You'd think on the very day an NBC News producer was fired for editing George Zimmerman's 911 call to make it appear he was racist media members would be extra careful to be as factually accurate as possible when reporting on the Trayvon Martin shooting.
CNN's Ashleigh Banfield clearly didn't get this memo for while substitute-hosting on Anderson Cooper 360 Friday night, she twice falsely claimed that an eyewitness she had just interviewed said the person she believed was the attacker - meaning the one on top during the fight near her house - was Hispanic (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, SUBSTITUTE HOST: Our breaking news tonight: an eyewitness to the Trayvon Martin killing who says police showed only limited interest in what she said she knew. She says they turned down her offer to show them potentially important information in the case.
Joining us now is George Zimmerman's legal team, Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner.
Welcome to both of you.
I think off the very start of this interview, we should probably ask you to react to these claims that this witness says that the Sanford police weren't interested in having her take them to the spot where she said she witnessed the scuffle. She wanted to almost show them a re-enactment and they said, no. We're OK.
Does that trouble you?
HAL UHRIG, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Not particularly. You know, it's a matter of how you try to evaluate what she perceive and what they actually did. I don't there's much question about where the scuffle took place, one shot rang out and the person apparently died right there.
It's not hard to find the spot. I don't think they need to neighbor to take them out and show them where that happened. That may have been their take on it.
Look, we appreciate your help and tell us what you saw and tell us what heard. You don't need to take us out there and show it where it happened. We know where it happened.
BANFIELD: And, Craig, she also said that she was quite certain this time and she has been interviewed before, but she seems to have fuller or more robust details at least on what she said witnessed that night.
And she says she was certain that the larger Hispanic-looking man was on top of the boy. That's her account -- the boy, at the time, the shots hang out and that he got up off of that scuffle and started walking towards her.
Banfield reiterated this in a subsequent interview with CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin:
BANFIELD: In the meantime, let's bring in criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, and also CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Sunny Hostin.
Sunny, I'll begin with you. Some of the new developments, you have been able to listen in on the witness as she says what thinks that she saw. She feels she saw the larger man of Hispanic description on top of what she said is the boy after the shot is fired.
Yet the eyewitness Banfield interviewed earlier in the show didn't say a word about the alleged attacker being Hispanic:
BANFIELD: Where were you looking at the moment the gun fired?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was looking at the two men on the ground and heard the gunshot.
BANFIELD: Could you tell who was on the top, who was on the bottom?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it was very dark, but I really would have to say that I thought it was the larger person that was on top.
BANFIELD: And when the gunfire went off, what happened to the larger man who you think might have been on the top? What happened at that moment?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I will just say a couple seconds later that larger man was walking closer to where I could see him.
BANFIELD: Before those couple of seconds at the moment the gunshot went off, what happened with the larger man?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, obviously the other man -- the boy was dead and the other person got up and was walking away from the body.
BANFIELD: When you first saw him coming towards you, could you see any blood on his face? Was it light enough for you to be able to see any blood on his face if there was any there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was not light enough for me to see if there was any blood on the face.
BANFIELD: So there could have been, but it's just not something you could testify to?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I cannot testify because I did not see.
The full transcript of Friday's AC 360 shows that the only reference to the alleged attacker being Hispanic came from Banfield. The eyewitness only identified him as the "larger man."
Something else to consider that Banfield didn't raise with the eyewitness is that Martin is 6' 1". Although Zimmerman weighs about 40 pounds more, he is only 5' 9" tall.
Was it possible from the eyewitness's vantage point and how dark it was that "larger" meant taller and not heavier?
Banfield never asked that.
Regardless, it is tremendously unacceptable for Banfield to put words in the mouth of an eyewitness she had just interviewed.
As the producer involved in NBC's selective editing of the Zimmerman 911 tape has now been fired despite remaining anonymous, will CNN discipline Banfield for this disgraceful breach of journalistic integrity?
*****Update: I've been informed this eyewitness did say in last Friday's interview with Anderson Cooper that she believed the killer was Hispanic.
Doesn't it seem odd that her only description of the man on top seven days later was that he was larger, and that rather than ask her about this, Banfield filled in the gap and pretended she said "larger Hispanic-looking man?"
This seems especially important given the eyewitness's claim there "was not light enough for me to see if there was any blood on the face."
If it's too dark to see if someone has blood on his face, how could you tell he was Hispanic?
Unfortunately, rather than ask that question, Banfield made the conclusion herself.
*****Update II: Ann Coulter pointed out to me that Zimmerman only weighs 20 pounds more than Martin. As such, who's "larger"?
However it started, witnesses described to the 911 dispatcher what resulted: the neighborhood watch coordinator, 5 foot 9 and 170 pounds, and the visitor, 6 foot 1 and 150, wrestling on the ground.
So, if you saw two men wrestling in the dark at some distance, with one 5' 9" and 170 pounds and the other 6' 1" and 150 pounds, how would you determine which was "larger"?
Banfield never asked the eyewitness - but Zimmerman's attorneys will at the grand jury hearing.