No one at Fox News told Greta Van Susteren to cover the story of Jon Hammar, the 27-year-old U.S. Marine veteran who was languishing in a Mexican prison on an illegal firearms charge. Such orders, says the host of “On the Record,” have never been issued in her decade-plus tenure at the leading cable news network. “The decision was ours,” says Van Susteren, referring to her team at “On the Record.”
Last August, Hammar was crossing from the United States into Mexico while carrying an heirloom shotgun. According to McClatchy, Hammar presented the item to U.S. Border and Customs Protection and got a registration form. Once he crossed into Mexico, Hammar was imprisoned immediately for carrying the shotgun, McClatchy reports.
After four months in confinement, Hammar was released late last week.
What bothered Van Susteren was the precedent of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi. He was the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, killing 270 people over Lockerbie, Scotland. Megrahi won release from a Scottish prison in 2009 because of ill health; he died in May of this year. “Look at what Libya was able to do,” says Van Susteren. “They were able to get a mass murderer home.”
Why couldn’t the United States do the same for a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan? “I thought we could bring this U.S. Marine home, so we decided to report the story,” says Van Susteren.
Van Susteren says she spoke with Hammar’s Mexican lawyer, who “knew that working the media would put a spotlight” on the case. Could Fox News’s coverage — including Bill O’Reilly’s Mexico-boycott threat — have swayed the Mexicans? Perhaps, says Van Susteren. Her show has a wide reach, after all: “I know the North Koreans watch ‘On the Record’ because they tell me they do,” says Van Susteren, who traveled to the cloistered land in 2011. As for Mexico, “I would guess that it might have caught their attention,” says the Fox News host. “Too bad we can’t do this for every story.”