Part 4—O’Donnell could hear it quite clearly: Incredibly enough, David Carr got one thing right in Monday’s “Media Equation” column.
In an otherwise grossly misleading piece, Carr made an accurate statement about TV “news” operations.
“What is it with television news and corrections?” the Potemkin-based New York Times columnist asked. “When the rest of the journalism world gets something wrong, they generally correct themselves. But network news acts as if an on-air admission of error might cause a meteor to land on the noggin of one of its precious talking heads.”
Do most parts of the journalism world generally self-correct? Sorry—that claim is absurd on its face. But TV “news” program almost never self-correct, except for the bogus, pseudo-corrections of which Rachel Maddow is making an art form.
TV news programs don't self-correct. To draw from the topic Carr was discussing, MSNBC has routinely failed to correct its mistakes in its coverage of the killing of Trayvon Martin—and those mistakes have been legion.
The channel has also been very selective in what it allows its viewers to hear. Consider the claim that Zimmerman uttered a racial slur in his call to the Sanford police on the night Martin died.
MSNBC loved this claim; it neatly fit the thrilling race novel the station’s employees were selling. With apologies, did Zimmerman utter a word which rhymes with “goons” during his phone call that evening? Anyone with an ounce of sense would have known, right from the start that this was a very shaky claim—that it was very, very, very hard to hear any such statement.
It was extremely hard to hear what Zimmerman said—except on MSNBC! All the way back on March 20, one of the channel’s leading clowns encouraged its viewers to believe that Zimmerman uttered this slur.
Lawrence O’Donnell was speaking with Jasmine Rand, one of the Martin family's lawyers. As they spoke, O’Donnell said he heard the racial slur “easily;” attorney Rand then said the same thing. In all the instances which follow, we will present the transcripts exactly as MSNBC does:
O’DONNELL (3/20/12): I want us all, and the audience especially, to listen to this new portion of the 911 tape that was revealed today. Most people have heard the rest of this tape. But I want to give the audience a heads up, it gets profane. George Zimmerman uses the f-word very clearly. There is absolutely no dispute about that.O’Donnell and Rand could hear the slur; O’Donnell could hear it "easily." O’Donnell then asked Congresswoman Corrine Brown what she heard.
He says “f-ing” and it’s the word after that. And the network has kind of bleeped out the word “f-ing.” And so it’s a little bit hard to hear the flow into the next word. But the next word is the big word that’s at issue here.
This is the part of the transcript where the dispatcher is going to say to him, OK, what entrance is it that he’s heading towards? Zimmerman says the back entrance. Then there’s a pause. Then there’s f-ing and there’s a word. And he’s calling, he’s calling Trayvon this word.
O’DONNELL: And I want everyone to listen to it, everyone in the audience. We’ll play it more than once. I want everyone to make their own judgment about what they’re hearing. Let’s listen to that tape now.
DISPATCHER: OK, which entrance is that that he is heading towards?
ZIMMERMAN: The back entrance. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (INAUDIBLE)
DISPATCHE: Are you following him?
DISPATCHER: OK, we don’t need you to do that.
O’DONNELL: All right. I just want to let the audience hear it one more time. I’ve listened to it a few times. The first time I heard it, I recognized that, the second word easily. I want to let the audience hear it one more time and then we’ll talk about it.
[Plays audiotape again]
O’DONNELL: Jasmine Rand, what do you hear him saying?
RAND: I hear him saying “f-ing coons.”
“I didn’t hear what he said,” Brown said, to her vast credit.
Brown couldn't hear what Zimmerman said—and she didn't lie about it! But at this point, O’Donnell drove home his claim about the slur, even as he semi-acknowledged that some folk were saying that they heard something different. In our view, the statement by Attorney Rand brings in the eternal note of sadness:
O’DONNELL: Attorney Rand, I heard what you heard. And I heard it repeatedly. I’ve played it repeatedly. There are people saying when they hear this word, they hear the word "punks." I know people are saying that with honesty. I think, to some extent, it depends on what computer you’re listening to it on.So sad, and so revealing of the way these processes work. Rand couldn’t hear the slur the first time—so she went back and tried it again! Meanwhile, O’Donnell left little doubt with his viewers as to what they should think about this. He had been able to hear the slur easily, repeatedly. If others couldn’t hear the word, it must be their computers!
But let’s get to your interpretation of it legally. Those two words, the F-ing and then saying the word that you attributed to George Zimmerman, it seems to me constitutes obvious evidence of hateful intent. This is a racial slur that you're hearing him say minutes, seconds possibly before he shoots a black teenager to death for having done absolutely nothing.
RAND: Well, I mean, I think as you said, the racial overtones to me, they couldn’t be ignored to begin with. And certainly, you know, after I went back and analyzed what I heard, too— I didn’t hear it the first time. But I certainly went back and listened to it several times now. And that’s what I hear.
Can we talk? Lynch mobs have always behaved this way—and people do die in the process. One week after O’Donnell started stirring us rubes, Spike Lee—a decent, intelligent person—did something exceptionally foolish. He tweeted out the supposed address of Zimmerman’s parents; the people who lived at this (mistaken) address were thereby forced to move into a hotel. Can we talk? Horrible people like Lawrence O’Donnell were doing their best to get other folk killed. And others would swear they could hear the slur before this disgraceful cable “news” channel was done with this horrible episode.
(In standard fashion, MSNBC didn’t burden its viewers with knowledge of what Lee had done. CNN, Fox, even NBC News reported Lee’s amazingly bad decision. According to the Nexis archives, MSNBC never did.)
O’Donnell could “easily” hear the slur. But he and Rand would not be the last to prime this channel’s viewers in this highly inflammatory manner. On March 23, Chris Matthews invited black conservative-turned-pseudo-liberal Michelle Bernard to spread this claim a bit further. He too pimped the corporate line, as he has done for many years, through various corporate regimes:
BERNARD (3/23/12): I have listened to the enhanced version of the tape. ... I’m going to say it. I don’t think we should hide it. The American public needs to know. If you listen to that tape, he says "F-ing coon" under his breath. That is a racial slur.On this appalling channel, viewers were repeatedly primed to believe that Zimmerman uttered that slur.
BERNARD: It is unmistakable. It is undenial—if you listen, undeniable, if you listen to the unenhanced version. That in and of itself makes it a hate crime. That’s why the Justice Department is involved. It’s why the FBI is going to have to investigate this case.
BERNARD: You can hear it very clearly on the tape. The police ask him, Are you following this person? And he says yes. They say, We don’t need you to do this. He keeps doing it. Then you add in what sounds like him saying “F-ing coon."
MATTHEWS: No, I heard it. And it’s not just “sounds like.” Anybody watching this show, if they were sitting in my office a few minutes ago, listening—
BERNARD: Would have heard it.
MATTHEWS: —would have heard it. It’s— Let’s do it again. It’s the "F-ing" word followed by a word we all recognize, unfortunately, as racially evil, really. Go ahead.
BERNARD: It is evil!...You have motive, and it’s clearly based on racial bias.
On March 28, Big Ed Schultz booked a liberal hero to advance the company line. Avert your gaze as Alan Grayson makes a series of grievous misstatements:
SCHULTZ (3/28/12): Breaking news in the Trayvon Martin case tonight! ABC News has obtained video of George Zimmerman being brought into the police department on the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.Good God. They should have taken Zimmerman’s gun! And of course, Zimmerman uttered that slur! (Grayson also implied that the videotape debunked the claim of injuries.)
I am joined by Alan Grayson, former Florida congressman, who is from the Orlando area. Congressman, good to have you with us tonight. You have, you have been at these rallies for Trayvon all week, and have been paying close attention to the case. What are your impressions of this police house videotape that was obtained tonight?
GRAYSON: Well, I think it blows apart the Zimmerman argument that he was acting out of fear rather than out of hatred. But I’ll tell you, I sometimes wonder why people think that’s some kind of good defense. I don’t believe it in his case. I think if you call someone "f-ing coon," then you`re animated by nothing but hatred.
But still he seems to be operating under the illusion that if he simply says that he feared, then somehow that excuses the death of a young boy. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t. The boy is dead. If you do the crime, you’re going to have to do the time.
SCHULTZ: Do you believe that this videotape is inconsistent with the police report?
GRAYSON: Yes, I’ve read the police report. I saw the tape. And I think there is an inconsistency.
SCHULTZ: And what would you be thinking right now if you were representing the Martin family in this case?
GRAYSON: I think that it proves their point. This is someone who— Zimmerman should under no circumstances be allowed to have a gun. It should have been taken from him a long time ago. And he should have been arrested a long time ago. He should have been tried. And it looks to me like he’ll be convicted.
MSNBC never let up on its treatment of that alleged racial slur. On April 2, Bernard was back on Hardball, preaching to guest host Michael Smerconish with back-up from E. Michael Collins:
SMERCONISH (4/2/12): Michelle, I’ve been saying that I need to know two things. I need to know who’s crying for help at the end of that 911 call. I also want to know, was a racial epithet said by Zimmerman under his breath at a time when he appears to be, by audio, in pursuit of Trayvon Martin. You know what I’m referring to.There was no doubt, two guests exclaimed. Smerconish offered no rebuttal or challenge.
BERNARD: I absolutely know what you’re referring to. I have listened to that tape over and over and over again. If you listen to it closely, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, beyond a shadow of a doubt—
COLLINS: There’s no doubt.
BERNARD: —that under his breath, that George Zimmerman called Trayvon Martin an "F-ing coon." If you listen to it closely, there's no doubt about it whatsoever.
On April 3, one of Al Sharpton’s “legal experts” simply stated, as a fact, that Zimmerman uttered “an aside, f-ing coons. That would be dramatic evidence of what his state of mind was and what his attitude was towards Trayvon Martin, not as a human being, but as a black, an unnamed black.” Neither Sharpton nor any of his other “experts” challenged this factual claim. On April 5, Sharpton noted that an audio expert had now said that Zimmerman really said “punks.” But he quickly warned his viewers against placing faith in such “experts.”
On April 4, the most irresponsible hack of them all was at it again on his program. As always, he spoke with Charles Blow:
O’DONNELL (4/4/12): I would say there’s a jury credibility issue moment in there where the police—the dispatcher says to him, are you following him? Yes. We don’t need you to do that. Zimmerman`s response is "OK," which anyone on the other end of the phone believes, OK, I’m not going to do that.Aside from the ugly performance concerning the slur, O’Donnell said that Zimmerman continued following Martin after the dispatcher spoke. This factual claim has not been demonstrated—and Zimmerman says it’s wrong.
He then goes on to do it. There’s also upcoming in the 911 call this racial slur. Let’s just play that very quickly.
ZIMMERMAN: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) coon.
DISPATCHER: Are you following him?
DISPATCHER: OK, we don`t need you to do that.
ZIMMERMAN: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) coon.
DISPATCHER: Are you following him?
DISPATCHER: OK, we don`t need you to do that.
O’DONNELL: Everyone—not everyone. A lot of people listening to that think they hear a racial slur.
Can we talk? Anyone with an ounce of sense would have understood, right from the start, that it was very, very hard to hear what Zimmerman said at the point on the tape where a racial slur was alleged. On Hardball, this produced the clownish moment when Matthews and Bernard actually thought the tape had been cut off because they couldn’t hear the alleged racial slur—the racial slur they had “undeniably” heard just moments before. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/24/12. Prepare to squirm and burn.) On O’Donnell’s program, this produced the sad but instructive moment where Attorney Rand said she couldn’t hear the slur the first time—so she went back and tried again, getting it right this time.
It also produced the grown-up moment when Rep. Brown, speaking the truth, said she couldn’t hear what Zimmerman said. But the rest of this lynch mob simply pretended, as such mobs have always done all through our benighted history.
By now, you may know the rest. This case was given to Angela Corey, who is perhaps the most aggressive prosecutor in the state of Florida. On April 12, she released her formal criminal charges against Zimmerman—and she said that he hadn’t uttered a slur, that he had actually used the work "punks." On MSNBC, O’Donnell, Sharpton, Schultz and guest host Smerconish made fleeting statements to this effect, with Sharpton suggesting that “fucking punks” was almost as bad.
This is what was said by the most degraded hack of them all. This was Lawrence O’Donnell’s full attempt at a correction/ clarification/ retraction/ explanation. He spoke with his trusted companion:
O’DONNELL (4/12/12): I want to now dig into this affidavit today, because it’s short, but it is I think very revealing of the prosecutor’s case. It begins by saying Zimmerman observed Martin and assumed Martin was a criminal.After weeks of running his lynch mob around, that was O’Donnell’s full discussion of what this bulldog prosecutor said she had determined.
So she has gone into his state of mind about what he was thinking there. She said, during the recorded call, Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins.
She determines, the prosecutor has determined that one of the things he said on that 911 audio tape, after saying “these people”—you know the word I can’t say on TV, they always get away with this stuff. And then he also said, these “f-ing punks.”
Charles Blow, the prosecutor seems to have determined that it’s the word “punks” as opposed to the specific racial slur word many of us have thought we have heard on that tape.
BLOW: Right. So that is one of the only kind of points of clarification that you get in this very short affidavit. In fact, you know, I’m not a lawyer. I do not know. I am just a reader of this.
Was that a sufficient correction/ clarification/ explanation? Should people like Matthews, Bernard and O’Donnell explain their previous conduct?
The coverage by this disgraceful channel has included tons of factual errors, errors which have gone uncorrected. But should these horrible people have explained their jihad about that alleged racial slur, in a case where it was always clear that it was very, very, very hard to hear what Zimmerman said?
In a case where people were warning, right from the start, that he hadn’t uttered that word?
You’ll have to judge that one for yourself. But in the mind of David Carr, this disgraceful, month-long performance constitutes “aggressive coverage” by MSNBC! That was all this hackworthy creature could say in Monday’s pretense at a column.
But then, Carr was writing a piece of Potemkin press criticism, of a familiar type.
In fact, mainstream journalists almost never challenge the work of their colleagues, even when their colleagues have engaged in disgraceful misconduct. Instead, they offer work like Carr’s, in which a pseudo-journalist pretended to fly-speck the work of NBC News.
Crackers, you can bet the house! Carr will never discuss this channel’s actual conduct. But then too, neither will Howard Kurtz, mayor of Potemkin Village, U.S.A.
Kurtz is our best-known “media reporter”—and he’s actually very smart. Question: Why has he failed to discuss the conduct displayed by this disgraceful channel? Also this:
Why has he failed to discuss the work of Fox News down through all these years?
Coming: A familiar type of “press criticism”