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Opinion Only Geraldo Rivera can change Fox News

Reporter Geraldo Rivera appears on the "FOX & Friends" All American Concert Series at FOX Studios on Aug. 24, 2012, in New York City. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
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Dear Geraldo Rivera:

Your comments last week about “Patriot Purge,” your colleague Tucker Carlson’s three-part series on the Jan. 6 riots, were blunt and devastating. The suggestion in the trailer for the series that the riot was a “false flag” operation was, as you rightly pointed out, “bulls---.”

The trailer encapsulated the conspiratorial, counterfactual meanderings of Carlson that began just hours after the conflagration. That night, when the national sense of shock over the violent storming of the Capitol was still fresh, Carlson tried to juggle condemnations of the violence with sympathy for those who’d staged the Capitol assault. “If people begin to believe that their democracy is fraudulent, if they conclude that voting is a charade, the system is rigged and it is run in secret by a small group of powerful, dishonest people who are acting in their own interests, then God knows what could happen,” he argued.

“Tucker’s wonderful, he’s provocative, he’s original, but — man oh man,” you told the New York Times. “There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated. And I worry that — and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this — but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate.”

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“Messing around with Jan. 6 stuff … The record to me is pretty damn clear, that there was a riot that was incited and encouraged and unleashed by Donald Trump,” you continued. Carlson disagrees: “The media and Democratic Party leaders created the environment that made the Jan. 6 violence all but inevitable,” he claims in the first installment of “Patriot Purge.” Part of that formulation is (unintentionally) accurate: It was the media powerhouse known as Fox News that amplified the lie that the election was stolen. President Trump, of course, did the rest, as a new investigative project by The Post demonstrates.

You told the Times that you felt a duty to speak out about Carlson. “He’s my colleague. He’s my family. Sometimes you have to speak out about your family,” you said.

As you well know, Geraldo, Carlson has turned outrage into a sport. It’s debatable whether promoting the idea of a “Patriot Purge” is any more offensive than alleging that immigrants soil the country, embracing the “great replacement theory,” undermining public trust in coronavirus vaccines through disinformation, or the many other things that Carlson says just to juice his audience numbers. As Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote, “Like Trump before him, Carlson’s premeditated lunacy serves as a promise that newer, even more lunatic lunacy is forthcoming.”

This is where you can make an impact, Geraldo. Back in January, we here at the Erik Wemple Blog called upon Fox News stalwarts Bret Baier and Chris Wallace to denounce the “big lie” programming on the network’s so-called opinion-side shows. We waited for them to answer our call, but no — they’ve kept their blinders affixed and plowed ahead with their work.

Months later, we realize we should have called on you, Geraldo, to shoulder this imperative. After all, a strong voice from inside the network denouncing the prime-time tripe will do far more than the hundreds of outside critics. People like you and only you, Geraldo, can empower those at Fox News who have had it with the evening propaganda bloc — such as all those anonymous Fox staffers whom CNN’s Brian Stelter quoted anonymously in his recent book.

Your career has had lowlights — like the “friendly fire” fiasco, the time you took issue with Trayvon Martin’s hoodie or the time you cited a 10-second hold-your-breath test for coronavirus. But you’ve also shown courage, whether it’s exposing the conditions in the children’s ward of Willowbrook State School in 1972 as a 28-year-old journalist, reporting from war zones or denouncing zealots on Fox News. (As for that time you took a semi-nude selfie and posted it for the whole world to see, we’re still trying to forget that one.)

That distinct brand of come-what-may adventurism is just what these times require. Consider, Geraldo, that your bosses at Fox News won’t try to solve the problems that you have identified. When asked whether she has done anything about Carlson’s rhetoric, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott recently told the Hollywood Reporter: “I have a regular cadence of conversations with a wide variety of talent here, including our primetime talent. I will never discuss those conversations. That’s not who I am. I am loyal first. I am loyal to everyone on the team, whether they are someone on the news side or the opinion side. To me, they are all people who work for Fox News Media, and I respect the privacy of those conversations.”

Enter you, a 78-year-old American news celebrity. Early in your career, you made a name for yourself by upending a corrupt and harmful institution. Now you can plant a twin bookend at the end of your career. Don’t shut up about Carlson.