Fusion Reporter Compares Zimmerman Interview to Talking to Charles Manson

Derrick Ashong, who acknowledged having very strong feelings about the Trayvon Martin case, said that he interviewed the acquitted shooter for the same reasons other journalists interview other problematic figures. 

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Derrick Ashong

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Children Mending Hearts

After having a quiet sit-down interview with George Zimmerman, Fusion reporter Derrick Ashong wrote an opinion piece about the experience and why he decided to interview the controversial man whom many consider to be the personification of the ills of the "Stand your ground" law in Florida.

In his piece, Ashong, who is black, admitted to not being impartial. "I believe Zimmerman got away with murder, aided and abetted by a justice system that does not have equal regard for the lives of black and minority youth, and further empowered by self-defense laws that have given citizens of certain states an effective license to kill their neighbors, provided those neighbors are young, black and preferably unarmed," he wrote. "I think George Zimmerman should not be walking free, carrying a weapon and doing interviews to explain his 'side of the story,' an opportunity Trayvon Martin can never have.”

Still, he did interview Zimmerman, as he puts it, for the same reasons that other reporters have interviewed controversial figures. "I interviewed George Zimmerman for the same reasons journalists have interviewed Charles Manson, that Barbara Walters interviewed Muammar Ghaddafi and Fidel Castro," he wrote. "I sat down across from him and politely asked the questions I wanted answers to. And maybe I simply wanted to look in the eyes of the killer and see if I could perceive an ounce of remorse. I found none. Instead, I saw a man convinced that indeed, he is the victim. And, perhaps, even a hero."

Of course, some of it had to do with Ashong's pride in his profession, in his ability as a journalist to conduct this interview, impartial or not.

"I cannot accept that an African-American journalist is any less capable of conducting him or herself with the professionalism and composure that the job demands, regardless of my personal sentiments," he wrote. "And I believe that as a young black male, I too have a role to play in holding people like Zimmerman accountable, if only in the court of public opinion."

Read the full explanation for Ashong's interview here.