Murder suspect George Zimmerman on Thursday filed a defamation lawsuit against NBCUniversal Media as well as three current and former NBC reporters for allegedly portraying him as racist to increase ratings.
"NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmberman was a racist and predatory villain," the lawsuit states. "Their goal was simple: keep viewers alarmed, and thus always watching, by menacing them with a reprehensible series of imaginary and exaggerated racist claims."
Zimmerman's legal team have created a website to publicize the lawsuit, which is seeking "damages in excess of the jurisdictional limit" from NBC.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot and killed unarmed African American teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman said the shooting was in self-defense. The incident gained national attention after it was reported the shooting was racially motivated and that police had not arrested Zimmerman.
On The Today Show, NBC had aired an edited audio clip from a 911 call Zimmerman had placed before the shooting. The clip made it appear as if Zimmerman said: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black."
However, in the unedited clip, Zimmerman said: "This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about."
The dispatcher then asked if the suspect was black, white or Hispanic, to which Zimmerman replied, "He looks black."
The lawsuit names NBC News correspondent Ron Allen along with former NBC News reporters Lilia Rodriguez Luciano and Jeffrey Burnside. Luciano and Burnside were both fired by NBC after an internal investigation of the edited audio clip.
"All of the defendants' actions have substantially contributed to a media frenzy including rallies provoked by NBC personnel such as the Reverend Al Sharpton," the lawsuit states, "and public misunderstanding which has caused severe damages to the plaintiff, including death threats and a bounty for his capture, all of which have forced Zimmerman to live in hiding, wear a bullet proof vest, and suffer other permanent and severe emotional injuries and damages as described in this Complaint."