‚??No American, no person, should have to go through what I went through, said George Zimmerman, who grew up in Manassas, Virginia before moving to the Sunshine State,¬† to the host and listeners. ‚??I have taken a step back looking at things I could have done differently, should have done differently.”
Although he is now a free man, Zimmerman remains¬†a toxic figure in the popular culture¬†with more than $2.5 million in legal fees. He has stayed in the shadows as he tries to piece his life back together and figure out a road forward, but cannot get hired for a job and he still worries about the bounty posters calling for his death.
Zimmerman¬†calling into Armed American Radio
In the last few months, Zimmerman said he has listened to the program,¬†but the media-shy former neighborhood watch officer had never called in before, said Walters, whose Armed American Radio show airs on 200 stations across the nation Sunday nights from 8 to 11 p.m., in the East.
‚??It was great radio, he is so real and so genuine,‚?Ě he said.
‚??The first reason for his call was to thank my studio guest Massad F.Ayoob for his help to his defense team,‚?Ě he said. Ayoob is the dean of American self-defense training and his books, such as In the Gravest Extreme,¬†Armed and Alive and The Truth About Self-Protection, are considered to be the most important on the subject.
Zimmerman talks about being found “financially guilty”
After thanking Ayoob, Zimmerman and Walters talked about his experiences with the media and the toll the shooting incident and its aftermath had on his family.
Walters, who broadcasts from Atlanta and is active in Georgia Carry, the state’s leading gun rights advocate, asked Zimmerman how he feels about people, even gun owners, who have negative opinions of him.
Zimmerman said he hoped people would give him a chance.
‚??I hope they would learn from the evidence that was presented in court, not what was presented in the media,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Everything that was not testimony and not evidence was absolutely not me.‚?Ě
The former resident of Sanford, Florida, where the shooting took place, said, ‚??It has happened hundreds of times, if not thousands of times that people have told me: ‘I wish I had spent five minutes with you before I can to the conclusion I did.’‚?Ě
It is betrayed by their face, he said.
‚??I can feel it‚??I can see it on their face when they realize I am just a normal guy,‚?Ě he said. ‚??It hits them that I am just like they are and they could have easily been in my position.‚?Ě
Walters told his listeners: ‚??Go home and look in the mirror and think¬†about what the media can do to you.‚?Ě
Even though you alone pull the trigger, when you are involved in a shooting, everything that follows involves your family, friends and everyone around you, he said.
Zimmerman talks about slanted media coverage
Zimmerman said he agreed. ‚??In my situation, it was so polarizing that a lot of family members‚??immediate family members‚??lost jobs because of co-workers’ opinions. Younger members of my family had to change schools several times, change residences.‚?Ě
The worst toll was on his elderly parents, who are also looking after his grandmother, who is living with Alzheimer’s, he said.
Comments and actions by celebrities did not help either, he said. One month after the Martin-Zimmerman shooting, comedienne Rossanne Barr¬†¬†and director Spike Lee tweeted the address of his parents’ house.
Because of threats against his parents, they had to move from hotel-to-hotel, often changing rooms inside the same hotel just to stay ahead of people harassing them, he said. It was a situation complicated his parents’ needing handicap accessibility.
Zimmerman on lessons learned
With his parents’ help, his grandmother was living in her own residence, but all that was shoved to the side after his mother and father had to go into hiding–taking the grandmother with them.
‚??The emotional and financial burden‚??if that had come out in the news that would have tremendous emotional relief for them, not just me,‚?Ě he said.
In the end, Zimmerman said he had three main lessons from his experience.
The first thing to do when you find yourself in a difficult situation is rely on your faith, he said. The second thing to do is get very good legal representation.
The third lesson is to never, ever speak to the media, he said. ‚??Their power is overwhelming and they will twist anything you say to them‚??my friends and family have learned this.‚?Ě
Interestingly, it was an investigating law enforcement officer who helped him accept the third lesson, he said. ‚??He told me: ‘They are not the police and you even have the right to remain silent with the police.’‚?Ě