My late mother enjoyed passing judgment on certain celebrities whenever they flashed on the TV:
“She hasn’t aged well;” “That’s a wig he’s got on;” “He always played the gangster;” and — whenever Geraldo Rivera popped up with another “undercover investigation” for ABC — “He’s gonna get himself killed one day.”
It was the “Serpico/Watergate” era, and activist attorney turned reporter Rivera made his name with deadly serious, groundbreaking broadcasts like the legendary “Willowbrook” expose. More than ten years after it was shot, Rivera’s was the first show to broadcast the gruesome Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination (a solemn if morbid milestone somewhat undercut by hipster Geraldo’s description of the bloody footage as “heavy, man.”)
Alas, Rivera damaged his reputation with pointless stunts like the “Al Capone’s vault” fiasco and his televised, nose-breaking brawl with skinhead guests (see photo above). Rivera also promoted the most toxic “moral panic” of the 1980s — the “Satanic ritual abuse” urban legend that cost untold vulnerable folks their tenuous sanity (and in some cases, to all intents and purposes, their lives.)
His bizarre attacks on columnist Michelle Malkin, not to mention his disclosure of an upcoming military action while embedded in Iraq, didn’t win him any conservative fans after his move to Fox News. In short, Rivera survived, despite my mother’s dire predictions, but his “good judgment” barometer has been busted pretty much since the Clinton administration.
So Rivera deserves some credit for temporary plugging in his brain this week, in time to challenge newly-notorious New Black Panther Party leader Malik Zulu Shabazz. (Here are Shabazz’s videotaped threats against Glenn Beck and his fans, released last week.)
Using what I’ll call the “other O.J. defense,” Shabazz lamely tries to convince Rivera that his recent outbursts and actions are all part of an effort to jumpstart “reparations” for slavery, rape and the unjust incarceration of black men. Or something. Frankly, Shabazz doesn’t even sound convinced by his own “reasoning.”
An impatient Geraldo wasn’t the least bit sympathetic:
It is absolutely pathetic, it is so old-fashioned. What are you trying to do? Are you trying to be the big, bad nightmare?
Then, sounding almost — dare I say it? — “right wing,” Rivera added:
I think that reparations is [sic] just like these welfare programs that have turned a generation into nothing but unproductive people.
By the way: That “old fashioned” bit is revealing. As a former trusted insider with the Puerto Rican “Young Lords”, Rivera knows what he’s talking about when the subject turns to 1970s-style, racially motivated street gangs cum “activists.” OK, so there hasn’t been a lot of call for that slender slice of esoteric expertise — until lately, when the Left began resusitating its “old fashioned” tactics in a desperate attempt to impose their agendas.
Perhaps Geraldo’s time has finally come back around. If it means we’re spared any more ill-conceived prime time specials about long dead gangsters and their empty hotel safes, that can only bode well for America.