Last night, MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell was leading a panel of like-minded talking heads including the NY Times' Charles Blow and discussing the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. The specific topic was a one Mr. Joe Oliver, an African-American man, who is a friend of George Zimmerman and whom they had just interviewed. Oliver has been interviewed by several outlets. While he was not a witness to the incident, he has spoken out on Zimmerman's behalf against speculation that he is a racist. In return, he was attacked last night by O'Donnell, who stated that according to his "own investigation" (O'Donnell's) Oliver has no credibility.
Then this morning, I caught the last half of Martin Bashir's show on MSNBC. He was interviewing Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). To make a long story short, they were basically convicting Zimmerman. To them, the facts were simple; Martin was black, he was wearing a hoodie, Zimmerman shot and killed him. He must be arrested. Absent was any mention of the witnesses who described a struggle with Martin on top, Zimmerman's broken nose, bloody face, and grass stains on the back of his shirt. Bashir then closed out his show with his final editorial comment to the effect that Zimmerman killed Martin simply because of the color of Martin's skin without any reference to Zimmerman's (and others') version (s) of the events. Bashir went on to deplore the allegations going around regarding Martin's lifestyle and having gotten repeatedly in trouble, which were being fed to some conservative media outlets. (Never mind a running caption that appeared at the bottom of the screen during the show stating that some conservative media were ignoring the case.)
Again, I must state that I missed the first half of Bashir's show, so there may have been mention of another disturbing aspect of this case-the outrageous conduct of the New Black Panther Party in calling for Zimmerman's "apprehension" and posting a reward for his capture without any charges being as yet filed. I heard no mention of this from Bashir. I heard no mention of the NBPP man caught on TV calling for the capture of Zimmerman "dead or alive".
So I add Bashir and O'Donnell to their MSNBC colleague Ed Schultz in engaging in a public rush to judgement before all the facts are in and knowing full well that there is a lynch mob mentality out there. I have not even heard what Al Sharpton has said on his own show. Of course, he knows lots about inciting a lynch mob.
As I have said before, it may turn out that Zimmerman acted beyond the law. Depending on what exactly transpired when he and Martin came face to face, who initiated the violence and under what circumstances Zimmerman drew his gun and fired, he may well be prosecuted. Unless he made a decision that he was going to follow Martin and execute him, I don't think he could be guilty of more than manslaughter. But I just don't know, and neither does anyone else who wasn't there.
To continue this conviction in the media in the face of what the New Black Panther Party is calling for is beyond irresponsible.