There was agreement on last night’s “O’Reilly Factor” that the famous selective editing of NBC News helped to amp up the racial dimension of George Zimmerman’s clash with Trayvon Martin. Commentator Mary Katharine Ham went a bit further, alleging that the media orchestrated a “racial morality play” from the start.
NBC News’s screwups happened early on in the life of this very public issue, prompting O’Reilly to ask Ham: “How does the media continue to make this all about race and not justice?”
Here’s how Ham handled that one:
HAM: Well, I think from the very beginning, when they referred to it as a very simple frankly white and black issue, when that was not the case for Zimmerman certainly, he was raised in a multiracial household, so a lot more complicated than what they first presented. And I think once they went in hard on that narrative, they sort of had to back it up as we went along and there were media reports referring to Zimmerman as a white Hispanic, which whatever that means.
So I — the problem is when you — when you make something into a national conversation about race in this country, it’s pretty likely you’re actually not going to be having much of a conversation because it becomes on its face racist to examine the facts and bring up the fact of Zimmerman’s upbringing or what have you.
And then you get to the situation where we have a reasonable doubt system. And it is not necessarily going to come down in exactly the way that the media decided and everyone decided it should from the very beginning.
The Erik Wemple Blog has no idea what all that means.
Yet in explaining the accession of racial politics into the Zimmerman case, there is a far easier explanation, and it comes not from the media but from primary documents: Logs of Zimmerman’s calls to the cops, that is. Here’s how a Daily Beast story from last year describes those calls:
[S]tarting in 2011, Zimmerman’s calls increasingly focused on what he considered “suspicious” characters walking around the neighborhood—almost all of whom were young black males.
On April 22, 2011, Zimmerman called to report a black male about “7-9” years old, four feet tall, with a “skinny build” and short black hair. There is no indication in the police report of the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicion of the boy.
On Aug. 3 of last year, Zimmerman reported a black male who he believed was “involved in recent” burglaries in the neighborhood.
And on Oct. 1 he reported two black male suspects “20-30” years old, in a white Chevrolet Impala. He told police he did “not recognize” the men or their vehicle and that he was concerned because of the recent burglaries.
So perhaps the media reported on a racial angle because there is a racial angle.