NBC News Fires Third Employee Over Doctored 911 Call in Trayvon Martin Controversy

Lilia Luciano Headshot - P 2012
Getty Images

Lilia Luciano Headshot - P 2012

The network's coverage of the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin controversy costs reporter Lilia Luciano her job less than two weeks after the firing of Jeff Burnside.

A scandal at NBC News over the multiple airings of deceptively edited audio from a 911 call placed by George Zimmerman the night he killed Trayvon Martin has cost a third journalist her job, an NBC insider confirmed Thursday.

The fired NBC reporter was identified as Lilia Luciano, a national correspondent for the Today show, Nightly News with Brian Williams and MSNBC who joined the network 18 months ago from Univision.

Luciano is credited for being one of the earliest reporters to cover the controversial shooting, which occurred Feb. 26 but remained headline news for several weeks as civil rights activists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson demanded the arrest of Zimmerman, who had claimed he shot Martin in self defense. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder on April 11.

NBC and  its sister network MSNBC has been under fire for seemingly going out of their way to advance the narrative that Zimmerman, a Hispanic, was racially motivated to kill Martin, a black teenager.

NBC’s Today show aired a doctored 911 call where Zimmerman appears to say, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. He looks black.”

That edited version, though, filters out the middle of the call, where the 911 dispatcher specifically asks Zimmerman to describe Martin’s race. NBC apologized on April 3 and said three days later that they fired a producer over the edit, though it has yet to name the former employee.

Critics have also pointed out what they called deceptive edits on local NBC stations, and they were used online and in print, where ellipsis were used to mask the 911 operator’s question about race. NBC confirmed on April 26 that it fired reporter Jeff Burnside for one of those transgressions.

As for Luciano, she has been spearheading some of NBC’s coverage, and she used a more complicated edited version of the 911 call, where conversation wasn’t only excluded but was allegedly cut from parts of the call and inserted into other parts.

In Luciano’s version, which also aired on NBC’s Today show, Zimmerman is heard saying: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something. He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.”

In the unedited call, which is embedded below, the conversation about Martin's waistband comes 40 seconds after the mention of "drugs or something."

Critics say the edits were made to advance the narrative of Zimmerman as a racial profiler and, in fact, Luciano has tweeted, sometimes in Spanish and sometimes in English, suggestions along those lines.

On March 17, for example, she tweeted: “Racial profiling? Trayvon Martin’s family seeking answers to the shooting death of the teen.” The tweet was a plug for an NBC segment that explored the question.

As is the case with Burnside, Luciano stopped tweeting since NBC fired her.

Media watchdogs – mostly conservatives – have been calling on NBC to do much more than issue an apology that called the airing of deceptively edited audio tape an “error,” and also to name the fired producer.

“How can they possibly have pretended these separate incidents were accidents?” asked Human Events writer John Hayward.  “How could one producer, and two reporters, be entirely responsible for this?  And how can NBC continue to justify keeping any part of its investigation under wraps?”

NBC declined to comment on the record for this report.

Email: paul.bond@thr.com