Fox News host Geraldo Rivera sparked outrage—including from his own son, apparently—by suggesting on Friday that Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen shot dead last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer, courted violence by wearing a hoodie. That piece of clothing killed Martin, according to Rivera "as surely as George Zimmerman."
"I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was," Rivera said on Fox and Friends. "You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta—you're going to be a gangsta wannabe, well people are going to perceive you as a menace. That's what happens. It is an instant, reflexive action."
After co-host Steve Doocy noted that New Yorkers on Wednesday had held a "Million Hoodie March" in support of Martin, 17, Rivera added: "You cannot rehabilitate the hoodie."
Rivera continued: "There are some things that are almost inevitable. I'm not suggesting that Trayvon Martin had any kind of weapon or anything. He wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way. And if he had been dressed more appropriately—I think unless it is raining out or you are at a track meet, leave the hoodie home."
In fact, it was raining out when Martin was killed.
Rivera followed that up by tweeting: "His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman."
After a firestorm of online criticism—including the publicizing by Gawker of Fox News hoodies—Rivera doubled down on his argument in a series of tweets.
"Justice will come to Zimmerman the Fla shooter-but I'm trying to save lives like Trayvon's-Parents Alert: hoodies can get your kid killed," he tweeted.
And then: "My own son just wrote to say he's ashamed of my position re hoodies-still I feel parents must do whatever they can to keep their kids safe."
And finally: "Its not blaming the victim Its common sense-look like a gangsta&some armed schmuck will take you at your word."
In more pressing developments, whether George Zimmerman used a racial slur moments before he shot Martin is emerging as a potentially key question in determining if Zimmerman will be charged in the unarmed teen's killing.
In Zimmerman's call to a police dispatcher, the recording of which was released by the Sanford Police Department, he can faintly be heard saying two words right after telling the dispatcher that Martin, 17, was headed toward the back entrance of the Sanford, Fla., neighborhood where the deadly encounter took place.
CNN enhanced the quality of the recording to make it as audible as possible. It seems clear that Zimmerman's first word is a swear word. The second word is less clear, but appears to be "coons," an offensive, derogatory name for African-Americans.
Earlier in the call, Zimmerman had identified Martin as a black male.
What exactly Zimmerman, 28, said is crucial, because the U.S. Justice Department's investigation of the case is focused on whether he committed a hate crime. That means prosecutors would need to prove—among other things—that Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, targeted Martin, an African-American, specifically because of his race.
The state of Florida is conducting its own probe, which is less focused on issues of race.
The Washington Post has reported that the FBI is using sophisticated audio equipment to similarly enhance the quality of the recording.
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