If America descends into deep racial violence this summer, one media figure above others will deserve the award for making it happen, ABC’s Matt Gutman.
A year ago this week, the story of Trayvon Martin’s killing Feb. 26, 2012, was still largely contained in Florida. That would change when Matt Gutman, a “Break-Out News Hottie” according to one gay blogger, entered the scene stage left.
On March 13, 2012, Gutman tweeted, that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman “shot 17yr old teen bc he was black, wore hoodie walking slowly.” Gutman had clearly established his template before he had seen any evidence.
Three days later, the Sanford Police Department (SPD) released the 911 calls and George Zimmerman’s exchange with the non-emergency dispatcher. Gutman hopped all over it. Based in Miami, he wanted to own this story.
On March 16, Gutman posted a piece on the ABC News site with the inflammatory headline, “Trayvon Martin Neighborhood Watch Shooting: 911 Tapes Send Mom Crying From Room.” The article implies that Martin’s mother left the room crying because she heard her son scream for help on the 911 calls.
EVIDENCE: Martin was a staying with Brandy Green, a girlfriend of his father’s. His mother and stepmother lived in Miami.
GUTMAN: Martin left for the store at half-time of the NBA All-Star Game.
EVIDENCE: Martin was dead before the game started.
GUTMAN: The “gunshots” are triggering outrage.
EVIDENCE: There was only one gunshot, and it was the media coverage that was triggering outrage.
GUTMAN: Martin was “100 pounds lighter” than Zimmerman.
EVIDENCE: He was 36 pounds lighter or less.
GUTMAN: “You can hear him stalk Martin.”
EVIDENCE: He doesn’t stalk Martin. When the dispatcher says to Zimmerman, who is following Martin, “OK. We don’t need you to do that,” Zimmerman says, “OK,” and stops. Gutman edits out Zimmerman’s “OK” and follows immediately with his own comment, “But then came the gunshots.”
GUTMAN: Zimmerman had a record – “battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.”
EVIDENCE: The charges had been dropped. Gutman does not mention that.
GUTMAN: Police have been accused of “correcting one eyewitness, while ignoring another.”
EVIDENCE: Yes, but the SPD did so for good reason. On one 911 call desperate cries of “help” are clearly audible for 42 seconds until they promptly stop with a gunshot. The Sanford Police Department knew it is Zimmerman who was crying out. They had interviewed the eyewitnesses.
An hour after the shooting, for instance, Witness No. 6 told the SPD that he saw a “black man in a black hoodie on top of either a white guy . . . or an Hispanic guy in a red sweater on the ground yelling out help.” According to No. 6, the black man on top was “throwing down blows on the guy MMA [mixed martial arts] style.”
Witness No. 13 waited until the fighting ended, went outside and saw Zimmerman walking toward him. “Am I bleeding?” Zimmerman asked. Witness No. 13 answered affirmatively. He also noticed “blood on the back of his head” and took a picture of it.
Gutman likely had not yet heard the audio of these interviews, but witness No. 6 had spoken on camera to a local TV station the day after the shooting. “The guy on bottom who I believe had a red sweater on was yelling to me, ‘help, help,’” the witness said. “I told them to stop and I was calling 911.” As both Zimmerman and the witness confirm, Zimmerman appealed directly to this man for help.
The one witness Gutman does present is Mary Cutcher, a local schoolteacher. Cutcher appears in this piece at a Team Trayvon press conference where she says confidently, “We know it’s not self-defense.”
As Gutman suggests, Cutcher is one of the witnesses the SPD corrected or ignored, but he does not mention that on her 911 call Cutcher insisted that there was “a black guy standing up over [the shooting victim].” The SPD could not take this information seriously.
In an interview with the SPD four days after the shooting, Cutcher claimed, “I didn’t pay much attention to [the altercation]. I didn’t hear any words. It sounded like someone was struggling or hurt or something.” She clarified that to say, “I heard nothing but a little kid scared to death or crying.”
In her defense, Cutcher could be forgiven for thinking that Martin was, in fact, “a little kid.” Team Trayvon had been feeding the media only child-like images of Martin, and the media had been spreading them uncritically.
Gutman uses a half dozen of them in his “Good Morning America” piece. When talking about “the struggle” between Martin and Zimmerman, ABC shows the viewer the photo of a thuggish, heavyset Zimmerman from 2005 countered by an Onion-worthy photo of an innocent young Martin actually hugging a baby.
Over the next few days, Gutman’s reporting would grow more reckless and inflammatory. The FBI was now investigating the case as a hate crime. Why? Zimmerman, in his call to the dispatcher, had used a “possible racist remark.” Gutman never specifies what that remark was because there was none.
Now, according to Gutman, even more damning evidence had emerged that the police had inexplicably ignored, and, better still, Gutman was exclusively allowed to hear it.
As Gutman related, Team Trayvon had interviewed a “16-year-old girl.” She had been on the phone with Martin in his last minutes. The viewer hears the girl say, “He said that this man was watching him so he put his hoodie on.”
Gutman adds, “Suddenly Martin was cornered.” He then cuts back to the girl who recounts Martin saying, “What are you following me for?” Then, the girl continues, “The man said, ‘what are you doing around here.’” Then, says the girl, “Somebody pushed Trayvon.” The line then goes dead and, says Gutman, “Seconds later Zimmerman shot Martin.”
The girl, who was 18 at the time, will not testify in court because she and Team Trayvon were lying about what she knew from the beginning. The case is falling apart. Gutman and pals have already started modifying their reporting, but at the end of the day, the more excitable parts of America may not be in a mood to listen.
Note: Jack Cashill is currently working on a book for WND Books, “If I Had A Son: Race, Guns, and the Railroading of George Zimmerman.”