Asked about his decision to announce what he believed to be George Zimmerman’s home address to his quarter-million Twitter followers, director Spike Lee’s original, official response was a defiant “no comment.” If you have a look at Spike’s Twitter stream, you’ll see that he was getting plenty of “love” from his followers, so he might have thought he could tough out the controversy.
Alas for Spike, the law has no love for slow-witted hate-mongering celebrities who recklessly endanger people without even bothering to spend 30 seconds Googling the address they were given, and learning whether or not it falls within a certain famed gated community. The elderly couple who live at the address Lee targeted have been forced into hiding, and are currently living in a motel. They wisely decided to get themselves a lawyer, as the Orlando Sentinel reports:
A couple who say they were forced to leave their home after director Spike Lee retweeted their address to his Twitter followers has hired the Morgan & Morgan law firm to represent them.
“At this point, they have retained us to protect their interests” and their safety, attorney Matt Morgan said of Elaine and David McClain, an elderly Sanford couple in their 70s.
“At this point, they’ve had to move out of their home and their lives have been upended,” Morgan said.
Morgan declined Wednesday to discuss any possible future litigation on the couple’s behalf.
“The first thing they’re hoping for is an apology and a retraction by Spike Lee,” Morgan said, adding that the couple hope their story can help “heal the divide between the white and black community.”
These initial wishes were granted, as Lee suddenly decided, four days after destroying these peoples’ lives, to issue the following statement via Twitter: “I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address. It Was A Mistake. Please Leave The McClain’s In Peace. Justice In Court.” (Apostrophe misuse in the original.)
Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller notes that the Los Angeles man who originally gave Lee the incorrect address, Marcus Higgins, also apologized for his “mistake,” saying on Twitter: “hello folks i am a man about mines sorry for retweeting the wrong address. To the elder couples living there appreciate my apologize.” (Spelling, grammatical, and capitalization errors in the original.)
All of which is completely missing the point. These two gentlemen are not apologizing for targeting a fellow citizen of the United States – they’re apologizing for mistakenly issuing the wrong address. It should be noted that the Tweet containing the false Zimmerman address, which Lee re-tweeted without modification, began with the all-caps instruction, “EVERYBODY REPOST THIS.” The clear intent was to disseminate the address as widely as possible. If Lee is sincerely apologetic and wants to make it clear he believes it was entirely wrong for him to pass out what he believed was George Zimmerman’s address, he’s going to need more than 140 characters to explain himself – not that any such explanation will undo the damage he has done to the McClain family with his utterly irresponsible behavior.
He shouldn’t be able to use Twitter to squirm out of this anyway, because as filmmaker Ladd Ehlinger pointed out, Twitter’s terms of service are quite clear: “You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.” The continued existence of Lee’s Twitter account is therefore quite mysterious.
As is the existence of a new account called “Kill Zimmerman,” illustrated with George Zimmerman’s six-year-old mug shot in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. The account, which currently has 130 followers, describes itself as follows:
#TRAYVONMARTIN RiP This Page Is 4 Da Ppl Who Believe Zimmerman Should Be Shot Dead In The Street The Same Way TRAYVON Was. No Justice No Peace #KillZimmerman
For those unfamiliar with Twitter, the phrases beginning with the pound sign are hash tags, allowing readers to follow messages from many different Twitter users on the same topic.
As of 9:30 AM Eastern time on Thursday, this account still exists, and has been in operation for several days. Needless to say, Twitter’s terms of service also prohibit the encouragement of violence.
Update: Kerry Picket at the Washington Times reports that Spike Lee has reached a monetary settlement with the McClains, and called them to “give a very heartfelt apology.”