Friday, February 04, 2005

Networks Go Wacko For Anything Jacko--Katie Reluctantly Says Hi To Geraldo

Now that the Michael Jackson trial is off and sort of running, the networks are so desperate for anything and everything Jacko they'll even flog a rival's scoop for some fresh face time.
To wit, Geraldo Rivera's appearance on "Today" to talk about his interview with Jackson that'll air tomorrow on Fox News Channel, which is apparently the official network of the Jackson defense team (an hour before Mike's Mom speaks to Rita Cosby and tells the world her boy doesn't like boys in, you know, that way).,2933,146352,00.html.
It should be said that Katie Couric looked none too happy on this morning's "Today" to be sitting across from Geraldo, whom you may remember was within the fold of The Peacock with a five-year $36 million deal hosting some of his "investigative" specials along with a regular talk gig on CNBC that was well-rated, at least by CNBC's meager standards. Oh yes, he also was a semi-regular on "Today."
Despite all that, he was hardly a favorite in the news division. Many eyes rolled when he went to China for "Today" to cover a trip by President Clinton. That meant veteran foreign affairs honcho Andrea Mitchell was bumped from the trip (More on Rivera's NBC days can be found in a thorough New York magazine article by David Brock from 1998.
But NBC newsies wouldn't give Geraldo any love from the get-go. Despite all those awards, including a Peabody and a piece of 10 Emmys, he was viewed as long on swagger and short on substance. So he decamped to Fox, where it's OK to wear your heart on your sleeve and he's thrived, more or less, ever since as a war correspondent and host. Yes, there was that incident in 2003 when Rivera "voluntarily" left Iraq, after he was accused by the military of revealing details about an operation, but who hasn't done that once or twice?
The fact is, Geraldo's a trophy on the network the other networks love to hate. Still, there he was on the number-one morning show getting a coveted segment just after 7:30. Not only did he run some innnocuous clips, but came to Jackson's defense, calling the King of Neverland's accusers "grifters" and said the prosecutor was more interested in publicity than the truth. Geraldo made sure we didn't forget he was a former assistant D.A. in a past life in order to give his perspective some patina of legitimacy. He predicted Jackson would be found innocent.
Not so are Today's producers, for letting the FOX into their henhouse.

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