- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2017

A 1991 clip of Bette Midler telling Barbara Walters that Geraldo Rivera drugged and groped her decades earlier resurfaced Thursday after Mr. Rivera sparked a backlash online for defending fired NBC host Matt Lauer against sexual misconduct allegations.

In a sit-down interview with Ms. Walters, Ms. Midler said the first time she met Mr. Rivera was a “very unpleasant” experience.

Geraldo and his producer came to do an interview with me in the ‘70s, the early ‘70s,” the 71-year-old singer said after some hesitation, noting that she would probably get in “trouble” for recounting the experience publicly. “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 word “poppers” is a slang term used for alkyl nitrite, a recreational drug made popular in the 1970s that makes a popping sound when opened and is typically inhaled.)

“Grope?” Ms. Walters asked incredulously.

“Grope me,” Ms. Midley reiterated. “I did not offer myself up on the altar of Geraldo Rivera. He was unseemly. His behavior was unseemly.”

“Wow,” Ms. Walters said before changing the subject.

Mr. Rivera, 74, addressed the encounter in his 1991 memoir “Exposing Myself,” in which he said he “put his hands” on Ms. Midler’s breasts while preparing for an interview with her in the bathroom, People magazine reported. Mr. Rivera also claimed that he and Ms. Midler had a steamy love “affair” some time after that initial encounter, which Ms. Midler laughed off in the interview with Ms. Walters.

“My husband and I, we both had a good laugh over it. I said, ‘Well, his penis went to his head,” Ms. Midler said, laughing. “The truth about it is that I didn’t remember. One thing I did remember [was] how I met Geraldo, and that was not funny.”

The clip of Ms. Midler’s interview made headlines Thursday after Mr. Rivera decided to defend former “Today” show host Mr. Lauer, who was fired Wednesday amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

“Sad about @MLauer great guy, highly skilled & empathetic w guests & a real gentleman to my family & me,” Mr. Rivera tweeted. “News is a flirty business & it seems like current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation.

“A jerk’s a jerk in dating,” he wrote. “#SexHarassment should be confined to situations where superior imposes himself on subordinate who feels unable to complain because of power of perp or feared consequences to victim’s employment. Shouldn’t be used to get even w bad bosses or hated ex’s.”

He added: “#SexHarassment allegations should require: 1-made in a timely fashion-say w/n 5 yrs. 2-some contemporaneous corroboration, like witnesses, electronic or written communications. W $ settlements in multi-millions slight chance exists some victims are motivated by more than justice.”

Fox News, Mr. Rivera’s employer, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the comments: “Geraldo’s tweets do not reflect the views of FOX News or its management. We were troubled by his comments and are addressing them with him.”

Mr. Rivera later apologized, saying sexual harassers “deserve what is coming to them.”

“Reaction to my tweets today on #sexharassment makes clear,” he tweeted. “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.”

Ms. Midler addressed the 1991 clip in a tweet Thursday afternoon, saying Mr. Rivera never apologized to her.

“Tomorrow is my birthday,” she wrote. “I feel like this video was a gift from the universe to me. Geraldo may have apologized for his tweets supporting Matt Lauer, but he has yet to apologize for this.”

Mr. Rivera has yet to respond.

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