Fox News host Sean Hannity has been trying to nab an interview with accused murderer George Zimmerman since the days before the Floridian's April arrest for the controversial shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. On Wednesday night, Hannity's efforts paid off. With his (mostly silent) lawyer Mark O'Mara at his side, Zimmerman sat down for an unusual pre-trial TV interview. (Watch a clip below.) Both sides got something out of the exchange, legal expert Phyllis Kotey tells NBC News: Hannity landed a coveted exclusive and O'Mara got a chance to "humanize" Zimmerman and "get information to the potential jurors without having [his client] take the stand." Here, six things we learned from Zimmerman's Fox News interview:
1. Zimmerman wouldn't have done anything differently
Hannity, who did most of the talking, asked Zimmerman if he regrets anything about that night — carrying his gun, getting out of the car to follow Trayvon — or if there's "anything you might do differently in retrospect now that the time has passed a little bit?" Apparently, Zimmerman has no regrets. "I feel it was all God's plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it...," he said before his voice trailed off. Martin's family was unimpressed by the answer. "We must worship a different God," Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, told the AP. "There is no way that my God wanted George Zimmerman to murder my teenage son."
2. But he's "sorry that this happened"
"Perhaps sensing a public relations nightmare" over his "God's plan" rationale, says The Daily Beast, Zimmerman asked for an opportunity to "re-address" Hannity's question about regrets towards the end of the interview. "I do wish that there was something, anything, I could have done that wouldn't have put me into the position where I had to take his life," Zimmerman says. "I'm sorry that this happened. I hate to think that because of this incident, because of my actions, that it's polarized and divided America." He added: "I love my children even though they aren't born yet, and I am sorry that [the Martins] buried their child. I can't imagine what it must feel like, and I pray for them daily."
3. Zimmerman added new details to the story of the shooting
"Much of what Zimmerman addressed in the one-hour interview" was a rehash of material we've already learned from police reports, recorded phone calls, and witness statements, says Trymaine Lee at The Huffington Post. But Zimmerman did add some new details. He insisted, for example, that he didn't chase Martin, but was instead just looking for an address to help the cops pinpoint the location; that he didn't know he'd killed Martin for about an hour; and that he only reached for his gun — which he says he carries everywhere but to work — after Martin saw it in Zimmerman's waistband and started moving to take it. "At that point I realized that it wasn't my gun, it wasn't his gun, it was the gun," Zimmerman said. With Martin allegedly threatening to kill him, "I didn't have any more time."
4. Zimmerman insists he isn't racist
"I'm not a racist and I'm not a murderer," Zimmerman tells Hannity, in response to allegations that he's guilty of racial bias for singling out a black kid as being suspicious. The FBI, he adds, even "cleared me of any racial profiling, racial wrongdoing" — "a point which appeared to be his own analysis of the lack of damaging evidence contained in FBI reports released last week," says Frances Robles in The Miami Herald.
5. His cousin's sexual molestation accusation? A "non-issue"
One of the people who did call Zimmerman a racist is a female cousin identified only as witness No. 9, whose testimony to investigators went public last week. Now in her mid-20s, the cousin not only accused Zimmerman's family of "disliking black people," but said that she was sexually molested by Zimmerman from age 6 to about 16. Zimmerman did not directly respond to questions about these allegations, but called it "ironic [that] the one and only person that they could find that's saying anything remotely [about my] being a racist also claims that I'm a deviant." His lawyer, O'Mara, said the abuse allegations will be "a non-issue in the trial."
6. Hannity denied offering to pay for Zimmerman's legal fees
Before the interview aired, the website Global Grind said it had uncovered evidence that Hannity offered to cover Zimmerman's legal fees soon after he was arrested in April. Citing a "rock solid source," Global Grind's Michael Skolnik said that the initials "SH" which Zimmerman mentions in newly released jailhouse phone-call transcripts stand for Sean Hannity, and that Hannity offered to pay the suspected murderer's legal fees if Zimmerman hired Casey Anthony attorney Jose Baez. Hannity took a moment in the interview to deny the charge: "Never happened."