Joe Oliver, not a ‘close friend’ of George Zimmerman

Watch the MSNBC segments below in their full glory. Host Lawrence O’Donnell, Charles Blow of the New York Times and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post cross-examine Joe Oliver, the ex-reporter/anchor who has spoken repeatedly on behalf of George Zimmerman in media appearances on the Trayvon Martin case. Multiple takeaways:

1) A rotating panel of experts taking swings at an emerging public figure — in this case, Oliver — makes for gripping television.

2) An argument about the precise degree of friendship/acquaintanceship that Oliver developed with George Zimmerman can gobble up 25 minutes of air time. Is Oliver an avuncular figure for Zimmerman? An acquaintance? A friend?

3) Blow has an edgy streak and really, really doesn’t appreciate Oliver’s contributions to the Trayvon Martin discussion.

4) O’Donnell mounts a critical blow against Oliver’s resume as a friend of Zimmerman: “You don’t even have a consistent story. You’ve told us you don’t know what his mistakes were; then you tell us he grew from them. Then you tell us you’re not sure if he did anger management; then you say you’re pretty sure he did do anger management.... There’s so much you don’t know, Joe ... Joe, it is not good enough for America.”

5) A good spokesperson stays calm in the face of heated questioning as well as lighting failures (see end of first segment below). This, Oliver does to perfection. Makeshift flacks of this caliber don’t spring up behind every media firestorm.

6) This is not just another pointless cable-TV shout-fest. Oliver has placed himself in the news stream to vouch for Zimmerman. Though it’s still less than clear why he has done so, there’s a public imperative to know how deeply grounded is his familiarity with Zimmerman. As the interrogators in these segments have shown, the answer to that question is: not very.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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