Jeanine Ferris Pirro (born June 2, 1951) is a former prosecutor, judge, and elected official from the state of New York, who is currently a legal analyst and television personality. Pirro is the host of Fox News Channel’s political commentary television show Justice with Judge Jeanine which premiered in January 2011. She is also a contributor on other Fox News shows and NBC’s Today. She previously hosted a television court program, Judge Jeanine Pirro, later known simply as Judge Pirro.
A Republican from Westchester County, Pirro served as a county court judge before serving as the elected District Attorney of Westchester County for 12 years. As a district attorney she gained considerable visibility, especially in cases regarding domestic abuse and crimes against the elderly. She was the first female judge on the Westchester County Court bench. Pirro was the Republican nominee for New York State Attorney General in 2006, losing to Democrat Andrew Cuomo (a fellow Albany Law alumnus). She previously sought the nominations of her party for the offices of New York State Lieutenant Governor and United States Senator and withdrew her name in each case after unsuccessfully attempting to garner enough political support within her own party.
Pirro was born in Elmira, New York, to Nasser “Leo” and Esther Ferris. Her father was a mobile-home salesman; her mother a department-store model. She is of Lebanese descent.
She graduated from Notre Dame High School in three years rather than the usual four. She then graduated with a B.A. magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University at Buffalo. She received her J.D. degree at Albany Law School in 1975.
Jeanine Ferris married Albert Pirro, a lobbyist, in 1975. The couple had a son and a daughter. In 2000, Pirro’s husband was convicted of federal tax evasion and conspiracy (Over 1,000,000 USD), which was seen to possibly hurt her legal and political career prospects. The conviction was so damning to the future of her political career, that she seriously considered resigning from her position as a State DA and taking up a more lucrative post in the private sector. In the midst of her 2006 State Attorney General campaign, Pirro revealed that she was the subject of a federal investigation into whether she illegally taped her husband’s conversations in order to catch him committing adultery. The couple announced they were separating in November 2007 and finalized their divorce in 2013.
Pirro received significant political contributions from her husband’s associates – after his release from prison – throughout her numerous unsuccessful attempts to hold higher office. These include numerous contractors and realtors who had done business with her husband on previous occasions.
Westchester County positions
In 1978, Pirro became an assistant district attorney in Westchester County. In 1989, she became a judge on the Westchester County Court, the first female to hold such a position.
In 1993, Pirro was elected district attorney of Westchester County, again the first female to hold that position. She was re-elected in 1997 and 2001. Prosecuting murder, rape, domestic violence, and other cases, Pirro achieved considerable fame and media visibility, appearing on television programs such as Larry King Live and Nightline. People magazine named her as one of its 50 Most Beautiful People in 1997.
On May 23, 2005 Pirro announced that she would not seek re-election as Westchester Country District Attorney.
In 1986, GOP gubernatorial candidate Andrew P. O’Rourke selected Pirro to be his running mate in the campaign. However, 2 days later, Pirro withdrew without giving a reason and was quickly replaced by Michael Kavanagh.
In 1997, she was appointed by then-Governor George Pataki to chair the New York State Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities, whose report and recommendations resulted in legislation passing that enhanced protections of, and safeguards for, the victims of domestic abuse.
2006 U.S. Senate campaign
On August 10, 2005 in New York City, Pirro announced that she would seek the Republican nomination to challenge first-term incumbent Senator Hillary Rodham 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-publicised moment when she was declaring her candidacy, Pirro misplaced a page 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.” She added, however: “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, after continuing pressure from party chiefs, a lagging fundraising effort, and polls showing she would be defeated by Clinton (a Quinnipiac University poll found Pirro would lose to Clinton 62 percent to 30 percent), Jeanine Pirro dropped out of the Senate race just two months after she started her campaign. “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,” she said in a statement. Spencer was eventually chosen as the Republican Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate.
2006 State Attorney General campaign
Main article: New York attorney general election, 2006
On May 31, 2006, Pirro, unopposed for the GOP nomination, became the party’s official candidate for Attorney General by acclamation at the GOP convention. She also held the nominations of the New York Conservative and Independence Parties. However, in the general election, Pirro lost to the Democratic nominee, former Clinton Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo 58%-39%.
Pirro was a regular contributor to The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. She is currently contributing to Today, Fox NY Good Day New York, 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 is 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.She 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.
Judge Jeanine Pirro on The CW
On May 5, 2008, The CW announced that Pirro would host a weekday television show to be named Judge Jeanine Pirro, part of the network’s CW Daytime lineup and that featured two episodes airing daily. The show was distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television and was by default carried by all CW affiliates.
Judge Jeanine Pirro was cleared for a second season beginning in fall 2009. Unlike its first season, the second season launching fall 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, Judge Jeanine Pirro was cancelled due to low ratings.
Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News Channel
Pirro is the host of Fox News Channel’s Justice with Judge Jeanine which premiered in January 2011. It airs on weekends and focuses on the big legal stories of the week.
Commentary on Robert Durst: