Nancy Grace

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For her current affairs program of the same name, see Nancy Grace (TV series).
Nancy Grace
Nancy Grace.PNG
Grace at her book party for her new book "Objection!", at the Bryant Park Grill, NYC, 2005
Born Nancy Ann Grace
(1959-10-23) October 23, 1959 (age 54)
Macon, Georgia, United States
Education Valdosta State University
Mercer University (BA, JD)
New York University (LLM)
Occupation Political commentator, television personality, former prosecutor
Years active 1996–present
Notable credit(s) Closing Arguments anchor (1996–2007)
Nancy Grace anchor (2005–present)
Religion Christian
Spouse(s) David Linch (2007–present)
Children 2

Nancy Ann Grace (born October 23, 1959)[1] is an American legal commentator, television host, television journalist, and former prosecutor. She frequently discusses issues from what she describes as a "victims' rights" standpoint, with an outspoken style that has brought her both praise and criticism. She is the host of Nancy Grace (2005–present), a nightly celebrity news and current affairs show on HLN, and she was the host of Court TV's Closing Arguments (1996–2007). She also co-wrote the book Objection!: How High-Priced Defense Attorneys, Celebrity Defendants, and a 24/7 Media Have Hijacked Our Criminal Justice System. She was also the arbiter of Swift Justice with Nancy Grace in the syndicated courtroom reality show's first season. Due to the show relocating from Atlanta, Georgia (where Grace lives), she was replaced by former Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass. The show was not renewed for a new season under Glass.

Early life

Nancy Grace was born in Macon, Georgia, the youngest of three children, to factory worker Elizabeth Grace and Mac Grace, a freight agent for Southern Railway.[2] Her older siblings are brother Mac Jr. and sister Ginny.[3] The Graces are longtime members of Macon's Liberty United Methodist Church, where Elizabeth plays the organ and Mac Sr. was once a Sunday School teacher.[3]

Grace graduated from Macon's Windsor Academy in 1977.[4] She attended Valdosta State University, and later received a B.A. from Mercer University.[5] As a student, Grace was a fan of Shakespearean literature, and intended to become an English professor after graduating from college.[2] But after the murder of her fiancé Keith Griffin when she was 19, Grace decided to enroll in law school and went on to become a felony prosecutor and a supporter of victims' rights.[6]

Grace received her Juris Doctor from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer, where she was a member of the law review. She went on to earn a Master of Laws in constitutional and criminal law from New York University.[6] She has written articles and opinion pieces for legal periodicals, including the American Bar Association Journal.[6] She worked as a clerk for a federal court judge and practiced antitrust and consumer protection law with the Federal Trade Commission.[6] She taught litigation at the Georgia State University College of Law and business law at GSU's School of Business.[6] As of 2006, she is part of Mercer University's board of trustees and adopted a section of the street surrounding the law school.

Career as prosecutor

Grace worked for nearly a decade in the Atlanta-Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney's office as Special Prosecutor. Her work focused on felony cases involving serial murder, serial rape, serial child molestation, and serial arson.[7] Grace left the prosecutors' office after the District Attorney she had been working under decided not to run for reelection.[8]

While a prosecutor, Grace was reprimanded by the Supreme Court of Georgia for withholding evidence and for making improper statements in a 1997 arson and murder case. The court overturned the conviction in that case and found that Grace’s behavior “demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness and was inexcusable.” [9] As well, a 2005 federal appeals opinion by Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. found that Grace "played fast and loose" with core ethical rules in a 1990 triple murder case, including the withholding of evidence and allowing a police detective to testify falsely under oath. The 1990 murder conviction was upheld despite Grace's prosecutorial misconduct.

Career as broadcaster

After leaving the Fulton County prosecutors' office, Grace was approached by and accepted an offer from Court TV founder Steven Brill to do a legal commentary show alongside Johnnie Cochran. When Cochran left the show, Grace was moved to a solo trial coverage show on Court TV.[8]

In 2005, she began hosting a regular primetime legal analysis show called Nancy Grace on CNN Headline News (now HLN) in addition to her Court TV show.[7] On May 9, 2007, Grace announced that she would be leaving Court TV to focus more on her CNN Headline News Program and charity work.[10] She did her last show on Court TV on June 19, 2007.

Grace has a distinctive interviewing style mixing vocal questions with multimedia stats displays. The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television has presented Nancy Grace with two Gracie Awards for her Court TV show.[7]

Grace had been covering the Casey Anthony story for years. After the controversial verdict finding Casey Anthony not guilty, her show on HLN had its highest ratings ever in the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hour slots on Tuesday, July 5, 2011.[11]

Grace also hosted Swift Justice with Nancy Grace premiering September 13, 2010, and running until May 2011. Grace left the show due to productions moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles. In September 2011, Judge Jackie Glass, who is known for presiding over the O. J. Simpson robbery case, took over Grace's place. The show continued for one more season and ceased production in 2012.

Controversies

In a 2011 New York Times article, David Carr wrote, "Since her show began in 2005, the presumption of innocence has found a willful enemy in the former prosecutor turned broadcast judge-and-jury". He criticized her handling of the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, the Duke lacrosse case, the Melinda Duckett interview and suicide and the Caylee Anthony case. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told Carr that Grace, as an attorney and reporter, "has managed to demean both professions with her hype, rabid persona, and sensational analysis. Some part of the public takes her seriously, and her show erodes the respect for basic rights."[12]

In January 2014, she again ignited controversy for her wildly negative depiction of recreational marijuana users. Grace made statements such as users were "fat and lazy" and that anyone who disagreed with her was "lethargic, sitting on the sofa, eating chips" to CNN's news correspondent Brooke Baldwin during a segment covering legalization in Colorado on January 6, 2014.[13]

Elizabeth Smart kidnapping

During the 2002 Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case, when suspect Richard Ricci was arrested by police on the basis that he had a criminal record and had worked on the Smarts' home, Grace immediately and repeatedly proclaimed on Court TV and CNN's Larry King Live that Ricci was guilty, although there was little evidence to support this claim. She also suggested publicly that Ricci's girlfriend was involved in the cover-up of his alleged crime. Grace continued to accuse Ricci, though he died while in custody.[14] It was later revealed that Smart was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, two individuals with whom Ricci had no connection.[15]

When Court TV confronted Grace seven months later to ask whether she was incorrect in her assertion that Ricci was guilty, and whether or not she felt bad about it in any way, she stated that Ricci was "a known ex-con, a known felon, and brought suspicion on himself, so who could blame anyone for claiming he was the perpetrator?" When Larry King asked her about the matter, she equated criticism of herself with criticism of the police in the case. She said: "I'm not letting you take the police with me on a guilt trip."[16]

In July 2006, Grace interviewed Smart, who was promoting a legislative bill. Grace repeatedly asked her for information regarding her abduction. Smart told her she didn't feel comfortable discussing it, despite Grace's persistence in the matter. Finally, Grace stopped when Smart said she "didn't appreciate [Grace] bringing all this up."[17]

Danielle van Dam case

During the trial of David Westerfield in 2002 for the kidnap and murder of Danielle van Dam, Grace made it clear on Larry King Live that she thought he was guilty, but she got some facts wrong. For example, she said he had steam-cleaned his RV, but no evidence was introduced that he had, and Dr. Henry Lee pointed out that if he had done so, they wouldn't have found the fingerprints and the bloodstain on the carpet.[18][19]

Also, Grace argued that Westerfield's black jacket was leather, so van Dam's hairs and fibers would not have been transferred onto it by "dirty dancing" at the bar on Friday night, as the defense proposed.[20]

She also made some statements pointing to his possible innocence. The strongest evidence against Westerfield was found in his RV, particularly a drop of Danielle's blood and her handprint. That evidence could be innocently explained if, at some previous time while it was parked unlocked in the streets outside her home, Danielle had entered that vehicle, perhaps to explore it out of curiosity. There was no testimony she had done so, but Grace said she "can imagine a little girl wandering into a RV and playing in it, much as if they saw a swimming pool, they might jump in, or a playground, they might play on it".[18]

Duke lacrosse allegations

Grace took a vehemently pro-prosecution position throughout the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case, in which Crystal Gail Mangum, a stripper and North Carolina Central University student, falsely accused three members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team of raping her at a party. Prior to Duke suspending its men's lacrosse team's season, she sarcastically noted on the air, "I'm so glad they didn't miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape!" and "Why would you go to a cop in an alleged gang rape case, say, and lie and give misleading information?"[21] After the disbarment of District Attorney Mike Nifong, Attorney General Roy Cooper pronounced all three players innocent of the rape charges made by Mangum and Nifong.[22] On the following broadcast of her show, Grace did not appear and a substitute reporter, Jane Velez-Mitchell, announced the removal of all charges.[23]

Suicide of interviewee Melinda Duckett

In September 2006, 22-year-old Melinda Duckett committed suicide following an interview conducted by Grace concerning the disappearance of Duckett's 2-year-old son Trenton.[24] Grace interviewed Duckett less than two weeks after the child went missing, questioning her for her alleged lack of openness regarding her son's disappearance, asking Duckett "Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day?"[25] Duckett appeared confused and was unable to answer whether or not she had taken a polygraph test. When Grace asked her why she could not account for specific details, Duckett began to reply, "Because I was told not to," to which Grace responded, "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 twelve." According to the CNN transcript, Duckett replied, "(INAUDIBLE) with all media. It's not just there, just all media. Period." Grace then moved on to a psychologist who asserted that Duckett was "skirting around the issue."[24][25]

The next day, before the airing of the show, Duckett shot herself, a death that relatives claim was influenced by media scrutiny, particularly from Grace.[24][26] Speaking to The Orlando Sentinel, Duckett's grandfather Bill Eubank said, "Nancy Grace and the others, they just bashed her to the end. She was not one anyone ever would have thought of to do something like this."[24] CNN has also been criticized for allowing the show to air in the wake of Duckett's suicide.[27] Police investigating the case had not named Melinda Duckett as a suspect in the case at the time, but after her suicide the police did say that, as nearly all parents are in missing-child cases, she was a suspect from the beginning.[24]

In an interview on Good Morning America, Nancy Grace said in reaction to events that "If anything, I would suggest that guilt made her commit suicide. To suggest that a 15- or 20-minute interview can cause someone to commit suicide is focusing on the wrong thing."[28] She then said that, while she sympathized with the family, she knew from her own experience as a victim of crime that such people look for somebody else to blame.[29]

While describing it as an "extremely sad development," Janine Iamunno, a spokeswoman for Grace,[24] said that her program would continue to follow the case as they had a "responsibility to bring attention to this case in the hopes of helping find Trenton Duckett." Grace commented that "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."[24]

On November 21, 2006, The Smoking Gun exposed pending litigation on behalf of the estate of Melinda Duckett, asserting a wrongful death claim against CNN and Grace. The attorney for the estate alleges that, even if Duckett did kill her own son, Grace's aggressive questioning traumatized Duckett so much that she committed suicide. She also argues that CNN's decision to air the interview after Duckett's suicide traumatized her family. Trenton has never been found.[27][30]

On November 8, 2010, Grace reached a settlement with the estate of Melinda Duckett to create a $200,000 trust fund dedicated to locating Trenton. This settlement was reached a month before a jury trial was scheduled to start. According to the agreement, if the young boy is found alive before he turns 13, the remaining proceeds in the trust will be administered by a trustee – Trenton's great-aunt Kathleen Calvert – until he turns 18 and the funds are transferred for his use. If Trenton is not found by his 13th birthday, or if he is found but is not alive, the funds will be transferred immediately to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "We are pleased the lawsuit has been dismissed. The statement speaks for itself," a spokeswoman for CNN said.[31]

Caylee Anthony case

From 2008 to 2011 the Caylee Anthony disappearance and the prosecution, trial and acquittal of her mother Casey Anthony on charges of murder of the child were a regular feature of the Nancy Grace show. She would reveal every new detail of the story.[32] Her program is cited as having "almost single-handedly inflated the Anthony case from a routine local murder into a national obsession".[33] Nancy Grace referred to Casey Anthony as the "tot mom," a phrase Elizabeth Flock in The Washington Post described as "almost derisive-sounding."[34]

The Nancy Grace audience more than doubled in the weeks after the start of the Casey Anthony trial.[35] David Carr wrote that Grace took her show to the trial scene in Orlando, Florida in order to "hurl invective from a close, intimate distance."[12] Grace expressed rage at Anthony's acquittal right after announcement of the verdict, saying: "Tot Mom's lies seem to have worked."[33] In a press conference after the verdicts were read, Cheney Mason, one of Anthony's defense attorneys, blamed the media for a "media assassination" which led to public hatred toward Anthony. He also said,

I can tell you that my colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don't know a damn thing about, and don't have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it.[36]

Grace took it personally and responded, "What does he care about what pundits are saying?" Stating she had as much legal experience as Mason, she criticized the defense attorneys for taking on the media before mentioning Caylee's name in their news conference and stated that "[T]here is no way that this is a verdict that speaks the truth."[36]

Michelle Zierler, director of the Project in Law and Journalism at New York Law School, said Grace "is always certain that the defendant is guilty and needs instant punishment" and this had affected her analysis of the case.[36] Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County, Florida public defender said,

Nancy Grace should offend every journalist out there. These lawyers on TV during the Anthony trial only offered one side, everybody believed them, and now you've got a big chunk of the population that thinks the legal system let them down. Every time that happens, you lose part of the national community.[33]

On the day Anthony was sentenced on misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators, a supporter held a sign reading: "Nancy Grace, stop trying to ruin innocent lives. The jury has spoken. P.S. Our legal system still works!"[37]

In a televised appearance with media expert Dan Abrams, Grace stated about Anthony's being freed from jail,

No one wishes for vigilante justice; nobody advocates that. People who are opposed to the jury verdict, that think it was wrong, are really seeking justice, and I do not believe those people are interested in harming Tot Mom Casey Anthony.

Abrams commented,

There are too many people out there who love Nancy Grace, who watch Nancy Grace on a regular basis, who are going to see [Anthony] out there somewhere and are going to give her a very, very hard time wherever she goes.[38]

Whitney Houston death

Mainstream media have suggested that Grace made "wildly speculative" allegations on her program that the investigation into Whitney Houston's death should include the possibility that someone may have been responsible for drowning Houston. Some reporters have pointed out that Grace should have waited for the coroner's report before making this allegation.[39]

Toni Annette Medrano suicide

Toni Annette Medrano was infamously dubbed the "vodka mom" by Grace, who brought a bottle of vodka onto her set and poured shots to demonstrate how much Medrano had drank.[40] On November 22, 2011, Medrano accidentally killed her 3-week-old son, Adrian Alexander Medrano, while she was sleeping on the couch with him. According to the criminal complaint, Medrano told police she had consumed almost an entire fifth of vodka the night before her son died and fell asleep with him on a couch. The following morning, she woke up and found her infant son unresponsive and cold to the touch. In June 2012, Medrano was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter. If convicted on both counts, Medrano would have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.

"The baby is dead because of vodka mommy," Grace said during her June 11 show on HLN. "I don't care if she was driving a car, holding a pistol or holding a fifth of vodka. [It] doesn't matter to me. The baby is dead at the hands of the mommy." During the show, Grace said the charges filed against Medrano weren't harsh enough. "I don't see how this whole thing was an accident and I want murder charges," Grace said.[41]

Medrano committed suicide by setting herself on fire, after being condemned by Grace.[42] Following Melinda Duckett's suicide, this is the second suicide to which Grace has been linked.[43] On January 4, 2012, a lawsuit against CNN brought by Medrano's family was settled, "I can tell you the case was settled in principle two weeks ago," said personal injury attorney Michael Padden. A lawsuit was never formally served but "we resolved the case just by negotiation," he said.[44]

Amanda Knox

Grace commented on the Amanda Knox case: "I was very disturbed, because I think it is a huge miscarriage of justice. I believe that while Amanda Knox did not wield the knife herself, I think that she was there, with her boyfriend, and that he did the deed, and that she egged him on. That's what I think happened.....I just happen to know the facts...I'm not trying to get Amanda Knox's first interview because… my show does not pay for interviews...Second, I don't think she's going to tell the truth anyway, so what's the point?"[45]

The Ultimate Warrior

Following WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior's April 8, 2014 death, Nancy Grace invited retired wrestler Diamond Dallas Page on her show to discuss Warrior. Unbeknownst to Page,[46] the subject of the episode was deaths in the sports entertainment industry caused by steroids. Grace claimed that "rumors of steroid and drug use are swirling" in the case of Ultimate Warrior's death,[47][48] although an autopsy had concluded that Warrior had died of natural causes with neither drugs nor alcohol in his system at his time of death.[49] During the segment Grace made several mentions to a list of wrestlers who had died young, linking their deaths to drug abuse. The list included wrestlers whose deaths were unrelated to drug abuse.[47]

A petition on Change.org requesting CNN to remove Nancy Grace from television received over 10,000 signatures within 24 hours,[50][51] and #CancelNancyGrace became a trending topic on Twitter following the episode's airing.[46] Page released a statement after episode aired, stating that he was under the assumption that he would be sharing stories in Warrior's memory and didn't know that steroids would be the only topic discussed.[46][52] WWE subsequently asked past and present WWE talent to not appear on Grace's HLN show.[53] Nancy Grace responded to criticism by telling Radar Online that she would welcome any WWE personalities to come onto her show to "correct all of my misconceptions".[54]

Other work

Grace's first work of fiction,[citation needed] The Eleventh Victim, also published by Hyperion, was released on August 11, 2009. The mystery thriller follows a young psychology student, Hailey Dean, whose fiancé is murdered just weeks before their wedding. She goes on to prosecute violent crime and is forced to reckon with what she left behind.[55] Publishers Weekly described it as "less than compelling."[56] A second novel, Death on the D-List, was published on August 10, 2010.

Grace has also helped staff a hotline at an Atlanta battered women's center for 10 years.[6]

Personal life

Marriage and motherhood

In April 2007, Grace married David Linch, an Atlanta investment banker, in a small private ceremony. The two had met while she was studying at Mercer University in the 1970s. Grace, who had given up on marriage after the death of her fiancé, said, "We've been in touch all these years, and a lot of time, we were separated by geography and time. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to get married. I told my family only two days before the wedding."[57]

On June 26, 2007, an emotional Grace announced on her HLN talk show that her life had "taken a U-turn" in that she was pregnant and expecting twins due in January 2008.[58][59] Lucy Elizabeth and John David were born in November 2007.

Allegations regarding fiancé's murder

In March 2006, an article in the New York Observer suggested that in her book Objection!, Grace had embellished the story of her college fiancé's 1979 murder and the ensuing trial to make it better support her image. Grace has described the tragedy as the impetus for her career as a prosecutor and victims' rights advocate, and has often publicly referred to the incident.[60] The Observer researched the murder and found several apparent contradictions between the events and Grace's subsequent statements, including the following:

  • Her fiancé, Keith Griffin, was not shot at random by a stranger, but by a former coworker, Tommy McCoy.
  • McCoy did not have a prior criminal record
  • Rather than denying the crime, McCoy confessed on the night of the murder.
  • The jury deliberated for a few hours, not days.
  • There was no ongoing string of appeals (McCoy's family did not want any). McCoy has only once filed a habeas petition, which was rejected.

Grace told the Observer she had not looked into the case in many years and "tried not to think about it."[60] She said she made her previous statements about the case "with the knowledge I had."[60]

In response to Keith Olbermann's claims in a March 2007 Rolling Stone interview in which he was quoted as saying, "Anybody who would embellish the story of their own fiancé's murder should spend that hour a day not on television but in a psychiatrist's chair,"[61] Grace stated, "I did not put myself through law school and fight for all those years for victims of crime to waste one minute of my time, my energy, and my education in a war of words with Keith Olbermann, whom I've never met nor had any disagreement. I feel we have X amount of time on Earth, and that when we give in to our detractors or spend needless time on silly fights, I think that's abusing the chance we have to do something good."[61]

Griffin's murderer, Tommy McCoy, was released on parole from the Georgia Department of Corrections on December 5, 2006.[62]

Other television work

Dancing With the Stars

Grace was a contestant on the thirteenth season of Dancing with the Stars, which began airing on September 19, 2011. She was partnered with pro-dancer Tristan MacManus. The couple lasted for 8 weeks and placed 5th overall in the competition before being eliminated on November 8, 2011, just one week shy of the semi-finals.

Raising Hope

In early April 2012, Grace appeared on the 2 last episodes of the second season of the TV show Raising Hope playing herself. It was the first time Nancy Grace was seen playing a comic character on television.

Law & Order

On May 22, 2007, Grace appeared in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Screwed" the season 8 finale, playing herself opposite Star Jones.[63]

Hancock

Grace has a cameo appearance in the film Hancock, starring Will Smith.

Depictions of Grace in popular media

Law & Order connection

The Law & Order programs often base their fictional stories on real-life events and have featured stories based on Grace on several occasions.[64]

In the episode "Haystack" of Law & Order: SVU, an overzealous reporter named Cindy Marino (played by Kali Rocha) causes the mother of a kidnapped son to commit suicide.[65]

On Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Grace has also been compared to a character named Faith Yancy (Geneva Carr) who hosts a similar talk show (Inside American Justice) that sensationalizes whatever case the main characters are working on and makes it difficult for them to gain access to key witnesses. Although, the character could be based on any number of individuals with this type of show. The character has appeared on the episodes "In the Wee Small Hours" (original air date November 6, 2005), "Masquerade" (original air date October 31, 2006), "Albatross" (original air date February 6, 2007), "Neighborhood Watch" (original air date August 10, 2008), and "Lady's Man" (original air date June 28, 2009).[66]

The Newsroom

Episode eight of The Newsroom, "The Blackout Part I: Tragedy Porn", features a scene in which the newsroom staff dismantle Grace's coverage of the Casey Anthony case.[67]

Onion News Network

Shelby Cross, a recurring character appearing on the Onion News Network, a parody of cable news shows produced by The Onion, is a parody of Grace's confrontational, sensationalistic style and tendency to immediately assume the guilt of criminal suspects. Cross also engaged in a variety of unethical activities, such as burglarizing a suspect's home (and wantonly destroying their possessions) in search of "evidence" the police may have missed, and fomenting suspicion of men of Middle Eastern decent, even encouraging viewers to build "Justice Sheds" in their back yards to confine alleged terrorists.

Bibliography

References

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  4. ^ Nancy Grace Promotes Mystery Novel
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  15. ^ about: The Elizabeth Smart Case
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  22. ^ looking back at the duke lacrosse case
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  59. ^ Hancock, Noelle (June 26, 2007). "First Photo: CNN's Nancy Grace Pregnant With Twins!". US Weekly. Archived from the original on June 28, 2007. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
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  63. ^ Nancy Grace takes first acting role March 6, 2007
  64. ^ 5th paragraph Farhi, Paul (March 8, 2009). "Ripped From the Headlines – and From the Heart". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 12, 2010. 
  65. ^ "Haystack". Haystack. 
  66. ^ imdb.com profile - Geneva Carr
  67. ^ Mirkinson, Jack (August 13, 2012). "'The Newsroom' Recap: 'The Blackout, Part 1'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Romeo & Chelsie Hightower
Dancing with the Stars (US) quarter-finalist
Season 13 (Fall 2011 with Tristan MacManus)
Succeeded by
Melissa Gilbert & Maksim Chmerkovskiy