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Geraldo: No Credibility

Apr 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The war plan was fine. It was the Geraldo plan that betrayed the shortsightedness of the U.S. military.
If the generals had been bright enough to pull their heads out of bomb sights and terrain maps a week ago, they’d have realized they squandered a tremendous asset in pressuring Geraldo Rivera to watch the remainder of the Iraq war from the sidelines in Kuwait.
Important memo to the military: Geraldo is one rip-roaring and rousingly reliable disinformation machine. He’s the equivalent of 20 Bradley fighting vehicles. He could have tied the Iraqis in knots; instead he was allowed to bring an entire mechanized division of Pentagon media handlers to a virtual standstill. General Myers, start your inquiry.
Geraldo’s crime, as senior war correspondent of the Fox News Channel, was dropping into a jaunty crouch and drawing pictures in the dirt. Pictures of where a unit of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division happened to be. Or where Geraldo thought they happened to be. Also, pictures of where the unit might go next. Or where Geraldo calculated they might go next.
These images supposedly were so hot that other news channels, reporting on Geraldo’s latest adventures, cast security pixels over the dirt pictures to safeguard the American military juggernaut.
But did anyone actually check out those pictures? They had to be wrong. This was Geraldo.
In his previous war, also under the auspices of Fox News Channel, a pistol-packing Geraldo got down in the dirt-anyone familiar with American television knows Geraldo’s affinity for dirt-and announced to viewers that he was occupying the “hallowed ground” where three U.S. soldiers died in a friendly fire incident. For extra effect, he also recited the Lord’s Prayer.
It was a gooey moment, except that Geraldo missed his mark by at least a couple of hundred miles. Fox News launched an investigation and determined that Geraldo had made an “honest mistake.” How about that? An honest mistake in which Fox’s ace correspondent in Afghanistan apparently had no earthly idea where he was.
This time Fox News apparently bypassed a full-blown investigation and issued a statement saying it believed Geraldo “did not knowingly disregard the rules of embedment.” Gosh, another honest mistake.
There have been other “honest mistakes” in Geraldo’s purple career. In 1977 ABC sent him to Provo, Utah, to cover the firing-squad execution of Gary Gilmore. Geraldo provided a live cut-in on “Good Morning America.” He held up his microphone and proclaimed that the execution was being carried out at that very moment. Perhaps you could hear the shots. Good morning, Gary.
A newsman who was on the scene, outside the prison, later told me that at the time of Geraldo’s dramatic report, all the other journalists there were milling around because the execution had been carried out several minutes earlier.
“I think the hearse or ambulance had already gone by,” my source said. “On top of that, you couldn’t have heard the gunshots from where we were, anyway.”
Imagine putting those skills to work for our nation in Iraq. Whole battalions of Republican Guards could have been moved to the left, moved to the right-stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight-based on faulty information from Geraldo. Instead of expelling Geraldo, the brass by now would be decorating him.
But then, maybe it’s just as well that Geraldo wasn’t around for the big push on Baghdad.
After all, it would have been a shame for the Army and Marine Corps to fight their way into Saddam Hussein’s hidden vault, only to find one empty bottle.
John Carman is a former TV columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Atlanta Constitution and the San Francisco Chronicle.