Monday, December 07, 2009
Late last week, a Harvard professor and psychiatrist filed a paper on behalf of the family of 21-year-old Melinda Duckett claiming that Nancy Grace's relentless on-air harassment contributed to Duckett's suicide in 2006. Duckett was a person of interest in the case of her missing son, so of course Grace took it upon herself to play the role of judge and jury in the court of public opinion, conducting an interview in which she beat the hell out of a very distraught and confused Melinda Duckett, who then shot herself in the head the next day. What's almost worse is that CNN went ahead and aired the pre-taped interview that night, after news of Duckett's suicide had already broken. The Duckett family's decision to sue Nancy Grace is what led me to write this in August of 2008.
"Judging Nancy" (Originally Published, 8.2.08)
A couple of weeks ago, I did a quick interview with Radar Online magazine for a story it was putting together on the most hated pundits on cable news. At the time, I was just coming off an admittedly questionable decision I'd made to write a somewhat negative piece about Gawker and its sister site, Jezebel.com, and wasn't feeling the need to heap any more career-disadvantageous invective in a fresh direction. I think my exact words to Neel Shah -- the Radar columnist doing the interview -- were, "I've burned enough bridges for one week, thanks." In the end, he and I chatted for a while about the abstracts of the current punditry craze, but I never specifically cited anyone I thought should be held up for more scorn than the others.
In retrospect, I'm kind of sorry I held back -- at least when it comes to one person in particular.
I'm not really going out on much of a limb or breaking any new ground by saying that CNN's Nancy Grace is the most loathsome, feckless troll to currently, inexplicably, have a forum on national television. She's a vile, unscrupulous monster who peddles morbid prurience like a five-dollar whore and whose brand of rank solipsism is matched only by her near-sociopathic disregard for the lives she's ruined and exploited and by her apparent contempt for the tenets of responsible journalism (to say nothing of basic human decency). Seriously, I rarely spew this much unrestrained venom, but the woman could get hit by a bus and I'm not sure the world would be a lesser place for it.
Her tenure at CNN Headline News has brought a heretofore unknown level of shame to the entire operation.
But now, it looks like somebody might finally be about to hold her accountable for her bullshit.
On Thursday, a federal judge in Ocala, Florida refused to heel to the arrogant condescensions of the high-priced lawyers representing Nancy Grace and CNN, ruling against their calls for the quick dismissal of a lawsuit claiming that Grace pushed the mother of a missing toddler into committing suicide two years ago. The family of Melinda Duckett charges that not only did Grace coax the troubled 21 year old mother onto her show, then badger and bully her when she couldn't or wouldn't satisfactorily answer questions about her missing son -- leading Grace to of course imply that Duckett herself was behind the disappearance -- but that Grace then added insult to injury by airing the pre-taped interview after Duckett had shot herself.
Although police do consider Duckett the only viable suspect in the case, which is still open, attorneys for the woman's family rightly point out that whatever information Melinda Duckett may have had about her missing son died with her, thanks to Nancy Grace taking upon herself the role of Grand Inquisitor. Did Duckett kill her little boy? We don't know for sure, and thanks to Grace's purely ratings-driven brand of contrived, overly-aggressive indignation, we probably never will.
In a just world, the Duckett family's lawsuit -- which a skeptic could easily argue is little more than a cynical attempt to cash in on the death of a loved one -- would only be the tip of the iceberg, and Nancy Grace would face criminal charges of obstructing justice (at the very least) in addition to the wrongful death civil action. For now, though, the threat of hitting CNN and Grace in both their wallets and the court of public opinion will have to do -- and their argument that a successful suit by the Ducketts would "severely chill" journalists' ability to cover missing persons cases is a staggeringly laughable conceit, given that Nancy Grace is the furthest thing from a journalist.
On the contrary, what she does every night on CNN is an insult to responsible journalism, and if the network were half the unassailable bastion of credibility it purports to be, it would have fired her odious ass a long time ago.
Maybe it will take the justice system -- the one Nancy Grace so vaingloriously touts herself as the defender of -- to do what greedy network executives are unwilling to: force her off the air.
And maybe it will do it by making them all pay.