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Caveat lector

GRACE NOTE! Nancy Grace does one thing well. She helps us see the cable "news" corps’ corruption:

FRIDAY, MAY 2, 2003

LARRY’S WILLING EXECUTIONER: Signs of the apocalypse? They must include the specter of Josh Marshall wasting his time on Nancy Grace. Josh is much too smart and much too constructive to be burning his brain cells watching Larry King Live, as he’s done in a few recent postings. As we noted in the dim, distant past, our cable “news” nets announced long ago that they were actually tabloid entities. People like Marshall are far too smart to be loitering inside such salons.

On the other hand, Grace is so repellent a figure that she serves a useful purpose; she helps us see the moral and intellectual corruption spreading through our mainstream “news” culture. It’s increasingly clear that King himself is uncomfortable with her rancid behavior. But a recent piece in the New York Times skipped over Grace’s greatest “hang ’em high” failure. Wearily, then, THE HOWLER steps in and resolves all outstanding issues.

The NYT piece appeared last Friday, written by Jim Rutenberg. He explained why he was slumming:

RUTENBERG: As the war in Iraq comes to an end, the Laci Peterson case has grabbed much of the news media spotlight. And some critics say elements of the news media, particularly some commentators and anchors on the cable news networks, are reprising the worst journalistic habits exhibited during the coverage of the disappearance of Chandra A. Levy: all but convicting [Scott] Peterson while repeated damning rumors.
“Some” critics “say” this is happening? Apparently Rutenberg refers to only those critics who have watched any cable “news” lately. On cable TV, the war is over; pundits are back to repeating rumors and frying the accused, just as they’ve done many times in the past. But Rutenberg is much too kind when he restricts the discussion to Levy and Peterson (as he does throughout this piece). Might cable “news” panels convict someone innocent? They already have, in one high-profile case. That is the case of Elizabeth Smart, in which harpies like Grace “convicted” a man who is now plainly known to have been innocent.

That man, of course, is Richard Ricci, a convicted felon who had worked as a handy-man in the Smarts’ home and fell under King panel suspicion. During the summer of 2002, Grace had Ricci tried and convicted. During the original search for Smart’s abductor, Ricci was arrested for other crimes, and regarded by police as a “person of interest.” He died of an aneurysm while in jail. At the time that Ricci died, brilliant pundits said he was The One. But with the March arrest of Brian David Mitchell, it is now abundantly clear that Ricci did not abduct Smart.

Indeed, when Smart was returned to her family on March 12, King lamented the way Ricci had been convicted right there on his program. “Nancy, do you feel a little funny about all the racks [sic] we took at Mr. Ricci on this show?” he asked. Predictably, Grace replied, “No. I don’t.” “But on this program, Mr. Ricci got racked around and it wasn’t him,” King insisted. Alas! King got nowhere with his subhuman guest, and after a caller made a similar complaint, Mark Geragos swung into action:

GERAGOS: Nancy, I have reserved any kind of comments tonight because you have been, all along in this story, one of the worst perpetrators of convicting people. And you’ve done it on this show in this specific case. I don’t even remember the name of the guy before Ricci that they had focused on, and you had convicted him as well.
Predictably, Grace denied all. “As far as Ricci,” she said, “I’m not going on a guilt trip and I’m not letting you take the police with me on a guilt trip because Ricci was a convicted criminal in the home and had problems with his alibi since that night, and considering him as a suspect is not unthinkable.” Note the way the subhuman Grace tried to pretend that the police had been challenged. Responding directly, King tried to help his guest see the bright light:
KING: The danger was not, Nancy, that he was a suspect. It’s that sometimes, don’t you think we tend to go overboard and make him the culprit?
Nope. Sorry. Never happened. That’s absurd:
GRACE: Well, I know this. Police had reason to suspect him and reason not to charge him and I think they were appropriate.

GERAGOS: Nobody’s saying that it was inappropriate to suspect. What the caller was complaining about and what I complained about was, will you convict? I think the people presume an assumption of innocence.

GRACE: Well, we’re not a jury. We don’t have the power to convict.

Oh! On it went with Grace evading all suggestion of any misconduct.

But of course, Nancy Grace had convicted Ricci of Smart’s abduction (and probable murder). From June 2002 to the end, Grace had Ricci in her sights, and every detail seemed to suggest that he had committed the crime. The odometer showed it. The seat covers showed it. The post-hole digger showed it. The dirty car showed it. The second car showed it. The two “accomplices” showed it. Ricci’s history as a cat burglar showed it. So did the things Neth Moul had said. Here was one of her edifying exchanges, offered July 11:

CALLER: Hi. Is it possible for the FBI or the law officers involved in the case to use sodium pentothal on Mr. Ricci and find out if he has any involvement with this girl’s disappearance? Whether or not it can be used against him after?

KING: Nancy, is that allowed?

GRACE: Oh, how I wish, Larry! Unfortunately, it’s not allowed under our Constitution. No sodium pentothal, truth serum, no beating, no torture. We have to wait for Ricci to crack. That’s right.

No putting Ricci in a bag with raccoons… Believe it or not, by Nancy Grace standards, that comment is known as “not convicting Richard Ricci.” But then, here she was on August 28, as Ricci was dying in jail:
GRACE: (transcript joins program in progress) …also the fact that one man, Neth Moul, that was the assistant at the garage, the auto repair shop. He had no reason to lie. The odometer on that car backed up his story that Ricci was up to something around the time that girl disappeared.

KING: So to you, he is still the prime suspect?

GRACE: Definitely! He’s at least part of that story.

Did Nancy Grace convict Richard Ricci? Which part of “definitely” doesn’t Grace understand? One week later, Ricci had died, and his widow, Angela Ricci, was on the King program. And even then, King’s panting hound of hell continued to bear down on the murderer. “If Mr. Ricci knew anything, we’re never going to learn that,” King said. But it wasn’t going to be that easy. Angela Ricci was still alive, so Grace began picking at her:
GRACE: I’m not so sure about that. You know, love is a crazy thing. You see what you want to see. You want to believe very much in the person you love. But there may have been things that Mr. Ricci knew, things Mr. Ricci said, that later, as things calm down and the dust settles, that Mrs. Ricci may be able to decipher.

KING: I see. In other words, you think there may have been—not necessarily that he did it, but that he may have known about it. That she may think of things?
GRACE: Yes! Yes!

Unfortunately, our Constitution doesn’t let Nancy Grace torture Mrs. Ricci, or she’d probably have started in on the spot.

King should have stopped this mess long ago, and Rutenberg needs to get hep to that jive. It’s true—Grace and others invented evidence trying to convict Gary Condit of murder (links below). But beyond that, it’s also become abundantly clear that Grace convicted Richard Ricci of a crime he didn’t commit. Today, King’s Klan is back on the job, taking more suspects and hanging them high. The one grace note: Grace’s performance does helps us see where our corrupted “news” culture is going. But decent people—like Jim Rutenberg—need to talk about all of her crimes.

A PHONE CALL FROM A HUMAN: Here’s the transcript of the March 12 call which led to Geragos’ comment:

KING: Hi. Go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, I’m wondering if there’s a way that the media can cover these types of stories without convicting people like the Riccis on air? I mean, these people come across as having been guilty and I think it’s happened to many other people.

Take a minute to cheer this decent person. Here’s how the confab continued:
KING: This came with 24 hour news, CNN, the others. We are all this (unintelligible). We are all in conjecture.

GERAGOS: Exactly right. You’ve seen this. It’s taken off since 1998 and the competition between other networks that have now developed. And this idea that you’ve got to be on the air and you’ve got to be saying stuff and you’ve got to focus on an instantaneous suspect. You have to convict that instantaneous suspect. It’s awful.

GRACE: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! That’s not what happened!

At this point, Geragos said that Grace herself convicted Richard Ricci (see above). “No, that’s not correct,” Nancy said.

SOMETHING ELSE NANCY GRACE DIDN’T DO: The truth? During the summer of 2001, bin Laden’s gang was preparing its mission. But on King, they had bigger things on their minds; people like Grace (and the late Barbara Olson) were trying to smoke Gary Condit for murder. It’s now clear that King’s grisly panels played along with two pieces of key, phony “evidence” (links below). All summer long, they pretended that Levy might have been pregnant (this would give Condit a motive for murder). And they pretended that Condit told Levy that she should leave her ID home when she came to visit his pad. (Levy left her ID home on the day she disappeared.) As it turned out, both these tales had been ginned up by the Levys—but King’s panels played along all summer, carefully failing to trace these howlers back to their original source. And when we learned, without any question, that these incriminating stories were false, cable “news” networks all kept their mouths shut. (You’ve probably never heard that these stories were bogus.) Having slimed Condit with these stories for months, they kept you from learning the truth.

What can you say about people like this—people who gimmick bogus tales to help convict a public figure of murder? At THE HOWLER, we only say this: They’re still active, degrading the culture with their corrupt, repellent work on CNN.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Pregnancy? No ID? Sorry! Made up! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/27/01, 8/28/01, 8/29/01, and 8/30/01.