Geraldo Rivera on Friday excoriated Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings actually comparing him to al Qaeda terrorists.
Discussing the article that effectively destroyed General Stanley McChrystal's career, Rivera told Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, "These guys, particularly the staffers who gave the most damning statements about the civilians in office, including the vice president of the United States, these guys had no idea that they were being interviewed by this guy."
Rivera then made a staggering analogy (video after the break with full transcript and commentary):
Two days before 9/11, two al Qaeda terrorists posing as journalists got up to Sheik Massoud, our most valuable ally in Afghanistan. They blew themselves and Sheik Massoud up, a tremendous setback. I maintain historically that the removal of General McCrystal at the hands of this freelance reporter for "Rolling Stone" has almost comparable strategic significance.
BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Friday's with Geraldo" segment tonight, more journalists agree that the "Rolling Stone" writer who did in General McCrystal did not do anything wrong journalistically. The man Michael Hastings, a far left guy, we said. And the general was very foolish to let him into his inner circle.
But FOX News anchor Geraldo Rivera dissents on the journalism front, saying Hastings was wrong for printing provocative quotes from McCrystal and his staff. Geraldo joins us now from upstate New York.
Let's get to the war of journalism here. You know, I'm trying to put myself in Hastings position, if I'm there, and I'm in a bar and McCrystal and his guys are spouting off about Biden and being a moron and all these other things, and it's not off the record, Geraldo, you know that when you allow a journalist in, you say, look, this is on the record, this is off the record. But if it's not off the record, I mean, you know, I'm writing it down. You're not?
GERALDO RIVERA, HOST, "GERALDO AT LARGE": You know, Bill, this is a situation where you have to put it into the context of war and warriors and honor and the number of privacy that is presumed when it's not on the record specifically. When you are hanging out at a bar waiting for a plane or a train or an automobile, and you're stuck together hours and hours, and you're drinking in a bar, or you're at an airport lounge, this is not an interview context. These guys, particularly the staffers who gave the most damning statements about the civilians in office, including the vice president of the United States, these guys had no idea that they were being interviewed by this guy.
O'REILLY: I'm not sure about that, Geraldo.
RIVERA: Wait hold on, Bill.
O'REILLY: I'm not sure about that.
RIVERA: This reporter from "Rolling Stone", he was a rat in an eagle's nest. What he did was to become part of the background, part of the scenery, knowing full well, given his political ideology--
O'REILLY: All right, let's walk through.
RIVERA: --and everything else, his altitude, he knew what he wanted to do.
O'REILLY: Okay, I'm not disputing, look--
RIVERA: And I disagree with Chris Wallace. This was not a 280- hitter. General Stanley McCrystal is no 280-hitter. If General Petraeus is Babe Ruth, and I agree with that analogy, Stanley McCrystal is Lou Gehrig.
O'REILLY: All right, Lou Gehrig.
RIVERA: He led our special operator.
O'REILLY: He's been deployed more than any fighting general.
RIVERA: All right, good.
O'REILLY: And I really am so sick over this.
O'REILLY: Geraldo, all right, take a deep breath. All right, you got to walk with me through this interview, okay? Calm down. Number one, I agree with you that Hastings is a hatchet man. All right? All you got to do is look at what he's done in the past. "Rolling Stone" is a hatchet operation. They hatcheted me. I was stupid enough to let a reporter named Cola Pinto (ph) follow me around. And he gave me a line of B.S. And he hatcheted me.
But, I also told the Cola Pinto what was on and off the record, what he could and could not do. Now, I'm in the business, so I know. So I'm not saying that Hastings did anything wrong. I'm not going to -- is he a rat? Yes, he's a rat. But did he do anything wrong? I don't know. But you can't explain to me, I don't think you can, why a guy as smart as McCrystal, been around a long time, position of power, knows what the press is. They even say that he turned FOX News off in his offices because he's a liberal guy, McCrystal. So he knows what the press is, why he would even allow this guy to be around, Geraldo. Why we even allow him to be around?
RIVERA: I want to be have clear about this, Bill. The president of the United States was totally within his constitutional right and power to dismiss or accept the resignation of General Stanley McCrystal because it was a lapse in judgment for General McCrystal to let this person that close to him. But I have to go back to my principle point. When someone, who works for the general commanding the war front in Afghanistan, mocks the vice president of the United States, calling Joe Biden bite me, that reporter knows that that statement, if it becomes public, has strategic significance. That the president would be forced to do what he did unless he was magnanimous beyond belief.
O'REILLY: But that's what Hastings wanted. That's what "Rolling Stone" wanted.
RIVERA: But when it is a -- my point though, Bill, is when it is a strategic issue like that, something of that import, to your country, damn it, then you have an obligation to say was that on the record? Do you really want to say that?
O'REILLY: All right.
RIVERA: You have to put it in context. Let me give you analogy far beyond--
O'REILLY: You're coming from it an ethical point of view.
RIVERA: You got to go beyond the rat in the eagle's nest. Two days before 9/11, two al Qaeda terrorists posing as journalists got up to Sheik Massoud, our most valuable ally in Afghanistan. They blew themselves and Sheik Massoud up, a tremendous setback. I maintain historically that the removal of General McCrystal at the hands of this freelance reporter for "Rolling Stone" has almost comparable strategic significance. This was a major deal. And to do it under those rules, where you have to admit your third gin and tonic. You're frustrated. You're waiting for the volcanic ash to clear. Everybody is on their most relaxed behavior to get a statement, an utterance like that. An utterance from a -- but not the general himself, but by one of his over eager macho staffers is something that you have an obligation, an honorable obligation to check out before you rush to the press, knowing that you have done is removing a fine soldier--
O'REILLY: All right, one more question--
RIVERA: --who has risked his life for his country time and time again.
O'REILLY: OK, I got it, Geraldo. We got it. And I only have 30 seconds here. "Rolling Stone" says it ran the quotes by McCrystal. Do you believe that?
RIVERA: If they say they did, I know Jann Wenner. I assume that it is true. I take him at his word.
O'REILLY: They didn't run them by me.
RIVERA: And I have to honor General McCrystal for not trying to sleaze away.
O'REILLY: All right, Geraldo, look, I appreciate your passion on the issue. And you've given everybody something to think about.
Despite the seemingly over the top analogy, Rivera made what seems to be an important point.
A journalist is with a group of military officials hanging out in a bar. If any of them says anything truly controversial, especially something that could harm careers and/or negatively impact the mission in Afghanistan, should a good reporter confirm that what was said was on the record or just a bit of drunk talk?
Despite my frequent differences of opinion with Rivera, he has been one of America's leading investigative reporters for decades.
With this in mind, does he have a point, or is he just defending someone he appears to have great admiration for?