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Enhanced audio of George Zimmerman 911 call casts doubt about use of racial slur

George Zimmerman Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman, seen at left in a prior booking photo, says he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in self defense.

Contrary to previous reports, George Zimmerman did not utter a racial slur during a 911 call he made while tailing Trayvon Martin in the moments before he shot and killed Martin, according to a new analysis of the recording.

That’s the latest take from one of the news organizations, CNN, that earlier had reported -- it seems, erroneously -- that Zimmerman had uttered the phrase “f---ing coon” in his 911 call.

“It doesn’t sound like a slur anymore,” CNN features reporter Gary Tuckman said to host Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday. “It sounds like – and we wanted to leave it up to the viewer – but it sounds like we’re hearing the swear word at first and the word ‘cold.’”

The CNN reversal came after the quality of the audio recording was improved and analyzed by a second independent expert, who determined Zimmerman had been talking about the unusually cold Florida weather the night of the shooting.

Blitzer had previously reported on the 911 recording with a different expert and indicated at the time that Zimmerman had used the racial epithet, bolstering the argument race was a factor in the shooting of the unarmed 17-year-old, who was black. Zimmerman has white and Hispanic ancestry.

In Wednesday’s report, Blitzer cut to the original segment, in which the word in question was isolated and played repeatedly. “That sounds even more like the word ['coon' or 'coons'] than using it with the F-word before that,” the anchor exclaimed during the original report.

Wednesday’s segment then shifted back to Blitzer, Tuckman and the new audio expert, Brian Stone, who all agreed what they had previously thought was a racial slur was actually the word “cold.”

“It seemed pretty clear then,” Blitzer said.

CNN aired a third report on Thursday claiming that Zimmerman told his attorneys that he said, “f---ing punks.”

The network then had a third forensic audio expert, Tom Owen, analyze the tape and he agreed that Zimmerman uttered “punks."

The news channel’s reports this week was the second mea culpa from a major news organization on the Martin case. NBC News was slammed last week for airing an edited version of the 911 call in which Zimmerman seemed guilty of racial profiling.

“This guy looks like he's up to no good … he looks black,” Zimmerman says in the edited version of the tape that aired.

In the unedited version of the call, however, Zimmerman says, “This guy looks like he's up to no good. Or like he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about.” Only after he is specifically asked by 911 dispatcher about Martin’s race – “Black, white or Hispanic?” did Zimmerman reply “He looks black.”

The edited clip aired on the “Today” show last week.  An internal investigation determined that a “seasoned” producer was to blame for the edit.

NBC apologized for the incident on Tuesday but declined to release the producer’s name, or any information on disciplinary action that may have taken.

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