Furor over Edited Trayvon 911 Tape Spurs Internal NBC Probe

Protestors demonstrated on behalf of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Saturday (Photo: AP)

NBC News has reportedly launched an internal investigation to find out how an edited version of a crucial 911 recording in the Trayvon Martin case came to be aired on the network.

The investigation, reported by the Washington Post on Saturday (here), is in response to allegations that a recording of a conversation between a 911 operator and George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin, was edited by NBC News in a way that would make Zimmerman’s actions in the case seem to be more racially motivated than they actually were.

This story started to gain steam on Friday when a key difference between the actual 911 recording and a version that had been played on NBC’s “Today Show” was pointed out by Sean Hannity on his self-named Fox News Channel show “Hannity” Friday night.

Here are the two versions, according to various reports appearing on Sunday, including this one on the Hollywood Reporter Web site:

In the first, edited version, Zimmerman is heard saying: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

In the second, unedited passage, he is heard saying: “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.”

And the dispatcher says: “OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?”

And that’s when Zimmerman says: “He looks black.”

Watch a clip that shows how the apparently edited version was used on “Today” last week:
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Today/96422/2215862928/Did-Trayvon-Martin-Strike-Zimmerman-First-/embed 580 476]

The crucial difference is that, in the unedited version, Zimmerman is saying the person “looks black” because he was asked by the 911 dispatcher to determine the individual’s ethnicity. In the edited version, Zimmerman is made to seem as if he’s volunteering that this person who’s “up to no good” . . . “looks black.”

In the wake of the editing revelation, NBC is being accused of deliberately editing the recording to make it seem as if the tape proves Zimmerman “racially profiled” Martin before their confrontation. If the edit was intentional, the critics are saying, then NBC is guilty of deliberately fanning the flames in a case that has the entire country debating issues of justice and race.

Presumably, NBC’s internal investigation will be aimed at finding out if the edit was done deliberately for just that effect or, in what could be just as logical an explanation, it was edited merely to fit into a tight time-frame in which every second counts. That’s not an uncommon occurrence in the TV-news production process.

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