Spike Lee Sued Over George Zimmerman Tweets: Wrong Address Causes Grief

An elderly Florida couple is suing director Spike Lee over  tweets he made on March 23, 2012, less than a month after shooting death of Trayvon Martin, writes The Smoking Gun. The tweets, which featured the couple’s address, wrongly identified as that of Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman, were subsequently reteweeted over the next months.

The acclaimed director/activist had tweeted out the address of septuagenarians David and Elaine McClain instead of that of George Zimmerman. Lee had received the incorrect information via a fellow Twitter user,

a California man who sent the purported Zimmerman address to Lee and an assortment of celebrities with the direction, “EVERYBODY REPOST THIS.”

Um, maybe checking the address oneself rather than simply retweeting it to 240,000 followers would have been doing the right the thing.  Or ignoring  it and not feeding the fire. (The McClains’ son is named William George Zimmerman, but he’s not the same 28 year old George Zimmerman as Trayvon Martin’s killer, and the 41-year old  hadn’t lived at that address for years.)

From March 23 to March 29, 2012, Twitter and Facebook erupted with messages of violence aimed at the address, and McClains went public, explaining they had no connection with Martin’s killer Zimmerman. Six days later, facing criticism and outrage, Lee apologized to the McClains and made a what was later revealed to be a $10,000 settlement to the couple, based on damages up to March 29, 2012, according ot their new lawsuit.  The settlement was national news–I heard about it on local news radio here in here in Los Angeles–and Lee tweeted out:

I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address. It Was A Mistake. Please Leave The McClain’s In Peace.

But, alleges the suit, subsequent to Lee’s mea culpa, once the Zimmerman trial began and after his acquittal, the McClains’ address was circulated again again, because nothing ever disappears on the interwebs.  Internet rage went into overdrive, with tweets like:

The McClains have filed suit for over $15,000–The Smoking Gun says the suit may be worth $1.2 million–alleging that Lee acted in a

negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, consciously indifferent and/or willful manner

by  not verifying the address and then tweeting out to his 240,000 followers,  and

encouraging a dangerous mob mentality.

Along with claiming mental distress and anguish from hate mail and menacing phone calls, lack of sleep, and a loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, the McClains claim that Lee violated several Florida statutes. The McClains had to relocate temporarily, and suffered law enforcement and media on their front lawn and the loss of value of their home, for all of which they are seeking compensatory judgment. (According to Zillow, houses in the area range from $79,000 for a foreclosure to $309,000) They’d like a jury trial.

Spike Lee retweeted their address, but why they aren’t going after the original tweeter, @Maccapone, is sort of mystery–oh wait, he’s not as rich? Did anyone else, rich and/or famous, or not, retweet @Maccapone’s incorrect tweet?  Maccapone, real name Marcus Higgins, tweeted over 100 people, and, like Lee, apologized to the couple. And depending on what the settlement agreement reached last year says, the McClains may have given up their right to sue for damages that occurred after Lee tweeted that he’d made a mistake (though one would hope their lawyer has taken that into account).

Spike Lee photo: screengrab: YouTube, Spike Lee on Bloomberg

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.