George Zimmerman has filed a defamation lawsuit against Democratic presidential candidates former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
According to the lawsuit, both candidates acted with “actual malice or at a minimum a reckless disregard for the truth” when they tweeted tributes to Trayvon Martin on what would have been his 25th birthday.
In February 2012, Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in Sanford, Florida.
He was acquitted of murder in 2013, and his lawyers said he acted in self-defense, Newsweek reported.
The controversial verdict helped launch the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Both Defendant Buttigieg and Defendant Warren individually defamed and disparaged Plaintiff Zimmerman in separate postings on their Twitter accounts on February 5, 2020,” the lawsuit read.
“Defendant Buttigieg and Defendant Warren defamed Zimmerman for political gain in misguided and malicious attempts to bolster their standings amongst African-American voters, all at Zimmerman’s expense.”
In two separate tweets, Warren and Buttigieg wrote about gun violence and racism in response to Martin’s death.
“My heart goes out to @Sybrina Fulton and Trayvon’s family and friends. He should still be with us today,” Warren tweeted.
“We need to end gun violence and racism. And we need to build a world where all of our children — especially young Black boys — can grow up safe and free.”
My heart goes out to @SybrinaFulton and Trayvon’s family and friends. He should still be with us today.
We need to end gun violence and racism. And we need to build a world where all of our children—especially young Black boys—can grow up safe and free. https://t.co/9lXXlRnvzL
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 6, 2020
Buttigieg tweeted, “How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear? #BlackLivesMatter.”
Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today.
How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?#BlackLivesMatter
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 5, 2020
According to Zimmerman’s lawyer, Larry Klayman, Buttigieg’s tweet could be inferred to mean Zimmerman — a Hispanic minority — shot Martin in cold blood because of his “white supremacy” and had engaged in “gun violence.”
Warren’s tweet also used the term “gun violence,” which could be inferred to mean that Martin died because of gun violence perpetrated by Zimmerman, Klayman argues.
“Gun violence” is commonly understood to “refer to the reckless and indiscriminate use of illegally owned firearms that causes the death of random innocent victims,” which does not fit Zimmerman’s acquittal of acting in self-defense, according to the lawsuit.
Both Warren and Buttigieg have struggled to gain support from voters in the black community.
According to a Survey USA poll released Tuesday, Warren has only 7 percent support among black Americans and Buttigieg has 6 percent.
“It’s high time that the cheap and harmful use of the race card by politicians of all stripes be made to cease and desist,” Klayman told Newsweek.
“Their despicable ‘race tactics’ are not only causing great harm to persons such as my client Zimmerman, but also damaging relations between black and white Americans who are all brothers.
“The nation should applaud Mr. Zimmerman for taking a strong stand and pushing back against hack politicians like Buttigieg and Warren, who know no bounds of decency and frankly could obviously care less about whom they hurt in their quest to [dishonestly] use and manipulate black voters to win the 2020 Democrat presidential primary.”
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