Most veteran newsmen only stick around for decades if they’ve earned the public’s trust. Geraldo Rivera, however, seems to be the exception that proves the rule.
Rivera, after all, is the man who created sleaze TV (and got a broken nose from a neo-Nazi in the process). He’s weathered crises like Al Capone’s vault and that time he decided to disclose troop positions on air. He’s posted selfies of himself at a police officer’s funeral and one where he was drunk and half-naked. He’s like the ’89 Jeep Wrangler of reporters — no matter what the world does to him, he just keeps on going.
In fact, Rivera managed to escape mostly unscathed after a series of tweets defending Matt Lauer after it was revealed the “Today” show host was a first class creep:
Sad about @MLauer great guy, highly skilled & empathetic w guests & a real gentleman to my family & me. News is a flirty business & it seems like current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation. What about #GarrisonKeillor?
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) November 29, 2017
A jerk’s a jerk in dating. #SexHarassment should be confined to situations where superior imposes himself on subordinate who feels unable to complain because of power of perp or feared consequences to victim’s employment. Shouldn’t be used to get even w bad bosses or hated ex’s
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) November 29, 2017
Those tin-eared missives didn’t go over too well, and Rivera predictably apologized. However, in a post-Weinstein world, past transgressions — no matter how old they may be — can end one’s career in a hurry.
That’s a problem for Rivera, given that sexual abuse accusations have been kicking around about the Fox News contributor for over a quarter of a century. Rivera may have forgotten about it, and most of America certainly did. Bette Midler didn’t.
During a 1991 interview with Barbara Walters, the singer described a harrowing experience back during the 1970s when Rivera and his crew came to interview her.
During the Walters interview, Midler initially demurred when asked to describe the incident, saying she “would get in trouble.”
“Get in a little trouble,” Walters insisted.
And thus, Midler went on to describe her experience of being drugged and forcibly abused by Rivera and his crew.
“Geraldo and his producer came to do an interview with me in the ’70s, the early ’70s. And this was back when he was very sort of ‘hot,’” Midler said — referring, for the gutter-minded, to Rivera’s career arc and not his physical attributes.
“And he and his producer left the crew in the other room, they pushed me into my bathroom, they broke two poppers and pushed them under my nose, and proceeded to grope me,” Midler said.
Poppers, for the uninitiated, are a class of inhaled drugs known as alkyl nitrates; in addition to a high that lasts for several minutes, poppers are also supposed to enhance libido or the intensity of sexual contact, as well as lower inhibitions.
“I didn’t offer myself up on the altar of Geraldo Rivera,” Midler said sarcastically. “He was — he was unseemly. His behavior was unseemly.”
Midler then joked: “And my friend said, ‘Oh, what a charmer! Of course you slept with him after that!’”
“I’ll tell you the truth,” Midler added in seriousness. “If I had known that … 20 years later he was going to wind up as a slimy talk-show host, I never would have even let him in the room.”
The accusation didn’t get a whole lot of attention when it aired, presumably because of the era and the fact that Geraldo was then seen as a has-been working in trash-TV.
Just in case you want to label this as a case of he-said-she-said, Geraldo himself more or less admitted something like the encounter Midler described in his 1991 book, fittingly titled “Exposing Myself”.
“We were in the bathroom, preparing for the interview, and at some point I put my hands on her breasts,” Rivera wrote of his encounter with Midler, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The revelation didn’t get much attention at the time, since it was arguably the least trashy thing most people would have associated with Rivera at that juncture.
However, in the wake of Geraldo’s Matt Lauer tweets, Midler made sure to dig up the old footage for a new audience as part of her #MeToo moment:
Tomorrow is my birthday. I feel like this video was a gift from the universe to me. Geraldo may have apologized for his tweets supporting Matt Lauer, but he has yet to apologize for this. #MeToo pic.twitter.com/TkcolFWfA2
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) November 30, 2017
Geraldo’s continued employment in the news business has always been a sort of mystery to me, something along the lines of where Jimmy Hoffa was buried or how that “Watch me whip/watch me nae nae” song went to the top of the charts.
Now, it turns out that not only is he an incompetent, self-promoting hack, he’s also (allegedly) a pretty reprehensible person. You don’t even have to take Midler’s word for it — Geraldo himself admits that “at some point I put my hands on her breasts.” If you profess to not remember how you got to that point, or at least elide over it in your description of events, one can probably assume consent wasn’t on the menu.
Either way, it’s getting to be a morning routine here at Conservative Tribune: another day, another newsman/politician/actor who feels entitled to behave as if the world was his own personal brothel simply because he happens to be famous. Rivera may have apologized for the Lauer tweets. However, even given an apology in this case, one would expect that’s not going to get him his job or his respectability — whatever was left of it, anyhow — back.
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