In 2007, Stephen King, master of horror, noted he couldn’t even stomach Nancy Grace, dubbing her “the Darth Vader of CNN Headline News.” King wrote a hefty novel about a predatory life form in a clown’s suit. That guy knows his villains.
What does it feel like when you’re
wrong? That’s a direct part of the conversation Assistant Public Defender for the State of Minnesota Christine Funk and I had while we were chatting for “The magnitude of forensics and the law” on Page 16. In my conversation with Funk, she explained that when you realize you’re wrong, most people in most situations feel badly. “But when you’re actually doing the thing that’s wrong [and] you think you’re doing the thing that’s right, there is no censor. You don’t have those thoughts [of reservation] going through your head and you’re looking for stuff that supports your theory.” When you’re wrong, it feels like you’re right.
I found this idea fascinating in its clarity. Since then I’ve been thinking about what it means to feel right versus what might be fact. Mostly I’ve been thinking about that in its application to the other topic at hand in my conversation with Funk: the Casey Anthony trial that took place from late May to July last year. Anthony, who was accused of first degree murder in the death of her toddler, Caylee, was the subject of widespread media attention from the time around the search for Casey. (Casey was found not guilty.)
The search for Caylee, later arrest of Casey for the child’s murder and ensuing trial was the focus of much reporting melee, including a favorite of a legal commentator on CNN’s sister channel HLN: Nancy Grace.
I’m not the first journalist to share my
critical thoughts about former prosecutor Grace, but I can’t help but second the opinions of those who’ve written on it before me. Shortly after the not-guilty verdict and the overemphasis of Anthony-related coverage by Grace, Melissa Maerz, a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly, wrote about how Grace “made the most of righteous indignation in the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict” by “ranting for ratings.”
Others have compared her program to other so-called “trash TV” like Maury Povich or Jerry Springer. I was an audience member on the Povich show years ago in New York City. Between guests, an audience handler egged us on and told us when to “boo” or when to clap, so I’m under no illusion of what’s happening if I happen to crawl across the tabloid show channel surfing. The show I saw live was about questionable paternity cases, though this was before today’s version of the show, where every program is centered on that theme. Sure, Povich spends a lot on DNA tests, but does that make him a forensic specialist? Though some may argue Grace is doing a lot of work for victims, on her program her persona comes off as the headline news adaptation of Maury Povich with a law degree.
I find Grace’s program overall unsavory as a source on current affairs. She often shouts at her guests; her desk manner is aggressive and off putting. That’s why I don’t choose to watch it. Though avoidance was hardly an option when keeping up with the Anthony trial last summer. Every day there were new stories and video online and coverage on TV with excerpts from Grace’s show and citing her comments from her “Nancy Grace” program.
I do appreciate that Grace uses her
show to bring light to current-day cases involving foul play or various kinds of foul play and wrongful acts against kids. For the same reason a popular jewelry company might hesitate to bring on Winona Rider as an ambassador, I don’t know that the kind of attention drawn to Grace’s pet cases is the type that’s needed.
I am generally loath to turn away from someone with genuine ambition to help victims and seek the truth.
I’m convinced Grace feels her actions are in the right. But then again, that feeling is ominously indistinguishable from the conclusion I’ve reached.