Contempt for cops: Would you want this job?

THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012

Howard Kurtz takes a large powder: On the evening of February 26, would you have wanted Timothy Smith’s job?

Timothy Smith isn’t rich or famous. On February 26, he was the first police officer to respond to the scene where Trayvon Martin had just been killed.

Initially, Officer Smith was dispatched to the scene because of George Zimmerman’s now-tragic phone call. He arrived on the scene with remarkable speed. Tragically, he arrived on the scene just twenty seconds after Martin was shot and killed.

Did Smith do anything wrong that night? Before we address that question, let’s offer a word about the half dozen people who were on the phone making 911 calls when Smith arrived on the scene.

People who lived near the scene of the shooting were upset and frightened that night. You can listen to their 911 calls, which are instructive, at this post. In several instances, you can hear the waves of relief that goes through their voices when they see that Smith has arrived.

That is one of the civilization-permitting services performed by a competent police force. And by the way:

Would you have wanted Smith’s job that night? Would you have wanted to be the person who had to come around the side of a building, emerging on a very dark scene where someone had just been shot?

From Smith’s report, it's clear that he already knew that someone had been shot. “As I arrived on the scene, dispatch advised of a report of shots fired in the same subdivision,” he wrote. “...I was then advised, after receiving multiple calls, that there was a subject lying in the grass between the residences of 1231 Twin Trees Lane and 2831 Retreat View Circle.” (Smith's report is found early on in this cache of documents.)

Would you have wanted to be the person who rounded the corner and came on that scene, not knowing if you might be the next person shot? Officer Smith accepted the challenge. (“As I walked in between the buildings I observed a white male, wearing a red jacket and blue jeans...”)

We wouldn’t have wanted that job—and Smith did nothing wrong that night. Neither did his colleagues, though we’ll assume that some perfect police force in some perfect land probably could have done better.

We’re sorry, but the officers who responded to the scene weren’t a bunch of belly-scratching crackers straight outta 1955. They performed their basic functions that night and in the days and nights which followed.

Were they belly-scratching rednecks who didn’t care if a black kid got shot? Sorry. On March 13, rightly or wrongly, the lead investigator, Officer Chris Serino, officially recommended that Zimmerman should be charged with manslaughter.

At that time, the states’ attorney passed on this recommendation. But that’s what Serino advised.

Six nights later, a slander campaign began on MSNBC. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/23/12. Our archives further detail some of these themes, though so much disinformation was pushed that it would take a major effort to document it all.)

In fourteen years at this post, we don’t think we’ve ever seen a cable news channel behave more egregiously. Week after week, the hosts and “analysts” at this cable “news” channel pumped a stream of disinformation, all of it designed to make you think that Timothy Smith and his colleagues were a bunch of belly-scratching redneck crackers who didn’t care that a black kid got killed.

They pumped this disinformation into the midst of a highly inflammatory situation. They made claim after claim after claim after claim; these claims turned out to be false. For example, here was our alleged “professor,” on the fifth night of the onslaught:
HARRIS-PERRY (3/23/12): And remember, part of what goes there has to do with the presumption of what’s happening. Police officers use discernment, judgment, discretion all the time when they encounter a domestic violence situation, when they encounter street-level violence. That’s part of what police officers are trained to do.

So if you have police officers under the judgment and the leadership of a police chief who has apparently trained them that when they find an unarmed teenage dead in a gated community, not only did they let Zimmerman walk, he walked with the murder weapon, I mean—or the killing weapon, because we don’t know if it was murder.

But this is a man who is not disarmed. This is a man whose permit has not been revoked. This is a man, who, when the police officers saw what happened, that there was an armed man and unarmed child, they said, “Well, this looks like a circumstance in which we should let this person go.”
Sorry. Timothy Smith disarmed George Zimmerman, as soon as he arrived on the scene. (“Zimmerman complied with all my verbal commands and was secured in handcuffs. Located on the inside of Zimmerman’s waistband, I removed a black Kel Tek 9mm PF9 semi auto handgun and holster.”)

The professor made a mistake that night. But so what? Her colleagues continued to pimp this claim for weeks, even after the Orlando Sentinel correctly reported that it was bogus. And to this day, the professor hasn’t corrected herself. She hasn’t told this channel’s millions of viewers that this claim was wrong.

But why single out the professor? Incredibly, no one has issued any corrections at this astonishing “news channel.” Last week, when reams of documents were released, this “news channel” simply looked away from its legion of errors.

MSNBC took a powder. The professors, Rhodes Scholars and millionaires all pretended that nothing had happened.

But then, someone else hasn’t said a word about this channel’s astonishing conduct. Tomorrow, the remarkable silence of Howard Kurtz—the silence of the lambs, the swells, the silence of the guild.

Should Zimmerman have been charged that first night: No, says Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft.

To read her analysis, just click here. You can decide if you think she’s right—but her site is an invaluable resource if you’re trying to follow this case.


  1. Because of blogs like Jeralyn Merritt's, I no longer get my primary news from newspapers or TV. She leaves the mainstream media in the dust. Blogger Tom Maguire has also been quite good on the Zimmerman/Martin case.

  2. "In fourteen years at this post, we don’t think we’ve ever seen a cable news channel behave more egregiously."

    So Harris-Perry's statement is worse than anything you've ever heard from Sean Hannity of Fox? Or Glenn Beck on CNN/Fox? Or Lou Dobbs talking about immigrants on CNN? Or O'Reilly cutting off the mike and screaming at the kid whose father was killed during 9/11? Or Geraldo Rivera on multiple channels?

    You really want to play the MSNBC Is The Worst Of All Time game?

    1. The Real AnonymousMay 24, 2012 at 12:06 PM

      Its hard to believe Mr. Somerby wants us to take his charge seriously in light of the fact that Bill O'Reilly admitted this past October on Letterman's show that the Iraq war "should not have happened in hindsight" since Iraq didn't have WMD.

      Did O'Reilly admit any culpability since he incessently made the case for going to war? Of course not.

      Was he taken to task by Mr. Somerby for this? Of course not.

    2. How does one go, logically, from the statement,

      "In fourteen years at this post, we don’t think we’ve ever seen a cable news channel behave more egregiously."

      To the supposed reformulation,

      "MSNBC Is The Worst Of All Time"?

      Think much?

    3. The Real AnonymousMay 24, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      "How does one go, logically, from the statement,"

      Well, if no cable channel has behaved more egregiously than MSNBC then MSNBC is the worst.

      I doubt if Fox viewers were told the Iraq war was a mistake and there were no WMD and apologies were issued by O'Reilly or anyone else on that channel but Mr. Somerby is entitled to his opinion.

    4. "Well, if no cable channel has behaved more egregiously than MSNBC then MSNBC is the worst."

      There's your problem in a nutshell.

      I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, and had assumed you simply didn't realize your howler.

      But here you are, embracing that howler as correct thinking.

      I propose that it's because of your, well, limitation that you have such a problem with the general arguments Bob offers up here. He employs real logic instead of the thing you do instead.

    5. The Real AnonymousMay 24, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      "There's your problem in a nutshell."

      You're not making any sense or using Mr. Somerby's context.

      Mr. Somerby clearly states no cable channel has behaved more egregiously (outstandingly bad) than MSNBC.

    6. Real Anonymous,

      If, even at this stage, you truly can't see the logical leap from the Somerby quote to your reformulation, I'm not going to explain it to you.

      I will simply allow others, who are capable of detecting the jump, to see just how confused your thinking is.

    7. Real Anonymous,

      Just to put it briefly: Somerby, whose arguments always depend on the application of logic, truly is wasted on you, and you've provided ample evidence as to why.

    8. The Real AnonymousMay 24, 2012 at 2:31 PM

      "I'm not going to explain it to you."

      To put it simply: you can't.

      You're wrong and just can't admit it.

      Not only that, you're playing word games instead of contributing anything to the discussion.

    9. Real logic? When he said that no network in the past 14 years has behaved more egregiously than MSNBC?

      At the kindest, that is hyperbole, not logic. You should go look up both words so you know the difference.

      And you have also been given multiple examples of networks within the past 14 years behaving far more egregiously with far more serious consequences than MSNBC hosts have behaved on the Trayvon Martin homicide.

      And not the least of which was Fox's behavior in the run-up to the Iraq War. But of course, since Bob didn't remind you of that, it goes right down the memory hole like it never happened.

    10. And for those with short memories, here is a nice compilation of Fox's pre-war propaganda:

    11. "No channel has behaved more egregiously" means other channels may have behaved as egregiously.

      No wonder the Martin-Zimmerman case confuses so many "liberals".

    12. I use the word "fluffers" to give a little variety - pornographic (with a naughty touch of homophobia), rather than just calling everyone "racist." Yes, I am incapable of making a substantive argument.

    13. Apparently, Anonymous at 4:50 PM, you have some reading comprehension problems. Anonymous at 3:58 PM is exactly right. "No channel has behaved more more egregiously" does not preclude others having behaved as egregiously. Calling those of us who note this very simple, easy-to-identify-and-understand piece of factual reality does not make us "fluffers." However, calling those of us who understand plain English "fluffers" does make you an inanely vindictive, name-calling a-hole.

      Frankly, if I were in your shoes, I'd be too upset about the loss of face and credibility by being on the side that's been so spectacularly wrong about the whole Martin/Zimmerman business to take much pleasure in such petty and stupid trifles.

    14. PS: There is nothing "homophobic" about the term "fluffer." Women act as fluffers on pornography sets all the time, Anonymous. Your mother for example.

    15. "'No channel has behaved more more egregiously' does not preclude others having behaved as egregiously."

      Wow! Talk about a weasly way to try to wriggle out of a stupendenously stupid statement.

      Somerby could have said, "MSNBC's behavior with the Trayvon Martin case was every bit as bad as Fox's behavior during the run up to the Iraq invasion." But he didn't.

      You know why? Because THAT would have been the "daily howler" and utterly indefensible.

      Instead, he threw sweet hay to his few newfound readers from the George Zimmerman Fan Club.

      These people are very important to him, which is why he still posts on Martin/Zimmerman on practically a daily basis about things MSNBC hosts said two months ago.

      They are the replacement for those people who thought Somerby jumped the shark when he spent months claiming that Bush didn't lie to the American people in the State of the Union address when he said Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Africa as he sought to build a case for his morally reprehensible doctrine of "preemptive" war.

  3. So now we are grandstanding. Would YOU like to be the parent of an unarmed teen shot to death and then told nobody did anything wrong? Quit while you're ahead, Howler.

    1. "nobody did anything wrong"

      Hi, I'm Greg and I'll be making shit up here today.

    2. Sorry, I'm sure the cops were very precise in explaining to the Martins why the man who shot their unarmed son will not be charged, and why there seemed no big hurry to investigate what happened. It seems to have made a big difference to them. That's why they launched a media campaign for a day in court.

    3. I have no idea what the police did or didn't tell the Martins, but since they launched a media campaign, I will assume that they were told "nobody did anything wrong," which is obviously an outrageous outrage. Speaking of grandstanding.

    4. O.K., I will allow your inference, that the Martins were crazy (black) people who went nuts for publicity despite the obviously stand up job the brave cops were doing. Some people are never satisfied.

    5. Hey, Greg, do you have any other arrows in your quiver besides accusations of racism?

    6. I should also admit that it is now generally conceded that Martin did something wrong, and dangerously went beyond the bounds of his or any Neighborhood Watch instructions. The question is if he did something illegal. A distinction that might be understandably lost on grieving parents.

    7. Only the other 90 percent of what I wrote here. I'll trade you three of my "accusations of race" quivers for six of your "knee jerk only-whites-are victims-of-racism" quivers.

    8. Um, Greg, last we chatted, you compared Bob Somerby to people who supported slavery even though you also acknowledged that Bob was largely accurate. Now, you're mocking whites for thinking that lefties are often anti-white racists?

      Lefties like Greg are worth a hundred Limbaughs. Limbaugh smears lefties but Greg validates Limbaugh by proving that the smears are often true. Way to help the Repugs, guy.

      Tell me, Greg, what's it like living the life of an unintentional self-parodying stereotype?

    9. Oh, I don't think it's too difficult a stretch to imagine that the actions of a lot of people -- including George Zimmerman -- could have been much different had Trayvon Martin been Joe Martin, white captain of his high school football team and honor student headed to college.

      You see, it's much easier to sell all these imagined scenarios in which the unarmed kid becomes the thug and the perp and the guy who shot him becomes the victim when the dead kid is black.

    10. Sorry Braintree, you will have to read more carefully. I compared Bob to people who are MADER at pushy liberals than people who believe in slavery. Subtle but distinct difference, but the south is filled with them.

  4. I haven't watched MSNBC since they fired Phil Donahue for his anti-war views at the start of the Iraq War. Now that I think about it MSNBC's behavior at the start of the war is far worse than this tragedy.

    1. Well, you are talking about two different MSNBCs. Back when Phil Donahue was canned in 2003, they were still on the model that Jack Welch built and still searching for that niche audience. Remember that they replaced Donahue with Keith Olbermann? And gave Joe Scarborough and Michael Savage prime time slot?

      Olbermann's "Countdown" started as pretty much a news show, not such an opinion-oriented program, with its formatted segments. Although it is wise to take everything Olbermann says with a grain of salt, he said that in those very early days, he was frequently criticized by MSNBC brass for having too many liberals on his show.

      It wasn't until American public opinion had long started turning against the Iraq invasion that Olbermann sewed on a pair of balls, and MSNBC started noticing that he was attracting an audience.

      Donahue's problem was that he had a national platform and was asking serious questions about the invasion long before it was cool to do so.

      If an accurate history of that era is ever written, the runup to the war should go down as some of the darkest days in the history of American journalism as just about everybody fell in line with the Bush administration.

      In my opinion, the performance of the White House press corps in that final, nationally televised press conference before the bombs started dropping was the single worst performance of the U.S. media in history.

      And that performance makes MSNBC's "behavior" on the Trayvon Martin case look like Peabody and Emmy award winning material.

  5. "In fourteen years at this post, we don’t think we’ve ever seen a cable news channel behave more egregiously."

    MSNBC went from a long record of gross negligence to making shit up, hiding other shit, race pimping to a rube audience who wanted them to make shit up, and not correcting "errors" because the errors were intentional and demanded by the rube audience, willful slander. Repulsive.

  6. Jeralyn at Talk Left has a bias in this case that is mirrored by Bob. She did in fact delete from her comments posts that had links to clips of the Zimmerman disputed words on the tapes where readers could listen and decide for themselves if he had said "These f-ing coons"...which most people can easily discern.

    1. "which most people can easily discern."

      Yeah, right.

    2. Discernment of the tape words seems to be a combination of honesty, objectivity, and ability. You may well be lacking in one or all these areas. But others may test themselves here:

    3. He did say coons! Now excuse me, I have to go make water, also its 2012 but I still casually use expressions popular decades before I was born.

    4. The wisdom of the biased is always refreshing, and we can relax knowing that no one can now speak the N word since it is just so last century.

    5. The n word is not last century. No one under your grandpas age uses coon.


      I gotta admit, it does sound like Zimmerman says "[effing] coons," (2:21) which is rather disturbing. However, he has previously described Martin as running away (2:09). A few seconds later there is some distortion that appears to indicated Zimmerman is moving. This is when police dispatch asks him if he's following Martin (2:23) whereupon Zimmerman says yes. Police dispatch then tells Zimmerman that they don't need him to do that whereupon Zimmerman agrees. That part of the conversation ends at the 2:29 mark. Zimmerman spends the rest of the conversation arranging to meet up with police until the call ends at about 4:05.

      That's almost two whole minutes that Martin has had to run away. Calling a black person an effing coon is pretty disgusting racism but the police recording (does anyone still use tape?) still overwhelmingly supports Zimmerman's side of the story. Also, until you hear from Zimmerman, you can't rule out the possibility that the distortion already present in the recording affected the sound to make it seem that Zimmerman said something other than what it presently sounds like.

      And even if Zimmerman did call him all that, it still doesn't give Martin the right to attack him or deny Zimmerman the right to defend himself.

    7. The word 'coons' is an antiquated term. People still use the N word all the time (both -er and -a versions). Most racists are not shy about using it.

  7. The Real AnonymousMay 24, 2012 at 1:31 PM


    "ORLANDO, Fla. -- A year before he shot Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman criticized Sanford, Fla., police as lazy, saying at a public forum that he saw “disgusting” behavior by officers on ride-alongs.

    He also contended the department covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer."

    1. What? George Zimmerman showed contempt for cops?

      Oh Darlings! Bob must be grabbing his pearls and reaching for the smelling salts!

    2. The Real AnonymousMay 24, 2012 at 3:25 PM

      Seems to me Zimmerman would make a good prosecution witness.

      Mr. Somerby is claiming when you question the competency of the investigation you are calling someone's courage into question.

      This is nonsense.

      Knowing what we knew back on March 23, why would one assume Zimmerman's gun was confiscated when he wasn't charged with any crime?

      What we know today is:

      The scene was not protected from the elements (rain) causing the loss of blood evidence.

      The investigation was so thorough the cops didn't know Zimmerman was driving, not walking, and released his vehicle to his wife only to have to impound and examine it for evidence the next day (sarcasm intended).

      Only one photo was taken of Zimmerman and that with a cell phone before he was cleaned up and this photo remainded on the cop's phone until the next day, causing chain of custody issues.

      Zimmerman's gun was taken in case there was to be further investigation but no blood sample was taken from him. We know Zimmerman was taking medication for an anxiety disorder. Could this have contributed to the events of that night? We'll never know what was affecting him due to this lack of blood evidence.

      It's a miracle this case is being prosecuted at all given the missteps of the Sanford police.

      It is useful to note, after taking multiple statements from Zimmerman, a manslaughter charge was thought to be in order. Things just did not add up to the lead investigator.

      Not one word, not one, of Zimmerman's taped statements which led to this conclusion have been released to the public.

      No one is questioning the courage of the Sanford police as Mr. Somerby implies.

      However, there are real questions surrounding this initial investigation especially given the recent history of the Sanford PD prior to the Martin shooting.

    3. "'He also contended the department covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.'"

      Well, if that doesn't prove that Zimmerman's a racist scumbag, it's hard to see what will.

      I'd like to reply to the previous post but I have to go to work.

    4. Another thought: If Zimmerman has been an open critic of the Sanford Police Dept. would that not be motivation for the Sanford PD to be less than kind to him in regards to Martin? They could screw over a perceived foe while scoring anti-racist brownie points with Sanford's citizenry. Win, win.

  8. Trayvon Martin gets gobs of posts from fiery "leftists," fiercely defending his unclear cause. Romney and Bain Capital get hardly a peep. Your honor, I'd like to present this as Exhibit 2,578A, in the case, "Common Sense Against the Loser Left." In a sane world, the case would have been decided long ago, but the defendants in this case are every bit as stupid, crazy, and race-obsessed as the people they love to hate, perhaps even more so, so the evidence just keeps piling up.

    1. Meanwhile the fiery "leftists" and their already lost cause are sending potential moderate voters opting to the Romney side because those voters are so repulsed by race pimps.

    2. Race pimps....

      OK, we know where you're coming from. Too bad you hide behind "anonymous."

    3. HB here,

      Well,gyrfalcon, what do you think we shold call jerkwads who have promiscuously accused those of us who used our critical thinking skills to notice that the case against Zimmerman was not the rock-solid thing we were told it was of being racists?

      The fact that you object more to the term "race pimps" than what is now another obvious and needless black eye to liberalism's good name--thanks to yet another Duke lacrosse-style,left-wing cluster eff--speaks volumes about where you're coming from.

    4. HB, how soon before charges were filed did you determine that the case against Zimmerman was not nd could not ever be "rock solid"? And how much of that early opinion was based on actual "evidence" that you were privvy to?

      Heavens to Betsy, let us not even entertain the notion that the Corey and an army of investigators actually did their job well and there may be lots of things about this case that you don't know yet.

  9. Race had nothing to do with the Trayvon Martin incident and race pimping is the only reason MSNBC or anyone else invested their concern.

    Major race pimping fail, resulting in ever increasing insane responses by race pimps and rubes.

    1. You might want to consult a doctor about your obsession with race and prostitution. Just sayin'.

    2. HB here,gyrfalcon.

  10. Race is involved as verified by Z's words on the tape which can be heard rather clearly:

    1. This whole race thing is so arbitrary. If opinion leaders wanted to make Zimmerman the victim, they'd have focused on the fact that he's Hispanic and, apparently, is also partly black.

      But, much of the media wanted him to be the bad guy, so they called him a "white Hispanic". Not only was this a brand-new classification, but it's apparently not even true, since Zimmerman allegedly is partly black.

    2. The doctor is in, and I have news for you: There has been bias among Blacks based on lighter vs darker skin for eons. And being partially a hated race or ethnic group can itself exacerbate the antipathy.

    3. The lengths they go to shoehorn race into an incident in which race was irrelevant...insane.

    4. Even the prosecution doesn't agree with my characterization of the shooter and what he said on the tape, but I'm an Unknown idiot, so I stick by it.

  11. So, the Sanford police did the best that could be expected of them in a very delicate situation, therefore they did nothing wrong.

    George Bush exceeded expectations by not making a complete ass of himself at the first Gore-Bush "Debate", therefore George Bush "Won".

    I get it. I think.

    1. HB here.

      Um, gravymeister,exacty what are you willing to say the Sanford PD did wrong here? Then please compare it to the job done by the news media. In other words, please stantiate your claim.

      Or you could just shut up.

    2. Oops. That should, of course read, "Then please substantiate your claim."


    3. I don't see where gravymeister made any claims about the Sanford PD's handling of this investigation. How could he know at this point, or Somerby for that matter, who seems to be hanging his hat on yet another hook that they handled this as well as could be expected.

      What he is saying is that you can set the bar low enough that even George W. Bush can reach it.

      And Somerby has seemed to set a mighty low bar for the Sanford PD.

  12. Shorter comments:

    The most important thing to know about the atrocious, biased, terrible and unrepentant coverage MSNBC has provided on the Martin/Zimmerman case is this: Bob Somerby may have been hyperbolic in stating how egregious it was.

    1. Even shorter comment:

      Can't wait for tomorrow's load of sweet hay.