Who: The stiff-jawed, thoroughly plasticized legal expert hosts On the Record with Greta Van Susteren on the Fox News Channel. She's also a big-time member of the Church of Scientology and a pal of Sarah Palin.
Backstory: The daughter of a Wisconsin judge, Van Susteren moved to Washington, D.C. in the late '70s to attend Georgetown Law. She soon turned to personal injury litigation, and after marrying fellow trial attorney John Coale in the late '80s, she joined his ambulance-chasing law firm where she represented victims of natural disasters, fires, and plane crashes such as the Valujet plane crash of 1996. (Coale was famously nicknamed "Bhopal Coale" for zipping off to India to sign up new clients following the 1984 Union Carbide Corp. poison gas leak that killed more than 2,000 people.)
Van Susteren didn't become a household name until she started appearing on TV. She first stepped into the spotlight covering the William Kennedy Smith trial for CNN in 1991, and became unavoidable during the O.J. Simpson trial a few years later. She went on to host CNN shows like The Point with Greta Van Susteren and Burden of Proof, then in 2002, reportedly frustrated with playing second fiddle to Paula Zahn, she jumped ship and moved to New York to join Fox News. The tabloids had a field day with the many changes Van Susteren made to her appearance before her Fox debut, which included a new face, new eyes, and new set of teeth. ("I'm hoping to make jealous all those guys who wouldn't date me in high school," she said at the time.) She's hosted On the Record with Greta Van Susteren ever since and signed a new contract with Fox News in June 2010.
For the record: Both Coale and Van Susteren are active members of the Church of Scientology. She's a major donor to the Church, too, although her sizable donations in the late '90s were reportedly listed under the name "Greta Conway." (Conway is her middle name.) Van Susteren and Coale are tight with a number of other high-profile L. Ron Hubbard fans. Tom Cruise once considered making a movie about Coale's legal exploits. And Coale and Van Susteren's firm represented fellow Scientologist Lisa Marie Presley when she divorced Michael Jackson. Interestingly—particularly in light of Scientology's notorious objection to psychiatry—Van Susteren's sister is the noted forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, who ran for Senate in 2005.
Drama: If the couple's association with Scientology isn't disturbing, there's always John Coale's relationship with Sarah Palin. Coale has been an adviser to the former Alaska governor for several years and helped establish her political action committee. And the four are friends, too. More than a few eyebrows were raised among media types when Van Susteren scored several exclusive interviews with the Palins (including one with Todd Palin aboard a snowmobile), and invited the Alaska's former first couple to a charity function as their guests. Then again, ethics have never been a strong suit for Van Susteren and Coale. While trolling for legal clients at the site of a natural disaster would likely earn you a scolding on Van Susteren's show these days, in 1995 the Fox News anchor and her husband were sanctioned by West Virginia's Lawyer Disciplinary Board for "inappropriate solicitation of prospective clients."
In print: In 2003, Van Susteren published My Turn at The Bullypulpit: Straight Talk About The Things That Drive Me Nuts.
Personal: Coale is Van Susteren's first husband. (She's his third wife.) In New York, the couple live on 48th and Broadway, just steps from Scientology's NYC HQ. They also have homes in Washington, DC, and Clearwater, Fla., which happens to be where Scientology's "spiritual mecca" is located. They spend weekends aboard the S.S. Sophie, an 80-foot yacht named after Van Susteren's now-deceased spaniel. The boat occasionally docks at the Mattituck marina on Long Island since Van Susteren (along with a friend, former Ms. editor Elaine Lafferty) are the owners of the town's Old Mill Inn.
Date of Birth: 06/11/1954
Place of Birth: Appleton, WI
High School: Xavier High School
Undergrad: University of Wisconsin
Graduate: Georgetown Law School
Residence: New York (Midtown); Clearwater, FL; Washington, DC
Filed Under: Law, Media