What You Never Knew About Judge Jeanine Pirro

Of all the news network hosts who have called Fox News home, few have the cadence, powerful persona, and attention-grabbing personality embodied by Judge Jeanine Pirro. The former host of "Justice with Judge Jeanine" and current co-host of "The Five," Pirro is known for her trademark on-air approach – bold and unapologetic, all with a signature speech pattern that reels the viewer in.

Though she's been on the air for decades, Pirro really came into her own when Donald Trump came onto the scene, as she became one of his most avid supporters and choice interviewer. With the former president urging his supporters to tune into her show, Pirro became more influential than ever, serving as a case study for just how impactful the politician's words were on cable news.

However, Pirro wasn't always a television personality. Her path to fame was full of unexpected experiences and passion projects — all of which paint a much fuller picture of just who Pirro is.

Jeanine's professional aspirations started when she was just 6

Few of us know exactly what career path we want to pursue, but Judge Jeanine Pirro had her eye on the prize from the first grade onward. In 1951, she was born to parents Nasser and Esther Ferris in Elmira, New York. While her dad worked as a mobile home salesperson and her mom was a model for department stores, she decided she wanted to become a lawyer when she was just 6 years old. 

Pirro wrote about her childhood aspirations in her book, "To Punish and Protect: A DA's Fight Against a System That Coddles Criminals": "I didn't dream of my wedding day. I dreamed of standing in the well of a courtroom." And she did just that. By 15, she began volunteering at her local district attorney's office, securing the job with sheer willpower and simply not taking no for an answer.

"She was extraordinarily articulate and not at all shy," Bruce Crew, who worked as a distinct attorney part-time, told New York Magazine of Pirro and her unbridled ambition. The two worked closely together, despite Pirro's young age at the time. "She followed me to depositions and such. I never encountered anyone with her tenacity and ambition. Never."

Pirro excelled in school and made law review

Given that she was working in a district attorney's office as a high school student, it's not shocking that Judge Jeanine Pirro went on to thrive in higher education. After graduating from Notre Dame High School in early, Pirro enrolled at the University of Buffalo. After graduation, she went on to pursue her law degree at Albany Law School, where she excelled. She made law review(a journal run by law students) and graduated with a Juris Doctor degree.

In 2008, she returned to the law school to give the commencement speech to the graduating class. Telling the class that nothing in the practice of law is more important than the people at the center of any given case, Pirro encouraged the graduates to remember who is at the heart of their work. "We use them as witnesses of the state, and then we say goodbye to them," Pirro said at the time. "We spend no time and no resources trying to heal the person who never asked to be part of the system in the first place."

Jeanine once considered her now ex-husband 'the most brilliant, energetic, high-powered' man

While a student at Albany Law School, Jeanine Pirro met her now ex-husband, Al Pirro, who was a fellow law student four years older than her. While speaking about him to The New York Times in 1999, Jeanine gushed over Al, calling him "the most brilliant, energetic, high-powered" man. She even noted just how much he would go the extra mile, even if it meant sacrificing his own time and money.

"He was just dashing," she said, before the publication asked if he was still receiving attention from other women. "Yeah," the judge remarked. "Life doesn't change" (a suspicious forewarning of life to come). Nevertheless, in the late '90s, Jeanine and Al were just as smitten with each other as they were in law school.

Jeanine recalled how they met at the university bookstore: "'Jeanine,' he said, 'the books are on me.' I said, 'Why?' And he said, 'Because we're gonna get married.'" And that's just what happened.

Jeanine started her political career in New York state and focused on domestic abuse cases

After Judge Jeanine Pirro left law school, she faced a difficult professional landscape. Female attorneys were not permitted to prosecute murder cases, according to The Observer. Instead, as she entered the Westchester District Attorney's Office, she was assigned to cases involving domestic violence or issues that fell under family court.

It wasn't until 1977 that the federal government started allocating funds to district attorney offices to try domestic violence and abuse cases, but Pirro quickly jumped on the opportunity. She went to her then-boss, District Attorney Carl Vergari, and urged him to apply for federal money. Once granted the funds, she began leading the new Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau.

"I was very much looking forward to the task, because I had just gotten out of law school ... and I believed that equal rights and equal justice applied to everyone," Pirro told the publication. "And you didn't have to be a prosecutor for very long to realize that women and children were exempt from that premise. For me, it was an opportunity to really change the dialogue and to be able to deal with true crime victims so alienated that they weren't even considered crime victims at the time."

Pirro's working relationship with her first boss went south

Judge Jeanine Pirro may have made her mark in the Westchester District Attorney's Office as the head of the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau, but she still faced challenges. The nature of the work was emotionally difficult, and men were often the perpetrators of the crimes she prosecuted. For Pirro, she soon realized that this dynamic made things in her own office onerous. As she told The Observer and wrote in her book, "To Punish and Protect," her boss, District Attorney Carl Vergari, became uncomfortable.

"It was an office of men. [Police officers] nicknamed our unit the 'Tit Patrol' and the 'Panty Brigade,'" she recalled in her book, before recounting an example to The Observer. "I can remember going to the then district attorney as a young prosecutor and saying, 'Look, I need a crib for the battered women so that when they come in, they can put their babies in a crib,' so that I could interview them to talk about the abuse. And he looked at me like I had three horns."

The contention between Pirro and Vergari reached a boiling point when, according to lawyers familiar with the situation, Pirro took sole credit for the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau, effectively ending their working relationship for good.

Jeanine made history when becoming a judge for Westchester County, New York

Judge Jeanine Pirro may have had a falling out with District Attorney Carl Vergari, but her political career in Westchester County, New York, was far from over. Pirro turned her attention to public office. She ran and was elected as a judge on the county court bench in 1990 — the first woman to ever be elected to the Westchester County bench.

By 1992, Pirro achieved another accolade: She was rated as the No. 1 judge by the Independent Fund for Modern Courts, and was asked by three New York governors – Governors Carey, Cuomo, and Pataki — to focus on domestic violence legislation. However, Pirro recounted to The Observer just how unprepared Westchester County was for a female judge. "I remember the judge's lavatory was for men only," she said. "I think I ended up going to the public bathroom for a while, and then they decided to make a bathroom for the women judges."

Pirro also grew frustrated while on the bench. "At heart I was a crusader. I wanted to fight, not preside," she wrote in her book, detailing that she'd taken to threatening men with weekend jail time if they didn't satisfy their agreed-upon child support.

She was the first female district attorney in Westchester County

When Jeanine Pirro's former boss, District Attorney Carl Vergari, left his post, Pirro decided that it was her time to shine. She launched her campaign to take over his job, and her efforts were guided by the political prowess of Arthur Finkelstein. She ran against Democrat Michael Cherkasky, and despite the hurdles in her way, Pirro won and became the first woman to hold the district attorney's post in Westchester County.

According to The New York Times, who covered her campaign for district attorney in real time, Pirro won over voters with one simple fact: the bulk of her political career was spent in Westchester County. Calling it her "home-grown" charm, the publication asserted that Cherkasky didn't have the same level of relatability, which ultimately propelled Pirro to success.

During her winning speech, Pirro promised to bring "a whole new attitude on the streets and in the courthouses of Westchester" — and she did. Pirro, now more than ever, is known for her unabashed personality.

A brutal case thrust Jeanine into the national spotlight for the first time

Judge Jeanine Pirro was sworn in as the Westchester County district attorney on January 1, 1994, but she didn't have long to celebrate. Days later, the brutal murder of Anne Scripps Douglas made headlines. Anne, the heiress to the Scripps newspaper empire, was believed to have been killed by her husband, Scott Douglas, in a violent attack. Scott fled, driving to the Tappan Zee Bridge and abandoning his vehicle. A manhunt quickly followed, and like many high-profile murders, Anne's killing captured the attention of national media. Pirro, meanwhile, was a brand new district attorney who had to hit the ground running. She became the immediate expert voice on the case, tapping into her past work in the domestic abuse arena to guide her.

Pirro spent months covering the case and appearing on-air for the nightly news coverage. Scott's body was eventually found in the Hudson River, and though interest in the case mellowed over time, it was only a matter of time until Pirro was called upon to be the voice of reason. 

Pirro once launched an unsuccessful bid against Hillary Clinton

Before she was a Fox News staple, Judge Jeanine Pirro successfully launched herself into New York's political arena, eventually taking on then-Senator Hillary Clinton in 2005. Attempting to unseat the senator, Pirro — who was still working as the Westchester County district attorney at the time — set her eye on the political prize. Her campaign, however, was short-lived.

As detailed by The New York Times, Pirro did not have nearly the same name recognition as Clinton, who'd also served as first lady. With all that backing, Clinton was able to demolish Pirro, and the DA was hit even harder when members of her own party expressed hesitation about her candidacy. New York is a historically blue state, and when the New York Republican Party expressed their dissatisfaction over Pirro's stances on LGBTQIA+ rights, abortion, and more, they essentially labeled her as a candidate dead on arrival.

It was only a matter of time before Pirro announced that she was backing out of the Senate race, but she wasn't done. In her speech, she turned her attention from the Senate to the race for New York State attorney general. However, she eventually lost that race to Andrew Cuomo, who would go on to become governor.

Jeanine Pirro's 'second act' included owning a pet pig

Life in the spotlight is never easy, and although Judge Jeanine Pirro and Albert Pirro Jr. were smitten in their college years, their marriage took a turn for the worse in the 2000s. Albert fathered a child with another woman during his marriage to Jeanine and served time in federal prison for conspiracy and tax evasion. By 2007, the couple separated. 

As she revealed to The New York Times in 2010, the mom of two was embarking on her "second act." She continued, saying, "I'm pretty happy, except for my dog," she added, as one of her beloved pooches had just passed away. Pirro also revealed that she was the proud owner of a pet pig. When asked about the lifespan of such pet, she quipped, "Longer than most marriages." 

It wasn't until 2013 that Jeanine and Albert's divorce was finalized, but it certainly didn't stop their names from sharing headlines. Years after Albert served his sentence, he was officially pardoned by Donald Trump. Though he didn't credit Jeanine with assisting in the decision, CNN later reported that she had lobbied for her ex's pardon.

Jeanine has a reason for discount shopping

Politicians and TV hosts almost always look the part. Tailored outfits, expensive bags — walking the halls of important government and media buildings comes with expectations. While Jeanine Pirro always looks put together, she maintains her wardrobe on a budget. In fact, in a profile written by The New York Times, Pirro took her interviewer along while shopping and proved just how much she loves hunting for a bargain.

"How do you spend $1,600 on a pair of jeans?" she asked after spotting a pair of bedazzled Dolce & Gabbana denim pants. "I could do that myself. I know how to use a stud gun." While Pirro certainly wasn't — and isn't — hurting for cash, she didn't see the need to spend frivolously. "One thing I learned," she told The New York Times, "Think about tomorrow. Life may be good today, you don't know what tomorrow brings." Before the outing was over, Pirro snagged a $20 sweater, saying, "See, now this is more my speed."

The Fox News is a SoulCycle devotee

Just as it's odd to think of your elementary school teacher outside of the classroom, it's odd to consider the lives of media personalities outside of the newsroom. Jeanine Pirro, while known for her bold takes on Fox News, leads an active life when she's not behind a desk. Her go-to? The ever-popular spin studio, Soul Cycle. Pirro is nothing but dedicated when it comes to spinning, even committing to rides on the weekends. By January 2020, she'd celebrated her 500th SoulCycle and took to Facebook to mark the milestone.

In an interview with the New York Post, Pirro once detailed her gym routine. She said she bounces out of bed around 8 a.m. on weekends and heads to SoulCycle (of course), getting in an 8:30 a.m. class. "I need to sweat and clear out my head every Saturday at SoulCycle," she said, noting that once she's gotten her endorphins up, she heads to the newsroom for a full day.

Pirro said she calls it a day around 10 p.m. "There's no sleeping in on Sunday," she admitted, "and I'll go again to SoulCycle."

One of Jeanine's favorite places to travel is the Middle East

Judge Jeanine Pirro makes sure to take her vacation time and she once told Luxury Travel Magazine that the Middle East is her favorite area of the world to venture to. "Egypt, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon. There's a certain mystery about these places that fascinates me," she said. 

Pirro's admission to appreciating the Middle East may confuse some, as she has made some shocking on-air comments. Back in 2015, Pirro said on Fox News, "We need to kill them, the radical Muslim terrorists hellbent on killing us." Pirro was also later suspended from the airwaves for making what were widely considered Islamophobic comments about U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, according to ABC News. Soon after her suspension, Donald Trump requested her return.

"Bring back [Judge Jeanine Pirro]," he wrote on Twitter, not mincing his words about his favorite Fox News host. Pirro did eventually return to the network, and without issuing a statement or apology, as The New York Times reported.

The judge has a unique outlook on fear

Fans of Judge Jeanine Pirro would no doubt describe her as fearless. She boldly says what she's thinking no matter the context or consequences. Her unapologetic approach — whether to law, politics, or television — aligns with her arguably unusual outlook on fear, which is something she shared with The Hill back in 2015, after her time as district attorney of Westchester County came to a close.

When she was asked by the publication to list off something she was scared of, Pirro didn't. Instead, she simply said, "Fear is a waste of time." Pirro has also advised others to avoid letting fear rule their lives. "Do not let a fear of crime stop you from enjoying life," she wrote in her book "To Punish and Protect." Instead, she advocated for taking measures to protect yourself. Instead of being stifled by fear, she likely relies on what she considers to be the best piece of advice given to her, which is, "This too shall pass."

Jeanine credits her mother with teaching her how to fight for herself

Judge Jeanine Pirro has cultivated a reputation of hard work, a steely demeanor, and a no-holds-barred approach to life and work. Writing in her 2003 book, "To Punish and Protect," Pirro credited her mom with teaching her how to fight, writing, "She impressed upon me throughout my childhood that I had to fight for myself, and I had to help those who were not strong enough to fight for themselves."

And while Pirro has certainly maintained a reputation of tenacity and fighting for her seat at the table, former coworker David Hebert told The New York Times in 2019 that he hoped more people would know her for being "generous, kind, [and] thoughtful."

"We did a lot of work in the district attorney's office reaching out to people who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised, to women and children and immigrants," Hebert said, before adding that Pirro recovered from career pushback "like a phoenix." He continued, saying, "We made a special point of communicating on a regular basis with people who were not legal that they should not fear law enforcement."