In show business, the cliché is no publicity is bad publicity. But George Zimmerman, who fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin February 26, 2012, in an event that outraged the world, might be an exception to the rule. In a GQ profile of the family, George’s savvier, more telegenic brother Robert said he envisioned George as leveraging his notoriety not only to market products, but also to become a reality television star. The profile provides a glimpse into the strange and sometimes delusional world of a family living in the shadow of one member's infamy.
In the wake of George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, he and his extended family have gone into hiding. When they’re not the targets of death threats from outraged American citizens, or looking over their shoulders for people who want the $10,000 bounty the Black Panthers put on Zimmerman’s “citizen’s arrest,” they’re cooking up get-rich quick schemes and brainstorming reality television ideas.
Robert Zimmerman told GQ among the money-making ideas considered was George starting a line of home-security products aimed at women called Z Security Products. But his “ultimate goal,” writes Amanda Robb, “was to turn George into a reality-TV star.” His models were John Walsh, who made a career out of hosting “America’s Most Wanted” after his 6-year-old son was abducted and killed, and Kim Kardashian, who launched a media empire from a leaked sex tape.
"I learn a lot from watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” Robert said to GQ. “Like, use the sh*t you got.” In the George Zimmerman version of reality television fame, Robert imagined episodes in which George would show up as a surprise guest, “Candid Camera”-style.
Robert Zimmerman has been on television quite a bit, including appearances on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” in February 2013, Fox TV and Piers Morgan. (The $800 he was paid to be on Bill Maher, Robb notes, was the first bit of income he’d received in 2013.) Recently, he talked George into being interviewed on Univision. Because it went smoothly, CNN invited the family, including George, to a taping in Miami. The network agreed to pay for two hotel rooms for three nights, but balked when the family ran up a $3,600 hotel bill for room-service, minibar use, clothes laundering, spa trips and a dinner for 10 to the hotel restaurant. When Robert called CNN, outraged he was presented with a bill, the producer, he alleges, screamed at him for being so extravagant. “You and your brother are evil!” he recalled her saying. CNN eventually relented and paid the bill.
If “Keeping Up With the Zimmermans” ever comes to fruition, it will be the first time George Zimmerman has been employed since he fatally shot Trayvon Martin. GQ reports the Zimmermans are broke and in debt -- George alone owes his attorneys $2.5 million. For most of the past two years, all three of the Zimmerman adult children have been unemployed. George still is, and his father Bob told GQ he can understand why. "[H]e may never be able to work. He may never be able to get Social Security. He may never get Medicare. If he buys a house, then people can go on the Internet and find out exactly where he lives."
While Robert brainstorms ways of “rebranding” the Zimmerman name, an uphill battle, says Robert, since "talking to George about media is like talking to the Pope about gay sex,” George has resumed his self-appointed post as a neighborhood watchman. This summer, Amanda Robb reported, police found him sitting in his truck at night outside a friend’s gun and motorcycle shop, and the owner told police he had not asked Zimmerman to do so.