Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Since George Zimmerman was arrested earlier this week for allegedly threatening his girlfriend with a shotgun, many of his defenders have gone silent or turned tail. Speaking on Fox News after Zimmerman's Tuesday arraignment, Geraldo Rivera, a former Zimmerman booster, went so far as to call him "borderline psychotic."
But Zimmerman's neighbor and de facto spokesman, Frank Taaffe, has pressed ahead with the media crusade he began in the runup to Zimmerman's trial on charges of murdering unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. And despite revelations that Taaffe is a convicted criminal and unabashed racist who hosts a white-power podcast, cable news networks have continued giving him a platform.
Most recently, Taaffe appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight and argued that Zimmerman was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Morgan asked Taaffe what Zimmerman—who faces charges of aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic violence battery, and criminal mischief—was doing in a house full of guns. "Boys will have their toys," Taaffe replied. He also called Zimmerman's girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, and his ex-wife, Shellie (who has alleged that Zimmerman threatened her and her father with a gun, too) "opportunistic."
Earlier this week, Taaffe appeared on HLN's Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew On Call. "George is being oppressed by the press," he told an incredulous Grace, who asked: "So according to you, what is it? A conspiracy between the...the ATF officer, the girlfriend in 2006, the wife in September 2013, and me, I guess?"
"No," Taaffe said. "He's allying himself with these women that he shouldn't be with."
Here is the Nancy Grace segment:
Here's a segment from Dr. Drew On Call:
In media interviews during Zimmerman's trial, Taaffe made similar personal attacks on Martin and posted virulently racist comments on Twitter—one read "the only time a black life is validated is when a white person kills them."
Taaffe himself has been arrested (though never convicted) repeatedly on stalking and domestic violence charges, and he served nine months in jail for trespassing in his ex-wife's home. But there was no mention of his criminal record on CNN or HLN, both of which have given him ample airtime in the past. As Mother Jones reported in August:
CNN and its sister network, HLN, have repeatedly invited Taaffe to weigh in on legal and technical aspects of the Zimmerman case, from the implications of witness testimony to the meaning of forensic evidence….When Valerie Rao, Jacksonville, Florida's chief medical examiner, testified during the trial that Zimmerman's injuries were minor enough to be treated with Band-Aids—an assertion that cast doubt on Zimmerman's claims that Martin had bashed his head repeatedly on the sidewalk—Taaffe appeared on the Nancy Grace show and argued that Rao was wrong.
When Taaffe made these appearances, some still made the case that Zimmerman was a community-minded neighborhood watch volunteer who perceived Martin as a genuine threat. But this version of events seems far less plausible in light of his recent actions. And giving Taaffe a platform to bash Zimmerman's alleged victims is that much less defensible.