Incompetent, morally feckless: ABC News must be the purest distillation of overpaid moral fecklessness.
Also of incompetence! Consider the high-profile segment it broadcast on Thursday evening’s Nightline.
The segment featured excerpts of Robin Roberts’ interview with Juror B29, one of the jurors in the George Zimmerman trial. Because various jurors have gone into hiding, this juror only revealed her first name: Maddy.
How incompetent is ABC News? The Nightline segment ran just 1700 words. Midway through, this exchange occurred:
ROBERTS (7/25/13): What was your first vote?Ignore the horror as a juror says that she and some other jurors “wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law.” Instead, ask yourself how ABC got to this statement, which occurred less than two minutes later:
JUROR B29: My first vote was second degree murder.
ROBERTS: How did you go from, in nine hours, from feeling he was guilty of second degree murder to not guilty?
JUROR B29: In between the nine hours it was hard. A lot of us had wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law, because for myself, he's guilty, because the evidence shows he's guilty.
ROBERTS: During the trial, the FBI's audio expert did testify that it is impossible to tell who was screaming for help. During their 16 hours of deliberations,the consideration of a possible manslaughter verdict weighed heavily on Maddy.Maybe there's some explanation for that apparent contradiction, but it doesn't appear in the transcript. Among her many skills, Robert goes from 9 hours of deliberation to 16 in just under two minutes.
Needless to say, Roberts also stated, in between those dueling accounts, that the police dispatcher “suggested [Zimmerman] stay in his car.” As of May 2012, every major American news org had figured out, and reported, that this wasn't true—that Zimmerman was already out of his car by the time of the exchange in question.
Zimmerman wasn't told to stay in his car that night. But the inaccurate fact makes the story work better. Roberts, who’s paid $6 million per year, stated the famous fake fact.
Earlier this afternoon, we wasted a bunch of time trying to find a full tape or transcript of this juror’s interview with Roberts. No such luck! It is now more than 48 hours since inflammatory sound-bites began to circulate from this session, but ABC News still hasn’t posted an unedited tape or transcript.
Transcripts from Friday morning’s Good Morning America haven’t been posted at all. Yesterday, Slate’s William Saletan offered a very sound warning:
SALETAN (7/26/13): ABC News hasn’t posted a full unedited video or transcript of the interview. The video that has been broadcast—on World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America—has been cut and spliced in different ways, often so artfully that the transitions appear continuous. So beware what you’re seeing. But the video that’s available already shows, on closer inspection, that Maddy has been manipulated and misrepresented...Saletan posted that yesterday afternoon. A full day later, his very sound warning holds!
Has Maddy been manipulated and misrepresented? For ourselves, we can’t say that at this point. But Saletan’s warning is apt. It’s astoundingly careless that ABC has released this material in chopped-up form, making it extremely hard to see what was actually said.
For some, the material may be inflammatory. ABC News doesn't seem to know or care.
Saletan does a fair amount of mind-reading concerning what Maddy was trying to say in this jumbled, seemingly self-contradictory session. That said, we think he skipped two of the most instructive parts of the transcripts, such as they are.
First, note the intellectual laziness of Roberts and ABC News as Maddy bungles the law:
ROBERTS: When you all sent that note to the judge asking for an explanation on manslaughter, what was that about?In the highlighted passage, the juror completely misstates the nature of a manslaughter charge. Elsewhere, she misstates the law a second way.
JUROR B29: What we were trying to figure out was manslaughter, in order to be charged, we had to prove that when he left home, he said, “I'm gonna go kill Trayvon Martin.”
ROBERTS: Her own lawyer, David Chico, says even legal experts would have been confused.
CHICO (videotape): And I've thought a lot about it and I haven't really been able to come up with really another charge, except I mean, I think manslaughter was a charge that could be put forth.
Roberts simply ignores these problems. You don’t want to make Maddy look bad! Unlike Juror B37, Maddy has been cast in this drama as The Well-Intentioned Juror. She must not be challenged or questioned.
The second excerpt is even more striking. This may explain a lot of the conduct from the jurors in the past two weeks:
ROBERTS: Maddy says she had no idea that the world was watching so closely.This juror is a regular person. She works as a nursing assistant; we will guess that she is one of the truly decent people among us. It's sad to hear this account of her reaction to the insults, recriminations and threats she may have seen.
PROTESTOR (videotape): Solidarity!
ROBERTS: After the jury was released, she says she crumbled as the negative news reports about their verdict erupted.
JUROR B29: I literally fell on my knees and I broke down. My husband was holding me. I was screaming and crying, and I kept saying to myself I feel like I killed him. And I feel that if maybe if they would put the law, and a lot of people would read it, they would understand the choices that they gave us.
One web site is offering rewards for the addresses of the jurors. In his statement last week, President Obama couldn’t even bring himself to speak well of their service. The base wouldn’t have liked it!
In the past week, we’ve seen jurors on the run as a virtual lynch mob continues to prowl the streets of The Net. This may explain why Maddy is trying to explain the thought crime she committed in voting not guilty.
Juror B37 did the same thing a few days after speaking with Anderson Cooper. The fact that jurors are forced to speak from the shadows, no last names given, represents a terrible breakdown in the social fabric.
With that in mind, let’s think about someone else who is on the run. Saletan is right on the money is making this observation about this juror:
“The phrase ‘got away with murder’ was put in her mouth.”
Thanks to Roberts' prompting, this juror became the second major figure to say, or seem to say, that Zimmerman “got away with murder.” (Inevitably, crackpot prosecutor Angela Corey was the first.)
Yesterday, Sybrina Fulton became the third. In yesterday's speech to the Urban League, Fulton was basically asking for an extrajudicial killing, whether she meant to or not. It’s good being Robin Roberts, toying with people’s lives in such deeply careless ways.
Reportedly, Roberts is paid $6 million per year. The rest of the scuts at ABC News are vastly overpaid too.
ABC has done incompetent, morally careless work. But then, when we deal with people like these, what the heck else is new?