Pirro in 2017
|District Attorney of Westchester County|
January 1, 1994 – December 31, 2005
|Preceded by||Carl Vergari|
|Succeeded by||Janet DiFiore|
|Chair of the New York State Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities|
January 1, 1997 – December 31, 2005
|Preceded by||Vernon Geberth|
|Judge of the Westchester County Court|
January 1, 1991 – May 1993
|Preceded by||Francis Nicolai|
|Succeeded by||Daniel Angiolillo|
Peter Leavitt[nb 1]
June 2, 1951
Elmira, New York, U.S.
(m. 1975; div. 2013)
|Education||State University of New York,|
Albany Law School, Union University (JD)
Jeanine Ferris Pirro (born June 2, 1951) is an American television host, author, and a former judge, prosecutor, and politician from New York. Pirro is currently the host of Fox News Channel's Justice with Judge Jeanine. She was a frequent contributor to NBC News, including frequent appearances on The Today Show. A Republican, she was the first female judge elected in Westchester County, New York. She was subsequently elected the first female District Attorney of Westchester County.
As District Attorney, Pirro gained visibility in cases of domestic abuse and crimes against the elderly. Pirro briefly sought the Republican nomination for United States Senate against Hillary Clinton in 2006, but dropped out to accept the nomination for New York Attorney General. Pirro lost the general election to Democrat Andrew Cuomo by 19%.
Pirro has since become known for her staunchly pro–Donald Trump commentary. In 2018, she authored the book Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy.
Jeanine Ferris was born 1951 in Elmira, New York, to Lebanese-American parents Nasser "Leo" and Esther Ferris (née Awad). Her father was a mobile-home salesman, and her mother was a department-store model. Pirro has said that she knew she wanted to be an attorney from the age of six.
She graduated from Notre Dame High School in three years and interned in the Chemung County District Attorney's office during her time in high school. Pirro then graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University at Buffalo. She received her J.D. degree at Albany Law School of Union University in 1975. On her own LinkedIn profile page Pirro claims that she was an editor of the law review.
In 1975, Carl Vergari appointed Pirro to the position of Assistant District Attorney of Westchester County, where she began her career by writing appeals and handling minor cases. In 1977, Pirro approached Vergari and requested that he apply for a federal grant for local district attorney's offices to establish bureaus that specialized in domestic violence. She hoped that Vergari would take advantage of potential funding as well as a 1977 change in New York law that moved many domestic violence cases from family court to criminal court. Vergari agreed to apply, and his office became one of four in the nation to win the grant. In 1978, he appointed Pirro to be the first chief of the new Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau. Pirro was known to be an aggressive bureau chief. Due to possible coercion, she had a strict policy against dropping cases at a victim's request.
Many people praised Pirro for her passion as Domestic Violence Bureau Chief, but she attracted increasing criticism from colleagues due to her alleged "attention-grabbing" behavior and violations of tradition. On multiple occasions, Chief District Attorney Vergari spoke to Pirro concerning her violation of office policy. She had issued press releases with her own name—and not Vergari's—on top. The relationship between Pirro and Vergari disintegrated in the late 1980s, after Pirro claimed sole responsibility for the establishment of the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau.
On June 1, 1990, just five months prior to Pirro's first appearance on the ballot for County Court Judge, she attracted widespread attention and some criticism for rushing to conduct a bedside arraignment of Maria Amaya at the Intensive Care Unit of United Hospital in Port Chester. Amaya had been charged with four counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of her four children. She was a 36-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who had a history of being hospitalized for mental issues. Amaya had killed the four children and attempted suicide after believing that they were being corrupted by drugs and sex.
Vergari had served as district attorney for Pirro's entire tenure as an assistant district attorney and her time on the bench. In 1999, he critiqued Pirro as "bright and capable" and someone who "plays hardball seeking publicity" but is also "very self-centered in everything she does."
During a 1986 abortive campaign for lieutenant governor, Pirro claimed to have never lost a case in "about 50 trials." This number was disputed when presented in 2005 to colleagues, who said that the real number of trials personally handled by Pirro "wasn't more than 10." Pirro's then-spokesman, Anne Marie Corbalis, contended only that Pirro had a "100% felony conviction rate" as an Assistant District Attorney.
Pirro left the District Attorney's office after her November 1990 election as a judge of the Westchester County Court. She had successfully run on the Republican and Conservative party lines against Democratic nominee and New Castle Town Justice Lawrence D. Lenihan and Right to Life Party nominee August C. Nimphius, Jr. When she was sworn in on January 1, 1991, Pirro became Westchester County's first female judge.
In November 1993, Pirro was elected Westchester County District Attorney; she was the first woman to hold that position. She was re-elected in 1997 and 2001. On May 23, 2005, Pirro announced that she would not seek re-election to a fourth term as Westchester County District Attorney.
On December 31, 1993—within hours of Pirro's midnight inauguration as District Attorney—Scripps newspaper heiress Anne Scripps Douglas was savagely bludgeoned in the head with a hammer by her estranged husband, Scott Douglas, as she slept in their Bronxville home. By the time police arrived, Scott Douglas had fled the scene, and Anne Scripps Douglas died in the hospital on January 6. Douglas subsequently committed suicide by jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge. Pirro, already known as a passionate prosecutor of domestic violence cases, was a frequent presence in the media during the period between the murder and when Scott Douglas's body washed ashore in Riverdale in early March 1994. This increase in Pirro's national profile led to her surfacing as a frequent guest on network and cable television news in June 1994, when O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of his ex-wife, appearing frequently as a talking head for Nightline, Larry King Live, and Geraldo.
Within months of taking office, Pirro undertook a costly renovation to the district attorney's facilities and expanded to an additional floor of the county courthouse. The largest expenses were a new kitchenette and a media room, costing $20,000, to assist Pirro's growing profile; additional expenditures were made to remodel her personal office with mahogany.
Pirro was the first female president of the New York State District Attorneys Association. Also while district attorney, she was appointed by then Governor George Pataki to chair the New York State Commission on Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. Its report and recommendations resulted in legislation passing that enhanced protections of, and safeguards for, the victims of domestic abuse.
During her tenure as district attorney, she repeatedly refused to reopen the murder case of Jeffrey Deskovic. In 1990, Deskovic was falsely convicted of killing a 15-year-old girl and spent 16 years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence, and the real killer confessed to the crime. He later won a $41.6 million lawsuit against Daniel Stephens and Westchester County for the wrongful conviction.
On May 26, 1986, Pirro, then an assistant district attorney, was announced as the running mate of Westchester County Executive and presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Andrew O'Rourke at a press conference in Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel. Pirro was selected by O'Rourke and New York State Republican Committee Chairman Anthony J. Colavita after nearly a dozen individuals declined the position, including Erie County Executive Ed Rutkowski, Hempstead Presiding Supervisor Thomas Gulotta, and the Executives of Broome and Oneida Counties. Colavita, who said at the press conference that he "had so many say 'no' to me (during the lieutenant governor search), it doesn't hurt anymore," pointed to Pirro's prosecutorial experience, ability to effectively use crime as an issue, Italian married name, youth, and status as a woman when asked about her strengths as a candidate.
Pirro's selection frustrated many New York Republicans, with Assembly Minority Leader Clarence D. Rappleyea Jr. traveling on May 27 from Albany to the first night of the State Republican Committee's Nominating Convention in Syracuse, to tell O'Rourke and Cloavita that his conference was concerned by Pirro's lack of political experience or statewide stature. Many Republicans also worried that if Pirro were nominated, their ticket would be too geographically dominated by downstate and the suburbs, with O'Rourke, like Pirro, being from Westchester, and the presumptive nominees for attorney general, Peter King and United States Senate, Alfonse D'Amato both hailing from Nassau County.
On May 28, just one day prior to the scheduled vote for the lieutenant gubernatorial nomination at the state party convention in Syracuse, Pirro announced her withdrawal from the race, saying that her husband could not disclose his legal clients or the couple's business interests (later revealed to have been her husband's partial ownership of a Connecticut carting company with alleged mafia connections), and that many of his clients did business with the state, which would make it "virtually impossible" for her to serve as Lieutenant Governor. Pirro had privately informed O'Rourke and Cloavita of her decision during the evening of May 27, and the two were generally supportive, telling the press that her departure had nothing to do with Rappleyea's intervention. Pirro was replaced just six hours after her announcement by Michael Kavanagh, the District Attorney of Ulster County.
On August 10, 2005, Pirro announced that she would seek the Republican nomination to challenge first-term incumbent senator Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, in the 2006 election for U.S. Senator from New York. Other Republicans who announced campaigns for the nomination were John Spencer, a former mayor of Yonkers, William Brenner, an attorney in Sullivan County, and attorney Edward Cox, the son-in-law of former president Richard Nixon. In a widely publicized moment when she was declaring her candidacy, Pirro misplaced page 10 of her speech and went silent for 32 seconds, something that is widely considered to have damaged her campaign before it even started.
During an appearance at the Crime Victims Resource Center, Pirro described herself this way: "I am red on fiscal policy. I am conservative and I support the Bush tax cut... I have broad blue stripes when it comes to social issues... I am a woman who is a moderate in New York." Republican governor George Pataki's endorsement of Pirro caused Cox to withdraw from the race, leaving Pirro as the likely nominee. Donors to Pirro's political campaign included designer Tommy Hilfiger (also a native of Elmira) and Donald Trump, as well as contractors and real estate executives who had done business with her husband.
On December 21, 2005, Pirro dropped out of the Senate race after continuing pressure from party chiefs. This decision was reached after a lagging fundraising effort and polls that showed she would be easily defeated by Clinton (a Quinnipiac University poll found Pirro would lose to Clinton 62 percent to 30 percent). In a statement, she said "I have decided that my law enforcement background better qualifies me for a race for New York State attorney general than a race for the United States Senate." Spencer was eventually chosen as the Republican Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate.
On May 31, 2006, Pirro was unopposed for the nomination and became the Republican Party's official candidate for Attorney General of New York by acclamation at the state GOP convention. She also received the nominations of the New York Conservative and Independence Parties. Pirro lost the general election to the Democratic nominee, former Clinton Housing and Urban Development Secretary and future Governor Andrew Cuomo 58%–39%.
Pirro is the author of five books, two of which are crime novels. Her first book was 2003's To Punish and Protect: A DA's Fight Against a System That Coddles Criminals. It was followed in 2004 by To Punish and Protect: Against a System That Coddles Criminals. In 2012, Pirro's first fiction book, Sly Fox: A Dani Fox Novel was released as a crime and legal thriller to be followed in 2014 by the second novel in the series, Clever Fox: A Dani Fox Novel. Her book, Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy (2018), is a look inside the Presidency of Donald Trump as well as the politics surrounding the anti-Trump movement.
Pirro has been a regular contributor to the syndicated morning talk show The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. She has been a guest analyst on Today, Fox NY Good Day New York. She is a Fox News legal analyst appearing on various shows, and has guest hosted shows such as Larry King Live, The Joy Behar Show, and Geraldo at Large. She was a frequent guest on Fox's late-night satire show Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld.
In 2003, Pirro released the nonfiction book To Punish and Protect, describing life inside the criminal justice system. In 2012, with the assistance of author Pete Earley, Pirro wrote the novel Sly Fox based on her own experiences as a 25-year-old assistant district attorney in Westchester. Pirro appears in the HBO six-part serial The Jinx, recounting her perspective on the 1983 disappearance of Kathie Durst, a high-profile case for which she was the investigating attorney. Pirro was the host of the American reality prime time court show You the Jury, canceled after two episodes.
On May 5, 2008, The CW Television Network announced that Pirro would host a weekday television show to be named Judge Jeanine Pirro, part of the network's CW Daytime lineup, with two episodes airing daily. The show was distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television and was carried by default on all CW affiliate stations.
Judge Jeanine Pirro was cleared for a second season beginning in fall 2009. Unlike its first season, the second season, which began in the fall of 2009, was not exclusive to CW affiliates. In May 2010, the show received its first Emmy nomination, and in 2011, received the daytime Emmy Award. In September 2011 the show was canceled due to low ratings.
Pirro is the host of Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine, which premiered in January 2011. The program airs on weekends and focuses on the big legal stories of the week.
In March 2019, Pirro said that Rep. Ilhan Omar wearing a hijab could signal that she is beholden to Sharia law "which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution." Fox News condemned Pirro's statement. Pirro, an Arab-American, later clarified her remarks, stating that she did not mean to insist that Representative Omar was anti-American because of her faith, saying that she intended to start a discussion. On March 16, 2019, Fox News decided not to air her show replacing it with a rebroadcast of a Scandalous episode in its time slot. CNN reported on March 17, 2019 that Pirro had been suspended by Fox News, after Fox had previously strongly condemned her comments. Justice with Judge Jeanine resumed airing on March 30, 2019.
Pirro supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, while also noting that she was "infuriated" by some of his behaviors. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape, Pirro defended Trump, stating "I have been involved in a million situations with him and his children. He has always been a gentleman."
After Trump's election, Pirro was known for delivering fiery defenses of the president. The Washington Post described her show as "almost universally positive about Trump," and Politico described her coverage of Trump as "gushing." According to Politico, "From the outset of the administration, she has used her TV platform to hammer the president's critics and to ding his allies, including Sessions, as insufficiently loyal."
Pirro has called for arresting individuals who work for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the election of President Trump. Pirro called for "cleansing" those government agencies of people critical of the president. These sorts of attacks on the FBI and Justice Department have been criticized as dangerous, "despicable", and strictly out of place with US traditions of constitutional democracy.
In February 2018, after two senior Trump administration officials resigned due to domestic abuse allegations, Pirro suggested that Barack Obama was to blame for the two domestic abuse scandals. In May 2018, Pirro said that Trump had "fulfilled" a "biblical prophecy" by moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
In June 2018, Pirro said Trump's pardon of conservative provocateur Dinesh D'Souza, who was convicted of illegal campaign contributions, was "fantastic news", as she believes D'Souza was singled out for prosecution for his politics. Later that month, Politico reported that Pirro had, since late 2016, repeatedly told the Trump administration about her interest in becoming the Attorney General. On her show, Pirro had referred to current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, as "the most dangerous man in America."
In July 2018, after Trump was widely condemned, including by numerous prominent conservatives, for refusing to condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election while standing on stage with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Pirro defended Trump. Pirro said, "What was he supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?"
That same month, Trump posed with Pirro and her new book, Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy, in the Oval Office. That Trump would promote the book of a pro-Trump advocate raised questions about potential ethics violations. Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada described the book as a "sycophantic" and "gushing" pro-Trump book. PolitiFact found that Pirro's assertion in the book that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had announced in February 2018 that "the Russia collusion investigation is over" was false; Rosenstein never said it and the progression of the Russia probe since February 2018 demonstrates otherwise.
On January 12, 2019, while on Fox, Pirro took a call on-air from Trump in which he spoke for 20 minutes, claiming his former attorney Michael Cohen fabricated stories to reduce the length of his expected sentence. Trump conjectured Cohen said, "I have an idea, I'll give you some information on the president," and he continued, "Well, there is no information." "He should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that's the one that people want to look at." Pirro asked the name of Cohen's father-in-law, but Trump replied, though regarding the affairs of a private citizen, "I don't know, but you'll find out, and you'll look into it because nobody knows what's going on over there." The father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, owned condos both at Trump Tower and another in a Trump development near Miami. According to federal investigators, Shusterman actually introduced Trump to Cohen.
In November 2019, she described Trump as "almost superhuman".
Describing her own political positions in 2005, Jeanine Pirro said, "I'm Republican red on fiscal policy with conservative beliefs on making tax cuts permanent, but I've got broad blue stripes on the social issues," during her campaign for the US Senate in New York. Her positions were described as politically moderate during her Senate run. Pirro supported a woman's right to an abortion, including U.S. taxpayer funding of abortion through Medicaid, in 2005, although she has been opposed to late-term abortions.
On the topic of LGBT rights, Pirro actively supported the passing of a New York hate crimes law which covered sexual orientation as a protected class in 2000. She was outspoken in her support for anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians during her 2006 campaign for State Attorney General. Pirro supported civil unions for same-sex couples. She also received an endorsement from the Log Cabin Republicans. She did not support marriage equality. However, Pirro opposed attempts to amend the Constitution in order to ban same-sex marriage, claiming: "Make no mistake, if it does become the law of this state, I will fight to defend it". In spite of this, 8 years later, she had Wiliam Owens, a representative of the National Organization for Marriage, as a guest on her program. Pirro did not attempt to present a counterargument against Owens' anti-LGBT remarks.
Of gun ownership, Pirro commented in December 2015:
|“||Get a gun, buy one legally, learn how to shoot it and be primed to use it. And, I don't care if you get a long gun, a hand gun, a revolver or a semi automatic. Get whatever gun you can handle and don't let anyone talk you out of it. The Second Amendment of the Constitution and the United States Supreme Court confirm your right to have one.||”|
In 1975, she married Albert Pirro of Mount Vernon, Westchester County, New York. The couple met while in law school. Together, they have two children, a son and a daughter. Following their marriage, they moved to Harrison, New York where Pirro began working as assistant district attorney and her husband began work as a lobbyist.
On February 23, 1999, Pirro's husband was indicted by the office of United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York on one count of conspiracy, four counts of tax evasion, and 28 counts of filing a false tax return for hiding over $1 million in personal income as business expenses between 1988 and 1997. That day, Pirro appeared with her husband at a joint press conference in response to the charges, criticizing the investigation as "invasive and hostile." New York Governor George Pataki released a statement saying that the Pirros had been personal friends for "a long time" and that he and his wife "wished them well." With the trial beginning on May 15, 2000, and closing arguments given on June 19, 2000, the jury found Pirro's husband guilty on June 23, 2000 on 23 of the charges brought against him and not guilty of 10. In November 2000, he was sentenced to 29 months in a minimum security federal prison but received some leniency in exchange for waiving his right to appeal. In the midst of the trial, Pirro had attacked the prosecution for bringing up matters which involved her, calling it a "desperate attempt by them to bring me into this wherever they can."
In July 2019, Pirro was named to the board of directors of the cannabis company HeavenlyRx, which manufactures CBD products. Said Pirro: "My interest in CBD stems from a curiosity after hearing people say how much they benefited from CBD. ... Initially a skeptic, I now understand there are tremendous benefits outside the assembly line of traditional medical and pharmaceutical dictates".
Pirro revealed in her 2018 book, Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy, that she was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. Pirro is a practicing Catholic.
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|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Attorney General of New York