In April of 1986, Geraldo Rivera hosted a two-hour live exclusive called, sadly, The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults, which was hyped up as an unveiling of whatever secrets the former mob boss left behind. Some 30 million people tuned in to watch what everyone believed was going to be a bounty of riches. After building the event into a lather for almost two-hours, Rivera—who, up until this point, had been a well-respected, actual journalist—then opened the vault to find nothing but debris.
Nothing of value was in that vault. It might’ve been one of the biggest publicly televised embarrassments in the history of television, but Rivera learned an important lesson that day; a well-publicized empty vault can still have value even if there is no substance. Thirty million people still tuned in to watch the unveiling of nothing. All of them were tricked into believing a story that, in the end, was nothing.
What many don’t know is that on this day, Geraldo left something of value in that vault. Almost like a sacrifice to the gods, Rivera decided to leave all of his journalistic integrity there.
A year later, the heavily mustachioed Latino-Russian Jew began his talk show, Geraldo, which was a lemonade sip above what Jerry Springer would become. From 1994 to 2001, he hosted a nightly news show on CNBC, and then as if his work on AIDS—he was the first newscaster to air a piece on the deadly disease in 1983—never happened, Rivera joined Fox News.
Since then, Geraldo has become Capone’s vault; the possibility of what could’ve been but ultimately something that is just hollow on the inside.
On Tuesday, just one day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Geraldo Rivera, once an attorney for the Young Lords, took to the right-wing news station to call president Donald Trump—arguably the most divisive, xenophobic, racist, sexist presidents to ever sit on a White House toilet—“a civil rights leader.”
“This is an economic summit, the American economy is the envy of the world,” Rivera told the hosts of Fox & Friends, the Daily Beast reports. “I call him, to great controversy, a civil rights leader, especially yesterday on Martin Luther King Day.”
“Because why?” Rivera continued. “African American unemployment—lowest it’s ever been. Latino unemployment—lowest it’s ever been. The rising tide, the rising tide is lifting all boats, we should be celebrating, instead, he’s fighting this—this, you know, cage match.”
It didn’t take Twitter critics long to pounce:
The one-time righteous Rivera is so far off the rails that he posts shit like this to his Twitter:
But being righteous doesn’t pay well. Hell, before his death in 1998, former Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver would become a conservative Republican. And former Black Panther Bobby Seale would give up all the cookout recipes in his book Barbeque’n With Bobby. It’s hard to stay righteous when you trying to keep the lights on, but Geraldo lost something that day when he opened that vault and found nothing in it; he gave something up, and no matter how many people work to open that vault and how many people tune in to watch, he’s never going to be able to get that back.