CNN Guest Claims Zimmerman Used Racial Slur, CNN Host Doesn't Correct Her

When a CNN guest made an unsubstantiated claim that George Zimmerman called Trayvon Martin a racial slur, CNN's Erin Burnett wouldn't call her on it.

On the July 16 Erin Burnett OutFront, the 2008 Miss Black Massachusetts Safiya Songhai said, "So, I mean the idea that race played a role in the case – yes, it played a role in the case. He [Zimmerman] is on the tape saying "F-ing coons." Automatically it got racial." After she finished speaking, Burnett turned to fellow guest Stephanie Miller, without correcting Songhai's unsubstantiated accusation.

Even the prosecution in the trial accused Zimmerman of saying "f—ing punks," not "coons." Since "coons" is a racial slur, Zimmerman could have been tried for a federal crime based on racial animosity if he had, in fact, used the slur.

In fact, a year ago CNN had to walk back its own assumption that Zimmerman said "f—ing coons" in the 911 call the night he shot Martin. Earlier this year, correspondent Martin Savidge deemed CNN's audio analysis "inconclusive."

On the April 4, 2012 Anderson Cooper 360, correspondent Gary Tuchman admitted, "From listening in this room, and this is state-of-the-art room, it doesn't sound like that slur anymore." Just days before on March 21, he had thought "It certainly sounds like that word to me..."

However, host Erin Burnett wouldn't pull from CNN's previous findings and correct an obviously unsubstantiated smear of Zimmerman on-air.

Here's the transcript from the segment that aired on Erin Burnett OutFront on July 16:

[7:48 p.m.]

ERIN BURNETT: Safiya, let me start with you. Do you agree, she said, look, race – the juror said race played absolutely no role, it never came up in the room, which I have to say I found almost impossible to believe. Did race play a role?

SAFIYA SONGHAI: Did race – does race play a role in our everyday lives? The second that a black person and a white person enter America and they have American citizenship, they are conditioned from the second they are born to have totally different experiences. So, I mean the idea that race played a role in the case -- yes, it played a role in the case. He's on the tape saying "F-ing coons." Automatically it got racial. And did it play a role in the jury? It definitely played a role in the jury.

The situation is that the defense just had to pull out the fear that white America is conditioned to feel about black men. They're scared of black men. Not because they feel this way intrinsically, because they're conditioned to feel this way. And all the defense had to do was tap into that fear and instantly George Zimmerman is sympathetic. They're sympathetic to him and Trayvon Martin is instantly the aggressor until proven otherwise. And Trayvon Martin was on trial.

BURNETT: And, Stephanie, let me ask you about this issue, right? When you look at the jury, and we just were talking about the man who worked for George Zimmerman's side in selecting and he said with that Juror B-37 he was shocked that the state did not strike her. That he would have cut her. He thought it was almost too good to be true that she ended up being on that jury. This jury ended up being, of course, six women, five of them were white. Can a person ever be objected when it comes to someone of a different race?
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014