There’s an interesting brouhaha today over a report in the New York Times that Roger Ailes ordered Geraldo Rivera’s microphone to be cut when he was on Fox & Friends shortly before the election last fall, criticizing the "preposterous allegations" and politicization of the Benghazi attacks and calling out colleague Eric Bolling in particular. Fox has denied the report. But one thing is indisputable: Rivera has changed his attitude toward Benghazi. On Saturday night (5/4/13) Rivera not only treated “Benghazi-Gate” as a serious controversy, he even welcomed Ann Coulter to politicize offer her “insights” into the subject.
In today’s Times, Brian Stelter writes:
A few days before the presidential election last November, Roger Ailes, the chief executive of Fox News, ordered that Geraldo Rivera’s microphone be cut off after Mr. Rivera angrily defended the Obama administration against charges levied by others on Fox. So says a forthcoming book about the 2012 campaign by Jonathan Alter, a columnist for Bloomberg View and a contributor to MSNBC, a Fox competitor.
Rivera had several heated arguments about Benghazi on Fox in which he passionately argued that allegations against the Obama administration were overblown and politically motivated. The one with Bolling was on November 3rd (video below). In it, Rivera told Bolling, “You are a politician looking to make a political point… You are misleading the American people because you want to make a political point.”
Media Matters writes:
At about 7:12 in the video, there is an audible change in the volume of Rivera’s microphone, while his words continue to be picked up by the microphones the other hosts are wearing.
Mediaite reports that Fox denies Rivera's mic was cut. But what Fox News is to the GOP, Mediaite is to Fox News. So it's no surprise that Mediaite accepts without question Fox's denial and actually goes out of its way to give it credibility:
Mediaite has learned from a Fox News spokesperson that Ailes never called the control room that morning, but rather, Bill Shine (Fox’s EVP of Programming) did. Shine did not order Rivera’s mic to be cut. Instead his call was to urge the show to move on because the segment had come to its conclusion, as the EVP seemed to believe that two Fox personalities calling each other liars with an escalating tone made for bad morning television and could potentially alienate their audience if it continued.
One has to wonder from where Alter got his anecdote. In the clip itself, viewable here, it does not look like Rivera’s mic was ever shut off at any point during the segment. The altercation between Rivera was a contentious one — one that led to a Mediaite post — but it was most certainly an unusual one for morning television. It would make sense that Shine and other brass at Fox would want to move on, given the morning audience’s viewing habits.
But here’s one thing neither Fox nor Mediaite can deny (though the latter didn't seem to have even considered it): Rivera has drastically changed his stance on Benghazi.
On Saturday night, Rivera’s Geraldo At Large show was mostly, if not entirely, devoted to the subject. Gone were declarations that President Obama is owed an apology over “preposterous” and “reckless allegations” from Republicans. Instead, he promoted Fox News’ “questions” as to whether or not Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration lied. In the second video below, from Fox News, notice how little challenge Rivera gave to Republican operatives Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, including diGenova’s dubious allegation that Benghazi investigator Thomas Pickering avoided interviewing Hillary Clinton because he “became physically ill” at the thought. Toensing, diGenova’s wife, chuckled as he spoke. Rivera remained silent. He did not note the many reasons to suspect the couple’s political motives. And what possible justification could there be to host Ann Coulter on the subject of Benghazi if not to highlight an anti-Democratic perspective?
Also, check out Rivera’s commentary at the end of his show (the third video below) that is far more critical of the Obama administration than it is of any Republican tactics. Rivera concludes by echoing other Fox suggestions that Obama is soft on terror:
What took so long? Why isn’t the CIA in charge? This isn’t CSI Benghazi. This is war.
Regardless of what was or was not said to Rivera by any top excecutive, there's now very little daylight between Rivera and the rest of the network on the subject of Benghazi.