Altering the Zimmerman Tape

NBC apologizes for doctoring the 911 tapes so as to make it seem that Zimmerman raised Trayvon Martin's skin color for no real reason. The NBC tape made the conversation sound like this:


Zimmerman: This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black.

The actual conversation went like this:

Zimmerman: 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. 

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy -- is he black, white or Hispanic? 

Zimmerman: He looks black.

This is a little too cute to write off as unconscious mistake. Moreover, as my old boss Erik Wemple reports, there's no real explanation in NBC's apology. Unconscious or not, altering the tape in this way was incredibly unfair to Zimmerman, and incredibly stupid for NBC. How did they not think they would be caught? The real tape is out there. 

Something about this case causes people to lose their heads.Wemple has it right here:

Nor does [NBC's statement] articulate an apology directly to George Zimmerman, the "viewer" who is most aggrieved by the screw-up. In light of all that's happened, Zimmerman may be a tough person for a news network to apologize to, but that's just the point: Apologies are hard.

Exactly. You don't simply get to behave professionally toward people who are sympathetic. Professionalism isn't a courtesy, it's a self-interest.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's outrageous what's on TV. It looks like that man is in charge of the country."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's going to go from bad to worse."

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

More in National

From This Author

Just In