Greta Van Susteren took on an extra duty in her Zimmerman defense coverage last night. She found a witness to interview, one who just happened to take Zimmerman’s side. Or as FoxNews.com described their video, “Fellow neighborhood watch volunteer portrays George Zimmerman as defending himself against Trayvon Martin as trial could come down to question of character.” Van Susteren’s questions were designed to elicit not just that but to justify Zimmerman’s racial suspicions. However, Van Susteren left out some important information that might have made a big difference to how her viewers judged this character witness.
A quick Google search of the interviewee, Frank Taaffe, revealed this about him in the Orlando Sentinel:
Frank Taaffe, one of the first and most prominent supporters of murder suspect George Zimmerman, has resolved his DUI case by pleading no contest to a lesser charge and being placed on probation.
Furthermore, on a recent HLN segment, Taaffe made what looked a lot like a racial joke (which he denied was meant as such) about Trayvon Martin’s friend, Rachel Jeantel. That YouTube video is the second video below.
Nevertheless, Van Susteren suggested Taaffe was a dispassionate observer. Her first question to him was, “Have you ever spoken to George Zimmerman?” It left viewers with the false impression that Taaffe was only distantly acquainted with Zimmerman and had not already made a name for himself as a Zimmerman defender.
Meanwhile, Van Susteren not only didn’t talk to any neighbors with negative opinions of Zimmerman, she didn’t even mention them. From the Huffington Post:
Zimmerman, who patrolled the Retreat at Twin Lakes development in his own car, had been called aggressive in earlier complaints to the local police and the homeowner’s association, according to a homeowner who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
At an emergency homeowner’s association meeting on March 1, “one man was escorted out because he openly expressed his frustration because he had previously contacted the Sanford Police Department about Zimmerman approaching him and even coming to his home,” the resident wrote in an email to HuffPost. “It was also made known that there had been several complaints about George Zimmerman and his tactics” in his neighborhood watch captain role.
But the picture that Taaffe painted, with Van Susteren’s help, was of a conscientious Zimmerman just doing his best to combat a crime wave in the community. A crime wave that only seemed to involve African Americans.
Even worse, according to Taaffe, after the Martin shooting, Zimmerman supposedly asked him (Taaffe) to “share with everybody several talking points” about “the night that (Taaffe's) home was in the process of being burglarized. …As to who the perpetrator was, he was an individual, young black male that lived in our community, that was responsible for not just the attempted burglary of my house, but two other burglaries that had been committed in this neighborhood.”
As he spoke, a banner on the screen read: Zimmerman neighbor: My house broken into by another young black male in community.
The problem is that even assuming that “young black male” was still on the loose the night Trayvon Martin got shot, a) he was not doing anything criminal and b) Zimmerman had no right to treat him as if he were. But, not surprisingly, Van Susteren didn’t bring those points up.
One of the guests who followed this interview, criminal defense attorney Bernie Grimm, rightly noted how Taaffe had been used by Zimmerman as a defense mouthpiece and in a particularly race-baiting way. But, unfortunately, Grimm never noted the distortion put forth by Fox.