While media finally became critical of filmmaker and actor Spike Lee for recklessly re-tweeting (twice) an elderly couple’s address, his actions only received national attention after the Water Cooler blog last Tuesday pointed out that the address Mr. Lee re-tweeted did not belong to 28 year - old George Zimmerman of Sanford, Florida.
Lee apologized and legally compensated an undisclosed amount to Elaine, age 70, and David, age 72, McClain for re-tweeting out their home address to Lee’s over 250,000 followers. The original tweet belonged to Marcus D. Higgins who confused Ms. McClain’s son, William Zimmerman, from a previous marriage, with that of George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot Trayvon Williams in February.
There is no relation between George and William. Given the anger over the case that is currently being exacerbated by the New Black Panther Party, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, and Jesse Jackson, the couple received death threats as a result of Lee’s tweet.
Last Tuesday morning, I visited the Edgewater Circle address in Sanford that Mr. Lee tweeted out, when I suspected the address was not that of George Zimmerman’s. No one was at house, but a neighbor named Tim, who lived across the street, confirmed that George Zimmerman did not live in the neighborhood or at the address across from him but a woman named Elaine did.
In fact, according to Tim, a number of news outlets already came through the neighborhood days before my visit looking for George Zimmerman. However, not one news outlet bothered to point out the address Spike Lee re-tweeted on Friday and Saturday was incorrect. There was plenty of national media in Sanford, as protests in the area were covered on cable news channels all weekend through Monday, but hardly a mention that a an online action potentially dangerous to others was made.
An article that appeared last Sunday by Joel Pollack at Breitbart.com, which was picked up by Fox Nation last Monday as well as the Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy site, which initially picked up Lee’s tweets, and rightfully upset individuals on Twitter were all critical of Lee even before it became known the address was not Zimmerman’s. Just the idea that Lee tried to stoke the flames was the issue.
Additionally, although he apologized, and legally settled with the McClains, Spike Lee started an out of control wild fire. Some are still re-tweeting the McClain’s address and attaching threats to it, believing George Zimmerman lives at their house.
A Zimmerman family member, according to The Daily Caller’s Matthew Boyle, wrote in a letter about race baiters who are stirring up death threats towards George himself:
“If something happens to George as a result of the race furor stirred up by this mischaracterization of George there will be blood on your hands as well as the rest of the racists that have rushed to judgment. You need to call off the dogs. Period. Publicly and swiftly.”
“Regardless of this fact, George Zimmerman has been hiding for his life because of the death threats made against him by the black community … all of our family is in hiding and frankly scared by the threats.”
Spike Lee’s actions also inspired a fellow Hollywood actor. Roseanne Barr tweeted out George Zimmerman’s parents’ correct address. According to NBC’s Today:
“If Zimmerman isn’t arrested I’ll rt his address again. maybe go 2 his house myself,” Barr tweeted.
Criticism came quickly from the comedian’s more than 100,000 followers. Tweeted rob b, “Apparently Roseanne Barr is even dumber than Spike Lee, tweeting the correct home address of George [Zimmerman’s] parents.” In response, Barr wrote on Twitter Friday, “The ‘witchburnings’ will continue despite apology…Decent [people] move on, indecent ones like to keep slinging mud [because] they r morally damaged.”
According to the Smoking Gun, the information Barr circulated was correct. However, she later admitted, “I don’t know if the address is accurate or not.”
Since last Tuesday morning, it appears that most in the media and general public are astonished that Mr. Lee tweeted out anyone’s personal address, even if the address turned out to be the George Zimmerman being talked about on the cable news channels.
However, it should not have taken the realization that Mr. Lee tweeted out the “wrong” address to understand that tweeting out anyone’s personal address is wrong. Roseanne Barr did not get the message. She looked at it as an opportunity, in fact, to push the envelope.
More importantly, George Zimmerman and his own family continue to be threatened. Unfortunately, given the initial media complacency with Lee and his tweets as well as other distorted if not questionable coverage of the Trayvon Martin case up to this point does not bode well to help sustain a violence-free environment for everyone.