Nancy Grace on the Other Side of the Pointed Questions For Once
It's the question of the moment amongst some familiar with the case of missing 2-year-old Trenton Duckett:
The question surfaces following the suicide Friday of Melinda Duckett, mother of Trenton, who went missing Aug. 27 from his bedroom at his mother's Leesburg apartment.
Melinda appeared on Grace's CNN Headline News show Friday with her estranged husband Joshua and an array of pundits. When the mother resisted providing details about her movements with Trenton on the day of his disappearance, the host took a prosecutorial turn, asking Melinda four times if she had taken a polygraph lie detector test.
Here's an excerpt of Grace's interview, aired Friday:
MELINDA DUCKETT: Because I`m not going to put those kind of details out?
MELINDA DUCKETT: Because I was told not to.
GRACE: Ms. Duckett, you are 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.
MELINDA DUCKETT: (INAUDIBLE) with all media. It`s not just there, just all media. Period.
GRACE: Let`s go to Dr. Lillian Glass, psychologist. Weak spots?
GLASS: This doesn`t make any sense to me. And the fact that she`s skirting around the issue and can`t get to the point concerns me a lot. Her reaction is not the typical reaction of a mother who has a missing child, whose child was taken from the bed when she says I don`t cry my eyes out. Most people would be emotional about it and the fact that she`s been skirting the issue through this entire interview concerns me.
GRACE: Rosie, do we still have Ms. Duckett with us? Joining us shortly will
be her mother, Nancy Eubank, who says that she saw little Trenton the day
before. Ellie wasn`t it on Saturday that she saw him? Rosie let me know when we get hooked up with her mom. I want to go back out right now to Marc Klaas? Marc, thoughts?
KLAAS: Well yeah, you know Nancy, there is some really petty stuff going on here right now and I think --
GRACE: I don`t think it`s petty. I`m sure I understand what you`re referring to, but not giving details about the disappearance of your child that could help find him if I may add, if he is still alive, I have a big problem with that.
KLAAS: Nancy, in these kinds of cases the media is never the problem. The
media is always a friend, it`s about sharing information. It`s about
transparency, it`s about working with the authorities. It`s about working with the media and it`s about getting over that hump that people are looking at you. And quite frankly, Melinda is not doing that very well at all.
GRACE: Marc, let`s just get real. And I don`t want to bring up any painful
memories for you or Mark Lunsford. Ok, you know that, I would never do that to you. But the reality is, this is day 12. The reality is this child statistically
is very well dead. And for that mother not to cooperate and not to give a
timeline doesn`t make sense to me."
The interview was taped last Thursday. Hours before it aired on Friday, Melinda was found dead by her own hand, shot in the head in her grandparents' home in the Villages of Lady Lake.
The host, who declined to speak about he incident with me, defended herself on air Monday.
"I do not feel that our show is to blame for what happened to Melinda Duckett. The truth...is not always nice or polite or easy to go down. Sometimes it`s harsh, and it hurts.
I`d like to also point out that Melinda committed suicide before that
interview ever aired. It had never gone to air. The purpose of this show is all
about finding Trenton Duckett. That`s what we`re about. And I`d like to also point out that, seemingly, police agreed with my line of questioning. You`ve got to know that we are deeply saddened to learn about her death, Melinda Duckett`s, the mother of Trenton, the day after she taped our program. It was last week.
I hope the viewers keep in mind that this show is one of the single most
active in looking for missing children. And as part of that, I often -- always,
I would hope, I ask parents the same questions I would ask any mom and dad about an investigation in a missing child case, where they were when the child went missing, what happened, what`s the timeline, anything to help find that missing child. I also ask whether the parents have taken a polygraph, as I did with Melinda. And at that point, and at this point, Trenton is still missing, and our focus is on finding him."
Mark Lunsford, whose daughter Jessica was abducted from his Citrus County home and killed in February 2005, has been helping the family garner media attention and spread word about Trenton's disappearance.
His reaction was mixed in talking with St. Peterburg Times reporter John Frank: ""Nancy Grace is trying to salvage her career right now," he said. "(But) I don't think it's Nancy Grace's fault. She was hard (on Melinda) but she just wanted some answers," he said.
Trenton's father, Joshua, told Frank he didn't think Grace did anything wrong: ""I think she (Melinda) was really holding back answers," he said, noting he was one of the first people targeted by police and media because of his strained relations with Melinda -- which included a rerstrained order placed against him after he threatened to kill both of them. "I don't think she was treated unfairly by the media. I had people totally turn against me because I had the finger pointed at me."
So, dear blog reader, what do you think?
I was surprised at how mercilessly Grace was dissecting the case on air, even when the parents of the boy were on the show. It's one thing to have pundits floating ill-informed theories on their own; but when the parents of the missing boy are at hand, listening to people they've never met blithely consider whether they abducted or killed their son -- that seemed particularly insensitive.
And Grace has made Trenton's disappearance a pointed cause on her show, even airing ads promoting their endless speculation on the matter. Earning ratings points on the back of a missing child is never pretty.
And police are caught in a curious quandary. They need the media attention to bring in leads, but the constant media scrutiny -- a TV reporter was in Melinda's grandparents' home hours before her death -- can also have a corrosive affect on average people suddenly caught in a media whirlwind at the worst point in their lives.
It's true, police have also complained that Melinda was evasive with them (she claimed during Grace's interview that the FBI asked her not to speak with any other law enforcement agencies). And who knows why someone at the center of such a personal and public tragedy would choose to end their life?
But this situation reminds me uncomfortably of the incident in Sarasota back in 2000, when a couple was arrested for killing the husband's ex-wife after the three of them appeared on The Jerry Springer Show to discuss their friction with each other.
Such emotional incidents release raw emotions. And too often, TV hosts seem unwilling or unable to consider the impact of the emotional pinballs they set in motion.
Fox News Channel Comes to St. Petersburg
Next month, FNC will bring its morning show Fox & Friends, afternoon newscast Studio B with Shepard Smith and evening newscast The Fox Report with Shepard Smith to the Don Cesar Reach Resort as part of its Thank You America Tour.
It's a 10-city tour aimed at celebrating the channel's 10th anniversary, Oct. 7. I've already asked for interviews with someone from one of the shows for a story, but given my past history with Fox, I'm not holding my breath.
Just hope no one gets between Shepard and a parking space at the Don (scroll to bottom of page for story, click on any photo to enlarge).