman’s head, which was awash in blood. (To see the photo, click here.)
How much does this photo tell us about Zimmerman’s apparent injuries? We have no idea.
It’s commonly said that head wounds bleed a great deal. Not being medical experts ourselves, we can’t assess the medical meaning of this photo. But the photograph makes one thing clear; Zimmerman did seem to sustain some sort of injury to the back of his head that night.
Unless you’re watching Sharpton or O’Donnell on MSNBC. In that case, this new photograph doesn’t exist!
Sad, ain’t it? For weeks, viewers of these cable “news” programs were told that Zimmerman may not have sustained any injuries at all. Below, we see Sharpton speaking with Lawyer Crump, one night before the original, grainy videotape from the Sanford police station was released.
(For the record, Crump is not an invention of Charles Dickens, although his name, his words and his demeanor may sometimes convey that impression.)
Warning! Many of Sharpton’s factual claims in this passage seem to be false. But you can see the thrust of his claims regarding Zimmerman’s alleged injuries:
SHARPTON (3/28/12): Let me ask you this, something that doesn’t make sense to me. We’re told that the Zimmerman side of the story was that he was beaten, his head was being crashed by Trayvon and that his nose was broken.None whatsoever! In such conversations, Sharpton’s viewers were encouraged to think that there may have been no injuries at all—that the Sanford police may have invented the claim of injuries after the fact.
Wouldn’t you think if the state prosecutor was there that night that they would have made him go to the hospital to document that he had a broken nose and these bruises? Isn’t it strange that if the prosecutor was there, the police chief was there, chief investigator was there, that they didn’t make this young man go to the hospital and document his wounds, or document his injuries?
And also, if he had those amounts of injuries, how clear-headed was he to give a statement that would convince them that it was all self-defense and that he, in fact, had done no wrong? I mean, a lot of this just does not add up to me.
CRUMP: And you’re right, Reverend Sharpton. It doesn’t add up. And it’s one of those things that you would think if he was as injured as they claimed in this second police report, because you remember in the first police report, they didn`t put any of that in there. And–
SHARPTON: There were no injuries mentioned in the first police report, am I correct?
CRUMP: None whatsoever, Reverend Sharpton.
That was a very serious charge. It was also profoundly irresponsible, like so much of the unfolding conduct on this gruesome “news” channel.
The very day after that discussion, grainy videotape surfaced from the Sanford police station. Anyone with an ounce of sense could have seen that this grainy tape provided a very poor view of any possible injuries. But Sharpton was crafting a brilliant crime novel; he and his hand-picked guests began encouraging viewers to think that the grainy videotape contradicted the claim of injuries. As of April 2, Sharpton was saying this:
SHARPTON (4/2/12): Welcome back to Politics Nation.Last Friday, a photograph from ABC News did show some sort of injury to the back of Zimmerman’s head. What was Sharpton’s reaction?
George Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense is central to his version of events, but the more we learn, the more shaky that claim becomes. His supporters say George was in the fight for his life that night. His father says, quote, "It’s my understanding that Trayvon Martin got on top of him and just started beating him in the face, in his nose, hitting his head on the concrete." His brother said, quote, "George was out of breath. He was barely conscious. His last thing he remembers doing was moving his head from the concrete to the grass.”
The video in the police station did not show those injuries.
Simple! To the day, Sharpton’s viewers haven’t been shown the new photograph. Last Friday, the photograph was briefly shown on Hardball and The Ed Show, but Journalist Sharpton took a pass on the new photo, despite spending his program's first thirty minutes on the Martin killing. Sharpton’s viewers have never been asked to look at that new photo.
O’Donnell hasn’t shown the photograph either. In his case, let’s consider his inane conduct regarding George Zimmerman’s nose.
Did Zimmerman sustain a broken nose? Like O’Donnell, we don’t know. But Lawrence O’Donnell has been very busy constructing a novel about these events. On April 5, this dumbest of humans, speaking with Blow, shared his thoughts about the work of Zimmerman’s original lawyers.
Zimmerman’s lawyers had been unclear about the status of any medical records. Showcasing his world-class dumbness, O’Donnell made it clear that he deeply doubted the claim of a broken nose.
Blow pretended to be a medical expert, which he plainly isn’t. O'Donnell also spoke with Natalie Jackson, one of the Martin's family's lawyers:
O’DONNELL (4/5/12): Charles Blow, my feeling has been if they could say, “We will produce medical records of him visiting an emergency room that night or the next day or any doctor within 24 hours of this event concerning a broken nose,” they would say they had the records. If they weren’t really thrilled with how good those records were, they might not show them to us. But they’d say they had them if they had them.After a preamble, Jackson said this: “So when we talk about a broken nose and we talk about those things, that is for the defense to present in court so that the evidence can be evaluated by a jury. Now do I personally believe that they have that record? I do not.”
BLOW: Right. That is the crucial point here. Is there a broken nose? And if George Zimmerman’s head was being smashed into the pavement, is there some evidence of a concussion?
And those things can be proven, and if he actually did receive medical care. What we know now is that the second ambulance was canceled because the person who was attending to George Zimmerman did not believe that he had sufficient enough injuries to warrant even an ambulance. [Note: To judge from the actual dispatch, the second ambulance was canceled when it became clear that there was only one gunshot victim.]
And what we also know is that we see George Zimmerman 35 minutes after the fact. We see him not even reaching for the nose, not trying to—a broken bone is excruciating. There are a zillion nerve endings in the face. You would be in excruciating pain.
We know that that is not what we see on the tape. We know that the one witness that was interviewed on CNN, on Anderson Cooper's show, said that the person, George Zimmerman, sprang up after the shooting, did not appear hurt. He never says that he reaches for his head. He never says that the person is holding their nose, none of that.
So what we know flies right in the face of the idea that someone has a broken bone in the face...
O’DONNELL: Natalie Jackson, two things, what would you take as proof that George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose that night? Or even reasonable evidence tending toward proof? Don’t even go to the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard.
And then, secondly, in the representation of George Zimmerman at this stage, can you think of any conceivable defense reason why they wouldn't answer that simple question on CNN last night of do you have any records? He wasn’t asking them that they produce it and put it on the table on the show last night. But just answer the question, “Do you have any medical records of how this broken nose was treated?”
I cannot think of a single reason why a defense lawyer for Zimmerman wouldn't want to say now, if they had them, “Yes, we do have records of that. We will produce them in the right forum at the right time.”
The New York Times should be deeply embarrassed by Dr. Blow’s obvious quackery. Eventually, though, Journalist O’Donnell showcased his fairness of mind:
O’DONNELL: Yeah, Charles, I mean, listen, it would slow me down on this broken nose thing if they would just say, “We have medical records that will satisfy everyone that he was treated for that broken nose as a result of this incident.” The fact that they are not, the fact that they refuse every time they’re asked the question about—I asked the empty chair the question when he walked out.O’Donnell referred to an incident in which one of Zimmerman’s original lawyers canceled a scheduled appearance on his program. But on this evening's program, viewers were strongly encouraged to doubt the claim of a broken nose—though O’Donnell said he would change his mind if the lawyers would only say that they did have medical records.
BLOW: I thought I heard him answer.
O’DONNELL: Do you have medical records of this? And the empty chair didn’t answer either. It’s the same thing. You get them on the show or not. It doesn’t matter.
Uh-oh! Last Friday, in Zimmerman’s bail hearing, his new lawyer, Mark O’Mara, clearly said that he does have medical records of a broken nose. How did O’Donnell react?
Crackers, please! He hasn’t shared this fact his viewers! They haven’t been asked to look at that photo—and they haven’t been told that O’Mara seems to have taken The O’Donnell Challenge concerning the alleged broken nose.
To media reporter David Carr, this is all part of the “aggressive” coverage that has been staged by MSNBC. Questions:
Why would an actual media reporter describe this disgraceful behavior that way? Why wouldn’t such a journalist leap at the chance to challenge this ridiculous conduct? Why would he do what Carr did instead in Monday’s column? Why would he single out just one of the roughly three million mistakes by NBC News and its cable affiliates, pretending to watch-dog NBC hard about this troubling error?
Tomorrow, we’ll return to these basic questions. But O’Donnell and Sharpton have been “disgraceful,” not “aggressive,” in their coverage of this killing.
The rest of the “press corps” averts its gaze from this blindingly obvious fact. But this has long been the game within the guild we still describe as a “press corps.”
Tomorrow: An endless charade