Throughout the trial of George Zimmerman for his role in the death of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin, Fox News has been conspicuously prejudiced in favor of the defendant. The theme most prominent on Fox has been a regurgitation of Zimmerman’s legal team that portrays their client as a hapless victim and Martin as a violent thug. Today Fox went further down that path to pass judgment on Martin with an editorial titled: “Trayvon Martin’s testimony wouldn’t have changed anything in Zimmerman trial.”
That is one of the most disgusting expressions of disrespect for a crime victim you’re likely to ever hear. Because there is one change that would be glaringly obvious were Martin’s testimony to be available. It would mean that he was alive. For Fox to publish an editorial dismissing out of hand what a dead kid might have said about the man who shot and killed him is astonishingly cruel and insensitive.
The author of the column was not an authority on crime or civil rights, it was the notorious gun nut John Lott, who has made a career of advocating for the most extreme deregulation of guns, including the “kill at will” laws that were at the center of the Zimmerman case from the start. Lott has been taking Zimmerman’s side of this debate since it first became public last year. More recently, he published an editorial on Fox News last week saying flatly that “The Zimmerman trial is already over,” and that it should never have been brought to trial. That’s been the position of Fox News for months, and their community web site, Fox Nation (aka Factory of Lies) has posted numerous articles pleading on behalf of Zimmerman-as-victim.
Lott’s arguments in his new column were just as repulsive as the heinous headline. He begins by asking a leading question: “Is there even one piece of convincing evidence that Zimmerman did not act to defend himself from a threat of ‘imminent death or great bodily harm’?”
The answer to any objective person is “Yes.” In fact there is a great deal of evidence that Zimmerman was the aggressor. He was stalking Martin, who had done nothing wrong. He left his car to follow him after the 911 officer advised him not to. The ensuing confrontation occurred only because of these facts, which are not in dispute. You cannot claim self-defense if you are the aggressor, even if you end up on the losing side of the battle.
Lott further reveals the bias in his argument when he sets up a hypothetical scenario to make a point: “If both Zimmerman and Martin had both been white or if Zimmerman had been darker skinned, this case would never have gotten to court.”
Of course, there is no way for anyone to know whether that is true. But the telling thing about Lott’s selection of scenarios is the one that he left out. The scenario that Lott wants his readers to ignore is: What if Zimmerman were black and Martin were white? Were that the case, it would almost certainly have resulted in the arrest of the shooter.
Most of the rest of the column was Lott’s misreading of the evidence presented in court and his one-sided analysis of his own slanted version of events. But the most egregious overstepping of decency was his assertion that were Martin alive to give testimony it would have meant nothing. For some reason, Lott thinks that Martin’s word is worthless. He thinks that if Martin had described a confrontation wherein Zimmerman had assaulted him after having followed him, and then shot him only after he was unable to subdue him, that none of that would have been relevant to the jury or the administration of justice. What is it about Martin that makes Lott regard his testimony as absent of any value? Would Lott apply that same standard to any other victim?
There has been much debate over the apparent racial aspects of this case. Lott himself raises it at the end of his article by declaring that the episode “has left lasting damage to race relations in the U.S.” But there is an undercurrent in these events that may be even more significant than race. There is a reason that a prominent gun advocate is taking such a visible role in Zimmerman’s defense, and that Fox News is providing him the platform. The gun lobby has taken a strong interest in this case as it impacts their long held beliefs that everyone be allowed to carry weapons at all times, in all places, and be excused if they use them to kill other people.
The commencement of this trial was deeply rooted in racial politics when the local Florida police never bothered to arrest Zimmerman or make reasonable efforts to ascertain what happened, to preserve evidence, or to conduct a legitimate investigation. But the outcome of this case may revolve more around guns and their place in a civilized society. And the evidence of that is apparent when gun nuts like John Lott are leading the parade for murder defendants, rather than experts on race or crime.