N.C. Harrison examines Nancy Grace’s sensationalistic coverage of a recent tragedy.
When Ultimate Warrior died about a week ago, I saw wrestling fans united like I rarely have during my life. Fans of the big-time promotion and small independent outfits stood together, as did followers of lucha libre, puroresu and many other, more obscure, elements of our sport. Heck, when WWE’s roster stood together this week I could imagine so many others with them, maybe even a kirkpinar participant or two, wearing leather trousers and saluting from their dusty sand circle just as the superstars did from the Titantron’s soft glow. The usual, childish debates which divide wrestling fans were forgotten in our efforts to pay tribute to the life of a true legend.
WWE pays tribute to the Ultimate Warrior.
Another aspect of this situation, also, seems to have united the wrestling community in the face of Warrior’s passing. Nancy Grace, a Headline News host, former prosecutor and general blight on the great state of Georgia, ran a segment on the subject a night or two after the terrible event. It was, as one must expect when dealing with Ms. Grace, her usual sort of hit piece. She cadged, insinuated and outright said terrible things about the Warrior and other professional wrestlers who have gone to that great arena beyond life. Her guest for the evening, former WCW champion and current motivational speaker/yoga guru Diamond Dallas Page, sat flummoxed at her vitriol. This, actually, is not surprising; when waves of mindless anger radiate off of a person with such intensity, a man’s composure can be easily lost.
Nancy Grace argues with former WCW world champion Diamond Dallas Page.
The main problem with Ms. Grace’s work in this segment, however, was not the unkindness with which it was done, but rather the inaccuracy. It should be no problem, for a wrestling fan or anyone else, to face the music about the dark side of his community. In the aftermath of the Benoit tragedy, for example, hard questions needed to be asked about the effect of post-concussion syndrome on the behavior of all athletes. These questions were not asked by Ms. Grace—she, as she so often does, just raved with all the coherence of a snake handling preacher—but they were an important part of the dialogue which followed, and had to follow, such a terrible event.
The Warrior, however, did not die as the result of foul play. His toxicology report was clean, at least as far as current, available public knowledge has it, and his death came about from a massive, sudden heart attack, like the ones suffered by so many men in their middle to late fifties. This is not to say that Warrior did not participate in the general drug culture which permeated WWF in the late 1980s—it was a different time with different rules—but even if he did, and I have no idea whether he did or not, there is certainly no evidence that this almost thirty year old behavior contributed in any way to his recent demise.
It is certain, however, that one of the wrestlers whom Ms. Grace referred to as having died of an overdose manifestly did not. Owen Hart, the younger brother of WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart and youngest son of the legendary Stu Hart, met his end during a tragic accident during his ring entrance, as the Blue Blazer, at 1999’s Over the Edge pay-per-view. The only thing he could possibly have overdosed on was gravity. Ms. Grace’s error, thoughtlessly made to support an already spurious point, crudely slandered a man almost universally beloved by all he met.
This is not the only situation in which Mrs. Grace has behaved in an abominable fashion. She hounded the infamous group of (later totally exonerated) Duke lacrosse players, was a possible agitating factor in the suicides of Toni Medrano and Melinda Duckett, worked hard (with her famous phrase “tot-mom”) to turn the Casey Anthony trial into an even bigger circus than it already was and made just a generally braying jackass of herself on Larry King’s show regarding the David Westerfield trial. The question regarding Ms. Grace, it seems, should not be, “Is she right or wrong?” but “Just how wrong is she?”
I don’t mean to single out Nancy Grace, here… well, I do, actually, since I find her totally loathsome, but not uniquely so. There are so many examples, usually lesser but sometimes even worse (I’m looking at you, Ann Coulter and the Central Park Five fiasco). Fox and Friends’ hosts, for example, baselessly insinuating that the Malaysian airline disaster was related to terrorism. The usually erudite Melissa Harris-Perry, of MSNBC, giggling with her guest over an African child adopted by the Romney family, as if their political affiliation blots out any good they might do in that child’s life (though she, because she seems like a good woman, was willing to apologize for her words), CNN just randomly playing on the holodeck instead of reporting news… this does not honor the journalistic pursuit of truth and is just not acceptable. We, the people a free press was intended to enlighten and protect—not to entertain—must remind them that it is not acceptable.
Now… I’m going to go and watch Tony Bourdain’s visit to Punjab. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a journalist for you. And I bet he grills a better steak than Nancy Grace could ever dream of.
 Harris-Perry was willing to later apologize for how her behavior might have come across to viewers.