Geraldo Reacts to Imus Firing

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 16, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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MICHELLE MALKIN, GUEST HOST: Now for the top story tonight, the Rutgers basketball team sits down with Don Imus and says apology accepted. This of course follows a week of controversy for the former shock jock, who was fired from both BS and NBC after saying something really offensive about the women's basketball team.

With us now, Geraldo Rivera, host of "Geraldo at Large" right here on FOX news every weekend. Thanks for joining us in the No Spin Zone, Geraldo.

GERALDO RIVERA, "GERALDO AT LARGE" HOST: Michelle, congratulations on the way you handled Malik Shabazz, who really is a bully and a creep. And what he said was out of line.

MALKIN: Hey, thanks, I appreciate that. Actually, this whole Don Imus episode seems to be casting a lot of light on people whose prejudices and predilections have sort of gone without as much scrutiny as they need to be!

RIVERA: Well, he's been wearing his on his sleeve for a while. We've had major head to head confrontations over the O.J. Simpson trial, for example.

MALKIN: True, true, true enough.

RIVERA: The racial schism that that exposed.

MALKIN: Well, let's talk about forgiveness and redemption.


MALKIN: The Rutgers basketball team says they're in the process of forgiving Imus. Do you think that's enough? Bill was on the show yesterday, called in from Ireland, and he said it was enough for him. Is it enough for you?

RIVERA: Well, it goes a long way. I'm very impressed. I said, you know, the problem with what Imus said, I mean the horrible thing that he did wasn't that he made a generalized racial slur. You know, he didn't talk about a whole class of people. He talked about eight young ladies, who had accomplished a lot in their life, bootstrapped themselves up, attending a modest state school in New Jersey, and now they're the second ranked team in the basketball NCAA. Two pre-med students, etc.

And to say of them that really disparaging remark was so utterly offensive to them, these innocent young ladies, that I really do believe that the corporations were justified in firing Don Imus. Even though I've known the guy for a long time. He's really a great guy in many other ways.

But when they accepted his apology, you know, who am I to say now that, you know, Imus should continue to be excoriated, that he should be, you know, exiled forever? I think that this is the beginning of the rest of Don Imus' life. He should take this apology and go forward and create a new program if that's what he wants to do, and you know, put this behind him, knowing that what he did was wrong. He has now, you know, gone to the people that he has offended. They have now forgiven him. Now move on

MALKIN: Three hours apparently he had met with the Rutgers team yesterday. What could you say after the first five minutes?

RIVERA: Well, I thought...

MALKIN: I mean, do you think it's been dragged out a little too much here? The prostration...


MALKIN: ...and the genuflection?

RIVERA: I think that that wasn't as bad as him going on Sharpton's show for two hours and really, you know, having to demean and debase himself and roll over and say I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.


RIVERA: But to the women themselves, you know, if they had three hours of material to go over, then God bless. I'm all for it. But remember, they really have had their moment of triumph tainted by this whole controversy. They have had everything that they've worked so hard for, now forever in history, set in concrete in this context.

In the context of nappy headed, blah, blah, blah. So I think that three hours, if it's cathartic for everybody involved. And remember, Imus had just gotten the news minutes before...

MALKIN: Right.

RIVERA: ...that he had been canned from the radio program, where he had been a fixture for 30 years.

MALKIN: Mm-hmm.

RIVERA: So you know, I totally feel that if they can move on from that, fine. But a great lesson has been learned.

MALKIN: No doubt about it. Let me play devil's advocate here for a second, because we're hearing a lot about the innocent, poor Rutgers basketball team. And I have said very strongly that no woman deserves to be talked to or talked about the way that Don Imus talked about those women.

MALKIN: You made that clear last night.

MALKIN: However, there's a little bit of shrinking violent syndrome going on here, I think. You know, the fact that some people have said that it would scar — it had scarred them for life, that it was so painful. And yet, you know, as many people have been talking about in this country over the last couple days, this is language that we're almost immunized and inured to because of the pop culture, because of that misogynous trash that we hear all the time.

And I understand it's Don Imus. He was on a platform. But come on, "scarred for life?"

RIVERA: Well, I caution — don't minimize their personal suffering, because you don't know what they went through. And 18-years old, you can go through a lot.

MALKIN: Mm-hmm.

RIVERA: Now, having said that, I also agree that there has been a —that the machine of the hip-hop culture is dehumanizing. And it's something that I find deplorable as the father of teenage daughters. And I do hope that the commitment by Al Sharpton and others to now look at the broader view, the context that this happened in society if it happens is great. — Because what the lyrics say, they sexualize every young black female. It's almost as if you've got to be a hooker to be accepted by the people who are regarded as the coolest in the community. And I think it's bunch of crap.

And hopefully, there will be a dialogue. Hopefully, there will be some self-censorship that begins now. And maybe they'll get another angle, because up until now, what they have a been doing is really earning millions on the backs of young ladies like the Rutgers college basketball team, who really have aspirations other than to be a whore on the corner of, you know, wherever.

MALKIN: Now do you buy this line that we're hearing from a lot of defenders of the hip-hop industry that it's really not the fault of the people who are singing and producing these songs? It's the people who are marketing it. You get this line that it's really the white directors and the white music industry executives. I mean, come on!

RIVERA: I see a lot of young black guys going around with an awful lot of bling on.

MALKIN: That's right.

RIVERA: So I have no neither patience nor sympathy. If people want to buy whatever people want to buy, that's great. But you have to understand what you're doing.

I used to be in the daytime talk show business. So if you do a story, a daytime talk show episode, that's the prostitute and the mother of the prostitute and the grandmother who's a prostitute, you have to know what you're doing. You're doing something that is demeaning to the popular culture. You're low balling. You're doing trash TV. They're doing trash music.

They have to understand that, recognize that. They still want to cash on "who's the baby's daddy TV." That's fine. But you have to understand what it is you're doing and don't take the noble high road that you're some kind of champion of human dignity and rights. It's not so.

MALKIN: Right. I think we're going to see a lot of fair weather critics of the rap industry in the next couple of weeks. Anyway, we're going to back with Geraldo right after the break.



DON IMUS: I'm Don Imus. And now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the anchorman of "Good Night, America," Geraldo Rivera .

MALKIN: We pulled that one out of the vault for you!

That was from 1975. Don Imus introducing Geraldo on the show, "Good Night, America." And we continue with Geraldo. You still have that uh suit?

RIVERA: Oh yeah. That's right, I go skiing on the lapels.



RIVERA: That's how far back I go with Imus, you know.


RIVERA: And really - and he's done so much good work. He and Deidre, his wife. They've raised so much money for charity and all the rest. That's the tragedy in all. But you know, what he said was indefensible

MALKIN: Now do you think he can bounce back?

RIVERA: Yes I do. The key was these young ladies. They forgive him, then who am I not to? I mean, that really is the way I feel about it.

MALKIN: But you know, in the earlier segment, you mentioned that a lot of people felt embarrassed for him when he had to genuflect before Al Sharpton. I mean, didn't he lose a lot of whatever "street cred" he had over that?

RIVERA: Well, Al Sharpton I think is a great man. I think he's really — I believe that Al Sharpton is minimized by the mainstream culture in a way that is undeserved.

MALKIN: A great man?

RIVERA: I think Al Sharpton may come to be regarded as the greatest civil rights leader of the late 20th, early 21st century. That's how big I think he could be.

MALKIN: Whose civil rights?

RIVERA: All right, but let me finish. What happened with Al Sharpton was he made an Imus like mistake with Tawana Brawley. In 1988, 1988 is 20 years ago, he's still paying the price.

Jesse Jackson, remember, won five Democratic primaries for president. Barack Obama is not the first legitimate black candidate for president. Jesse Jackson was until what, 1984 he comes to New York and says "Hymie-town."

MALKIN: You've.

RIVERA: So now Jesse Jackson's life is destroyed. Al Sharpton's life — they will always have the asterisk like Barry Bonds. Sharpton will always be associated with Tawana Brawley. Jesse Jackson will always be associated with "Hymie-town." And Imus will always be associated with this Rutgers flap.

Can they go on and make something of their lives? Yes, they have in the case of Sharpton and Jackson, although never to the heights they could have attained because of what they did. And hopefully Imus also will go on

MALKIN: But you can't honestly compare the situation with Al Sharpton where with Tawana Brawley that was a concocted hoax that continued and continued.

Whereas with Imus, I mean, he had verbal diarrhea. I mean the situations are completely incomparable.

RIVERA: Look, the point I'm making, Michelle, is that each of them had a grievous error. Each of them has been hurt by it in ways that are very profound. And now whatever they make of the rest of their lives still, they will always live with that baggage.

I opened Al Capone's vault. You know, and I — that was 1986. And I still — I hear from guys on the street like they watched it last week. — That's 21 years ago.

MALKIN: Mm-hmm. It's on YouTube probably.

RIVERA: Probably, yes.

MALKIN: Speaking of which, the Internet did seem to play a huge role in this.

RIVERA: Well, radio used to be the kind of place where all you had to deal with were your listeners, and whether or not they heard you right. It used to come and go.

It was like blowing a great smoke ring. Great smoke ring, and the wind comes, and the smoker — now with the YouTube and the Internet, they can replay the smoke ring time and time again.

Imus had no choice, had no chance. Just like everything that happens between you and I, anything that happens between me and O'Reilly when he's in that chair, it lives forever. It's not that it aired and it — maybe the FCC got a complaint, maybe they didn't. It's here today, gone tomorrow. It's never gone tomorrow

It's just like erasing e-mails, deleting e-mails. You can't delete e- mails. They're there forever. This finger pointing will be eternal. You know, and we have to live with that. And it's good and bad.

MALKIN: Right. There are a lot of folks in our industry who are trembling at this phenomenon. I think they should buck up a little, suck it up. It's not like we haven't been under scrutiny even before the Internet.

RIVERA: This is different. This, I believe, is different. You know, it used to be we were in an intangible ethereal medium. We're not any more. Now it is as fixed as if it were in a book.

MALKIN: Mm-hmm. Bill has made a very strong point and repeated point about a lot of these left wing smear sites, who are — seem to have been behind some of this. And is it ridiculous as some of these sites have claimed that Imus was a "right-wing conservative talk show host"? I mean, you've known him for years and years.

RIVERA: That's not the guy I know. I mean, Imus admits that in the 70s, he had vodka and cocaine addiction that he had to recover from. You know, I don't know how they find conservative out of the ashes of his early life.

He built a life, you know, with his camp for the, you know, needy kids in Texas. A hospital wing in Hackensack, New Jersey, the telethon that happened just — you know, yesterday and today. You know, I don't know where they — and right wing. John Kerry's on the show every other day.

MALKIN: Right. Well, let the healing begin.

RIVERA: Let the healing begin.

MALKIN: Geraldo, thank you very much.

RIVERA: Michelle, my pleasure.

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