Geraldo Rivera celebrates 50 years on the air Sept. 8. Now a correspondent-at-large at Fox News Channel, Rivera got his start at WABC New York. He was covering a state attorney general’s race in 1970, reporting from the base of the candidate who lost the election. Viewers could not see him on air, though his mother did see his hand, he said, adorned with a Star of David tattoo, as he held the microphone.
She was hooked on Geraldo appearing on TV. So was he.
Rivera’s career has taken him from WABC to Good Morning America to the daytime program The Geraldo Rivera Show, then CNBC and Fox News. Asked what he’s most proud of across his 50 years in the business, Rivera mentions working on behalf of the developmentally disabled, his war coverage and interviews with Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat and Charles Manson, among many others. “Endurance...survival,” he said of his career. “I’ve been part of American pop culture for a half century,” he said.
Fox News Channel airs one-hour FOX Nation Presents: I Am Geraldo 50 Years Sunday, Sept. 6, at 10 p.m. ET, and streaming platform Fox Nation has its own four-part Rivera special that same day.
Chatting from his home outside Cleveland, and a bit shaken up after a frightening effort to get his boat back to shore amidst serious winds, Rivera spoke about his career highlights and lowlights, and what he learned from both.
While at WABC, Rivera famously presented a series on the deplorable conditions at the Willowbrook State School for the mentally ill on Staten Island, which led to a government investigation, and eventually, the facility’s closure.
Fighting for the developmentally disabled remains a key part of Rivera’s mission. “I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done on their behalf,” he said.
He joined Fox News in 2001 as a war correspondent, eager to cover a war that had American GI’s involved. He has been stationed both in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rivera has challenge coins, given to him by troops he was embedded with. “I think I have the world’s largest collection,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous honor to me.”
Asked about his regrets, Rivera mentioned on-air brawling, the Al Capone’s vault debacle of 1986 and “raucous and racy show topics” earlier in his career. “I’m on a first-name basis with all of America,” he said. “I can’t say I have many regrets.”
His influences include former Congressman Herman Badillo, Dan Rather and John Lennon, who he calls “a dear friend” who “taught me to give peace a chance.”
He’s gotten more into political reporting thanks to his friendship with President Trump. The pair have been pals since the mid ‘70s. “We’ve had a lot of good times together,” said Rivera.
Trump is unfairly covered by much of the media, he added, calling the coverage “the worst press of any president in U.S. history. The press is wretched in its partisanship.”
Rivera acknowledges he’s had more ups and downs than, he said, the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island. “I treasure the fact that people still watch after all these years,” he added.
Age 77, Rivera has little thought of retiring. Live TV helps him stay sharp. “I don’t know what I’d do,” he said. “I’m in a good spot.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.