Proving there is no national tragedy so galling that he cannot somehow make it worse, Geraldo Rivera has spent the days since the mass shooting in Orlando taking some of the public’s impotent anger and heroically directing it toward him. In just the space of a few hours on Monday, he managed to stir that outrage twice—once by shoving his cameras in the faces of grieving, weeping family members, then again by saying that the victims gunned down by Omar Mateen as he unloaded his semi-automatic weapon on them should have fought back. It all raises the question: Seriously, does anyone like Geraldo Rivera?
This is not rhetorical. This is a legitimate inquiry, asking how it is that Geraldo Rivera is still a public figure whose comments are given a large enough forum that they get far more than the wide berth of uncomfortable silence they deserve—like the kind you’d give a grating co-worker or obnoxious relative. Somebody must think he’s worth watching and listening to. But who?
In 2013, radio host Morris W. O’Kelly penned an essay for The Huffington Post petitioning, “Don’t Hate Geraldo Rivera, Pity Him.” His argument was that Rivera—whom he paints as a once-promising journalist forever transformed by the embarrassing debacle of Al Capone’s vault—willingly leaned into his public humiliation, embracing his role as the token clown of the media circus. “Recognize clowns by their red, floppy shoes, cartoonish makeup and over-the-top behavior,” O’Kelly wrote, saying that Rivera’s sole career-sustaining move was to flail about, honking out his shitty takes, forcing people to pay attention to him by sheer irritation.
Still, someone clearly likes clowns, otherwise they wouldn’t be there, mucking up every parade. And similarly, someone apparently likes Geraldo Rivera too, otherwise we wouldn’t have moments like Monday’s chucklefuck relay on Sean Hannity’s show, where Rivera interviewed a tearful witness to Mateen’s relentless attack (“I tried to do my best to take him out but I can’t, I didn’t, it was too many bullets. The bullets were flying so fast, I didn’t even know. If I raised my hand, I was gonna get a bullet too”), then immediately, haughtily proclaimed:
“When you’re in that situation and you have no weapons, you have two choices. If you can’t hide and you can’t run, you have two choices. You stay and die, or you fight. For God’s sakes, fight back. Fight back. There’s 100 people that he murdered with one weapon that he reloaded. When he reloaded they must, people must, America must understand, we are at war with Islamic terror, with these terrorists. We’ve got to stop them in Raqqa, we’ve got to stop them in Mosul, and we’ve got to stop them in the Pulse, Orlando.”
The fact that it took a SWAT team and several hours to bring down Mateen—whose semiautomatic weapon was loaded with 30-round-capacity clips, some of them taped together to make reloading quicker—didn’t seem to matter to Rivera. Nor has he previously been stayed by logic, common sense, sensitivity, or not sounding like a total asshole when he gave away future troop movements in Iraq, or blamed Trayvon Martin’s death on his hoodie. For Geraldo, his incredible self-regard trumps all, whether it’s filming himself thrusting a microphone into the faces of a victim’s weeping family members, or sharing a shirtless photo on Twitter.
Geraldo obviously loves Geraldo—but again we ask, does anyone else?
Even though Rivera long ago traded in his leftist politics to become a registered Republican, right-wing talk show host, and senior correspondent on Fox News, he’s often dragged out just so Sean Hannity has a quasi-liberal to bluster at, usually on some issue like gun control. And in fact, in the past 24 hours, he’s seized on the Miami tragedy as another opportunity to stump for stricter gun laws. As a result, his Twitter notifications are filled with conservatives who, clearly, absolutely can’t stand him.
In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a positive Geraldo Rivera tweet from either side of the political spectrum. So if liberals and conservatives hate him, then who the hell likes him? Is there anyone who would describe themselves as “a Geraldo Rivera fan”?
A Google search for just that turns up a mere six pages of results—most of which are scattered comments and articles that begin with “I’m not a…” And the lonely Geraldo Rivera “fan page” housed at the Turner Classic Movies site (automatically generated due to the channel’s airing of his 1999 TV movie, Geraldo Rivera’s Sail To The Century) not only has a bio that begins “Passionate, pandering, ambitious, or simply self-serving,” its sole “fan comment” simply declares him “fake” and “a shame to all Hispanic people.”
Meanwhile, Geraldo’s very own Facebook page has 53,785 likes—which sounds like a decent number, until you consider that he is actually the seventh-most popular “Geraldo” on the site. He can still lord it over the Geraldo Restaurante in Laguna, Santa Catarina, Brazil (30,781) for now. But a couple more stupid statements—or a fresh haul of mullet fish—could easily close that gap. And within his status updates, while you’ll find the sporadic “don’t listen to the haters” declaration or rambling testimonial from someone who enjoyed his ’80s talk show, the greatest compliment most of his “fans” can muster is “Nice boat.”
If you search the phrase “love Geraldo Rivera” on Twitter, you’ll usually find it separated by words like “to throat punch.” Search “fuck Geraldo Rivera” and your entire afternoon disappears.
All around, it seems the most common emotion Geraldo Rivera stirs is utter contempt, from all shades of the political spectrum. To even compare to the kind of abuse he sustains online on a daily basis for making asinine comments, you’d have to look to his mortal enemies in the NRA, or to his fellow Celebrity Apprentice co-stars Piers Morgan and Donald Trump.
And yet, unlike the NRA or Morgan or Trump, no one even seems to like Geraldo enough to pick a fight with him—they just want him to go away. Yet here he is, month after month, year after year, wandering into the public discourse to shame others for not having the benefit of Geraldo Rivera’s wisdom, and as far as we can tell, stirring no pleasure in anyone with his endless barrage of bullshit. And we all just stand here, allowing him the negative attention that is his sole connection to the rest of humanity.
For God’s sakes, fight back. Fight back.