Given that Geraldo Rivera has spent most of his career being the rodeo clown of American tragedy, dispatched to distract its angry, charging bulls by hilariously tripping himself up and getting shit on, you might expect Geraldo Rivera to be hollow inside—as empty as a certain, career-defining vault. But like Geraldo Rivera on most things, you would be wrong. “I am filled with regret,” Rivera says in a new statement. It’s an admission that comes after a lot of serious soul-searching over his defending deposed Fox News despot Roger Ailes against sexual harassment charges. And after digging deep beneath those myriad Neapolitan layers of creamy remorse, Rivera has now found it within himself to concede that, in the end, it’s hurting his career.
“The man we knew as the blustering genius who invented our mighty Fox News Channel is a deceitful, selfish misogynist, if the charges against him are true,” Rivera says, taking a bold and unforgiving stance against Ailes, if he has to. And as he explains somewhere in the middle of this lengthy Facebook mea culpa, he does:
“I learned Tuesday September 6th that after being enthusiastically received, because of my uninformed support of Mr. Ailes, and the relatively flattering portrayal of him in an early manuscript of my war memoir, ‘Geraldo of Arabia, From Tora Bora to Trump,’ as a direct result, HarperCollins has chosen not to publish.”
T.E. Lawrence himself could not have demonstrated greater bravery, probably because no one ever threatened to take away his book sales.
Still, to Rivera’s credit, he’s at least one of the few of Ailes’ early defenders—Greta Van Susteren among them—who can freely admit that they were wrong about the man, now that he’s no longer their boss. And besides, Rivera’s sudden change of heart isn’t solely about self-preservation. It’s also about offering a widespread castigation of the entire news industry, which he authoritatively condemns as a place where powerful men like Ailes are allowed to prey on female underlings—despite preemptively swearing he was still somehow “totally blindsided” by the allegations of Gretchen Carlson, et al. that this exact thing had happened at Fox, a place that is loosely defined as working within the news.
In his defense, Rivera offers only this: “For a lot of reasons, news is a flirty business. With its pressure cooker environment and long hours, it is sometimes the only place young professionals can meet. Just add up all the newsroom romances that have resulted in marriage over the years.” Unfortunately, this one specific time, the 24-hour aphrodisiac that is making cable news resulted not in wedding bells, but a systemic environment where women were routinely demeaned, demoralized, and coerced into sexual favor.
Still, you can see why he might have been initially skeptical about Carlson’s allegations, which he confidently dismissed with a sweeping “Don’t believe the crap.” After all, who’s to say that Carlson didn’t just misread Ailes saying, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better” as something other than a playful, typically coquettish come-on between journalistic colleagues? Haven’t you ever seen Broadcast News?
Rivera also explains why he hesitated to believe Roger Ailes could have behaved so immorally and unprofessionally by recounting the many times in which Ailes was right there in the trenches, helping him produce sleazy, knowingly sensationalistic garbage. “During our first meeting, he warned against my trying too hard to be legitimate,” Rivera writes in this apparent endorsement of Ailes’ character, adding that Ailes continued, “’I don’t want shows about crocheting,’ he said, peering as only he can, laser-like into my eyes.”
The panting, newsroom-worthy flirting doesn’t stop there. Rivera also thanks Ailes for the time he “gave me free rein to chase O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco,” and praises the way Ailes “had my back through thick and thin” as Rivera was sent to “cover the bloody battlefields of Afghanistan and later Iraq,” where he was eventually expelled by the military for broadcasting troop movements. And all this comes after he lapses into a cocktail reverie on Ailes that resembles something cribbed from Arthur Miller: “I always pictured him as a hail-fellow well met, a corporate barroom brawler, more likely to tear your throat out than engage in sweet talk.”
But alas, this Johnny-on-the-spot with his two-fisted ways, as likely to take a plugged nickel in its Sunday clothes as he was to ride the trolley down to Palookaville, turned out to not have the upstanding character you’d expect from the guy who advised Geraldo Rivera to somehow have less integrity. So now Rivera is apologizing not only to Carlson, but to New York Magazine writer Gabriel Sherman—whom Rivera, in his apology, also calls both “a nerd with a grudge” and “Ailes’ personal Inspector Javert”—by acknowledging that they are “on the right side of history,” while he is “paying the price” of not getting paid.
Rivera concludes by encouraging all victims of sexual harassment to speak out, even as he chastises those who continue to report on this story “at least in part because of the fear and loathing by competitors for Fox News, the ratings leader”—thus providing a remarkably thorough object lesson in why they often don’t. In all, his is a scattershot, demonstrably forced apology that mostly manages to shift widespread blame on other factors (a Geraldo specialty), while once more making Geraldo both the self-pitying victim and self-aggrandizing center of the story. It confirms, yet again, that Geraldo Rivera is definitely full of something.