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On Wednesday, NBC’s “Today” co-host Matt Lauer became the latest powerful man to be brought down by multiple allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior. Fox News host Geraldo Rivera soon generated a backlash of his own, after posting a series of potentially tone-deaf tweets defending Lauer.
He Defended Lauer by Calling News a ‘Flirty Business’
Variety’s expose of Lauer’s alleged behavior kicks off with the following examples of “flirty business”:
As the co-host of NBC’s “Today,” Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified.
On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.
He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with…. Lauer, who was paranoid about being followed by tabloid reporters, grew more emboldened at 30 Rockefeller Center as his profile rose following Katie Couric’s departure from “Today” in 2006. His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.
Only three minutes after his “flirty business” tweet, Rivera posted another one saying, in part, that “A jerk’s a jerk in dating. #SexHarassment should be confined to situations where superior imposes himself on subordinate who feels unable to complain because of power of perp or feared consequences to victim’s employment.” (If the allegations against Lauer reported in Variety are true, Lauer himself meets the “sex harassment” standard Rivera posited.)
Rivera soon followed up with another tweet which, if applied, would effectively make it impossible for sexual harassers to be held accountable, another tweet saying sexual harassment allegations should require either corroborating witnesses, or electronic or written communications (which presumably does not apply to sexual harassers smart enough to keep their behavior behind closed doors). The Twittersphere was quick to point out the flaws in Rivera’s logic.
He Also Suggested Money is the Main Motivation for Most Accusers
In his tweet suggesting that sexual harassment allegations be backed up by corroborating witnesses or video recordings, he also sneered that “W $ settlements in multi-millions slight chance exists some victims are motivated by more than justice.”
In response, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson replied “Pls @GeraldoRivera once my friend-women just want to keep their jobs. They get paid in secret settlements b/c most never work in chosen fields ever again after bravely coming forward thanks”.
Last Week, he Said Senior Citizens (such as himself) Deserve a Sexual Harassment ‘Exception’
During a Fox News panel discussion with host Kimberly Guilfoyle, Rivera referenced then-new allegations of misconduct against former president George H. W. Bush with commentary that apparently gave Bush’s behavior a pass due to his advanced age: “What about the allegation that’s gaining quite a bit of legitimacy and currency that George H.W. Bush — Bush 41 — from his wheelchair, tells a joke when women stand along side him, ‘Who’s your favorite comedian? Mine is David Cop-a-feel.’ You know, and he pats the ladies on the butt. I mean, if it’s outrageous for [Senator Al] Franken it’s outrageous for George H.W. Bush and you talk about senior citizens, he’s, uh, what, 93-years-old.”
When Guilfoyle interrupted Rivera to ask why he was apparently making excuses for Bush, Rivera replied “Well, maybe I was speaking, you know, as a senior citizen myself.” (Rivera was born in 1943.)
In 2014, he Blamed ‘Workplace Protections’ for Preventing Men From Having Active Social Lives
Early in 2014, Rivera sat down for a video interview with The Blaze host Will Cain. At one point, Cain asked Rivera about his 1991 autobiography, “Exposing Myself,” in which Rivera claimed to have slept with a thousand different women.
Rivera modestly claimed that “It’s not particularly my magnetism or anything,” but the lack of “workplace protections” in the 1970s and 80s made it much easier for him to have an active social life: “Now if you look at an intern with cross-eyes you go to jail, I mean get fired.” But in the good old days, he said, “It was almost like sex was free! You have no HR – no human resources – no workplace rules against it, lots of money, relative youthfulness, a young staff, surrounded by sycophants and enablers, people smoking joints openly in their office.”