Come next weekend “tot mom” Casey Anthony will be a free woman. But not if Nancy Grace has something to do with it. Grace, who has been covering the Casey Anthony case since her daughter Caylee went “missing” back in the summer of 2008, has crossed the line, many say. “Now tot mom finally has the beautiful life that she envisioned. She’s free,” Grace stated on her HLN show on Tuesday after the jury acquitted Anthony. “She’s set up to make very likely over a million dollars off the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony.”
But really, Nancy, who is the person responsible for bringing Casey Anthony to the national spotlight? Why was it Casey Anthony that got the national attention when hundreds of children are killed by their parents all over the world each year? Oh, that’s right, ratings talk. Now, we give Grace credit. She covered the case when Caylee Anthony’s body went missing and kept covering the story day after day back in December 2008. So much so that she had the audience hooked and she hit a series high for her primetime Headline News program when the body of a child was discovered, which later turned out to be Caylee. She drew 1 million viewers in the coveted adults 25-54 demo and 2.38 million viewers overall. A record that would hold until this past week.
Fast forward nearly three years to late May of 2011 and it’s time for Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony, to go on trial. Again, almost nobody aside from Nancy Grace’s program was covering the trial other than a few snippets here and there. But suddenly, Grace’s program started to do good business in the ratings. The show, which was in a slump prior to the trial, started to increase in double digits. Suddenly, HLN — as it’s called now — started “suggesting” to her primetime counterparts — Dr. Drew, who only premiered one month before and was drawing dismal numbers, and Joy Behar — to cover the trial more. Primetime boomed in the ratings. HLN expanded. They ordered a new television series called HLN Special Report hosted by Vinnie Politan. The series would cover the Casey Anthony trial as well as the upcoming trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray. Then Jane Velez-Mitchell joined in on the fun as a lead-in to Grace. Before you knew it, HLN was covering the trial around the clock. The ratings? You guessed it, they boomed. HLN hit records seemingly night after night. The network that used to fall in fourth place behind FOX, MSNBC, and CNN was now scoring network records, ahead of its competitors.
Total viewership overall on the network was up 86% just for the month of June — and the average only almost increased every increasing day as the trial came closer to an end. The coveted advertiser-friendly 25-54 demo grew 79% year-to-year. Dr. Drew, who was drawing about 300,000 viewers total before the trial, increased his overall viewership ratings six fold. Nancy Grace’s lead-in, Issues? That also grew six fold. The show that was generating just over 100,000 viewers in the adults 25-54 demo was suddenly bringing in 500,000 viewers in the demo. For those of you keeping track, that’s an increase of nearly 500%.
Soon after the tremendous ratings gains that CNN’s sister network was making, FOX News, MSNBC and other outlets got in on the fun — though not as drastically and as much as HLN. The little project that Grace covered along with the local Orlando audience became a nationwide phenomenon. People were now making it a regular routine now watching the Anthony trial during the day. Grace and her colleagues, who were covering the case, had Anthony convicted long before the jury made the “not guilty” verdicts to the three major counts.
Shortly after the verdict was revealed, Grace said that the “the devil is dancing” regarding Anthony’s victory. Grace, who brought Anthony to the national spotlight, was suddenly outraged that Anthony was not only going to be free, but is likely going to go on to make millions of dollars to tell her side of the story. Meanwhile, HLN to this day is still covering wall-to-wall coverage of the Anthony case and is, yes, raking in record amounts of cash. Therefore, isn’t it a little hypocritical that Grace is disgusted with the fact that Anthony will be making all this money when she is the one that brought her to fame? While her network continues to soak up all the post-Anthony hoopla? The hoopla that other media outlets have now stopped covering? HLN hasn’t released their profit numbers, but we’re they are up significantly. Isn’t it only fair that the person Grace and the rest of the HLN crew made into a household name celebrity by its all-day coverage got in on the fun by making a little cash of her own?
We can’t say for sure that if it wasn’t for Nancy Grace that Casey Anthony wouldn’t have taken the national spotlight, but again, why was Casey Anthony so special? I think I can venture a guess why Grace continued to cover it and continues to do so — ratings. Money. And Casey Anthony — who will likely be talking to the media, releasing books, and movies shortly after her release — is now likely thanking HLN and Nancy Grace for the money she will be raking in soon, too.