“It's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission” states an adage that the staff of the New Republic magazine has apparently adopted, especially when it comes to writing disparaging things about George Zimmerman, the man who was found not guilty of murdering black teenager Trayvon Martin three weeks ago.
In an essay entitled “The Law That Acquitted Zimmerman Isn't Racist But That Doesn't Mean the Outcome Wasn't,” Richard Ford -- a Stanford law professor -- claimed: “Zimmerman was an edgy basket case with a gun who had called 911 46 times in 15 months, once to report the suspicious activities of a seven-year-old black boy.”
Those claims would certainly be shocking -- if they were true. However, law scholars Jonathan Adler, David Bernstein and Michelle Meyer responded by pointing out three glaring errors in Ford's article.
First, those 46 calls were not all made to the 911 emergency line; some went to the local “non-emergency” police number.
Also, the calls were made over a period of several years, not 15 months as written in the professor's hit piece.
And third, Zimmerman reportedly called the police to report that the seven-year-old black boy was unattended by an adult, not to report that the child for engaging in “suspicious activities.”
Those writers and several colleagues wrote to Ford and the editors of the New Republic, asking that they correct the errors in the essay.
In response, the text was changed to read:
Zimmerman was an edgy basket case with a gun who had called the polics [sic] 46 times in 15 months, once to report on a seven-year-old black boy.
That revision was insufficient, wrote Meyer and Adler, because it still gave the impression that Zimmerman was suspicious of the young black boy, as opposed to reporting over safety concerns for the child.
Also, the editor’s note at the bottom only acknowledges one of the mistakes:
This article has been corrected. Zimmerman called various law enforcement officials 46 times, not just 911, as originally stated.
Adler was particularly troubled by the New Republic’s partial correction, writing:
It’s almost as if the editors don’t care about the errors, can’t admit to their mistakes, or can’t bring themselves to disrupt the narrative.
Meyers also condemned the revised version of the essay, stating:
It’s one thing to make a mistake about facts. It’s quite another to double down on damaging falsehoods after having your mistake pointed out. In that respect, TNR‘s cure here is worse than the disease.
The controversy made its way to the Twitter social website, where several posters demonstrated their lack of knowledge regarding George Zimmerman by perpetuating the myth that he had "profiled" a young boy.
@Imma17thBoi shouted in all capital letters to voice his displeasure about the claim: “THEY SAY ZIMMERMAN CALLED THE POLICE ON A 7 YEAR OLD BLACK BOY B4 TOO. KNEW THAT MARK ASS NIGGA WAS RACIST “
In a similar tweet, @MindOfPryze stated:
I think I'm still mad George Zimmerman got off, dude called 911 46 times for suspicious ppl. He even reported a suspicious 7 year old smh.
“Zimmerman called police on a 'suspicious' black 7 year old,” noted @PaintingDaBlues, who claimed the 29-year-old Hispanic “was obsessed.”
However, @akik saw the situation from a different perspective. He called the New Republic's behavior “pretty embarrassing journalistic misconduct.”
Finally, after several days of trying to ignore the controversy, the magazine's editors changed the original essay and issued an apology:
This article has been corrected. Zimmerman called various law enforcement officials 46 times, not just 911, as originally stated. He made the calls over an eight-year period, not over the course of 15 months, as originally stated.
“The original sentence also cited a call Zimmerman made about a seven-year-old boy; the clause has been removed as it implied that Zimmerman was reporting suspicious activity,” the editors stated. “It appears that Zimmerman made the call out of concern.”
“We regret the errors,” the apology concluded.
How about regretting the entire article?
With all the press spotlight on supporters of Trayvon Martin lately, it's interesting to see that others side with George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges and has been the target of rumors and lies ever since.
The families of both Zimmerman and Martin have unfortunately been hurt by this tragic situation, so here's hoping they can regain the peace they all deserve.