By Mariah Blake
In April 2012, two days before George Zimmerman was arrested for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, he huddled with a fellow neighborhood watch volunteer, Frank Taaffe. According to Taaffe, who disclosed the meeting on Fox News, Zimmerman asked him to share “several talking points” with the media. Taaffe obliged. Indeed, as Zimmerman’s legal drama unfolded over the next year and a half, Taaffe emerged as his most visible and outspoken defender. He gave hundreds of interviews to media outlets, ranging from the New York Times to Fox News to CNN, and made near-daily appearances on cable news shows during Zimmerman’s trial.
Taaffe used this platform to cast Martin as a drug-addled hoodlum and Zimmerman as a community-minded do-gooder (“the best neighbor you would want to have”) who had every reason to suspect the black teen was up to mischief. He also railed against Zimmerman’s critics, whom he accused of staging a witch hunt. “It’s really sad that he has already been convicted in the public media and has already been sentenced to the gas chamber,” he lamented in an interview with NBC’s Miami affiliate last year.
Taaffe was hardly the ideal person to be weighing in on a case suffused with racial angst—or commenting on criminal-justice matters, period. A Mother Jones investigation has found that the 56-year-old New York native has a lengthy criminal record that includes charges of domestic violence and burglary, and a history of airing virulently racist views. Just last Sunday, he appeared on The White Voice, a weekly podcast hosted by a man named Joe Adams, who has deep, long-standing ties to white-power groups and has authored a manual called Save The White People Handbook. (Sample quote: “A mutt makes a great pet and a mulatto makes a great slave.”)