Did TV Interview With Nancy Grace Push Melinda Duckett Over the Edge?

The following is a transcription of the September 16, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: After her 2-year-old son Trenton was reported missing, Melinda Duckett spoke by phone with CNN Headline host Nancy Grace about the search for the boy.


NANCY GRACE, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Where were you? Why (AUDIO GAP) you telling us where you were that day? You were the last person to be seen with him.

MELINDA DUCKETT, MOTHER OF MISSING TRENTON DUCKETT: And we've already gone out and distributed the fliers (INAUDIBLE)

GRACE: Right. Why aren't you telling us and giving us a clear picture of where you were before your son was kidnapped?

DUCKETT: Because I'm not going to set those kind of details out.


DUCKETT: Because (INAUDIBLE) not to.

GRACE: Miss Duckett, you're not telling us for a reason. What is the reason? You refuse to give even the simplest facts of where you were with your son before he went missing. It is day 12.

DUCKETT: (INAUDIBLE). It's not just here (ph). Just of all media, period.


BURNS: After the interview was taped — Jane, perhaps fair to call it a grilling, was taped — Miss Duckett committed suicide. Her family is blaming the media.

Do they have a case?


Nancy Grace has decided that she is judge and jury. I'm surprised we don't have live executions, you know, to bypass the entire criminal justice system. If she thinks somebody's guilty, she's going to go after them. She never apologizes if she's wrong. She has a righteous anger that, you know, some people think is good television. But it can be very dangerous.

And I don't care if this woman, in fact, did do away with her son. That is not the role of somebody on television.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Let's not mince words here. The biggest bottom feeder on all of television is Nancy Grace. Notwithstanding the fact that no one in his or her right mind should go on this show — and obviously Miss Duckett was not in her right mind.

Nancy Grace trades decency for ratings. Yes, I'm sure her producers sit around and say, This will be great television. You grill this woman who lost her son — just grill her. Just keep on attacking her. Just keep on attacking her.

It is disgusting. It is disgusting. And if CNN had any decency, they'd pull the plug on this woman.

BURNS: Can we say anything in defense of Nancy Grace, Jim?

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: I think we can say that the media — and don't interrupt now, because…


The media play a role in forcing authorities to be more vigilant and do their job. And the previous segment, about the photograph, illustrates again the value of the media as a counterforce on the rest of the society in exactly the way James Madison had in mind.

However, in this case, Nancy Grace used the moral authority that she got from her husband — her fiance, being married, you know, 25 years ago, and she has made an act out of that. She's made a show of it.

GABLER: Not her right.

PINKERTON: And as they said when we were kids, it's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. And this woman died, and the blood is on Nancy Grace's hands. And just as the ghost of her fiance is one shoulder, the ghost of Miss Duckett is on her other shoulder now.

BURNS: But Cal, an interview by itself, it seems to me, could not force — would not force a person who was — I'm getting into risky ground here — but emotionally stable to commit suicide.


BURNS: So there was some emotionally stability there that had to be — perhaps brought on entirely just by the fact that her child was missing.

THOMAS: Right.

BURNS: But does Nancy Grace bear a full burden for this? Or do we have to take into account what other factors may have made this woman susceptible?

THOMAS: Yes, I think you have to take into — look, not everybody who's grilled — I mean, I've been on O'Reilly. I've been on Donohue.

BURNS: Yes, but not because a child.


THOMAS: No. No. I understand that.

But look, she had a psychiatrist or a psychologist on there as well who was explaining that some of this behavior, you know, contributed to her suicide.

But I do think that this segment ought to be taken and shown in journalism and broadcast schools all over the country. Because it is the kind of stuff that makes people hate this business — jumping to conclusions; judge, jury and executioner on Nancy Grace's part. There are a lot of facts that aren't in.

The woman said she was told not to talk about it. This is a police investigation. They're trying to find the child; that's the most important thing at the moment. And possibly giving out details of the investigation, if indeed a child was kidnapped by somebody else, might aid the kidnappers. So I think it was legitimate for her not to say anything.

GABLER: Yes. May I say one thing as well?

They aired the interview after she committed suicide.

BURNS: Yes. Yes.

GABLER: And on the show later, they showed photographs of Miss Duckett. They were exploiting her death on this program. Inexcusable.

HALL: And I don't think they've learned. I mean, from the quotes I read, they said it was sad that she died, but they were still pursuing the search for the son. But trying to take the moral high ground. Unbelievable.

PINKERTON: It will be interesting to see whether Nancy Grace ever apologizes. I'm not holding my breath. But it will be interesting to see.

THOMAS: Well if she has, it'll be advertised. It'll be another ratings…

GABLER: That's right. You're exactly right.

BURNS: But why would anybody take an apology seriously if it came at this point, after there was so much pressure?

It seems to me that when people are forced to make an apology because everybody jumps on them, the apology is done just out of self preservation.

THOMAS: Look at the politicians. They do it all the time. Yes, I took the Abramoff money because I was bipolar or I was drunk. No moral guilt on my part.

BURNS: But that's what I mean. How can you take an apology seriously that is pressured?

GABLER: Exactly.


PINKERTON: You can't necessarily take it seriously. There's still a reason why we have that: the art form of the apology, to make a symbolic point of, We won't do it again.

GABLER: Look it, CNN owes the apology as well.


GABLER: This is something right out of the movie "Network."

BURNS: You know, Nancy Grace did offer a form of apology. She said she's sorry, and then immediately of course — because she didn't want to get herself off the hook entirely — but we're going to keep following this story. So Nancy Grace remains vigilant, diligent and…

PINKERTON: Until the lawsuit.

BURNS: Until the lawsuit.

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