Touting Geraldo, ABC's Cuomo Rips Anti-Illegal 'Fear'

"Good Morning America" co-host Chris Cuomo used an interview with Geraldo Rivera on Tuesday to once again showcase his liberal views on illegal immigration. Touting the Fox News host's new book "His Panic," Cuomo gushed over the "beautiful" title and immediately accepted the premise of the book by stating, "But it is about why Americans fear Hispanics in the U.S.--You believe to be the case."

Later in the segment, he again dropped any objectivity and opined, "There is a lot of history, a lot of fact in this book. Interesting in a discussion that's usually fueled by passion--" In comparison, the host offered no such accolades to Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, a foe of illegal immigration. During a June 2007 interview with the then-presidential candidate, Cuomo asked if Tancredo, who fought for tough border security bills, was "driving anti-immigrant sentiment?" He also chided Tancredo for using "scary" words in regard to the contentious subject.

During the February 26 segment with Rivera, Cuomo asked a single question from the conservative perspective. (He pointed out to the FNC host that previous waves of immigrants came to the America legally.) However, the GMA anchor never seriously discussed negative aspects to illegal immigration, such as the national security threat that comes with an open border. (The only mention of terrorism came in a derisive comment about baseless fear. On opposition to such immigration, Cuomo dismissively wondered, "Is it fear? Is it fear of terrorism, fear of the unknown?")

Instead, Cuomo provided leading queries, such as when he played a clip of Rivera's famous April 2007 immigration debate with FNC anchor Bill O'Reilly. Cuomo followed up by asking, in a completely perplexed tone, "Why the passion? Why the paradox here?" Returning to his editorialist mode, the ABC host expounded, "America is about who is in it more than any other country in the world, about the diversity. But so much anger and passion on this issue. Why?"

Cuomo also allowed Rivera to take a shot at CNN host Lou Dobbs, who he insisted, "has resurrected a failed career on the backs of [immigrants.]" The GMA anchor closed the segment with the kind of comment that could end up as a blurb on the book's dust jacket: "The book is called 'His Panic.' A lot in here of fact and history in here. Takes the argument forward."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 8:33am on February 26, follows:

CHRIS CUOMO: We're going to talk today about one of the most pressing issues that's going on in this election. It's the debate over immigration. Who's coming into this country? Who do we allow? Who do we want to be? Geraldo Rivera, we know he's won a lot of awards, but this may be his most ambitious project. The book is called "His Panic," Hispanic. A beautiful play on words. But it is about why Americans fear Hispanics in the U.S. --You believe to be the case. Geraldo, a pleasure as always to have you here.

GERALDO RIVERA: Chris.

ABC GRAPHIC: Flash point: Immigration: Are Immigrant Fears Being Stoked?

CUOMO: Let us set the context. Where do you think we are vis-a-vis this issue? What is the atmosphere right now?

RIVERA: I think we're back where we always are when a different wave of immigrants comes into the country. You know, the Irish, the Italians, the Germans, the European Jews. If you read the news accounts from those days back to the 19th century, you see that he immigrants come, there's a nativist reaction to them. They get blamed from everything from crime to disease, to terror. And then they become assimilated and the next group comes. And there's a maddening tendency, I think, from the group that's in to burn the bridge behind them. And I think that's what is happening with Hispanics now.

CUOMO: Deal with the obvious counter point, which is the difference is, when the Italians came over, my grandparents came here, they did it legally. A lot of this Immigration is happening illegally, puts them on different footing from the beginning. They should be dealt differently. They are not supposed to be here.

RIVERA: The fact of the matter is, Chris, when the Irish came there was no immigration law. So, everybody was legal. When they established Ellis Island, after they excluded the Chinese, and they established Ellis Island for European immigrants, you had a golden period of immigration. The last 25 years of the 19th century, the first 25 years of the 20th century, basically anybody could come as long as they were not a convict, prostitute or had infectious diseases. That's when the Italians came. That's when the Germans came. That's when you had this massive immigration. But, then they passed these laws, the National Origin Act of 1924 that gave all of the visas to, basically, the people of United Kingdom and Scandinavia. The Italians then were reduced to three percent of all the visas, Mexicans and other Latin Americans got zero. That's when they cut off legal immigration there. It's unfair to say that your forbearers were legal while mine were not, because, now, there is no system. There was never an Ellis Island for the Mexicans.

CUOMO: The rules change. There is a lot of history, a lot of fact in this book. Interesting in a discussion that's usually fueled by passion-- To look at it this way, Geraldo versus O'Reilly on this issue. Ordinarily colleagues in balance. But this got to be a hot moment. Let's look at where this book came from.

[Brief clip of famous O'Reilly/Rivera debate.]

CUOMO: [Off of the clip] "I want to take you out and do something to you." I've had that said to me by Geraldo before and it's not pleasant. Why the passion? Why the paradox here? America is about who is in it more than any other country in the world. About the diversity. But so much anger and passion on this issue. Why?

RIVERA: Well, what got me going there is this tendency to blame -- to highlight every illegal act done by any person here without, without documentation. An illegal alien ran over a girl. An illegal alien killed someone. An illegal alien ate my sandwich. You know, the problem with doing that is you stereotype them, you paint them in a corner. You portray them-- Here's a story in the Wall Street Journal today, Chris, today's story, tiny story, immigrants on average are far less likely than U.S.-born citizens to commit crime in California, a study found. You'll never see this story on cable TV.

CUOMO: Is it fear? Is it fear of terrorism, fear of the unknown?

RIVERA: I think what you have is you have commentator playing on that fear. People like Lou Dobbs at CNN who has resurrected a failed career on the backs of these people. And you have no one speaking up for the underdog. That's what I'm trying to do here. To tell people slow down. This is part of the same process that made the country unique in the world. Let's harness this hybrid vigor. This is the country for the 21st century. We're all in this together. Be compassionate. Of course you need regulation, of course you need control. But I think what you can't do is scapegoat.

CUOMO: Well, certainly the reality, that the Latino presence, the Hispanic presence in this country is here to stay. It's growing all of the time. Thank you for getting me in trouble with Lou Dobbs, Appreciate that, Geraldo.

RIVERA [Laughs]: Send him my way.

CUOMO: The book is called "His Panic." A lot in here of fact and history in here. Takes the argument forward. Also the little known truth behind Geraldo Rivera's name. People talk about that all the time. You'll learn what the real story is. You can go to ABC News.com to read an excerpt of this book.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org