MSNBC's Jansing Spins Spike Lee Tweet That Put Elderly Couple In Jeopardy As 'Twitter Error'

A few days ago, left-wing director Spike Lee, who has 248,000+ followers on Twitter, retweeted an item bearing what was supposed to be the address of George Zimmerman, the man who claims to have shot Miami teen Trayvon Martin in self defense a month ago in Sanford, Florida. But the address was incorrect and the occupants of the residence are an elderly couple who bear no relation to Zimmerman. As a result of Lee's retweet, they've received hate mail and, fearing for their safety, have fled their home.

Yet when it came her turn to report the development today, MSNBC's Chris Jansing did her level best to spin the news in such a way as to absolve Lee -- who directed some of the network's Lean Forward promo spots -- of any culpability for putting the couple in jeopardy. Here's the relevant transcript. Video follows the page break (MP3 audio here):

A Twitter error has reportedly forced an elderly Florida couple to leave their home in fear for their lives. The couple's address was mistakenly posted on Twitter as belonging to George Zimmerman, the man who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Well, the couple's son says the original tweet came from a California man but was retweeted by director Spike Lee to his quarter of a million followers. The son is named William George Zimmerman, no relation to the Martin shooter. Spike Lee's tweet has since been removed.

You'll notice there was no mention of Lee's MSNBC ties nor of whether or not Lee has apologized for his tweet. A review of his Twitter stream as of 11:15 a.m. today reveals no apology. Indeed, in addition to apologizing to the elderly couple, Lee should apologize to Zimmerman and his family, as there is no legitimate purpose in trying to expose the man's address to the larger public other than the hope that some wacko might visit violence upon him.

Update/Related item [12:57 p.m. EDT]: Ezra Dulis at Big Hollywood notes that Lee's tweeting the address is a violation of Twitter terms of service:

Filmmaker Ladd Ehlinger points out that posting home addresses without permission is expressly prohibited by Twitter's user agreement:

You may not publish or post other people's private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.
Whether Twitter will take action against Lee's account for these tweets remains to be seen. One may claim that since the tweets were first composed by another account and Lee merely retweeted, the tweets cannot be considered his own. That case seems flimsy, since Twitter rules prohibit both "publishing" and "posting"--publishing representing original tweeting, and posting presumably representing retweeting.
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters