The Disgrace of CNN’s Nancy Grace
By: Carey Roberts
At the recent Democratic debate in Las Vegas, CNNâ€™s Wolf Blitzer lobbed softball questions at Hillary Clinton. Then he allowed the audience to boo Hillaryâ€™s opponents â€“ a callous breach of debate etiquette. And when it came time for the audience to grill the candidates, Blitzer deceptively introduced the questioners as â€œordinary people, undecided voters.â€
Those voters included a former staffer for Democrat senator Harry Reid, a former director of the Arkansas Democratic Party, an official in a local union, and the president of the Islamic Society of Nevada. [source]
Yes, ordinary and undecided folks, every one of them.
But Wolf Blitzer isnâ€™t the only CNN commentator to make a mockery of journalistic integrity.
When special prosecutor Nancy Grace won 100 felony cases in a row, she was riding the fast-track to legal notoriety. But in 1997 the Supreme Court of Georgia charged her with â€œinexcusableâ€ actions that â€œdemonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness.â€ And eight years later her career came off the rails when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded Grace had â€œplayed fast and looseâ€ with ethical canons.
So Grace left Georgia and signed on as a commentator for Court TV. In 2006 Nancy again boarded the fast train when she struck a deal with CNN to anchor her own Nancy Grace Program.
Then along came a woman named Crystal Mangum — drug abuser, exotic dancer, and serial rape accuser.
Shortly after the alleged March 14 assault, wild stories began to circulate about what had transpired at 610 North Buchanan. Within days Nancy Grace was claiming — falsely â€“ that the players had refused to provide DNA samples. She theorized, â€œIf there had been evidence, Iâ€™m sure it was flushed down the commode or gotten rid of, innocently or not.â€
Just for good measure, Grace added this remark for her vigilante-justice viewers: â€œWhat if this girl was your girl? You know, Iâ€™d burn the place down, for Peteâ€™s sake!â€
Taking her cue from the Queen in Alice in Wonderland (â€œSentence first â€“ verdict afterwards!â€), Grace then invited a series of guests who would take orgiastic delight in the demonization of three young lacrosse players.
On April 5, Grace invited Duke faculty member Houston Baker. The hate-filled professor made the over-the-top accusation that the players had â€œused racial slurs [and had] been given special privileges so that they could make up courses in the summer and that they showed up at these courses drunk and indifferent.â€
Five days later the defense team announced the DNA did not match any of the lacrosse players. That seemingly took the wind out of Nifongâ€™s earlier promise that â€œthe DNA evidence requested will immediately rule out any innocent persons.â€
But since when did exculpatory evidence stand in the way of a good ethnic cleansing?
So that evening Grace invited attorney Wendy Murphy to her show. Despite evidence now pointing to Mangum as an opportunistic perjurer, Murphy illogically claimed the woman was â€œentitled to the respect that she is a crime victim.â€
On May 10 the prosecution team leaked a misleading account suggesting a partial match of the stripperâ€™s DNA. And once again Grace resorted to an over-blown metaphor: â€œAt the eleventh hour, suddenly, a Hail Mary pass was thrown, and itâ€™s a touchdown for the state!â€ she exulted.
Five days later lacrosse captain Dave Evans stood in front of the Durham County magistrateâ€™s office and defiantly announced, â€œThese allegations are lies, fabricated â€“ fabricated, and they will be proven wrong â€¦ You have all been told some fantastic lies.â€
While most media commentators were struck by Evansâ€™ sincerity, Grace sarcastically retorted, â€œWhat, were they all together, holding hands at a prayer meeting?â€ Then she played video clips of Richard Nixon saying, â€œI am not a crook.â€
Nancy Grace even vilified those who cautioned the rush to judgment might be premature. During one interview Stephen Miller of the Duke Conservative Union began to worry that â€œtwo innocent people may have possibly â€¦â€ But Grace quickly cut him off: â€œOh, good lord! â€¦ I assume youâ€™ve got a mother. I mean, your first concern is that somebody is falsely accused?â€
Bloviating entertainment for the masses, perhaps. Informative legal commentary, definitely not.
In their must-read book Until Proven Innocent, Stuart Taylor and JC Johnson describe Nancy Grace as â€œCNNâ€™s egregiously biased, wacko-feminist former prosecutor.â€ One of these days, Ms. Graceâ€™s pangs of conscience may well get the best of her. Letâ€™s hope she solemnly declares for all to hear, â€œIâ€™m deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain that Iâ€™ve caused to these three innocent lacrosse players.â€
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Carey Roberts is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.