DENVER — Even after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty Saturday of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin, emotions on both sides of the issue are running higher than ever. The debate is perhaps hottest on the internet, where Zimmerman’s supporters and detractors each seem eager to snatch up any story that backs their view of the situation.
If the volume of e-mail in our inboxes is any indication, a handful of long-running hoaxes have been finding even more traction in recent days. Here are some of the most common misunderstandings so far:
Koch Industries paid George Zimmerman’s legal bills: Several publications advanced the claim that the Kansas-based multinational corporation lobbied in favor of Florida’s Stand Your Ground gun legislation and even went so far as to send money to George Zimmerman’s defense fund. While the corp is generally considered to be conservative on energy issues, it has denied involvement in gun legislation and maintains that it had nothing to do with the Zimmerman case. Koch Industries still claims that the story was a hit piece created by MSNBC.
The media have been showing only a few images of Trayvon Martin in order to make him seem less threatening:
In March of 2012, Twitchy.com released a photo that purported to show a current picture of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin flipping off the camera juxtaposed with the smiling, non-threatening picture of the teen that had been circulating in the media.
Another image popular among a segment of Zimmerman supporters does not show Trayvon Martin at all — it’s a picture of the rapper Game, who is six inches taller and 16 years older than Martin was at the time of his death.
However, images taken from Martin’s cell phone that show him handling a gun and smoking what appears to be marijuana are real.
Secret documents prove that the Department of Justice organized anti-Zimmerman rallies: The website Judicial Watch claimed that members of DOJ’s Community Relations Service flew to Florida and “actively worked to foment unrest.” When pressed, the site produced documents that did indeed prove CRS visited Sanford, Fla., in the wake of the shooting. But instead of secretly stirring up riots, the agency was demonstrably working with a variety of people including law enforcement and the Republican National Convention, according to Snopes. All of this is in line with the group’s mission of avoiding civil problems, not causing them.
“It’s unlikely that if the CRS were furtively working to stir up unrest over the Trayvon Martin case, they would have … met with an official from the Republican National Convention in order to discuss the possibility of protests and demonstrations during that event,” Snopes concluded.