HLN host Nancy Grace wasn't alone in rushing to judgement in the murder trial of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony but few utilized the type of Old Testament condemnation she did, as her obsessive coverage of the trial rode her cable network to its highest ratings month ever, beating out MSNBC and CNN. To top off the surprising "not guilty" verdict yesterday, Grace, a former prosecutor, spoke with the kind of finality she's known for: "Somewhere out there tonight, the devil is dancing." This morning, on Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos asked her if she regretted her weeks of "character assassination" with regards to Casey Anthony, the woman she derisively referred to as "Tot Mom."
Grace: Well apparently there was no assassination because Tot Mom is going walk out of jail probably tomorrow and she's probably going to get a million dollar book deal and maybe a quarter a million dollars for "licensing fees" for photos and she's going to be living on easy street living the sweet life that she's got tattooed on her back so I hardly think anyone was assassinated here except for Caylee.
Stephanopoulos: So no second thoughts about any of your coverage?
Grace: George, I told the truth. Am I taking the heat for it? Yep. Is that going to make me stop looking for missing children and trying to solve unsolved homicides? No. I'm not going to let some kooky jury stop justice. Not for me anyway...
Stephanopoulos: Kooky jury?
Grace: Yep. George, I know you're pretty high brow and all that but this was a bad verdict and this is the way our justice system works, we have to believe in it... I know, I was there in the court room as a crime victim when my fiancee was murdered.
Despite her insistence that she merely laid out the details of the case and drew a conclusion that any sensible person would come to, a number of media critics are uncomfortable with what they see as her exploitation of the trial:
How can she be so unflinching? wonders David Zurawik at The Baltimore Sun.
You could not invent a character like Grace. You might think Grace would be somewhat more even-handed after the woman she characterized as a murderer was declared not guilty...
After priming the emotional pump with a description of members of the defense team sitting in a bar drinking a champagne toast, Grace says, "You know what? I'm not a preacher. And I'm not a rabbi. But something is wrong with that, because Caylee is dead. ... Somewhere out there tonight, the devil is dancing."
Grace has gone too far, writes The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz: "The Nancy Graces of the world are more interested in vociferous opinions--in her case, siding with prosecutors in almost every case--than in dispassionately weighing the evidence. But many of them failed to make the crucial distinction between when someone seems guilty as hell and whether prosecutors have proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt--especially in a death penalty trial. Jurors are usually cautious in a circumstantial case, as was clear from the quickie nature of their verdict."
How can she denounce the jury? writes a puzzled Lew Rockwell: "The bloodthirsty Nancy Grace is denouncing the jury, not only for their courageous verdict, but for being unwilling to go on TV. I guess they should reveal their names and addresses so they can get media invasions of their homes and jobs, hate mail and calls, perhaps death threats, and maybe worse. Good for them!"
So where's HLN headed next? In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, an HLN executive explained the network's upcoming plans.
"I don't worry that this was our moment and now it's gone," says HLN executive Scot Safon, adding that the network will turn its attention to Conrad Murray and polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs...
“There are always stories to be told,” said Scot Safon, executive vp of HLN. “So I don’t worry that this was our moment and now it’s gone. I think we have lots of stories to tell.”