The New York Times's Serge Kovaleski reported from Sanford, Fla. on the many "missteps" in the police investigation into the fatal shooting of black youth Treyvon Martin by George Zimmerman: "In Martin Case, Police Missteps Add to Challenges to Find Truth." Of course, the Times and the rest of the media have made plenty of their own mistakes in covering the volatile case.
Kovaleski's front-page story Thursday glided over a scrap of data pointing toward vindication for Zimmerman: "...One witness, though, provided information to the police that corroborated Mr. Zimmerman’s account of the struggle, according to a law enforcement official."
The paper ignored other more direct news pointing in that direction. Blogger Tom Maguire cited ABC News to accuse the Times of omission: "The NY Times can't quite bring itself to report on the latest news in the Zimmerman case -- Zimmerman's medical file shows he was banged up and Martin's autopsy showed bloody knuckles -- so they hand the mike to the Ben Crump, the Martin family attorney, and rehash every possible mistake made by the Sanford PD."
The Sanford police aren't the only ones guilty of "missteps" in the Zimmerman case. NBC's misconduct in editing the 911 tapes to portray Zimmerman as racist is well known. And National Review's Jonah Goldberg used the Times's lead story on the relative decline of white births in the U.S. to recall the Times's own ethnic gamesmanship on Zimmerman.
Goldberg wrote Thursday morning:
We are going to hear a lot about this in the days to come. Non-Hispanic white births now account for less than fifty percent of all births. One point that is already going by the wayside: More than half of all U.S. Hispanics are...white. Funny how the New York Times only has use for the term “white Hispanic” when it comes to George Zimmerman (and I’m not even sure Zimmerman actually fits the designation).
Indeed the Times referred to Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic" in several late-March articles, after the February 26 shooting became a national issue. Goldberg's March 27 Los Angeles Times op-ed noted that under that standard President Obama should be called a "white African-American."
And media critic Bernard Goldberg said on FOX News: "The New York Times, in almost a caricature of a liberal media, refers to George Zimmerman as a 'white Hispanic.' I guarantee you that if George Zimmerman did something good -- if he finished first in his high school graduating class when he was younger -- they wouldn’t refer to him as a white Hispanic, he’d just be a Hispanic....He’s only a 'white Hispanic' because they need the word 'white' to further the story line, which is, White, probably racist vigilante shoots an unarmed black kid."
Washington Post blogger Eric Wemple also found the paper's formulation odd at the time, noting the term rarely appeared in the paper before the Zimmerman case. Times' standards editor Phil Corbett acknowledged the term's awkwardness when asked, but strongly denied any agenda-pushing.
The description has mostly faded from the paper's pages. Yet Zimmerman was called a "white Hispanic man" on the paper's education site The Learning Network quite recently, on May 1.
And a caption attached to a bizarre March 27 online op-ed on the case, likely from a Times staffer, used a case from the slavery era to conflate Zimmerman with "white man": "The message from a Michigan judge: If a white man is pursuing a black man, don’t interfere." Not even the author went that far, though he used torturous language to describe Zimmerman as "non-black": "In short, it appears that whites (or other non-blacks) may hunt down blacks with immunity from arrest so long as they leave behind no clue that they were not acting to defend themselves..."