Geraldo Defends his Jacko Interview

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Feb. 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, our pal, Geraldo Rivera (search), as you may know, is an attorney as well as a FOX News correspondent. Now last week on his program "At Large," he interviewed Michael Jackson (search), and Geraldo seemed somewhat sympathetic.


GERALDO RIVERA, FOX CORRESPONDENT: It's wonderful seeing you with the children. That, I think, is the real Michael Jackson that has not been seen, you with your own children, one in diapers, the other two toddlers. I don't know how you manage without a nanny.

MICHAEL JACKSON, ENTERTAINER: Well, I enjoy taking care of my children myself. It's fun. That's why I had them, so I could take care of them. And it's just — it's great relief for me. You know, it's pleasure. It keeps me happy and laughing, and they're wonderful, sweet, innocent children.

RIVERA: You have such a kind of a normal life there. It's sweet to see.

JACKSON: Thank you.


O'REILLY: With us now is Geraldo. You made him sweat, didn't you? You really grilled him.

RIVERA: I saw it as doing the other side of the story.

O'REILLY: What's the matter with you? Come on!

RIVERA: How many people critical of that interview also criticized the release of the grand jury transcripts? One-sided, biased, the prosecution's story, illegally obtained, supposedly secret.

O'REILLY: All right. Let's walk through this...

RIVERA: Now wait a second, Bill. In fairness, you have all of these people jumping on me because I asked him about his children or what it's like to live a normal life and no one criticizing the fact the D.A. stabbed him in the back.

O'REILLY: Yes, but you know as well I do, I've seen you grill people. That's a powder puff interview and you know it.

RIVERA: It's an interview restricted by the court and supervised by the court under the strictures of...

O'REILLY: It was a powder puff interview. But I want to walk through this with you, all right. You and I have known each other a long time.


O'REILLY: All right. Been through lot of wars and battles, all right.

RIVERA: And I still like you.

O'REILLY: It's hard to believe. But your taste has been questioned many times.

RIVERA: Not yours? This is worse than the Clinton thing. This is harder to defend than the Clinton piece.

O'REILLY: Yes, this is the problem. Let's start with presumption of innocence, all right. We all have to give Jackson presumption of innocence.

RIVERA: No one does.


RIVERA: How interesting you say that.

O'REILLY: I do. I think everybody in this country has to give Jackson the presumption of innocence.

RIVERA: Do you think they are?

O'REILLY: No, but it's the responsibility of journalists to give him that presumption. That is to point out, as you just did, that the leaking of the grand jury testimony was unfair. And it was, OK? But when you're dealing with a guy like Jackson who's a strange hombre — and there's no question he's not a mainstream guy. You would concede that, right?

RIVERA: I concede that.

O'REILLY: He has his children not by natural methods.

RIVERA: A lot weirder looking than, say, Ted Bundy.

O'REILLY: Well, I don't care what he looks like, all right, but he's not a heterosexual as far as every documentation can tell. He has his children by insemination with women he doesn't know. This is a very strange guy.

Why would you, Geraldo Rivera, an attorney and a journalist, put your reputation on the line, all right, by basically telling the audience you don't think he's guilty?

RIVERA: I don't, Bill. I don't.

O'REILLY: But why would you put your rep on the line?

RIVERA: Look, that's a different question. Why do I back him? Why the passion, so-called, for this particular cause?

O'REILLY: Right.

RIVERA: You know, we work on this great cable news network, the number one cable news network. I see the other cable news networks that do Michael Jackson 24/7 basically. And the attitude is this bizarre man must be guilty because he's so bizarre. You know, that's basically it.

O'REILLY: Right. That's wrong.

RIVERA: Packaging has a lot to do with it. Let me give you a little background also. On Tuesday, the 18th of January, Jackson and I spent the day together, just me and him and his children. Little underlings came and went. The P.R. person came and went. His brother, Randy, came and went. But, basically, it was just Michael and me and the kids. And it was very, very interesting.

We agreed then that we're going to do an interview, and, knowing that there was a gag order, but knowing that the judge had cut him some slack because of the release of the grand jury transcripts, we were going to do an interview that said, OK, how did you feel when they raided your house, all the traditional kind of questions that you would expect to generate the facts and circumstances of this firestorm surrounding him.

Then the attorney calls on the 18th, wait, stop everything, the judge has wind of this interview, there's going to be a hearing the morning of the 19th. So the morning of the 19th, I'm at the sound studio to do the interview with Jackson. It's all set up.

We get a call. They're actually having a hearing about my interview in Judge Rodney Melville's court in Santa Maria. The prosecution is represented. [Jackson lead attorney, Thomas] Mesereau is arguing for the rights of Jackson to do the interview.

The next result was this is one of the first interviews — and this is the news I'm giving you, the background for the interview — one of the interviews done under judicial supervision.

O'REILLY: OK. And that's fine.

RIVERA: Melville was my editor in a sense, the judge.

O'REILLY: And you were up front on your program, and you told people that. But the point of the matter is that you were sympathetic to him, that you think he's not guilty...

RIVERA: I think he's being framed.

O'REILLY: I know you do. But you don't know and I'm saying to you you're making a mistake by putting your reputation on the line.

RIVERA: I can give you chapter and verse. Well, you're probably right about that.

O'REILLY: All right. You're making a mistake, and here's what...

RIVERA: To the extent, as a friend, you advise me, I agree with you, but if you ask me to give chapter and verse...

O'REILLY: No. You can do that on your own show and analyze the case.

RIVERA: All right.

O'REILLY: But here's why you're making a mistake. This is a strange guy. He's not a normal guy. He's got an attraction to little boys, OK. Right away, there's the two red flags.

RIVERA: Objection, your honor.

O'REILLY: OK. Well, he's got an attraction to little boys. There aren't little girls that he's squiring around there, Geraldo.

RIVERA: There's been hundreds of children.

O'REILLY: No. The little boys. It's Webster.

RIVERA: All of whom deny it.

O'REILLY: It's Corey whatever his name is.

RIVERA: Corey Feldman. Macaulay Culkin.

O'REILLY: All of them.

RIVERA: They all deny anything happened.

O'REILLY: He's got an attraction to little boys.

RIVERA: He is child-like.

O'REILLY: All right. Fine. Child-like people can do a lot of damage, too. I'm not saying he did. I'm saying that you have dropped your skepticism at your peril.

RIVERA: No. To the extent that you advise me as a friend because it is damaging to my profession...

O'REILLY: It could be damaging to you!

RIVERA: I agree with that. I agree with that.

You know, I'm back — like "Saturday Night Live" is hitting me on a regular basis again. But I've lived through that lot of that. We have.

I'm in my 10th generation of TV critic now. This is my fourth decade that I've been lampooned on "Saturday Night Live."

O'REILLY: Yes, but I don't care about those.

RIVERA: I am enduring. You can disagree with me.

O'REILLY: They're jerks, but I don't want...

RIVERA: Let them disagree with me.

O'REILLY: I don't want to see you humiliated, you know, when somebody goes up there in the courtroom...

RIVERA: I am not humiliated. When the case turns, everyone's going to...

O'REILLY: You're rolling the dice here, man. You can tell the audience that, look, I think it's unfair, I think he might be getting railroaded, he might be innocent, but you're saying he is! And I'm telling you you're making a huge mistake. I'll give you the last word.

RIVERA: Well, thank you. All I caution the audience is listen to the evidence. The false imprisonment charge now exposed today by Roger Friedman at as an absolute canard. Where were these people being falsely imprisoned? In a luxury spa. You had telephones. You had $40 phone calls...

O'REILLY: All right. I don't want to try the case here.

RIVERA: But the point is that people listen to the charge and not the rebuttal. They listen to the tidal wave against him without even letting him speaking up for himself.

O'REILLY: That's the crusade you should have done, rather than...

RIVERA: The courage in journalism is sticking up for the unpopular, not the popular.

O'REILLY: Speaking up is fine. Telling people he's innocent, uh-huh.

All right. We'll see how it plays out, Geraldo.

RIVERA: OK. Thank you.

O'REILLY: Thanks for coming on, as always. Very interesting.

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