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Thursday, January 03, 2002

I'm online tonight, and doing some surfing. Found a humorous piece that I simply must post. I'm a former journalist, and always find it interesting to follow the field and intrepid reporters. But can anyone seriously consider Geraldo a journalist? Here's something for a few laughs:


Published Sunday, December 30, 2001

Blame this bad reporting on `the fog of war.' Slowly but surely, America is learning to laugh again. Thank you, Geraldo. And thank you, Fox News, for sending him to Afghanistan.

Let's admit it. Ever since the Taliban crumbled and the bombing slacked off, television coverage of the war on terrorism has been grindingly monotonous.

Lucky for us, Geraldo Rivera is on the scene. Fox lured the mustached dandy away from CNBC with the irresistible promise of a pay cut and a chance to be shot at during a live broadcast.

Upon arriving in the war zone, Geraldo breathlessly announced that he'd be carrying a gun at all times and that he personally would plug Osama bin Laden if the opportunity presented himself.

During one satellite dispatch, Geraldo frantically ducked for cover, claiming a bullet had narrowly missed his noggin. Viewers were left to wonder whether it had been fired by an al Qaeda sniper or a disgruntled member of Geraldo's own crew.

In another memorable segment, our daring correspondent lithely descended a cave to hunt for signs of bin Laden, a search that die-hard Geraldo fans hoped would end at Al Capone's vault.

So far, though, the highlight of his Afghan adventure was an emotional report from the ``hallowed ground'' where three U.S. soldiers accidentally had been killed by an errant American bomb.

Reported Geraldo: ``It was just, the whole place, just fried really, and bits of uniforms and tattered clothing everywhere. I said the Lord's prayer and really choked up.''

One tiny problem: Geraldo wasn't anywhere near the site of the fatal bombing. He transmitted his story from Tora Bora, hundreds of miles from Kandahar, where the friendly-fire tragedy occurred.

This rather humongous factual error was pointed out in a critical article by David Folkenflik, the television writer for The Baltimore Sun.

In response, Geraldo blamed ``the fog of war.'' He said he had ``confused'' two separate incidents and actually had been at the scene where two or three Afghan fighters -- not the American troops -- had been killed.

Unfortunately, that version of the story hasn't held up well, either. The Pentagon told Folkenflik that the friendly-fire deaths at Tora Bora occurred three days after Geraldo filed his initial report.

Wrote Folkenflik: ``Fox News did not have any explantation for how Rivera could have been confused by an event that had not yet occurred.''

It's not the first time that Geraldo's credibility has been questioned, so he is well experienced at defending himself.

``The time has come to stop the Geraldo-bashing,'' he fumed to The Washington Post and offered to resign if an independent panel of journalists found he had acted unethically.

Of Folkenflik, Geraldo said: ``This cannot stand. He has impugned my honor.. . . He is going to regret this story for the rest of his career.''

You can understand why Geraldo's knickers are in a knot. If The Sun hadn't blown the whistle, nobody would ever have known that Geraldo's dispatch from Tora Bora was crapola. No good excuse exists. If the friendly-fire segment was deliberately staged, then Geraldo is a liar and fraud. If it was just a mistake, as he claims, then he's an even bigger bonehead than he has demonstrated in the past.

This time he got everything wrong -- the location, the identity (or even existence) of the victims and the origin of the ``tattered clothing.''

No wonder he choked up over the Lord's prayer. He was hoping for divine salvation.

Most network news operations would have been so humiliated by Geraldo's screw up that he would have been canned or exiled to some remote bureau where there was no hope of getting back on the air.

Fox, however, is standing by its man. Calling the episode ``an honest mistake,'' the network said: ``Based on Geraldo Rivera's 30-year track record, Fox News has full confidence in his explanation and journalistic integrity.''

Meanwhile, Fox hasn't told its viewers about the big bungle. A spokesman said there is no plan to broadcast an apology or a correction. And, heck, why should they? It's not journalism; it's show biz.

NBC sent Jay Leno to entertain the troops. Fox sent Geraldo to entertain the rest of us.

Give him a gun, send him down a hole and let the comedy begin.

We'll watch. We'll laugh. And when it's time to get serious, we'll change the channel.

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