At the height of Sanford shooting hysteria, NBC News played doctored audio from shooter George Zimmerman’s call to 911, in which Zimmerman was deliberately and misleadingly portrayed as a racist. The actual transcript of the call reads as follows:
ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
DISPATCHER: OK, and this guy — is he white, black, or Hispanic?
ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.
NBC clipped out the dispatcher’s question, to make it look as if Zimmerman was race-obsessed, and volunteered Trayvon Martin’s ethnicity instead of responding to a direct question from the dispatcher. Both the national network and local affiliates used the deceptive edit, and it found its way into a printed transcript on the MSNBC website. In fact, slightly different versions of the deceptive edit were used.
NBC’s behavior throughout the incident has been mysterious. After an initial, entirely confidential “internal investigation,” they claimed to have fired a “seasoned producer” they refused to identify, and claimed the edit was an “accident” – even though the same “accident” happened in slightly different forms, in several places within the NBC organization. The New York Times noted that the deceptive edits had to somehow bypass several layers of editorial control, including “a script editor, senior producer oversight, and in most cases legal and standards department reviews.”
Eventually a second head rolled, as reporter Jeff Burnside from WTVJ in Miami was dismissed. The mysterious unnamed producer was also supposedly based in Miami. And now a third Miami-based correspondent, Lilia Luciano, has been let go, according to TVNewser. She came to NBC News from the Spanish-language network Univision 18 months ago.
The really funny thing is that Luciano’s doctored audio is different than the one NBC fired Burnside, and presumably the unnamed producer, for using. And NBC spokesmen said Burnside’s edit was different than the one used by the national network!
The national NBC Today show used doctored Zimmerman audio on March 27. Burnside used his edited clip on March 19. But the report on Luciano’s firing says she used a different, and more extensively edited, clip “in a story for the Today show on March 20.” Her version pulled other audio from later in the 911 call into the fraudulent Zimmerman “money quote.” It went like this:
ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something. He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.
But the version employed by Burnside, which later caused an uproar after it received national attention, went like this:
ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. He looks black.
Unless something has gone badly awry with the reporting on this scandal – and the TVNewser story about Luciano’s firing makes it fairly clear that their transcription is not mistaken, because they note “an entire phrase was taken from a later part of the conversation” – NBC has some serious explaining to do. How can they possibly have pretended these separate incidents were “accidents?” How could one producer, and two reporters, be entirely responsible for this? And how can NBC continue to justify keeping any part of its investigation under wraps?
Update: Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center says these quiet after-the-fact firings “vindicate the Media Research Center’s original point that NBC’s two-sentence (non)apology was an insult, and that this is a network out of control.”
Noting that NBC has yet to apologize for its deceptive edits on the air, Bozell demanded: “Own up to your dishonesty, NBC; tell your audience the truth for once and for all.”