by Chez Pazienza
If there were any justice at all in the universe, Nancy Grace wouldn't be able to simply leave CNN. She wouldn't have the chance to walk out with her head held high while nostalgically recalling her glory days at CNN Center like it was Tara and she was Scarlett O'Hara.
She wouldn't get to proudly boast of all the great things to come in her career. That's because, were there any justice in the universe, Nancy Grace would've been unceremoniously fired from CNN ages ago rather than being given the chance to now announce that she's leaving the network on her own terms and no doubt with the warm wind of a loving on-air retrospective at her back. Nancy Grace should have long since suffered the shame and indignity of being escorted out of the building by security. Instead, she'll get to take a victory lap before getting the opportunity to see the lights go down on her show one last time. It's a fucking shame. It really is.
Today The Hollywood Reporter writes that Nancy Grace, the single most loathsome creature cable news has provided a home to in what's largely been a decade of disrepute, announced to her staff last week that she would be exiting HLN when her contract expires in October. HLN, the former Headline News, confirmed the decision and made it clear that a new show would be moving into the space currently occupied by Grace's long-running "legal news" and advocacy program -- a program which has throughout the years been little more than a platform from which Grace could loudly and self-righteously render a public verdict of "guilty" upon whomever she damn well pleased, regardless of whether that person had actually been tried in a court of law and been found culpable of whatever crime Grace merely believed with absolutely certainty he or she had committed.
Grace has committed so many unconscionable transgressions against responsible journalism and basic human decency that it's difficult to know where to begin in listing them. Thanks to her insatiable need to peddle morbid prurience under the guise of authoritative indignation, she's engaged in behavior that's not only brought shame and dishonor to the house of CNN, but has both ruined lives and even taken them. It was Grace who so berated the mother of a missing child during an interview that she may have been a party to that mother taking her own life in the wake of the appearance. Whether Melinda Duckett really did kill her kid is immaterial only because, thanks to Grace's need to play the avenging angel, we'll now never know what really happened in the case. What's more, not only did Grace assail Duckett, but she ran the pre-taped interview after the woman had killed herself. That stretches the bounds of ethics and good taste well past the breaking point.
Then there was Grace's crusade against the Duke lacrosse players, a nightly fusillade of baseless accusations that turned out to be, well, baseless, given that the players were cleared of the charges against them. When that news came down, what did Grace do about it? She had another anchor sub in on her show and announce the new information, never once apologizing for or even acknowledging her wrongdoing. Or how about the time Grace declared, without a shred of evidence, that Whitney Houston had been murdered. Or how about that time she used CNN's airways to defame an innocent man by claiming his behavior in a crime had all the hallmarks of a serial killer, even though he had nothing to do with the crime in question and Grace was made aware of it before she went to air with the accusation. Or, of course, how about weeks and weeks of railing against "Tot Mom" Casey Anthony, a woman who, like it or not, was found not guilty in an actual court of law (as opposed to the kangaroo court Grace conducts night after night on her show).
The fact is that Nancy Grace never should've been allowed to get away with even a tiny bit of that. CNN, being a nominally stand-up news organization, should've shut her sociopathic shtick down nearly a decade ago. But for some reason it didn't. It shouldn't even have been a matter of ratings either, given that Grace, while certainly the only draw on HLN, wasn't exactly Game of Thrones in terms of numbers -- and regardless it's difficult to imagine CNN wanting to risk more of the kind of lawsuits Grace was regularly bombarded with just for one extra Nielsen point. Put simply, Nancy Grace made CNN look bad. And she did it over and over and over again. And yet, no matter how many times the network came under fire for being the bridge below which Grace lived, it did nothing. It shrugged her contemptible behavior off.
It would be nice to think that Nancy Grace isn't actually leaving HLN of her own accord -- that she really is getting the boot. But if that's true then it's a result of flagging ratings for her shtick rather than the shtick itself. Grace hasn't done anything in particular lately to warrant extra condemnation, which means that either she truly is making an exit because she's simply had enough or her numbers are an issue for HLN's suits. (According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in May she averaged 291,000 viewers, ranking 42nd among cable news programs.) She says that her next career step will still involve television but will have a sizable "digital component." “My plan is to merge those two in an effective way, in my voice, the ‘anti-crime’ voice," she says. "Our show has never really been about me. It has been about the stories that we tell and the people we talk about and the mysteries we try to solve and the children we try to bring home."
Predictably, even as she announces the end there's no introspection or regret for the litany of offenses stacked up behind her. She still believes she's the righteous crusader for justice and for the innocent. But she's not and she never was. She was never in it for anybody other than herself. The common denominator in all of her indignant tirades, all her misguided missions to supposedly right the world's wrongs, was Nancy Grace. Her supposed intentions were meaningless when placed against the recklessness with which she went about her tasteless nightly campaigns. And besides, again, those intentions, if she were honest with herself, were never about "the people" anyway. They were only about Nancy Grace. Night after night, that was all that ever really mattered.