There’s getting out ahead of a story, and then there’s creating a negative narrative that might not otherwise exist. Longtime TV newsman Geraldo Rivera was on Twitter recently, apologizing for a book that’s been out for more than 25 years.
Apologizing for a book even though no one is really asking him to, and that’s creating some awkward possibilities for the media star. Rivera started the conversation by tweeting out his “embarrassment” about the contents of a tell-all book published in 1991. The book, “Exposing Myself,” includes content about what Rivera describes as “consensual events” that he now finds “distasteful” as well as “disrespectful.” Rivera went on to say how he’s “profoundly sorry” to all the women described in the book, as well as anyone who might be offended by the contents of that narrative.
Since no one is coming after Rivera about the book, and no one seems to be complaining about the content, one might be forgiven for wondering what’s going on. Is it just another marketing ploy to try to get some Christmas sales? Maybe, but more likely, it’s a reaction to a tweet by Bette Midler. The “Divine Ms. M” reminded everyone last week that she was “drugged and groped” by Rivera back in the 1970s. This is not the first time Midler has made these allegations. She brought them to light back in 1991, during an interview with Barbara Walters.
In the interview, in which Midler seems reticent to disclose the story but is encouraged by Walters, Midler recounts being “pushed into my bathroom…” Once inside, Midler says “they” (meaning Rivera and another person) “broke two poppers and pushed them under my nose and proceeded to grope me…”
Midler insists the incident was far from consensual. “I did not offer myself up on the altar of Geraldo Rivera…”
Along with her tweet recalling the alleged incident, Midler demanded an apology from Rivera, adding the popular hashtag “#MeToo.”
While Rivera shared his message via Twitter as well, he didn’t mention Midler at all. It didn’t take much for people to make the connection, however. After Rivera’s comments and apology – again, not to Midler or anyone specific – there hasn’t been much else said. Fox News, where Rivera currently works as an on-air contributor, has not yet commented. More comments may be coming, though. In not directly responding to Midler, but, instead, bringing up past dalliances he calls “consensual,” Rivera may have tried to get out ahead of any potential fallout … and he may have inadvertently created a backstory that could come back to bite him. While in the book and in his tweet, Rivera insists the affairs were consensual, with Midler’s accusation hanging out there, some, at least, will call that into question. And, in the current atmosphere, people are likely to believe the accusing victim, rather than the accused perpetrator.
How will this all play out? Largely depends on who says what next.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.