TV news stations often have to scramble for talking heads after a particularly newsworthy eventCNN even went as far as booking novelist Tom Clancy as a terrorism expert after Sept. 11. And last week, after the discovery of Chandra Levy’s body in Rock Creek Park, they were at it again. CNN and Fox News called on local attorneys Ted Williams, Lou Hennessy, and Bernie Grimm to strap on the mike. All three are household names at D.C. Superior Court, but Levy has given them a little national exposurenot to mention a test run for the next time the cameras come rolling into town.
Herewith a scouting report on D.C.’s most promising pundits: CP
Who: Ted Williams, attorney and former D.C. homicide detective
Nervous TV Babble: “[S]he could have met some foul play with the person perhaps she was going to meet with or she could have met with a secondary source and that could have been certainly if, in fact, we find that there was foul play.” (CNN’s Crossfire, May 22*)
Best Sound Bite: “I would tell Gary to take the Fifth. I would have Gary to shut up. He would never say nothing on this earth.” (Crossfire, May 22)
Least Enlightening Statement: “There’s a big question mark now: Who murdered Chandra Levy?” (Fox News, On the Record, May 28)
Ready for Prime Time? Yes. Williams already has some TV experience: He used to appear on short-lived People’s Court clone Power of Attorney. Although he still projects and enunciates like a high school kid doing Hamlet, he makes original points, a rarity in Punditland. Plus, his name makes you think of baseball. Is Billy Martin scared yet?
Who: Lou Hennessy, attorney and former D.C. homicide commander
Nervous TV Babble: “It’s entirelyI would operate under the assumption that she’s probably been there the entire time and that the search that they attempted to conductto conduct in that area just didn’t.” (CNN’s Late Edition, May 26)
Best Sound Bite: “You know, Boy Scouts learn to tie a knot one way; sailors learn to tie a knot another way.” (Crossfire, May 24)
Least Enlightening Statement: “What [the police] have to do here is take full advantage of any evidence that they gather on the scene to help point to a potential suspect.” (Late Edition, May 26)
Ready for Prime Time? Yes. Hennessy is straightforward and businesslike, more Dragnet than Cop Rock. In his years on the force, he shouted down murderers, his bosses, and the press. Think he’s intimidated by Wolf Blitzer?
Who: Bernie Grimm, criminal defense attorney
Nervous TV Babble: “If Condit comes forward sooner and says, listen, we had an intimate relationship, two and two and two, we get to six…” (Crossfire, May 23)
Best Sound Bite: “If we’re going to talk about moral obligations, maybe we ought to talk about the Catholic Church. But that’s another show.” (Crossfire, May 23)
Least Enlightening Statement:
“It’s human nature to say, my gosh, the police are coming to my house.” (Crossfire, May 23)
Ready for Prime Time? Yes. Grimm’s striking red hair and penchant for James Carville-style non sequiturs make him a natural pundit: memorable, entertaining, and opinionated. He tends to swerve off topic, but he pulls it off, coming across as more irreverent than unfocused. Next gig: prop comedy and AT&T pitches?