MediaWatch: August 24, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 14

Geraldo's Anchor Dreams

Today’s Executive Producer has conceded that Geraldo Rivera "went too far" in defending President Clinton during an appearance detailed in the August 10 MediaWatch study. But Rivera hasn’t toned down his act and is now aiming to replace Tom Brokaw as anchor of the NBC Nightly News.

"Geraldo Rivera wants nothing less than to be ‘news anchor for the next millennium,’ a pronouncement that may not sit very well with the anchors of this millennium," reported J. Max Robins in an August 15 TV Guide story. promoting his new CNBC news program, Upfront Tonight. "Openly hoping that his new show will catapult him to a top slot at NBC News, Rivera brashly announces, ‘I’m running for the center chair at the desk of the wise men.’" (After the TV Guide story broke, Rivera retreated from the clear implication of his comments and praised Tom Brokaw.)

Robins discovered that "Some reporters suggest that Rivera, covering Bill Clinton’s recent trip to China for Today, snagged an exclusive interview with the President because of his partisan reporting, and even [Katie] Couric and [Today Executive Producer Jeff] Zucker thought Rivera went too far on a subsequent Today show when he called Clinton ‘the most maligned and assailed man in the history of the executive office’ and questioned how Congress could impeach Clinton for ‘doing something that virtually every member [of the House and Senate] has done at some time in their lives.’"

"Rivera’s concession that he ‘was too over the top’ in his Clinton comments probably won’t appease his competitors" Robins warned, "many of whom can’t or won’t think of Rivera as anything but the tabloid grandstander whose nose was busted by skinheads and who wrote a tell-all autobiography (unsubtly titled Exposing Myself ) that detailed sexual encounters with the famous and not so famous."

Indeed, in that book Rivera revealed some Clintonesque parallels to his life: "I was like a junkie when it came to women, an alcoholic, and even my best intentions were not enough to keep me faithful for long." In the September 1 National Review John Miller highlighted how the book "contains one of the most deeply confused sentences ever to appear in print: ‘My marriage was important to me, and so I made sure my outside encounters never became more than one-night stands.’"