ORLANDO, Fla. — George Zimmerman sued NBC on Thursday, claiming he was defamed when the network edited his 911 call to police after the shooting of Trayvon Martin to make it sound like he was racist.
The former neighborhood-watch volunteer filed the lawsuit seeking an undisclosed amount of money in Seminole County, outside Orlando. Also named in the complaint were three reporters covering the story for NBC or an NBC-owned television station.
The complaint said the airing of the edited call has inflicted emotional distress on Mr. Zimmerman and made him fear for his life.
The lawsuit claims NBC edited his phone call to a dispatcher last February to make him look like a racist. In the call, Mr. Zimmerman describes following Martin in the gated community where he lived, just moments before he fatally shot the 17-year-old teen during a confrontation.
The call viewers heard was trimmed to suggest that Mr. Zimmerman volunteered to police, with no prompting, that Martin was black: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black," NBC aired the clip as saying.
But the portion of the tape that was deleted had the 911 dispatcher asking Mr. Zimmerman whether the person who had raised his suspicion was "black, white or Hispanic," to which Mr. Zimmerman responded, "He looks black."
According to the lawsuit, "NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create a myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain."
Mr. Zimmerman was publicly vilified as a racist during weeks of national coverage and had to flee into hiding.
NBC spokeswoman Kathy Kelly-Brown said the network strongly disagreed with the accusations made in the complaint. "There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly," she said. "We intend to vigorously defend our position in court."
Three employees of the network or its Miami affiliate lost their jobs because of the changes.
By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Are there profound differences between the Left and the Right? You betcha.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
A carefully guided tour through the confusing world of modern bookselling and publishing.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention