- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Is it Geraldo bashing or Fox bashing? A peeved press has accused Fox News Channel correspondent Geraldo Rivera of false reporting, warmongering and questionable antics during his assignment in Afghanistan. But the discord may run deeper.
Mr. Rivera has not cried on camera yet, as CBS' Dan Rather did back in September. But he has carried a pistol, rolled in the sand, sported a suede bush hat and offered his portrayal of Geraldo as Hemingway, of he-man reportage, rife with guts, glory and meaningful pauses. Even his own cameraman (cameramen, who can't fake anything, are the real captains of derring-do) said, "They don't make a helmet big enough for his head."
Bombast notwithstanding, critics have questioned Mr. Rivera's credibility, both for the content of his dispatches and his decision to carry a gun in a war zone. The chorus includes CBS and ABC, a hint that the old unwritten rules of civility among broadcast competitors are eroding. Things are getting personal. (The newspaper and magazine correspondents, who generally regard the TV journalists as more entertainers than reporters, anyway, take a more bemused view of the contretemps).
"Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who couldn't bear being away from the action in Afghanistan, was hundreds of miles from the site of a friendly fire incident he reported on," CBS noted in a story, posted on its Web site yesterday, captioned "Where's Geraldo? Nowhere near site of U.S. casualties, as he claimed."
Indeed, on Dec. 6, Mr. Rivera told his viewers he was in Kandahar, on the "hallowed" spot where three Americans had been killed the day before. But Baltimore Sun television columnist David Folkenflik called him on it, eventually getting Mr. Rivera to concede via satellite phone that he had been to the north in Tora Bora confused, he said, "by the fog of war."
Some of his critics weighed in. National Public Radio called it "a firing offense" while ABC suggested, "You'd want to correct any mistake immediately."
A Poynter Institute analyst said, "Geraldo Rivera and Fox News owe their viewers a substantive explanation of what this means, journalistically and ethically."
Fox dismisses it all. "Geraldo has 'fessed up to his mistake. This is simply the Sun's attempt to advance a story which was already dead on arrival," said a Fox News Channel spokesman yesterday.
Canny viewers had much to say as well. "Liberals eat themselves and each other," wrote one observer at news Web site www.lucianne.com yesterday. "This is more attempting to bash Fox News than anything else."
Mr. Rivera has caught flak, meanwhile, for carrying a gun, an act that might be misinterpreted as hostile in war-torn Afghanistan and endanger the lives of other correspondents.
But guns fit the Fox News image, at least according to Vanity Fair's James Wolcott, who recently wrote, "Geraldo Rivera and the Viagra posse at Fox News refilled their gas bags and began taking turns on Mussolini's balcony to exhort the mob."
When asked to elaborate on CNN, Mr. Wolcott said, "They're doing everything but renting their own helicopters and, you know, firing rockets."
Not all is acrimonious, however. A bemused Terry Eastland of the Weekly Standard noted that Mr. Rivera appeared unnoticed and uncredited in full cowboy-correspondent regalia in the background of a photograph by Kevin Frayer of the Canadian Press, featured prominently in Monday's editions of The Washington Post.
"Who can believe the editors at the Post foreign desk failed to see Geraldo?" Mr. Eastland asked yesterday. "The war on terrorism is deadly serious. Diversions are few," Mr. Eastland wrote. "Kevin Frayer has with or without Geraldo's help provided one."
Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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