Joe Oliver, who made a media splash as the friend who stepped forward to support George Zimmerman, has stepped down as Zimmerman’s media adviser.
Oliver, 53, first told theGrio he reached out to Zimmerman’s attorney, Craig Sonner, after he was unable to reach George, with whom Oliver works at a Florida mortgage security firm.
Oliver said he wanted to know if it was okay to “speak on George’s behalf,” and he wanted to reassure himself that he would be doing the right thing if he did so.
And he said he wanted to quell the notion that Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, was a “racial incident.”
Oliver said he has known Zimmerman since the 28 year old began dating his now-wife, whose mother is friends with Oliver’s wife. In his initial television appearances, including on MSNBC, he was introduced as a friend, not a media adviser, though Oliver insists he made his role clear from the start. After an appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Oliver admitted that he and Zimmerman were co-workers, and O’Donnell, with New York Times columnist Charles Blow and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart strongly questioned how well he actually knew Zimmerman personally.
WATCH ‘THE LAST WORD’ INTERVIEW WITH JOE OLIVER:
NBC News confirmed that Oliver has removed himself from Zimmerman’s team now that Sonner has hired co-counsel Hal Uhrig, who was a television legal analyst with an Orlando Fox affiliate during the Casey Anthony murder trial.
“My whole intention from the beginning was to help George with the media,” Oliver told theGrio, claiming his many television appearances began with a mere coincidence.
“It just so happened that when I finally got in touch with Craig” to offer his services, on the day of their initial meeting just over a week ago, “ABC News was already there to interview Craig.”
Oliver said he stepped forward to join the team because in his words, Sonner was inexperienced in dealing with the media, and Oliver, a former news anchor with NBC affiliate WESH in Orlando, who also worked for CNN, “was aware of what the media storm that was brewing was going to be like, having had 20 plus years experience both local and network. As a friend, acquaintance — however you or anybody else wants to define it — it was my obligation to offer my expertise to his counsel in dealing with the media.”
Oliver characterized his assistance to Zimmerman’s team as “pro bono,” saying, “I didn’t’ make any money off this. I didn’t expect or intend to get paid. This was all intended to help someone who had no media experience, especially in the media they had to deal with,” referring to Sonner.
Oliver called the hiring of co-counsel “preparing for the worst,” though he insisted that he and Zimmerman’s team “all feel very confident that there will be no charges.”
“And so now that it’s become public that Craig has co-counsel on this, in case there’s a trial, it’s easy for me to pass this on because [Uhrig] actually has a staff that can be more efficient about getting information to” the media.
“This now allows me to go back to my job, which I was never fired from and never quit.”
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