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Greta Van Susteren Doesn’t See Herself As An Inspiration to Young Journalists

Van Susteren is one of the few news anchors to have worked for the top channels in cable news as she embarks on a new chapter with Newsmax.

Jim Cryns

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BREAKING NEWS: GRETA VAN SUSTEREN NOT BORN IN APPLETON

“I’ve always told people I was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, but that’s not the case,” Greta Van Susteren confessed. “I was born in Neenah, just a few miles away. It’s no wonder the information on my bio pages is not matched.”

She may not have been born there, but she did go to school there. Van Susteren attended Appleton’s Xavier Catholic High School in the 60s. Van Susteren admits while she was not valedictorian, she was a bit of a hellraiser.

“I was in the lower 50 percent of my high school class, not a super student. But I did lead the class in disciplinary notices, and I was kicked out for a while.”

When she got to the school in 1968, the way some of the disciplinary notices were handed out seemed unfair.

The school had disciplinary notices. If you got three major notices, you were expelled. Kids in class would talk loudly and goof around. You know, high school kids.

“I think I was labeled insolent and insubordinate a lot of times,” she said. “I had a slew of disciplinary notices. We had a new girl come to school from a public high school. She convinced us to walk two blocks to the 7-11 or someplace like that. We bought some cigarettes and candy, then went back to school. We told her it was wrong, but she was no Mother Teresa. When we got back to school, the nuns went completely psychotic. The girl was so bad, to begin with, I guess you’d say a bad influence. She was the one that got off, didn’t get into trouble.” 

Her ties to Wisconsin are still deep. Van Susteren owns Stock with the Green Bay Packers, her favorite football team. She’s also good friends with ex-Packer Brett Favre. 

“Brett is the most humble person you’ll ever meet. I interviewed him years ago, and we became friends. He told me when people call him Iron Man, he thanks them. But he’ll also remind the person he’s number one in interceptions. I like Wisconsin and Midwestern people, but I never made it down to see the Milwaukee Brewers. The Braves were my team, and then they left for Atlanta. Then there was a big gap in baseball in Milwaukee until the Brewers came in 1970.”

By all accounts, she had a regular, normal childhood. “I had a raccoon named Ringo and a duck named Donald,” she said. 

Doesn’t get any more ‘normal’ than that. The only thing missing is a dog named Rover.

As a kid, she took piano lessons. “I wasn’t any good. I spent three years in the same lesson book.” 

Van Susteren’s father, Urban, was one-half Dutch, one-quarter German, and one-quarter Luxembourgian ancestry. Her mother, Margery Van Susteren, was born in New York and was of entirely Irish descent.

“My mother would insist I tell people she’s 100-percent Irish. If she were here today, she’d tell me to stop forgetting to comb my hair. She was a very interesting person.”

Born in upstate New York, Margey Van Susteren was orphaned early. She was left with a small inheritance and traveled the world. She was in Germany just before Hitler invaded Poland. She worked at an Air Force base. 

Urban was a judge who served under Senator Joseph McCarthy and died in 1989. He later broke with McCarthy. Before becoming a judge, Urban practiced law in Appleton until Van Susteren was in the fifth grade. 

She said visiting her dad at work was heavenly. 

“I used to go to his office with him at night,” she said. “There were two things at the office I fell in love with. His secretary had an electric typewriter and a dictaphone. I thought those were so cool. There was also a drawer with candy. What kid wouldn’t love that? I thought it was the greatest place in the world. Certainly the best office. I used to sit in the courtroom when he was on the bench. I saw judges as normal people; I was never afraid of them.” 

After Xavier, she went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, majored in economics, and studied hard. 

“I sort of decided I wanted to become a success. I didn’t want to spend my life buying cigarettes at the 7-11. When I got to law school at Georgetown, I got ‘Potomac Fever’ and never left. I interned for Gaylord Nelson when I was at Georgia Law school. Been there ever since.” 

*In the middle of the call, we got disconnected. We agreed there should be an International rule about who calls who back. The one who disconnected the call or the one who did not. “I disconnected that one,” Van Susteren said. She’s the lawyer, so I had no choice but to listen.

At Madison, the grades improved dramatically. “I could only go up from high school. I found college difficult, probably because of my doing so poorly in high school. Law school was easy, and I loved it. Instead of taking a bunch of classes I had no interest in, I was taking classes on one topic I loved. I went back and got a second law degree, and that was unusual for a woman back then. Some go back for a second degree, and it doesn’t really help their career. I know some people who went back to Harvard to get a second degree when they wanted to land new deals in their careers.”

Van Susteren said she knew she wanted to go to Georgetown because it was in Washington D.C., where the laws were made. The Supreme Court. 

“I think law school was a natural for me. I have an older sister Lise who is a doctor, and an older brother, who is a journalist. I think my dad wanted a lawyer in the family. My brother Dirk is very cerebral. He wrote for the Providence Journal. He has 30 years of journalism experience and has spent most of his career in New England. He also wrote for UPI.”

In fourth grade, she wanted to be William Proxmire, the longest-serving Senator from Wisconsin. 

“I used to go door to door and get signatures for Johnny Burns. I was young, maybe first grade, maybe a little older. Johnny Burns started sending me pamphlets about Washington, D.C. It made me very happy. I was young, but in those days, we didn’t worry too much about pedophiles.” 

Van Susteren is one of the few anchors who can say they have been employed by CNN and MSNBC and hosted On The Record for 14 years. 

“When I left Fox in 2016 after 14 years, they were blowing up. I had a good time there.”

Before Fox News, she hosted CNN’s primetime news and analysis program, The Point with Greta Van Susteren. She also co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, Burden of Proof.

Why does she think CNN thought she’d be a good addition? It’s not as complex as you might think. “I had some intellect, and I was available. CNN was the Chicken Little network. But it was exciting and fun.” 

Her first big story was covering the William Kennedy Smith rape case in Palm Beach in 1991. 

“It made sense to have a woman working that case. People may have sensed it as fair. I had tried cases like Kennedy’s. I covered Marion Berry with his cocaine busts. I think they liked those credentials.” 

Six months after she left Fox, there was a brief stint at MSNBC. 

“That was a total disaster for me,” Van Susteren said.

After MSNBC, she did some work for Voice of America on a pro-bono basis. 

Then, in May 2022, it was announced that Van Susteren would begin hosting The Record with Greta Van Susteren on Newsmax. The show started in June. 

“I’ve known Chris Ruddy for years,” Van Susteren said.  He’s the one who talked me into coming to Newsmax. “I missed the daily cable news,” she said. “It’s an entirely different breed. Chris Ruddy said, ‘why don’t you come work with us?’ There’s nothing like live news to get the adrenaline going. In recent years everything has been taped.”

“It’s the same show I’ve done for 25 years from a legal lens. Facts matter. I have taken evidence very seriously since law school.”

Van Susteren appeared regularly on CNN as a legal analyst. This led to her stint as CNN’s Burden of Proof and The Point co-host.

“My strengths are two-fold. I love to learn as I know I’m not the smartest person in the room. Second, I’m extremely curious. I like when people convince me of something or help me understand when I’m looking at something short-sided.”

Van Susteren said all things are evolving. “I know some people believe election fraud might be real. But no facts have changed my mind. Hosts and news people must be trusted as opposed to following. I’m so busy with my show, I don’t have time to listen or watch other hosts or journalists. I’m not trying to sound like a snob. I know all these people. I know how they are going to approach a topic, how they will handle it. I like a lot of them but don’t agree with them all the time.”

She never planned on being on television. 

“I graduated law school, then hung out a shingle. I was handling cases on rape and murder. Then I became an adjunct professor at Georgetown from 1983-87. That’s when CNN came calling, and I never left. When I graduated law school, the only lawyer on TV was Perry Mason.”

“I think everyone appreciates how hard television news is, and I think they have to want it. I may have been one of the first to go through a particular door, but I don’t see myself as an inspiration to young journalists. 

“My husband, John Coale, is a very successful lawyer. He was the lead attorney in the tobacco litigation when they said it couldn’t be won.”

The couple were married in 1979. They don’t belong to a golf club. They don’t even play Scrabble. 

“We like long hours and being productive. I’m lucky. I’ve traveled the world, been to Africa and Western Europe. I’ve been to Ukraine twice in the last four months.” 

From high school delinquency to Georgetown law to national media, it has been an incredible journey for the woman from Appleton…I mean, Neenah. 

BNM Writers

Dagen McDowell Is Ready For A New Adventure With Fox Business

“Every decision in America is born of policy, On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

Jim Cryns

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To know Dagen McDowell, you must understand what she comes from, where she comes from. You won’t know her until you know the lessons, kindness, and determination set forth by her parents.

Her parents operated a small grocery store, LW Roark and Company. Charles and Joyce McDowell were high school sweethearts and both went to college but decided to go back home and open a business. “This is in the middle of nowhere,” McDowell said. “It was a wholesale grocery store. They sold it in the late 90s.”

She said her parents were smart, encouraging, and took every opportunity to teach McDowell and her brother.

“They’d constantly talk up people who came into the store. Both of them have and had an insatiable curiosity about everything. They felt they learned things through their customers. It was more fun to learn about things from other people.”

McDowell’s parents never took a week off work. Never. The family took no vacations as most families would. Once while McDowell was in college at Wake Forest University, the family visited the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in D.C.

“Both of my parents were very interested in architecture and landscapes. We’d go to Williamsburg and just look at the buildings.”

McDowell joined FOX News Channel in 2003 and helped launch FOX Business Network as a founding anchor in 2007.

Her mother passed away three years ago and her father is still very much a part of her life. Her father was a constant teacher.

“One time my father, who we called Dowell McDowell, was putting up an outbuilding and asked me how long one line should be if the other line was such and such. He taught me the Pythagorean theorem when I was about 4 years old.”

McDowell was nurtured by parents with endless curiosity.

“I was raised by parents who would always debate and converse around the dinner table. We shared breakfast and dinner together every day. They loved learning, were always inquisitive, never afraid to ask a question. My parents shared a fearlessness and passed that on to me. I’ve never been embarrassed to ask people questions. I love talking to people and finding out about things.”

For a long time, McDowell had no idea what she wanted to do for a living. She knew if she worked at different jobs she’d eventually figure out what she was good at.

“I knew I was a decent writer, but I always tried to get information out of people, what they were doing. Ask if they were fulfilled and happy.”

At Wake, Forest McDowell majored in art history and had every intention of working in a museum, possibly as a curator.

“I interned at the Center for Contemporary Arts. I lived in Venice, Italy for a while. Wake Forest owns a house in Venice.”

After that it was Colorado. She moved back to New York during the recession of 1991 with a duffel bag. She took the Amtrak to New York City and sublet an apartment for six months.

“I had no TV, just a radio. I knew I could find something good to do in New York, there were so many jobs. I always wanted to live in the city. Either the city or way out in the country. Nowhere in between.”

She said being in New York made her feel anything was possible. This was January in 1994 when job ads were still in the physical newspaper, like the New York Times. McDowell interviewed at Institutional Investor through a referral from a friend.

“It was a brilliant magazine with terrific writing,” McDowell explained. “Very prominent in the industry. They were looking for someone to work with the newsletter written for the financial community.”

She’d cover topics like the bond business, Wall Street, and money management. The magazine made her take a reporting test where you’d make up a story and write it. She was offered a job and worked there for three years.

“I learned to be a journalist there,” McDowell said. “I could write but I became a better journalist. We’d break news, create our sources, and learn more and more about finance. People love to talk about what they do if you show interest.”

The next big job was SmartMoney.com, a resource and web newspaper for private investors. There McDowell wrote a personal finance column. She started doing commentary on television shows, the way a lot of people in different professions tend to do. “Then I started making more appearances on weekend financial or business shows,” McDowell said.

She got a call from Neil Cavuto about 20 years ago and he told McDowell, ‘Kid, you want a job? I know you don’t have much professional TV experience. We’ll give you some training and you’ll figure it out. If you do, you stay. If not, you go.’

McDowell said she was glad she was a writer first before she arrived at Fox. She writes her own scripts and has a background in finance and business writing.

“Before the business network was launched, they had only one business reporter and two senior business correspondents,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do so many different jobs, use different muscles, so to speak. As the years have passed I’ve discovered other talents I may have and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

There’s a new show in town. McDowell and Sean Duffy will co-host The Bottom Line which will air on weeknights from 6-7:00 PM ET.

McDowell said she and Duffy come from extremely similar backgrounds. Duffy is from rural Wisconsin and McDowell is from Virginia.

“We know what small-town living is like, “McDowell said. “I might live in New York City but where I grew up affects the way I view the world. I’m still grounded in my hometown. On the show, we look south and west with everything we cover. You have to think of your audience. Rather than talking about them, we talk with them. That’s our shared background and vision. Sean is extremely down to earth and generous.”

McDowell said the show is not financially based, but steeped in business.

She said Duffy’s experience as a former U.S. Congressman, he understands policy as well as financial matters.

“Every decision in America is born of policy,” she said. “On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

This is different from anything McDowell has done in the past.

“It’s a two-anchor show in the evening,” she explained. “This is not taking place during market hours. We tie all the business happenings together from the day. Again, it’s not about Washington or New York. It’s about the people we grew up with. We talk to them. Build a relationship with them on the air. For me, this is not just sitting in front of a camera. I can run off at the mouth as well as anyone, hang in there with the filibuster.”

McDowell says she is blunt, but hopes she isn’t rude. During a recent interview for the new show she used the terms ‘pig potatoes’ and ‘chapped backsides.’

“Those are terms I just made up,” she said. “I make up a lot of phrases and don’t always know what they mean. I have an entire repertoire of those kinds of phrases.”

Duffy assumed they were southern phrases he had to learn from McDowell, but she assured him she’d never heard them anywhere else.

“I’m just making stuff up,” McDowell said. “You can’t curse. Can’t say BS. At least you shouldn’t say BS on television. You don’t want to say manure. You never want to say something that makes people wince or evokes a smell.”

Dealing with people directly and bluntly seems to come from her mother.

“My mother had grit,” McDowell said. “She was also very kind, never syrupy. I used to say she had no magnolia-mouth.

That’s got to be a southern phrase.

McDowell said her mother was not a servile flatterer, but she was kind. Always there when somebody was in need.

“She had real grit. She’d stand and fight for her friends and family members.”

Her mother passed away after being diagnosed with stage-four cancer.

“She went through unimaginable pain,” McDowell said of her mother. “For nearly six years. You want to talk about somebody who was tough. There was nobody more pugnacious than my mother.”

She explained even with her illness, her mother was always on the go. Continuing to live her life. When questioned about being so active while she was ill, her mother continued to show grit.

“My mother would say she didn’t want to walk around looking like she had cancer. She asked, ‘What choice do I have? I could lay in bed and wait to die, or I can get up and do what I can .’”

McDowell said her mother’s illness taught her to be a caregiver in ways she never could have imagined. Her mother taught her to find moments of joy every single day, in the smallest of things.

“It can be as simple as telling a stranger to have a great day. Treat a perfect stranger with kindness. I do it all day long. I know it sounds corny, but I want to be known as a person who brings a casserole to a friend when they’re ill.”

A one-sheet from Fox tells you McDowell and the culmination of her background is perfect for The Bottom Line. The fact is, it’s true.

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BNM Writers

Airing The Tyre Nichols Video Was A Necessity

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, hard sounds to hear. But they aired.

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Far be it for me not to address this outrageous and embarrassing instance in humanity. After the videos of Memphis police brutally beating Tyre Nichols were shown on television there really seemed to be more outrage emerging from society this time than from the media, for a change. One would think that’s how we wish things to be.

In instances like this, where the video and audio images are far from brief but are instead chaptered as they unfold, there are few options other than to let them run their course. Clocks — breaks hard and soft — are out the window, just as in live coverage.

Because that’s what this was, only the live this time was us, and as we all absorbed and reacted to actions disapprovingly familiar yet somehow foreign at the same time, the impact was still becoming apparent even though we already knew the outcome.

It’s happened before.

Not always like this but we’ve seen it before, police encounters shown on the news overtakes and become the news.

It takes effect as the sights and sounds are digested, dissected, and discussed, often before their potential impact could really be imagined.

In 1991, when the Handycam footage crossed screens for the first time and we learned Rodney King’s name, we didn’t know then but we had a feeling.

We were on the right track, though as newsrooms evolved and street reporting incorporated a different type of storytelling.

I was a cop in 1991. Changes came. Some.

It’s 2023, I’m no longer a cop. Changes will come again. Some.

Turning points — or the overused watershed moments — mean just as much to the news media as they do to law enforcement.

The “why’s” that make this a turning point are more society and community based this time around than they were in 1991.

At least I think so. And I don’t think it makes a bit of difference who’s involved this time.

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, and hard sounds to hear. But they aired. Where they couldn’t air, they were described in great detail; descriptions sometimes can be worse than the real thing. Sometimes, not this time.

And they should air, they shouldn’t stop airing. This is what happened and this is what people need to see and hear and this is exactly why we are here.

Warn them, provide them with a heads up that they’re not going to like what happens next. It’s life and we show life, and we show what some of us do with it when it’s someone else’s.

Overall, I would say the news platforms held their composure, even after the videos were released. I saw, read, and heard some refreshingly neutral coverage, even from outlets where I expected hard turns into the lanes on either side of the road.

Legitimate questions were asked by anchors and reporters and much of the time, the off-balance issues were raised more by those on the sidewalks and those on the other side of the cameras and microphones.

As much as I find myself in disagreement with what I often see on the cable networks — all the cable networks — I did find a sense of symmetry watching CNN’s Don Lemon speak with Memphis City Council Chair Martavius Jones in the hours after the videos were released.

Regular protocols be damned, Lemon and producers lingered patiently as Jones, visibly overcome by emotion, struggled to regain breath and composure enough to be able to speak. Rather than cut away or move to other elements, they stood fast and it became an example of what often requires no words.

There were fewer punches pulled on other platforms as well.

The sounds of the screams, the impacts, and the hate-filled commands were broadcast through car radios.

As were Tyre Nichol’s calls for his mom. They aired. They had to.

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BNM Writers

Does the Republican Establishment Get It?

For many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections.

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In a move that seemed to go against the wishes of the patriotic American grassroots, the Republican party on Friday re-elected RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel. 

The media immediately took notice, as many on television and radio are now wondering why the party would re-elect a chairperson who has been so unpopular with the base of its party. 

Grant Stinchfield discussed this issue Friday night on his program, Stinchfield Tonight, which airs on Real America’s Voice network.

“Ronna McDaniel holds on to her chairmanship of the Republican Party. By a whopping total of — what were the numbers– 111 to 54. Harmeet Dhillon only received 54 votes. Mike Lindell 4 votes. This is proof to me that the Republican establishment is dug in,” Stinchfield — formerly of Newsmax — said. “Don’t tell me they’re out of touch. See, you tell me they’re out of touch, that implies ignorance. They’re not ignorant about anything.”

As sentiment for Dhillon grew in the days leading up to Friday’s vote, many influential politicians and party donors publicly offered her their support and endorsement. These included Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), as well as donors Mike Rydin, Dick Uihlein, and Bernie Marcus.

Also on board were musician and outspoken conservative John Rich, along with the state GOP of Nebraska and Washington State. Countless journalists and media personalities, such as Charlie Kirk, Miranda Divine, and Lou Dobbs, also came out publicly in support of Dhillon. Former President Donald Trump remained neutral, not making a public choice of either of the three candidates.

For many of Dhillon’s supporters, the deciding factor was public sentiment across the party’s base.

“They’re reading the same chat boards. They’re getting the same emails I’m reading. I will literally post something about this race when I was supporting Harmeet Dhillon. There was not one comment – not one – that supported Ronna McDaniel. Everyone wanted change,” Stinchfield said, noting that the party elite saw the same groundswell of support for change.

“Now, nobody has an issue as Ronna McDaniel is some evil kind of person. I don’t believe she is. I believe, though, that she is part of the establishment. She’s been around too long as far as the establishment goes. And she’s been ingrained in doing business as usual. It’s not working.”

In making their choices known, many Dhillon supporters simply pointed to the scoreboard during McDaniel’s reign.

“Think about where we are. 2018, we lost the House. 2020, we lost everything. 2022, we won the House, but we should have really steamrolled the House and we should have taken back the Senate, which we didn’t do,” Stinchfield said. “That means we’re on a real losing track since she took over. I don’t like being on a losing track. I like being on a winning track.

“Something has got to change when you talk about all of this. So how does Ronna McDaniel get 111 votes and Harmeet Dhillon only get 54 votes, when everyone, every Republican voter I talk to said it was time for change?” pondered Stinchfield.

And even more than the losses, for many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections. The most recent example of which came in Arizona, where presumptive gubernatorial favorite, Kari Lake, was “defeated” when countless voting irregularities occurred in some of the state’s most deep-red areas.

“Under her watch, Democrats instituted a mail-in ballot scheme. That may be even worse than losing, when you talk about the House and the Senate and all these things. The fact that we now have a junk mail-in ballot scheme across the country under Ronna McDaniel’s watch is serious trouble. Very serious trouble,” Stinchfield said on Friday. “And so the reason it is is because the Democrats are rigging the system.”

For years – until Donald Trump descended the golden escalator and took the world by storm – the Republican party had the reputation of being the party of the rich. Rush Limbaugh used to refer to this wing of Republicans as “the country club crowd.” President Donald Trump flipped the narrative completely, offering a clear vision of hope and patriotism to working-class America.

Reputable polling — such as Richard Baris’ Big Data Poll — consistently showed Trump running well ahead of almost every Republican candidate during the 2022 mid-term election cycle. In other words, Trump still maintains considerably more support across the country than most of the individual Senate or House candidates experienced.

Many experts believe this is because voters still view Trump as an outsider, while they view the Republican party much less favorably.

“Let’s tell you how out of touch they are, how elitist they are,” Stinchfield said, calling out the GOP establishment. “This meeting that went on, do you know where it is? It’s at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch in California. One of the most expensive resorts in America. You’re lucky if you get a room for a thousand dollars a night down there on Dana Point. Now, it’s a beautiful hotel, but why is the Republican Party holding an event there? Then I went back and I looked at what RedState did. RedState went back and looked at some of the expenses that the Republican Party under Ronna McDaniel’s leadership was spending money on.

“Take a look at this. $3.1 million on private jets. $1.3 million on limousine and chauffeur services. $17.1 million on donor mementos. $750,000 on floral arrangements. Now you compare this to the Democrats. The Democrats spent $35,000 on private airfare. A thousand dollars on floral arrangements. A thousand. Not $750,000. A thousand. And the $17.1 million they spent on donor mementos, the Democrats spent $1.5 million.

“Democrats know where to put the money. It’s not giving donors gifts. Donors shouldn’t want gifts. If you give money, give money. You don’t need the fancy pin to put on your lapel.”

Following her loss, Dhillon warned her party that it must listen to the base, saying, “if we ignore this message, I think it’s at our peril. It’s at our peril personally, as party leaders and it’s at our peril for our party in general.”

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