As goes Nancy Grace, so goes Sunny Hostin: Sunny Hostin is very telegenic. On TV, she’s also exceptionally personable, charming, extremely pleasant.
That’s what made her recent performances on CNN so puzzling. Hostin, a former federal prosecutor, served on Anderson Cooper’s legal panel during the Zimmerman trial. She was on the air every night.
Hostin is exceptionally pleasant. She also felt that every bit of evidence, bar none, pointed directly to Zimmerman’s guilt.
This made for a strange combination.
Nancy Grace is the patron saint of cable TV’s female former prosecutors. That said, Grace is visibly semi-crazy. She even has an iconic story about how she got that way. (In 1979, her fiancé was murdered.)
Hostin isn’t like that. That’s what makes her relentless judgments seem so strange.
How strange were those judgments during the Zimmerman trial? Below, you see a CNN transcript from all the way back in March 2012, when the case had just gone national.
Recordings of the 911 calls had been released two or three days earlier. Speaking with Brooke Baldwin, Hostin gets confused as to what clothing Martin and Zimmerman were wearing.
In fact, she gets the clothing reversed. Zimmerman was wearing red that night. Mistakenly, Hostin thinks it was Martin.
But so what? For people in the Nancy Grace mold, everything proves the accused party's guilt. Hostin is sure that that her bungled evidence proves that she just “heard a murder:”
BALDWIN (3/19/12): Sunny, I just want to bring you in. As a former federal prosecutor, what's your reaction, just visceral reaction in listening to those multiple calls to 911?Hostin says she heard two shots. In fact, only one shot was fired. But Hostin proceeds with the lurid tale involving the alleged warning shot, followed by cold-blooded murder.
HOSTIN: I'm saddened, Brooke. I'm saddened not only as a former prosecutor, but as a mother. But the bottom line is, it completely disproves this self-defense claim. It tells me that this child was murdered in cold blood and there are several witnesses to that murder.
You know, I heard so many people in law enforcement talk about the fact that the, you know, that there aren't any witnesses to disprove this self-defense claim made by Zimmerman. Well, that is not true. First of all, prosecutors try homicide cases, Brooke, every single day without the victim, OK, because the victim is dead. And so to say that the self-defense claim cannot be disproved, for law enforcement officials in Florida to say that, I think is just so ludicrous. And I'm angered by what I've heard and I'm saddened.
BALDWIN: I hear the anger but I just have to ask, what is it about these calls? What did you hear that says cold-blooded murder?
HOSTIN: Yes, and I've heard all of the calls, actually, because they've all been released, in addition to the few that we've played.
HOSTIN: And the bottom line is, you hear a warning shot, Brooke, and then you hear a voice pleading and a cry. And then you hear another voice and you hear the pleading stop. So that— And you also have these other people saying that the man in the white shirt—which is what Zimmerman was wearing, we know that Trayvon Martin was wearing a red sweatshirt—that the man in the white shirt was on top of the other person. And so that tells me that he was on top of this boy, young boy, not even an adult, an unarmed young boy, takes a step back and shoots him in the chest.
You cannot avail yourself of a self-defense claim when you are the first aggressor, you start a fight, even if you're losing it. You cannot avail yourself of that.
And so in hearing all of these tapes, I’m convinced that I’ve heard a murder. That, and a murderer that is walking around our streets free without being arrested. And so I’m just—I’m horrified.
More strikingly for present purposes, note what she says about the clothing the two parties were wearing that night.
Plainly, Hostin had the basic evidence mixed up at this point. In fact, it was Zimmerman who was wearing red that night. Somehow, Hostin had it in her head that Martin was wearing red.
(On March 14, 2012, she had said on CNN that Martin was wearing "a red hoodie" that night.)
Hostin had the basic facts inverted in her mind. But remember the basic rule: For people in the Nancy Grace mold, every single bit of evidence proves the accused party’s guilt!
In this case, Hostin mistakenly thinks she has heard two shots, and she has the evidence of the clothing reversed. But so what? This bungled evidence convinces her that she has just “heard a murder.”
Everybody makes mistakes. But in the world of cable ex-prosecutors, it doesn’t really matter who was wearing red. By the basic rules of the game, everything points to the accused party’s guilt. Everything proves that he did it.
Does cable feature male ex-prosecutors so absurdly one-sided? There are quite a few female ex-prosecutors who seem to have followed in Grace’s wake. We can’t think of a male ex-prosecutor who works from such an unmistakable template on a cable program. (Cable producers may prefer this kind of casting.)
By the way, did Hostin ever correct her misstatement about what the clothing help prove? She was on CNN every day in March 2012, often on several programs in the course of the day. Using Nexis, we find no sign that she ever corrected her groaning mistake about the two parties’ clothing—a mistake which led her to say, on the air, that she had just “heard a murder.”
Nancy Grace has convicted quite a few innocent people in her years on TV. During the Elizabeth Smart case, she got an innocent party thrown into jail, where he died of a medical condition.
(Later, Smart was found—and with her, the real guilty party.)
That said, Nancy Grace seems crazy. Hostin is a puzzle. What’s it like to be so outwardly pleasant and yet to be so deeply devoted to getting folk thrown into prison, preferably for life?
Hostin had the clothing reversed. Like everything else on the face of the earth, this proved the accused party did it!
Later that week: Later that week, Hostin started saying that the Sanford police hadn’t kept Zimmerman’s clothing for forensic testing. This became a standard claim on the various hang-him-high channels.
This was proof that the Sanford police had just been screwing around!
Uh-oh! As it turned out, the Sanford police had kept Zimmerman’s clothing. Repeatedly, Hostin traced her false claim to the Martin attorneys.
False. As in, not true.