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Ger­al­do Rivera ( born Ger­ald Michael Riv­iera;  July 4, 1943) is an Amer­i­can attor­ney, jour­nal­ist, author, reporter, and talk show host. Rivera hosts the news­magazine pro­gram Ger­al­do at Large and appears reg­u­lar­ly on Fox News Chan­nel. He is also well known from his his­to­ry as a reporter and TV per­son­al­i­ty, and as the host of the talk show Ger­al­do from 1987 to 1998.

Ear­ly life

Rivera was born at Beth Israel Med­ical Cen­ter in New York City, New York, the son of Lil­lian (née Fried­man), a wait­ress, and Cruz “Allen” Rivera (Octo­ber 1, 1915 – Novem­ber 1987), a restau­rant work­er and cab dri­ver.  River­a’s father was a Catholic Puer­to Rican,  and his moth­er is of Ashke­nazi Russ­ian Jew­ish descent. He was raised “most­ly Jew­ish” and had a Bar Mitz­vah.  He grew up in Brook­lyn and West Baby­lon, New York where he attend­ed West Baby­lon High School. He has four sib­lings: Wil­fre­do, Sharon, Irene, and Craig.

Rivera is an alum­nus of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona, where he played var­si­ty lacrosse as goalie. From Sep­tem­ber 1961 to May 1963, he attend­ed the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York Mar­itime Col­lege, where he was a mem­ber of the row­ing team.  He received his J.D. from Brook­lyn Law School in 1969 and did post­grad­u­ate work at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia that same year. He is a mem­ber of Tau Delta Phi fraternity.

After a brief career in law enforce­ment, where­in he served the New York City Police Depart­ment as an inves­ti­ga­tor, Rivera returned to law and became a lawyer for the Nation­al Lawyers Guild.  He became a fre­quent attor­ney for the Puer­to Rican activist group, the Young Lords,  which attract­ed the atten­tion of WABC-TV news direc­tor Al Pri­mo when Rivera was inter­viewed about the group’s occu­pa­tion of an East Harlem church in 1969. Pri­mo offered Rivera a job as a reporter but was unhap­py with the first name “Ger­ald” (he want­ed some­thing more iden­ti­fi­ably Lati­no) so they agreed to go with the pro­nun­ci­a­tion used by the Puer­to Rican side of River­a’s fam­i­ly: Geraldo.


Rivera was hired by WABC-TV in 1970 as a reporter for Eye­wit­ness News. In 1972, he gar­nered nation­al atten­tion and won a Peabody Award  for his report on the neglect and abuse of men­tal­ly retard­ed patients at Stat­en Island’s Wil­low­brook State School, and he began to appear on ABC nation­al pro­grams such as 20/20 and Night­line. After John Lennon watched River­a’s report on the patients at Wil­low­brook, he and Rivera formed a ben­e­fit con­cert called “One to One” (released in 1986 as Live in New York City). Rivera report­ed Lennon’s mur­der on Night­line on Decem­ber 8, 1980. Rivera also appeared in The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2007), a movie about Lennon and Yoko Ono’s lives in New York City.  Around this time, Rivera also began host­ing ABC’s Good Night Amer­i­ca. The show fea­tured the famous refrain from Arlo Guthrie’s hit “City Of New Orleans” (writ­ten by Steve Good­man) as the theme. A 1975 episode of the pro­gram, fea­tur­ing Dick Gre­go­ry and Robert J. Gro­den, showed the first nation­al tele­cast of the his­toric Zaprud­er Film.  From 1975 to 1977, Rivera was a cor­re­spon­dent for ABC’s Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca. He gave spe­cial reports for the show.  After Elvis Pres­ley died in 1977, var­i­ous media mis­tak­en­ly report­ed that he had died from a heart attack. Rivera then inves­ti­gat­ed Pres­ley’s pre­scrip­tion drug records and con­clud­ed that he had died from mul­ti­ple drug intake. His con­clu­sion caused Ten­nessee med­ical author­i­ties to lat­er revoke the med­ical license of Dr. George C. Nichopou­los for overprescribing.

In Octo­ber 1985, ABC’s Roone Arledge refused to air a report done by Sylvia Chase, for 20/20 on the rela­tion­ship between Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe and John and Robert Kennedy. Rivera pub­licly crit­i­cized Arledge’s jour­nal­is­tic integri­ty, claim­ing that Arledge’s friend­ship with the Kennedy fam­i­ly (for exam­ple, Pierre Salinger, a for­mer Kennedy aide, worked for ABC News at the time) had caused him to spike the sto­ry; as a result, Rivera was fired. Sylvia Chase quit 20/20, although she returned to ABC News many years lat­er. The report has nev­er aired.

In April 1986, Rivera host­ed the syn­di­cat­ed spe­cial The Mys­tery of Al Capone’s Vault, an ill-fat­ed adven­ture where­in Rivera exca­vat­ed what he had been told was the site of Al Capone’s buried trea­sure trove. Rivera broad­cast live as the site was exca­vat­ed, ful­ly expect­ing to find a store of the for­mer gang­ster’s wealth. The show was heav­i­ly adver­tised, par­tic­u­lar­ly on Chicago’s WGN tele­vi­sion sta­tion. A med­ical exam­in­er was brought along for the exca­va­tion in case any dead bod­ies were exca­vat­ed. The show was on air for sev­er­al hours, dis­plac­ing reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled pro­gram­ming, as River­a’s team pen­e­trat­ed the vault he was sure would yield the famed loot. Ulti­mate­ly, the vault was found to con­tain a few bro­ken bot­tles. Rivera held one of these bot­tles aloft for the cam­era and excit­ed­ly stat­ed that it had once con­tained “boot­leg moon­shine gin”.

In 1987, Rivera began pro­duc­ing and host­ing the day­time talk show Ger­al­do, which ran for 11 years. The show fea­tured con­tro­ver­sial guests and the­atri­cal­i­ty, which led to the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of his show as “Trash TV” by Newsweek and two Unit­ed States sen­a­tors.  For exam­ple, one of the ear­ly shows was titled “Men in Lace Panties and the Women Who Love Them”; and River­a’s nose was bro­ken in a well-pub­li­cized brawl dur­ing a 1988 show, involv­ing white suprema­cists, antiracist skin­heads, black activists, and Jew­ish activists.  Reg­u­lar guests on his show includ­ed LaToya Jack­son, talk­ing about the lat­est goings on and scan­dal updates in her family.

In 1988, Rivera host­ed the first of a series of prime-time spe­cial reports deal­ing with an alleged epi­dem­ic of Satan­ic rit­u­al abuse. He stat­ed: “Esti­mates are that there are over 1 mil­lion Satanists in this coun­try.… The major­i­ty of them are linked in a high­ly orga­nized, very secre­tive net­work. From small towns to large cities, they have attract­ed police and FBI atten­tion to their Satan­ic sex­u­al child abuse, child pornog­ra­phy, and gris­ly Satan­ic mur­ders. The odds are that this is hap­pen­ing in your town.”  Crit­ics counter that more cred­i­ble esti­mates are about 10,000 adult mem­bers of reli­gious Satan­ic church­es, tem­ples, and grot­tos as well as 10,000 soli­tary prac­ti­tion­ers of Satanism; River­a’s claims of rit­u­al­is­tic abuse, con­spir­a­cy, and crim­i­nal activ­i­ty remain unsubstantiated.

In 1994, Rivera began host­ing Rivera Live, night­ly dis­cus­sions of the news on CNBC, while con­tin­u­ing to host Ger­al­do. The show was por­trayed in the final episode of Sein­feld, with Rivera as him­self report­ing on the lengthy tri­al of Sein­feld’s four main char­ac­ters. On May 20, 1994, Rivera appeared on The Price Is Right.  Lat­er, he would take his talk show in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion, trans­form­ing it from “Trash TV” to a more sub­dued, seri­ous show, and changed its name from Ger­al­do to The Ger­al­do Rivera Show (first air­date Sep­tem­ber 7, 1987). By this time, how­ev­er, the show had run its course; was can­celed in 1998.  In 1997, Rivera con­tract­ed with NBC to work as a reporter for six years for $30 mil­lion, includ­ing host­ing Rivera Live on CNBC. Dur­ing 1998 and 1999, he exten­sive­ly cov­ered the impeach­ment of Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton.