Foxfire: The ‘new spin zone’

It was a first. The “O’Reilly Factor” was (we hope) briefly turned into a house organ “spin zone” to accommodate “Rambo Jerry Rivers” (a.k.a. Geraldo Rivera) and Fox News management.

Did you see it? Instead of the clash of the titans that viewers anticipated, Bill O’Reilly’s Geraldo Rivera interview turned out to be a massive stroke to defend the indefensible – a virtual mutual admiration society. Go figure.

Fox News has and continues to present a news product superior to any of the other networks. “Fair and Balanced” isn’t just the tag line; it really seems to be standing operating procedure. Which may be why so many Fox fans were disappointed, concerned, or ticked off with the Rivera interview. When a champion stumbles, he does not become a goat.

O’Reilly told me, and we published in a recent Sunday Q&A, “we’re just not going to permit propaganda to be spewed. That’s not going to happen.” Well, the consensus seems to suggest that is exactly what happened with Geraldo. Propaganda big time. Concerning spin, Bill told me, “See, the guys that come on ‘The Factor’ now, the people that come on, I usually get what I want out of them because they know. One of the recent interviews with Arthel Neville of all people, she wouldn’t answer the question. I just looked at her and said, ‘Listen, I’ve asked you seven times. You’re not going to answer this question?’ See, that’s the kind of stuff that people at home know.”

Yeah viewers do know, and they know that Bill never even asked Geraldo several of the significant questions once – let alone dig in and pick at the scab.

One of the “people at home” wrote, “Liar, liar pants on fire! Jerry River’s [Geraldo Rivera] can’t even tell the truth when he’s being called on a lie! Bill asked him a question and he embellished on his career and his unblemished reputation. ‘Unblemished record’ Hah! What about the assassination job he did on 20/20 about 20 years ago wherein he destroyed a viable and good company by twisting the truth to make a story. Just what was that out of court secret settlement, huh Jerry? Bill O’Reilly would do well to stay away from this particular co-worker as he will destroy Bill’s credibility and reputation just like his own.”

Another of the “people at home” wrote, “Hey, Geoff did I miss something? That love fest with O’Reilly and Rivera never got near the questions you and R. Emmett Tyrrell have asked. ‘No Spin Zone’ my —-. I hope this doesn’t become a habit for O’Reilly of bowing to management.”

Tyrrell wrote that, “Geraldo Rivera is up to his old tricks again, namely, reporting falsehoods and bullying those who oppose him. The falsehood this time is that he is to the Afghan war what war correspondent Ernie Pyle was to World War II, a blood and guts journalist wriggling under enemy fire with the GIs. The bullying this time is being perpetrated upon a Baltimore Sun reporter, David Folkenflik, who according to Rivera, ‘is going to regret this story the rest of his career.’ The offending story exposed Rivera, once again, as a fraud.”

How does a reporter “confuse” something reported today with something that happens three days later? If anyone other than Geraldo tried that with O’Reilly, Bill would eviscerate them.

According to the real military in Afghanistan, Geraldo was confined to a specific area of Tora Bora and was denied access to move around until “his papers were in order.” When asked when his papers would be in order to allow him to move with flexibility, supposedly (with a grin) the response was, “After he leaves or we do.” Questions about the allegation that Rivera was hobbled by the military were never asked.

The allegation from Der Speigel that the famous round that was fired near Geraldo causing him to dive to the ground and continue to report was fired by one of his bodyguards as part of a staged managed choreography received no question from O’Reilly. The cameraman must have been the real stud since he never took the camera off Geraldo despite apparent sniper fire. Duh.

As for Geraldo’s stellar career, read the Tyrrell piece about when Jerry tried to cheap shot Paul McHale. McHale was a for real war hero and Rivers used a blatant Clinton White House disinformation story about fraudulent decorations in an attempt to trash a better man who dared to criticize Clinton. Geraldo was compelled to issue a smarmy apology and then still willingly continued to serve as distributor of Clinton disinformation.

I like the work O’Reilly has done. He has boldly gone where no man has gone before in exposing the once upon a time untouchables: Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, United Way, the Red Cross, even the revered Hollywood elite.

Frankly we still don’t know what did and didn’t happen with Rivera in Afghanistan. A lot of people don’t like Geraldo. It is conceivable that the litany of damaging discrediting stories could be just that … stories. But if Bill O’Reilly won’t ask the hard questions and eschew self-serving spin, then who will? “People at home” count on O’Reilly to ask the hard questions regardless of race, creed, sex, political affiliation, or which NFL team they support.

Stuff happens. It may well be that Fox management would not/will not allow O’Reilly to inquisition its new star war correspondent. The golden rule still applies, “The guy with the gold makes the rules.”

When I worked for ABC in San Francisco, management had a rule that we couldn’t trash colleagues, even those who richly deserved it. We were told we could disagree on issues but to maintain the fiction we were all one big (even if dysfunctional) family. It may well be the same at Fox News, and that makes it all the more disappointing.

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