The Strange Truth About Geraldo Rivera

Veteran newsman Geraldo Rivera has a habit of making headlines for the wrong reasons. From scandalous selfies to life-threatening mistakes, we've read between the lines to bring you the surprising and lesser known ups and downs involving this famous talk show host-turned-reporter. Tune in below.

What's in a name?

Did you know this television legend's name isn't even Geraldo Rivera? According to Gawker, his real name is Gerald Michael Riviera. As the story goes, Rivera's mother purposefully misspelled her son's last name on his birth certificate in 1943 so it would sound less ethnic in an attempt to protect him from senseless discrimination. Rivera reverted back to the original spelling of his surname in the '60s after a news director suggested an ethnic name might work in his favor. No doubt, Geraldo Rivera is a household name generations have come to know.

His memoir was a 'colossal error'

Many celebrities write memoirs as a way to control their own stories. That wasn't the case with Rivera, who seemingly rushed to air his dirty laundry with the 1991 book, Exposing Myself. According to New York Magazine, Rivera jumped the gun at writing it after hearing an unauthorized book about him was in the works. 

"His agent, his wife, and I all told him not to do it," Marty Berman told the magazine. "What he did to himself was worse than anyone would have done. If a movie star wrote it, that would be one thing. But for a newsman, it wasn't gallant. It was macho-a**hole." Throughout the book's 496 pages, Rivera shares the ups, downs, and romances of his private life—leaving no stone unturned. He detailed romances and affairs with Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, and Marian Javits, the wife of the late New York Sen. Jacob Javits, reported People. Rivera now refers to the memoir as "the colossal error of my adult life."

He defended Matt Lauer against sexual misconduct allegations

As celebrity careers tumble like dominoes amid sexual misconduct allegations, Rivera spoke up on behalf of fellow newsman Matt Lauer, who was fired by NBC News in November 2017 after a colleague complained about "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace."

Rivera tweeted the same day: "Sad about @MLauer great guy, highly skilled & empathetic w guests & a real gentleman to my family & me. News is a flirty business & it seems like current epidemic of  may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation."

Rivera's comments stirred up a mountain of controversy, and his subsequent responses continued to stoke the fire. In one tweet, Rivera said sexual harassment allegations should meet specific requirements, listing two prerequisites. He claimed all allegations should be made in a "timely fashion-say w/n 5 yrs," and should include "some contemporaneous corroboration, like witnesses, electronic or written communications." He also tweeted that multi-million dollar settlements could mean "some victims are motivated by more than justice."

After all his outspoken tweeting, Rivera backpedaled by the day's end, tweeting: "I didn't sufficiently explain that this is a horrendous problem long hidden-Harassers are deviants who deserve what is coming to them-Often victims are too frightened to come forward in a timely fashion-I humbly apologize."

Maybe that sudden humility had something to do with some old Rivera footage that began making the rounds anew...

Bette Midler claimed he drugged and groped her

In Rivera's aforementioned memoir, Exposing Myself, he describes a "torrid" relationship with Midler, including this encounter (via The Washington Post): "We were in the bathroom, preparing for the interview, and at some point I put my hands on her breasts."

Midler also recalled that moment during a 1991 interview with Barbara Walters–an interview that resurfaced in 2017 as Rivera began speaking out in defense of "courtship" and the "flirty business" of news. According to Midler, "Geraldo and his producer came to do an interview with me in the '70s–the early '70s, and this was when he was very, sort of, hot. And he and his producer left the crew in the other room, they pushed me into my bathroom, they broke two poppers and pushed them under my nose and proceeded to grope me." The term "poppers" refers to a recreational form of alkyl nitrites, which trigger temporary muscle relaxation and a head rush when inhaled. Midler continued, "I did not offer myself up on the altar of Geraldo Rivera. He was... he was unseemly."

Just another "flirty" day at the office, huh?

His daughter escaped a terrorist attack

Tragedy nearly struck the Rivera family in November 2015. Rivera's daughter, Simone, was studying abroad in Paris when the city suffered a horrific terrorist attack. She was attending a soccer match where three bombs were detonated, reported Us Weekly. The blasts at the stadium killed multiple people and occurred in conjunction with a mass shooting at a nearby concert. "I just thank God she was at the stadium and not at the rock concert," Rivera said on air in the aftermath. During those initial moments of panic, Rivera said his child's phone wasn't working. "You can imagine what it was like for us, as parents, waiting for her to communicate with us," he said. "Thank god her friend called her mom, her mom called me."

Father and daughter were reunited days later in emotional footage shared on social media. "It was an amazing relief just to squeeze her and to know that she was safe," he said, via Us Weekly. "All I can say is that the Rivera family is tremendously relieved, but we mourn so much for the other families that have suffered so much here...This was a really severe, horrible blow to the soul of the French people."

That naked selfie drama

In July 2013, Rivera found himself on the wrong side of the headlines once again, this time for an eye-opening selfie, à la Kim Kardashian. The newsman posted a half-naked bathroom selfie, which instantly made the rounds on social media. The steamy picture shows Rivera standing in the bathroom mirror holding a white towel over his man parts. His chest is exposed and hair combed back. The caption reads, "70 is the new 50."

What possessed him to post such a pic? Rivera offered a pitiful explanation about how that racy image hit the internet. "I did a great show on black-on-black crime and race relations and the Trayvon Martin fallout and federal charges...and I get home and there's no one to talk to, everyone's asleep," Rivera told radio station 95.5 FM (via the New York Daily News). "This weekend, it was tequila. I never do tequila when I'm alone, but I had this new bottle that someone had given me for my birthday. By the second one, my fate was sealed." Rivera apparently woke up the next day, discovered his selfie was breaking the internet, and at the behest of his kids, he took it down. Posting the selfie, "seemed like a great idea at the time," Rivera said.

That mustache

Rivera's mustache is probably as famous as his groundbreaking stories and public flubs over the years. In fact, his crumb-catcher caught the attention of the Mustache Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2015. The unusual organization divides the honorees into respective categories, including music, sports, and historical figures. Rivera was granted a place in the film and television category. Along with a stylish black and white photo, the hall of fame wrote a blurb highlighting his illustrious career and labeling the style of his mustache "wing tips." Others in his class include Walter Cronkite, Sam Elliot, Billy Dee Williams, Tom Selleck, and Burt Reynolds.

It's no secret that a man's facial hair can speak volumes about his profession and personality. As Rivera revealed on Fox News, his stache is older than his wife, Erica Michelle Levy. In fact, he began growing it in 1968, grouping himself among "the last of the hippies." Facial expert Dr. Allan Peterkin told Fox News that sporting a mustache means, "You're a little provocative, a little defiant. You don't care about what people are projecting onto you."

He was ejected from Iraq for endangering troops

Rivera's big mouth landed him in hot water in Iraq in 2003. According to CNN, while covering the war for Fox News, he gave away his exact location on television while embedded with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division. In fact, he reportedly drew a map in the sand while on camera to detail the troops' position. His decision to share sensitive information endangered the lives of Rivera and everyone in the military unit. The unit's commander believed Rivera "had compromised operational information by reporting the position and movements of troops," a Pentagon spokesperson told Reuters (via CNN). After that serious lapse in judgement, Rivera was reportedly escorted out of the combat zone and dropped at the Kuwait border.

He's made controversial remarks on race

It seems Rivera suffers from a terrible case of foot-in-mouth disease. Months after Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Florida was gunned down by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in 2012, Rivera suggested the teenager's attire was as much to blame as the gunman. "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was," he said on Fox News, via The Huffington Post. "I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies." When asked to clarify his remarks, Rivera said, "When you see a kid walking down the street, particularly a dark-skinned kid like my son Cruz, who I constantly yelled at when he was going out wearing a damn hoodie or those pants around his ankles. Take that hood off, people look at you and they—what do they think? What's the instant identification, what's the instant association?" Rivera later apologized for his remarks, revealing that his son was "ashamed" of his dad's comments.

But it wasn't the last time Rivera's racial commentary ruffled feathers. He also slammed rapper Kendrick Lamar's politically charged 2015 BET Awards performance. "This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years," Rivera said on Fox News (via BET). "This is exactly the wrong message." Rivera harped on Lamar's lyrics, saying such music is causing the divide in America. "It is so wrong," Rivera said, "so counterproductive—it gives exactly the wrong message."

He can take a hit

Rivera isn't afraid to get down and dirty. He was famously roughed up during a scuffle with white supremacists in 1988. Rivera, who was hosting his own talk show called Geraldo, suffered a broken nose in the mayhem, reported The New York Times. Despite his injury, Rivera reportedly decided not to go to the hospital because he had two more shows to tape. He also declined to press charges, saying, ”I do not want to be tied up with the roaches."

His views on marriage have been deemed sexist

When it comes to marriage and relationships, Rivera has a lot to say, and his commentary could be valuable. After all, he's been married five times, but for many, the man undermined his authority when he claimed on a Fox News show that women have little to offer in relationships. "Generally speaking, the man is the breadwinner, although now, increasingly, women do work," he said (via The Huffington Post). "But I think what a woman brings to a marriage more than anything else—to a relationship—is her youth. Her youth is a fragile and diminishing resource so if a woman were to invest two years in one of these marriages, and then to be rejected by the man, I think she has given up a valuable asset."

Rivera's comments stirred up a hornet's nest of drama between the sexes. He later took to Twitter to try to clarify his ideas but succeeded only in digging a deeper hole. "I stand by that statement and defy anyone to contradict the substance of my remarks. Of course women bring other vast assets to relationships." he tweeted. "Still, age weighs unequally on the sexes," he continued. "Time is money ladies, a precious asset. Don't waste yours on a man who gains everything in Beta BS."

By the way, two of Rivera's marriages lasted just four years, so perhaps those ladies took his advice and decided to make better use of their time. At the time of this writing, Rivera had been married to documentary producer Erica Michelle Levy since 2003. She was 28 and he was 60 on their wedding day.

He claims a hospital mangled his foot during back surgery

Rivera found himself in a very strange predicament when he went to the hospital for back surgery in 2010 and left with a mangled foot. According to the New York Post, Rivera attempted to settle a malpractice lawsuit in 2015 between himself and Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery. He claimed the hospital somehow destroyed his foot, although it's not exactly clear what happened. The hospital's lawyer claimed Rivera injured himself by kicking the refrigerator door in his recovery room. "I can't jog anymore," Rivera told the Post. "I can't even play tennis, ski...I promise any settlement I get, I promise I'm donating 100 percent to charity."

Since the incident, Rivera has shared countless photos (which are positively disgusting) of his foot and continues to blame the hospital for the injury. In 2013, he underwent surgery to correct his crippled toes. In one photo on his Twitter page, Rivera is seen on crutches getting into a car with the caption: "Heading home! Thanks Mt. Sinai Hospital. No thxx Hospital for Special Surgery for botched original job..."

Is he a serial cheater?

While it's easy to assume Rivera has an affinity for women, given his five marriages, it's not so easy to deduce the reasons for his divorces. A 2005 profile in the Atlantic mentioned accusations of infidelity. Rivera's fourth wife, C.C. Dyer, claimed the TV star was "incapable of being faithful," and Rivera confessed he's had indiscretions in the past. "That certainly has been my story," he told the publication. "But not now. I've been clean and sober [sexually speaking] for four years, and I've had a million opportunities, obviously, being on the road, especially being in Asia. But I've been studious about it. I figure, I've got a thirty-year-old wife—why am I going to be greedy about it? I've finally given it up. Socrates was free of it at eighty. I was free of it before Socrates." At the time of that interview, Rivera had been married to his fifth wife for two years and divorced from Dyer for five years.

Despite having stepped out on Dyer, they have since become close friends. "He's the world's best ex-husband," she said. Rivera followed up, "None of the women that existed before the dissolution of the marriage could have been my partner, because C.C. would have not tolerated it. And C.C., is in some ways closer to me than my siblings. I wouldn't say she's my best friend, because of [current wife] Erica, but those are my two best friends."

His Al Capone's vault bust was a bust

Rivera is sometimes all talk with little to back it up. In 1986, he put his career and reputation on the line with a highly anticipated TV special entitled, The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults. According to the Chicago Tribune, the program was a two-hour live event, broadcast to millions in 14 countries, promising to reveal buried treasure in the basement of a Chicago hotel. "It was an amazing high-profile program—maybe the highest-profile program I've ever been associated with in that it became coffee-table conversation," Rivera told the paper in April 2016, 30 years after the footage aired. "So there was a tremendous amount of anticipation, enthusiasm, anxiety and nervousness." But as the show progressed, it became increasingly clear that Rivera may be taking audiences on a wild ride that could end empty handed. "So as the program is unfolding, and it becomes more and more likely that I'm not going to find anything, there was a terrible, terrible sinking feeling, 'My God, the whole world is watching,'" Rivera recalled.

And that's exactly what happened. The entire exploration turned out to be a bust! When the vault was finally opened, Rivera found an old stop sign and several empty gin bottles. He promised critics that if he turned up empty-handed he'd sing a song. He kept his promise, singing the first line from "Chicago," before shamefully walking off camera.

He's got two left feet

Rivera can do many things, but dancing isn't one of them. Despite is history of foot problems, Rivera agreed to join Season 22 of Dancing With the Stars. He was the first contestant eliminated.

In their first performance, Rivera and partner Edyta Sliwinska danced the Cha Cha to Bruno Mars' "Treasure." The couple layered the complicated dance with a parody of Rivera's infamous Al Capone vault bust, but the gimmick wasn't enough to earn favorable scores from the judges. Rivera earned a dismal 13 out of a possible 30 points. After getting the ax, he dished on his short-lived experience via Good Morning America saying, "It was a lot of fun. I wish I could dance better, mainly for Edyta. She's the most superb dancer, she deserved a much better partner. She's so patient and so, so charismatic and wonderfully supportive." Rivera also agreed he should have been eliminated, saying, "If I didn't get eliminated tonight I would have demanded a recount."

Rivera did get to dance one final time in his elimination episode—this time impersonating Donald Trump as commander-in-chief.

He's prolific with a pen

Geraldo Rivera has penned a number of books over the years, and while not all of them have been super successful, it's a feat nonetheless. His career as a writer began in the seventies with Willowbrook, an expose about conditions at a school for mentally disabled children, Puerto Rico: Island of Contrasts, and A Special Kind of Courage, a collection of profiles about young Americans who acted bravely in moments of crisis. In 2008, he published His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S., and a year later, he released The Great Progression: How Hispanics Will Lead America to a New Era of Prosperity.

He's a family man

While one may think that most of Rivera's life is spent on television or attending special events, he's actually a dedicated family guy. A closer look at his Twitter page reveals he's a loving father and husband. In fact, his social media account is sprinkled with images of his grandson, snaps from the Thanksgiving table, and loving selfies with his wife. In December 2016, Rivera took his big family, including a group of friends, to South Africa for a wildlife safari. They paid a visit to Robben Island, where the late Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 years, and took a train from Pretoria to Cape Town—an item on Rivera's bucket list. He said the journey was "almost 1000 miles thru the heart of South Africa."

He was a Celebrity Apprentice runner-up

Rivera put his business cap on and nearly stole the show on Celebrity Apprentice in 2015. After weeks of grueling tasks and outrageous demands, he placed second on the reality business competition, bested by fellow talk show host Leeza Gibbons. Rivera earned an impressive $725,000 for his charity, Life's WORC, an organization that helps those suffering from disabilities and autism.

"It was a nail-biter right to the end," he told The Wendy Williams Show following his elimination. "I don't think anyone except Donald Trump knew how it was going to turn out." He also dished on the "jerk" side of his personality, saying "I saw it as someone who had to be aggressive and energetic and competitive...because I had a big bullseye on my back...When you fight that way it's not always attractive."

He has a strained friendship with Trump

Geraldo Rivera and Donald Trump have been friends for decades, but that doesn't mean their friendship hasn't seen its fair share of ups and downs. 

Long before Trump officially landed the Republican nomination for president of the United States, Rivera blasted him for his remarks on immigration. In an editorial for Fox News, Rivera said Trump doesn't have a "racist bone" in his body, but questioned his views. Rivera said he wouldn't vote for the controversial leader and urged Trump to re-think his position about building walls and deporting immigrants sayings, "they make America stronger, not weaker." 

Their friendship took another hit after Rivera suggested he owned tapes of Trump making lewd comments. Rivera later apologized, tweeting, "I apologize to @RealDonaldTrump for piling on & adding fuel to #TrumpTapes scandal. You always treated me and mine w respect & friendship."