ORLANDO, Florida – George Zimmerman sued NBC on Thursday, claiming he was defamed when the network edited his emergency services 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 Zimmerman, making him fear for his life and causing him to suffer nausea, insomnia and anxiety.
The lawsuit claims NBC edited his phone call to a dispatcher in February. In the call, 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.
"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," the lawsuit claims.
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.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder but has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground law."
The call viewers heard was trimmed to suggest that Zimmerman volunteered to police, with no prompting, that Martin was black: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black."
But the portion of the tape that was deleted had the emergency services dispatcher asking Zimmerman if the person who had raised his suspicion was "black, white or Hispanic," to which Zimmerman responded, "He looks black."