Geraldo Rivera (born July 4, 1943) is a television journalist with an affinity for dramatic high-profile stories and a style that has often been described as sensationalistic.
He was born Gerald Miguel Rivera in New York City. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1969, and was lawyer for the New York Puerto Rican group the Young Lords. He was interviewed when the group occupied an East Harlem church in 1970, attracting the attention of a news producer. Rivera was hired by New York City station WABC-TV for their local news program. In 1972 he garnered national attention with his story of the abuse of mentally retarded patients at Staten Island's Willowbrook State School, and began to appear on ABC national programs such as Good Morning America and 20/20.
In 1985 ABC's Roone Arledge refused to air a report done by Rivera on the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy: Rivera publicly criticized Arledge's journalistic integrity (claiming that his friendship with the Kennedy family had caused him to spike the story) and was fired.
In 1986 he hosted an hourlong special on the opening of what he called "Al Capone's secret vault", which garnered the highest rating of any syndicated special in television history. However, it is more noted for its disappointing denouement: the "vault" turned out to be a cellar containing little of interest.
In 1987 he began hosting a talk show, Geraldo, which was oriented toward controversial guests and theatricality (one of the early shows was titled "Men in Lace Panties and the Women Who Love Them"). His nose was broken in a well-publicized brawl that occurred on his 1988 show featuring Nazi skinheads and black activists, which sparked Newsweek's characterization of his show as "Trash TV".
Also in 1987, he hosted the first of a series of special reports in prime time dealing with an alleged epidemic of Satanic ritual abuse. He stated: "Estimates are that there are over 1 million Satanists in this country...The majority of them are linked in a highly organized, very secretive network. From small towns to large cities, they have attracted police and FBI attention to their Satanic ritual child abuse, child pornography and grisly Satanic murders. The odds are that this is happening in your town." Subsequent to the programs, there were outbreaks of Satanic hysteria in various American cities. The influence of his programs on general public belief in Satanic ritual abuse cannot be overestimated.
He was noted for self-promotion and for inserting himself into stories: he had plastic surgery on his program (twice), and his autobiography Exposing Myself caused headlines in 1991 by discussing his sexual dalliances, which included encounters with Bette Midler and Margaret Trudeau. He was also temporarily the son-in-law of science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut.
In 1993 he began hosting a more sedate nightly discussion of the news on cable station CNBC (called Rivera Live) while continuing to host Geraldo.
In 1997 Rivera contracted with NBC to work as a reporter for 6 years for a fee of $30 million. Following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, he accepted a pay cut and went to work for the Fox News Channel as a war correspondent starting in November 2001. His brother Craig accompanied him as a cameraman on assignments in Afghanistan.
During the U.S. war in Afghanistan in 2001, he was derided for falsely claiming to be reporting from the scene of a friendly fire incident which in actuality had occurred 50 miles away. He claims the discrepancy resulted from a misunderstanding.
During the 2003 Iraq War, as an "embedded journalist" with U.S. forces in Iraq, he drew a map in the sand during a live broadcast on the Fox News Channel, which the Pentagon felt revealed potentially damaging strategic information. The Pentagon announced that they were forcing him out of Iraq; two days later Rivera announced that henceforth and voluntarily he would be reporting on the Iraq conflict from Kuwait. The Daily Show jested that he was only the fourth person that the US had said must leave Iraq, the other three being Saddam Hussein and his two sons.