George Zimmerman has an unlikely ally. Joe Oliver, a black man, has been making the rounds of television shows offering his support for his “acquaintance” George.
The most vocal defender of Trayvon Martin’s shooter says he can vouch for Zimmerman’s character. Oliver has also repeatedly stressed that Martin’s death was not racially motivated.
In an interview Monday with Hardball’s Chris Matthews, the host brought up the now infamous 911 call in which Zimmerman may or may not have used the expression “f**king coon.”
Oliver vehemently defended his friend, by saying, “It’s a matter of interpretation whether he’s saying coon or goon. There are a lot of parts of this country where people proudly call themselves ‘’coon a**es,’ in Louisiana in particular.”
Oliver’s attempted to credit Zimmerman and discredit Trayvon Martin. In the same interview he argued Martin was the aggressor in the confrontation that ended with his death.
During his numerous media appearances, the 53-year-old has also hinted he is privy to information, still not in the public domain, which could exonerate Zimmerman.
WATCH A HEATED INTERVIEW WITH JOE OLIVER AND MSNBC’S THOMAS ROBERTS:
In a case that has been fueled by allegations of racism and police incompetence, Oliver’s widely reported interviews are timely and symbolic. His line that Zimmerman is not racist sends out a powerful message to everyone, including investigators, trying to make sense of what lead to the tragic death of Trayvon.
But what is Oliver’s motivation? Why would an African-American man put his reputation (and some would even say safety) on the line to publicly defend Zimmerman?
In many ways, it just seems strange that Zimmerman’s own family has largely shunned the spotlight, yet Oliver has willingly been his chief defender.
Initially, Oliver claimed he was Zimmerman’s long-term friend, although it remains unclear just how close he actually is to Zimmerman.
Since Oliver’s frequent television appearances, including an interview Tuesday night on MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, there has been growing speculation the two men were mere acquaintances, at best.
Little is known about Oliver, except his own claims that he quit his job to speak the truth about Zimmerman, based on a “gut feeling” he has about his friend’s innocence.
What is certain, though, is Oliver has worked on and off for more than 20 years as a broadcaster, from a stint as a reporter and anchor for WESH, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, to time in front of the camera at CNN.
WATCH FOOTAGE OF JOE OLIVER ON CNN DURING THE EARLY 90s HERE:
It may well be that Oliver genuinely has good intentions but for many his role in the Zimmerman case “just does not make sense.” Others argue Oliver could see this high profile case as an unexpected opportunity to reestablish his broadcasting career as a media/social commentator.
His whole line of argument is that Martin’s death was “not a racial incident.” Could it be that he wants to “elevate the conversation” and carve a niche for himself as a television contributor or perhaps even has aspirations for his own TV show?
WATCH ANOTHER VINTAGE CLIP OF JOE OLIVER HERE:
Indeed, it is not uncommon for former or current media professionals to offer their “services” to families in the midst of major breaking news stories. This has led to some online chatter that the ex-news anchor is being paid for his time on air.
Whatever the truth behind Oliver’s role in the Zimmerman case, only time will tell whether he will come to regret taking such a public stand.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti