The Zimmerman Interview: 7 Questions Hannity Should Have Asked
What wasn't asked almost as notable as what murder suspect said
After months as the news industry's most sought-after interview, George Zimmerman broke his silence Wednesday night when he sat down with Fox News host and pundit Sean Hannity. It was his first interview since he shot and killed 17-year-old Florida student Trayvon Martin.
The case gained international notoriety after police initially failed to arrest Zimmerman, whose subsequent behavior has also raised a few eyebrows. Civil rights activists have used it as an example of racial profiling facing young black men in America. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder of Martin, whom he claims he shot in self defense.
The Hannity interview focused heavily on the night of the altercation, barely delving into the events of the last five months. Overall, Hannity squeezed a large number of questions into a relatively short time frame. Hannity's missed opportunities for crucial follow-up questions were just as notable as some of Zimmerman's responses.
In fairness, Zimmerman's legal team likely restricted the subjects that Hannity could broach during the interview. With that in mind, here are seven questions that should have been asked:
1. Why did you choose to trail Trayvon Martin after the dispatcher said "We don't need you to do that"?
Hannity did a good job of having Zimmerman describe what was going through his head as he spotted Martin walking home in the rain and while he was on the phone with police. However, the most crucial question with regard to Zimmerman's conversation with police lies with one of the dispatchers' last instructions. The dispatcher asks Zimmerman if he is following Martin. When he answers that he is, the dispatcher says "We don't need you to do that."
Those seven words have been central to the argument of many of Zimmerman's harshest critics. They say the sentence amounts to a direction, from a police dispatcher, not to follow Martin. If Zimmerman purposely ignored those instructions to pursue Martin, it could aid the legal argument that he initiated the conflict by getting out of his vehicle.
Why Zimmerman felt the need to get out of the car and follow Martin remains the central unanswered question — because had he done neither, the confrontation likely would not have occurred.
2. Do you believe Trayvon Martin had legitimate reasons to fear you?
In the interview, Hannity asks versions of this question but avoids pushing back on Zimmerman after his responses. Since much of the legal case will revolve around who — Martin or Zimmerman — had legitimate reason to defend himself, establishing whether or not Martin would have legitimately felt threatened is key. During his narrative of how the incident began, Zimmerman says that Martin noticed him following and began to "skip" (he originally told police "run") away. Zimmerman insisted that Martin was not afraid.
What Hannity needed to ask, point blank, was whether or not it would be reasonable for a 17-year-old boy being followed by a man in a car to feel threatened.
Later on during the narrative, Zimmerman says Martin approached him and asked what his problem was. As he responded, Zimmerman says, he reached into his jeans in search of his phone — prompting Martin to punch him in the nose.
This begs the follow-up question: Would Martin have a legitimate reason to believe Zimmerman, who had followed him in the rain, was reaching for a weapon? If so, was the attack described by Zimmerman simply an attempt by the teen to defend himself?
3. Why did you stop speaking to your original legal team?
In what remains one of the strangest occurrences during the entire Trayvon Martin saga, George Zimmerman's original legal team held a press conference on April 10, declaring that they would no longer represent him because he refused to return their calls, started a fundraising website without their knowledge and had an off-the-record phone conversation with Hannity (as well as a brief email exchange with me), among other things.
Hannity briefly touched on Zimmerman's mental state, but failed to really push him to discuss what was going through his mind during the nationwide calls for his arrest. It remains unasked what drove the most wanted man in America to ignore his legal team and turn to a makeshift website to profess his innocence.
4. Do you believe you should have been arrested?
Hannity focused a sizable portion of the discussion on what he deemed media sensationalism of the case and also brought up the "dead or alive" bounty put on Zimmerman's head by the New Black Panther Party, a miniscule black extremist group.
However, Hannity failed to include the context that much of the early attention to the case came because Zimmerman — who has never denied shooting Martin — was not initially arrested. Most of the pundits and celebrities who latched on to the case, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and filmmaker Spike Lee, expended most of their energy calling for Zimmerman's arrest and not proclaiming his guilt.
Why should Hannity have asked if Zimmerman believed he should have been arrested? Because if so, it undermines the argument that the media blew the case out of proportion and treated Zimmerman unfairly.
5. Really? You have no regrets? The shooting was "God's plan"?
Some of the most telling moments during one-on-one interviews often come when the interviewer presses back on the interviewees more outlandish responses. The moment that most clearly stands out from this interview is when Hannity asks Zimmerman if he regrets getting out of his car.
Anyone watching the interview, no matter what they believe happened that night, had to know that the "God's Plan" response would blow up. The implication that the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy was preordained and that Zimmerman was thrown into the situation outside of his control is not only outlandish but also disrespectful to the Martin family.
As the interviewer, Hannity needed to force Zimmerman to clarify what, exactly, he meant by calling the incident "God's plan."
6. After shooting Martin, why did you never check his condition?
Zimmerman claimed to police that he was not sure if his shot hit Martin. After pulling the trigger and shooting Martin, Zimmerman says he never looked over to see if Martin was wounded.
If Martin had truly been beating Zimmerman within inches of his life just moments before, does it make sense that his fear would have so quickly vanished that he would not have even checked to make sure Martin wasn't going to begin attacking him again?
One might think, shooting someone in the chest at point blank range is not something a person does without looking to see how badly their victim has been wounded. Zimmerman's answer seemed strange and Hannity should have pressed him on it.
7. Did you molest Witness #9?
The most shocking development in recent weeks has been testimony of a new witness, a family friend of Zimmerman who has claimed that his family is racist and that he sexually abused her for more than a decade while they were children. While her allegations have nothing to do with the Trayvon Martin case, they raise questions about Zimmerman's background and character.
Hannity can argue that he wanted to keep the conversation directly on the Travyon Martin case, but the sexual assault allegations should have been addressed by Zimmerman himself.
So what do you think? How did Sean Hannity do as an interviewer and what questions would you like to have seen asked of George Zimmerman? Tell us in the comment section below.