Geraldo is up to his old tricks again

Posted: Dec 28, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Geraldo Rivera is up to his old tricks again, namely, reporting falsehoods and bullying those who oppose him. The falsehood this time is that he is to the Afghan war what war correspondent Ernie Pyle was to World War II, a blood and guts journalist wriggling under enemy fire with the GIs. The bullying this time is being perpetrated upon a Baltimore Sun reporter, David Folkenflik, who according to Rivera, "is going to regret this story the rest of his career." The offending story exposed Rivera, once again, as a fraud. From Rivera we have seen it all before. By modern standards, he is what may be called a self-made journalist. What do I mean by modern standards? Well, one of the 2001 winners of the Bancroft Prize for history has, it turns out, fabricated his prize-winning book's research. The 2001 winner of a Pulitzer Prize for history is exposed as having fabricated his war and civil rights records. A successful college football coach recently appointed to be head coach at Notre Dame is an equally gifted bio-fabulist. In the same vain of authenticity Rivera, originally an ACLU lawyer named Rivers, is now in Afghanistan passing himself off as a war correspondent after a dubious career whose trajectory began with his hosting a seedy television shout show and crested with his sedulously defending the probity of the Great Pardoner, Bill Clinton, on Rivera's own cable talk show. Through it all, Rivera has been involved in an amusing series of ethical scandals and run-ins with the truth. In his unwanted autobiography, he betrays lovers by boasting of his adulterous relations with them. He brags about physically intimidating an old man. He is, of course, caught in numerous questionable statements of fact. Of all his run-ins with the truth, my favorite occurred during his nights as a cable show host defending President Bill Clinton against the slings and arrows of journalists and prosecutors. It was August 1998. Paul McHale, then a member of Congress, had become the first Democrat to call for Clinton's resignation. He was also a war hero. Rivera reported that his decorations were fraudulent. Yes, this great war correspondent now traveling with our troops reported back in 1998 that an "always reliable source" in Clinton's (!) White House had informed him that McHale had lied about his military decorations. McHale, a true war hero and an exceptionally upright man, easily exposed the White House smear as baseless and, not incidentally, utterly irrelevant as to whether Clinton, who had lied to the nation and to his Cabinet, was fit to remain in office. Rivera, the so-called journalist who had not bothered to verify this White House leak, slapped together a weasel-worded apology. Then he proceeded to serve as the willing vessel for more White House "leaks." That the White House had lied to him and shamelessly used him made no impression on him. Apparently he thought that is how so-called journalists get ahead in Washington. Now he has been caught again. On Dec. 6, he claimed to be reporting from the scene in Afghanistan where three Americans died in a friendly fire accident. He reported seeing "bits of uniform and tattered clothing everywhere." He claimed, "I said the Lord's Prayer and really choked up." Unfortunately, I suspect the Sun's reporter Folkenflik did, too. He deduced that the dead Americans had been killed hundreds of miles away from Tora Bora, where Rivera was blubbering. Oh, Rivera responded to this correction -- he was merely "confused." The Americans were indeed killed elsewhere, but some Afghan soldiers were killed at the Tora Bora site. The indefatigable Folkenflik investigated further. He interviewed sources at the Pentagon. The Pentagon agreed that Rivera was correct that Afghans had been killed at Rivera's site, but the deaths occurred three days after Rivera's melodramatic report with its personal revelations of prayer and "choking up." Apparently Rivera had not deceived the public only on Dec. 6, but later too, and he is still at it. Now Rivera is bullying Folkenflik. He threatens that the reporter will "regret this story" unto the end of his "career." I counsel calm. The cad made similar threats against me when he was intent on proving that my revelations about his hero in the White House were somehow inaccurate. For weeks he sent his reporters and camera crews to intimidate me. During that time, they misrepresented the facts repeatedly. One reporter lied to me personally about his intent and knowledge of events, and he lied so boldly to one my colleagues in an attempt to turn him against me that the colleague responded with a lawsuit. During that memorable interlude with Rivera, his devious reporter told me one thing that might actually have been true. Having worked with Rivera for years, through all his prior scandals and run-ins with the truth, the reporter told me that he warned Rivera if he were caught in one more scandal it would finish him. OK, let's see. Rivera is to journalism what a freak show is to entertainment.