Geraldo Loved Bill Clinton, But Spitzer's 'Another Horny Hypocrite'

Geraldo Rivera of Fox News appeared Thursday night on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS, and before he unloaded another bucket of invective against a "savage right-wing talk show campaign" on illegal immigration that makes school kids cry, he denounced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer as just "another horny hypocrite," comparing him to Sen. David Vitter, evangelist Ted Haggard, and Sen. Larry Craig. He said he resented "anyone who uses any kind of state resource for their own private predilections."Does this sound like the same Geraldo Rivera who devoted his nightly CNBC talk program in 1998 to praising Bill Clinton (and trashing "investigative terrorist" Ken Starr) and insisting he stand tall against....charges he used state resources (young staffers) for his own private predilections inside a state building? From the transcript on the Tavis Smiley website, here’s how Geraldo began remembering Eliot Spitzer:

I interviewed him on our old CNBC show many times, and on Fox, and in fact we just dug out the last interview I did with him and he talked about morality, that's the problem, Tavis. It's another horny hypocrite.Like David Vitter, the family-values Republican senator in Louisiana, like Ted Haggard, the megachurch pastor in the Denver/Boulder area, like so many of them. Like Larry Craig in the public restroom in the Minneapolis airport. They say one thing in public and then in private they live lives that leave a lot to be desired.Now I have nothing against prostitution; I wish it was legal. But I have a lot against anyone who uses any kind of state resource for their own private predilections. And what I really find egregious is when you say one thing, and he busted two big prostitution rings and extolled the virtues of the cops, and damned the perpetrators of the crime, and applauded his own efforts at busting them, and now he's as bad as they are.

Smiley wasn't going to mention Rivera's five wives and long record of adultery, which clearly made him more sympathetic to Clinton. Eventually, after working through the legal implications against Spitzer, Rivera returned to form, suggesting, "I hope it's not politically motivated, but we'll see." Then came this exchange:

SMILEY: A few quick follow-ups and I want to jump right to the book. You mentioned David Vitter, of course, Republican senator from Louisiana. How did David Vitter survive and Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, did not?RIVERA: Well, I agree that there's some question there, and I also remember what happened to [Don] Siegelman, the Democratic governor of Alabama. I want to take a closer look at the federal process, the machine that went to work on Eliot Spitzer. I also want to know how many FBI agents did they devote to tracking down this man's sex life who could have been tracking down some terrorists here.I worry that there is some political motivation. Where it starts -- and that's not forgiving anything that Spitzer did, especially to his family -- but I want to know more about did really a random bank clerk in a minor bank on Long Island see something that was so suspicious? Is that what this is really about? Or is there something deeper and darker with a political taint to it, and that's, I believe, will be the -- now that he has resigned, the next wave of stories will begin to probe the background and the structure and the expense involved in this prosecution.

Then the conversation turned to Rivera’s book on immigration, and the claim that right-wing talk show hosts are causing little kids to cry at school, and they’re also expanding the KKK:

I could really encapsulate the whole theme of the book with one phone call I received from a guy named Sergio in Portland, Oregon last week. He's a guy who was brought here by his family at the age of three; his dad got a green card. Sergio ultimately became a citizen of the United States.He's living now, as I said, in the Portland area, has two children, both boys, five years old and seven years old. So Sergio called me because the boys went home from school crying that they're being called border-jumpers. They said, "Daddy, what's a border-jumper?"The problem, Tavis, is yes, we have a problem with illegal immigration, no doubt about it. But when you have programs like Lou Dobbs and some of the others who every night are showing pictures of Mexicans jumping over the wall or wading across the Rio Grande River, it casts a taint over the entire community, citizen and immigrant, legal and illegal, alike. That story I just related to you is part of a generalized phenomenon now. Groups like the KKK and other hate-mongering groups according to the Southern Poverty Law Center with a report released just this week, these groups have been resurgent. They were almost dead in 2000 and now on the backs of this issue, on the backs of these illegal immigrants, they are resurging, they are - hate crimes against Hispanics are exploding. You have a very, very stressful situation being created because of the demagogues and the savage right-wing talk radio campaign who are scapegoating mainly Latino immigrants for everything from crime to disease to stealing jobs to bringing terrorism in. Next they're going to blame them for acne and eating our sandwiches.

The last line is borrowed from Rivera’s appearance on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, where he blamed "right wing talk show thugs" for fanning hatred and apparently warning of sandwich-takers. Then he discussed his hate mail, where he’s been compared to toilet contents:

RIVERA: We have a very young population, 25 years old on average as opposed to 40 years old for Anglo Americans. So there's definitely something going on. We were four or five million in 1950, 45 million today, and what I believe - and I base my statements on the emails that I've been receiving - racial, racist, racialist, however you want to couch it, "Geraldo, go back from where you came from, you brown turd in the nation's toilet bowl. Take these people back with you."The tone, Tavis, is -- and I've been 40 years in public life and I have never received this kind of vibe before. It's an us against them situation that has been created largely by the demagogues and it's very, very troubling.SMILEY: And yet the flip side of that is, which I'm trying to juxtapose here, that everybody wants to make money off of or take advantage of in one way, exploit in one way or another, the fact that they are here. How do you explain that, that there is this visceral maltreatment of immigrants, and yet there's so many people making money -- all kinds of American companies.Every time you go on a plane these days or anywhere you go you hear an English announcement and you hear a Spanish - we know they're here. We're making money off of them. And yet I'm trying to juxtapose that with the hate that you're talking about.RIVERA: Well, we talked earlier about Spitzer and horny hypocrites. There is rampant hypocrisy in the area of illegal immigration as well. I believe that the people who are flogging this issue on a nightly basis are people who have figured out how to cure their ratings problems on cable news or talk radio. They are doing this because it rates.

The "right wing talk show thugs" are not only malicious, they’re just doing it for the profits. Rivera also recalled boasting to Mitt Romney in the Fox News green room that he would lose because he was playing to the wrong crowd: "I told him, I used the word putrid fog. Your rhetoric and the Minutemen and everything that they're doing is creating a climate that's like a putrid fog that lies over the entire Hispanic community now and Governor, I'm telling you, it's going to cost you in Florida."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis