A donation website that George Zimmerman used to raise money for his legal defense reportedly “lit up” every time Fox News host Sean Hannity mentioned the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, according to a profile of the Zimmerman family in GQ.
Reporter Amanda Robb's GQ piece focuses on events following the acquittal of Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges stemming from a February 2012 shooting that left Martin, an unarmed Sanford, Florida, area high school student, dead of a gunshot wound. The shooting brought national attention on Zimmerman and also Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law, which played an important role in Zimmerman's acquittal.
Robb spoke with members of Zimmerman's family, and reported that the only media figure Zimmerman “liked” was Hannity, and that mentions of the Martin shooting on Hannity's Fox News show “lit up” donations to Zimmerman's website:
George hated journalists. He blamed them for turning him into a national villain. There was only one media figure he liked: Hannity. Fortunately, Hannity--and especially Hannity's viewers on Fox News--liked him back. George, whose legal debt was in the seven figures, briefly had a website that accepted PayPal donations, and it lit up every time Hannity mentioned the incident on-air.
Robb also reported that the Zimmerman family now lives in seclusion, citing security concerns, and passes time by “watching Spanish-language telenovelas and Duck Dynasty and Real Housewives and Fox News.”
Following the 2012 shooting through Zimmerman's July 2013 acquittal, Hannity championed Zimmerman in the media.
Hannity's name was first connected to Zimmerman in April 2012, when Hannity mentioned on his radio show that he had an “off the record” conversation with Zimmerman. The next day, Zimmerman's legal team quit, pointing to his decision to talk “directly” to Hannity and claiming they had “lost contact” with their client. Hannity responded, acknowledging that he talked to Zimmerman while trying to book him for an interview:
HANNITY: I want to set the record straight about a couple of things. Now for a few weeks we have been pursuing an interview with Mr. Zimmerman to give him a chance to tell his side of the story. Now yesterday I was contacted by an individual that we in fact believe was George Zimmerman. He reached out to me, we spoke on the phone about his case, and I agreed not to report on the contents of that conversation. That's it. I know nothing about his relationship with his now former attorneys.
At the time CNN media reporter Howard Kurtz, who is now with Fox News, noted that it made sense Zimmerman would contact Hannity because Fox News had run “many, many segments that seemed to be taking, or at least sympathetic to, Zimmerman's side.”
The Fox News interview did occur in July 2012, with Zimmerman exclusively speaking to Hannity during an hour long sit-down. Reacting to the interview, Kurtz, noted that Hannity was “sympathetic and has unabashedly taken Zimmerman's side in the Trayvon Martin case” but that the Fox host also “asked many of the questions that needed to be asked.” The biggest media takeaway from the interview was Zimmerman's claim that the incident that ended with Martin's death was part of “God's plan.”
A year later, Hannity continued to champion Zimmerman during his second degree murder trial. Three days into the weeks-long trail that began with opening statements on June 25, 2013, and ended with Zimmerman's acquittal on July 13, 2013, Hannity called for charges against Zimmerman to be dismissed and claimed that the prosecution of Zimmerman was “purely political.” Later that night on his Fox News show, Hannity declared the trial “over.”