Labor Day marks 50 years on television for Geraldo Rivera and Fox News will celebrate with a one-hour special entitled “FOX Nation Presents: I Am Geraldo, 50 Years” on Sunday, at 10 p.m. ET.

“In the words of Jerry Garcia, it’s been a long strange ride,” Rivera, who has never made an appearance without his trademark mustache over five decades, told Fox News. “I’m like an old friend to so many people now. It's more than credibility, it’s familiarity, and I honor that, I treasure that. It’s my most important resource and my most valuable asset.”

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Rivera referred to himself as a ”street lawyer” who got a crash course in journalism at Columbia University during a summer program when Al Primo, the founder of “Eyewitness News,” discovered him while looking for diversity among his reporters to match the ethnic diversity of New York City.

Shortly afterward, he was quickly thrown on television at WABC on Labor Day 1970, back when the mainstream media typically didn’t take young people who looked like him seriously.

“I was like the first rock 'n' roll newsman, you know, long hair, mustache… in the 1970s I think I really spoke to that decade,” Rivera said.

Fox Nation's 'I am Geraldo, 50 years'Video

“FOX Nation Presents: I Am Geraldo 50 Years” will feature highlights from a FOX Nation’s four-part documentary series that examines Rivera’s storied career with unique archival footage from his days as a young street reporter all the way through his time as a war correspondent.

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Geraldo quickly gained prominence with a series of reports on the widespread drug problems in New York City's Harlem, but Rivera’s career took off in 1972 when the 28-year-old exposed the deplorable conditions of Willowbrook State School, where children with special needs were being abused and mistreated.

Geraldo: The story 'branded on my soul' that caused a revolutionVideo

The Willowbrook story fast-tracked his career, but Rivera feels that reaching celebrity status was inevitable.

“I know I would have been ‘famous,’ I would have been, you know, a New York celebrity,” he said. “I won my first Columbia duPont award in 1971, a few months before Willowbrook… but Willowbrook kind of supercharged all that.”

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Rivera went on to do just about everything in the television industry, from hosting newsmagazine-style “Good Night America,” the groundbreaking daytime talk show “Geraldo,” “Rivera Live” on CNBC, to nearly two decades at Fox News. Along the way he’s become friendly with everyone from Michael Jackson to Donald Trump, had roles on TV, and even first presented the historic Zapruder film of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He also hosted the infamous Al Capone’s vault special, broke his nose on live TV and anchored Fox News’ coverage when Usama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs. Rivera has accomplished a lot over the past five decades, but the Willowbrook story, which helped end America’s practice of institutionalizing the developmentally disabled, holds a special place in his heart to this day.

“The thing about Willowbrook, it gave me the philosophy of using the media as an instrument of social change,” he said.

Geraldo Rivera went from lawyer to reporter when Al Primo, the founder of “Eyewitness News” discovered him while looking for diversity among his reporters.

Geraldo Rivera went from lawyer to reporter when Al Primo, the founder of “Eyewitness News” discovered him while looking for diversity among his reporters.

Rivera discovered that he could use the media to fix a problem that people were complaining about, which he called “revolutionary” and sparked a new type of journalist that is still prominent 50 years later.

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“Everybody used television and the power of television to complain about an issue, what was revolutionary was to then use that power to change the thing we were complaining about,” he said. “Remember, Barack Obama didn’t invent hope and change.”

Rivera said that once he realized he could affect change, he went in with both feet. He calls the Willowbrook story the most important local news story of all time and is still in touch with many of the residents he helped save.

Geraldo Rivera realized he could affect change with his reporting.

Geraldo Rivera realized he could affect change with his reporting.

“It is impossible to separate me from that issue,” he said. “When I walk around New York City, to this day I have people stopping me… it is a community that has welcomed me. It’s like I’m related. They embrace me in a sense that is far beyond what a normal relationship between a reporter and the subject of a story. It is an emotional connection.”

Rivera is still haunted by the images he saw inside the facility.

“It’s something that is branded in my brain. It’s something I’ll never shake, it’s my triumph and my nightmare,” he said. “When people start seeing the world through your eyes, then you have it. There is no journalism like street reporting, real gumshoe journalism.”

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The Willowbrook story is told in detail during the first episode of Fox Nation’s “I am Geraldo, 50,” followed by the second installment “Rebel With a Cause,” and part three “Monsters, Money, and Trash Talk.” The fourth edition, which will be released on Sunday, is about his tenure at Fox News.

Geraldo Rivera breaks down in tears recalling horrific 'smell, sound and sight' of WillowbrookVideo

As the Fox Nation series details, Rivera’s fame increased during the wild Studio 54-era of New York City, where he was a regular partygoer alongside the world’s biggest celebrities. Unfortunately for current celebrities, the TV legend feels that modern technology has put the kibosh on public figures engaging in similar activities.

“The things that went on in those clubs, it was like everyone’s gaudiest dream of jet-setting, playboying and free sexing, drugging. It was just crazy,” he said. “It could never exist if everyone had a camera in those days. The only people that had cameras were the paparazzi that were outside the door.”

Camera phones are hardly the only thing that have changed the world over the past 50 years, as Rivera recalled waiting 45 minutes for photos to get developed, using motorcycle couriers to get film to the lab early in his career and sprinting up Manhattan blocks to drop off tape to his editors.

Geraldo Rivera has never appeared on TV without his signature mustache.

Geraldo Rivera has never appeared on TV without his signature mustache.

“It was wild,” he said. “How we got stuff on the air was just wild. Now, with this iPhone, I can do a hit on ‘Hannity’ and have studio-quality audio. Everybody in the country is a potential journalist… I think it’s wonderful.”

Another major change that Rivera has witnessed is the advent of cable news, which has changed itself as networks have focused mainly on politics in recent years.

"We’re such a politically charged, divided society, people want to hear their thoughts reinforced,” he said.

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Rivera’s career took another turn following the attacks of September 11, 2001, when the native New Yorker walked away from a high-paying CNBC gig and joined Fox News because he wanted to work as a war correspondent. Geraldo did 11 assignments in Afghanistan and 11 in Iraq along with multiple trips to other battle-torn areas. He’s been a fixture on Fox News ever since and appears regularly across the channel with regular spots on “FOX & Friends” and “Hannity.”

Geraldo Rivera, seen here with Cher, said he was “he first rock and roll newsman.”

Geraldo Rivera, seen here with Cher, said he was “he first rock and roll newsman.”

Rivera, who once sailed his boat around the world, has “one more nautical dream” that he hopes to turn into a reality before he walks away from life as a newsman.

“I want to go around Michigan, to Chicago, down the Mississippi River and end up someplace in Florida. I want to do that adventure and rig up the boat the way we did for the around the world trip,” he said, noting that he could do Fox News hits from the boat.

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“They can ask questions… that’s my immediate dream,” he said, joking that Fox News executives need to get on board with the idea. Whether or not that dream is fulfilled, Geraldo is thankful that it's even a possibility.

"I am so grateful that the audience has accepted me and, generally speaking, believed me – or at least believed that I believed –  for half a century,” he said. “I survived all the different changes and trends, attitudes and technology, to live so vividly and so publicly and to have sustained all of that, I’ve had more ups and downs than the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, I’m still in the car. I’m still rolling and I am so grateful for that.”

To watch “I am Geraldo, 50,” go to Fox Nation and sign up today.

Fox Nation programs are viewable on-demand and from your mobile device app, but only for Fox Nation subscribers. Go to Fox Nation today to start a free trial and watch the extensive library from Tomi Lahren, Pete Hegseth, Abby Hornacek, Laura Ingraham, Ainsley Earhardt, Greg Gutfeld, Judge Andrew Napolitano and many more of your favorite Fox News personalities. 

Source Link:
https://www.foxnews.com/media/geraldo-rivera-50-years

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