Columbus 10TV's Jim Heath exposes personal bias in report on Zimmerman Second Amendment Fund

by Chad D. Baus

Buckeye Firearms Association and our non-profit, educational Foundation are successful because our supporters trust us to use their financial contributions to fight for gun rights, and to fight to protect gun owners. That trust allowed us to become one of the most effective state-level gun rights organization in the country, and is held sacred by our entire leadership team.

Earning such a high level of trust takes countless hours of hard work by a group of volunteers who often let family and career obligations fall by the wayside in order to defend the right to keep and bear arms.

So, when Jim Heath at Columbus' 10TV news attacks the integrity of Buckeye Firearms Foundation in a misleading and inaccurate report about the George Zimmerman gun fundraiser, an obligation to our supporters forces us to respond.

Last Wednesday, July 24, 2013, while the and websites were offline after having suffered a "denial of service" attack, Heath filed a report about our effort to raise money for George Zimmerman's personal security needs.

Prompted by a press release issued by Buckeye Firearms Foundation, Heath filed a report entitled "Ohio Gun Group Raises Thousands for Zimmerman – But Not for New Gun." Basing his entire report on a statement he obtained from a Zimmerman PR person, Heath sought to imply that the Foundation raised the money on false pretenses.

But the spokesperson Heath contacted was unaware of the arrangements we had made, because he had never spoken with us. And Heath knew this.

Jim Heath knew he was talking to the wrong person because:

1) Mark O'Mara, the Zimmerman attorney with whom we made all the arrangements, was quoted in the very press release that prompted Heath's report.

"For privacy and security reasons," continued Rieck, "we've decided to send Mr. Zimmerman a check, rather than try to arrange a meeting or transfer gear directly. We spoke with his attorney, Mark O'Mara, who agreed to provide evidence that Mr. Zimmerman receives the check.

"We also agreed to provide evidence that we were passing along 100% of the donations received. O'Mara was thrilled that we were being so transparent. He told us 'lots of cranks' are raising money in Zimmerman's name and not sending the funds to him."

We also published the letter that accompanied the check we sent to O'Mara shortly before our sites went down. It read, in part:

As we advertised this as a fundraiser to help Mr. Zimmerman replace his gun, holster, ammo and gear, it is our request that this donation be used to pay for any guns, ammunition, gear, training, ballistic vests, tactical training or home security systems which Mr. Zimmerman, in his sole opinion, believes are appropriate to protect himself and his family, including his parents. Self-defense is a personal decision, and we leave Mr. Zimmerman complete discretion on what gear, guns, products and services will protect him and his family.

Jim Heath knew he was talking to the wrong person because:

2) Buckeye Firearms Foundation's Gerard Valentino, who was interviewed by Heath for the report, repeatedly warned Heath during a phone conversation that he was talking to the wrong contact person in the Zimmerman camp.

Jim Heath knew he was talking to the wrong person because:

3) Heath admitted to Valentino that, in a follow-up call made after Valentino's warnings, the Zimmerman spokesperson told Heath that his initial comments might not have been accurate in this case!

Jim Heath's failure to contact O'Mara, or to report on the fact that this fundraiser was about more than just buying Zimmerman a new firearm, seems inexplicable.

But after reviewing an email Heath sent to Valentino, the reasons for his failure to contact O'Mara, or to report on other key information he knew was in our press release may be a bit more clear.

In the email, Mr. Heath indicates his own personal viewpoint:

Sam Gresham from Common Cause called us late today and said he believed there was another motive for your fundraiser, which we included in the story.

What happened, it seems to me, is that the Buckeye Firearms Foundation raised over $12,000 for George Zimmerman's living expenses. He is not using it for a gun."

Isn't it odd how a reporter would, without question, believe the opinion of two people who know nothing about the matter...but question us at every turn and assume that we're dishonest?

Heath's behavior is a perfect example of dishonest and irresponsible journalism.

The telling phrase from his email is, "it seems to me," and it indicates that Mr. Heath formed his own opinion that called Buckeye Firearms Foundation's motives into question long before his "investigation" was complete.

An admitted personal bias would explain why Heath ignored repeated warnings offered by Valentino during a phone conversation that he was talking to the wrong contact person in the Zimmerman camp, ignored that detail in press releases, and ignored the qualification the Zimmerman spokesperson gave in the follow-up call.

Mr. Heath appears to have used every biased tool in his toolbox to make sure his preconceived notion of Buckeye Firearms Foundation's nefarious motives were exposed. Using a coy and disarming manner during his interview with Valentino, cherry-picking quotes that fit his agenda, and then choosing to stop his "investigation" when it appeared he was going to find information that didn't fit his personal agenda, Jim Heath gave the report he set out to make.

Heath's Channel 10 News email address is [email protected].

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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