Web Site Hit Counter

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Geraldo faces his nightmare

February 25, 2009

It's hard to pick a single favorite Geraldo moment.
I'm sure some of you will point to Al Capone's empty vault or the diagram in the Iraq sand. And it's always tempting to go with the show on plastic surgery where Geraldo had fat sucked from his butt implanted in his forehead.

But if forced to choose one defining Geraldo Rivera moment, I think I'll go back to the 1990s and a confrontation at a rally with a neo-Nazi named John R. McLaughlin.

I dug up a New York Times story about it. In theory, the goal of the show was to illustrate the absurdity of the rallying skinheads and KKK members. Geraldo accomplishes this by wandering through the crowd, delivering quips like, "Neat outfits you have on." There is (surprise) a confrontation (huge surprise) in which Geraldo punches McLaughlin and ends up getting arrested.

When Geraldo tells viewers about this later - describing blood and sweat dripping down his face - he looks into the camera and deadpans a line that, if delivered by Stephen Colbert today, would be comedy. Only in this case, the guy delivering it was serious.

"A professional nightmare had come true. I had become a part of the story."
Geraldo becoming a part of the story? That's like Madonna making an album that turns controversial. (Actually, that's not fair to Madonna. She likely would admit controversy was part of the plan from the start.)

In his long career, Geraldo has done good stories, important stories. But whatever the story, from war to hurricanes, The Story inevitably seems to be Geraldo.

So was anyone surprised that when Geraldo came to Putnam County, the focus of the Haleigh Cummings story shifted from a missing 5-year-old girl to an omnipresent 65-year-old TV journalist?

You've probably seen the video of Geraldo interviewing Haleigh's father outside the family's trailer. I purposefully describe it that way - Geraldo interviewing Ronald Cummings - because, of course, the video isn't just of Cummings. It is as much about Geraldo asking the questions as it is about Cummings responding to them. And it illustrates that Geraldo came to Florida and accomplished something as difficult as making skinheads look absurd.

He went to a divided, dysfunctional family, two weeks into its own nightmare, and got people to point fingers, hurl accusations and eventually call the police.


Beyond the questions about interview style, there are more significant ones. Like whether some of the allegations tossed out to a national television audience are even true. And whether any of this was relevant to Haleigh's disappearance. Or if it just made for good TV and further fueled message board judges and juries.

Some have defended Geraldo, saying he was getting to the bottom of the story. I'd put it a little differently.

I'd say he got in the middle of the story.

Yes, somehow it happened again. Geraldo's professional nightmare came true.

1 comment:

toocan said...

Geraldo makes me sick!! This family has enough to worrie about.