A Kinder, Gentler Nancy Grace?

Nancy Grace has announced she's pregnant. Will the news soften her image?

February 10, 2009, 7:20 PM

June 28, 2007 — -- Pregnancy probably won't change Nancy Grace, but it might change what her audience thinks of her, media experts said of the tough-talking talking head who once compared defense attorneys to Nazi concentration camp guards.

Grace, anchor of an eponymously titled legal talk show on CNN's Headline News channel, recently revealed she secretly married an old college friend and at 47 years old was pregnant for the first time -- with twins.

"Whether she's married or has children should have nothing to do with whether she's a good TV anchor, but we all live in the age of celebrity and people are interested in the lives of those we see on-screen," said Howard Kurtz, a television critic for the Washington Post. "It should help her be seen as more than a prosecutorial presence."

Grace earned a reputation as a staunch champion of victims' rights while working as a prosecutor in the Atlanta-Fulton County district attorney's office. She left the job without having lost a single case -- though several would be overturned later -- to take a spot anchoring a Court TV show with Johnny Cochran in 1997. In 2005 she began to host "Nancy Grace" on Headline News.

Since starting her broadcast career Grace has routinely referenced, and at times embellished, her biography. She has often cited the 1979 murder of her then-fiancé, an event she says inspired her to become a prosecutor. But a March 2006 New York Observer article found that she had embellished and manipulated many of the facts surrounding the death of her boyfriend Keith Griffin.

"If I have an appeal, I think it's that I'm the real deal. I'm not pretending to be anything but a crime victim who went to law school and tried a lot of cases," Grace told USA Today in February 2006.

That image of the downtrodden victim turned victorious crime fighter has served Grace well, said Brian Stelter, editor of the televisions news blog, tvnewser.com.

"I don't think it will change her on-air image, she'll still project her same on-air demeanor," Stelter said. "But it will change the way her audience views her. When she made her announcement, she sounded like she was getting choked up a bit and might cry."

Stelter said Grace's audience could readily relate to her because they are typically middle-aged women.

"Her audience likes her being tough as nails. She won't change that attitude on the air. That attitude is a crucial part of the show – selling that tough exterior. People will warm up to her a bit," he said.

Grace has dedicated much of her show to murdered mothers, including Laci Peterson and more recently Jessie Davis, the pregnant woman whose body was discovered last week in Ohio.

"She could use motherhood as a vehicle," said Gemma Puglisi, a communications professor at American University. "She understands this issue now from a new perspective and now she can speak from experience."

"She's concerned and can relate in a new way. She can put herself in that predicament," she said.

Grace came under fire when in a September 2006 interview she implied the interviewee, Melinda Duckett, was complicit in the disappearance of her 2-year-old son Trenton. Within 24 hours of the interview Duckett committed suicide.

Grace has repeatedly denied her interview led to Duckett's death, but the incident added to her image as an aggressive interviewer.

Grace married David Linch, an Atlanta-based investment banker in April. The couple is expecting twins in January.

She refused to be interviewed for this article.

"Her image is that of a tough interviewer and prosecutor and I don't think she'll suddenly be namby-pamby," said public relations guru Howard Rubenstein. "For a time being it might soften her image but my guess is she'll say good things about motherhood and still be plenty tough."

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