Politics

02.02.13

Senator Geraldo Rivera? Seems Unlikely the Fox News Pundit Will Run

The Fox News pundit says he’s eyeing a New Jersey race, even with his professional exploits and years of excessive personal baggage. A look at why the dream will remain a fantasy.

Geraldo Rivera wants to be a United States senator.

Right.

Imagine the 30-second ads against him: here he is getting his nose broken by a neo-Nazi in a brawl on his daytime talk show.

Here he is melodramatically opening Al Capone’s vault and finding … a few old bottles.

And did I mention that his memoir, filled with tales of the women he has bedded, is called Exposing Myself?

I like Geraldo, but this is delusional. And something of a stunt. He’ll milk it for a bit and then decide he wants to spend more time with his microphone.

The Fox News host let it be known on his radio show Thursday that he was seriously contemplating a run for the Senate from New Jersey in 2014. He said that in weighing a race against Cory Booker or Frank Lautenberg, he had been in touch with some Republican leaders in the state.

That's right, Geraldo, who is on his fifth wife, wants the GOP to embrace him. (Of his tryst on a Central Park boat ride with Margaret Trudeau, he writes: “The estranged first lady of Canada leant new meaning to the term head of state.”)

He’s been a liberal crusader on illegal immigration. He is pro-choice on abortion. He favors gay rights and same-sex marriage. Good luck with that in a Republican primary.

It’s not that Geraldo, who has a law degree, isn’t a smart guy. Or that everyone in the Senate is a towering statesman. And the man certainly knows how to draw attention.

The media would love to cover a Geraldo candidacy, or even Senator Geraldo, given the sizable collection of dullards that work in the Capitol.

But his career is filled with the kind of inflammatory soundbites that give campaign managers heartburn. Like when he said that Trayvon Martin would be alive if he hadn’t been wearing a hoodie. And who can forget when the military nearly kicked him out of Iraq for drawing a map in the sand about an upcoming operation?

There have been serious periods in Geraldo’s journalistic life. He started out as a good investigative reporter, has parachuted into war zones, and once hosted a smart legal affairs program on CNBC. He’s taken courageous stands at times. But he also has a knack for talking himself into trouble. Back in 2007 he went after fellow Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin for her views on immigration, calling her “the most vile, hateful commentator I’ve ever met in my life” and saying that if he saw her, “I’d spit on her.” Geraldo later apologized.

It’s not that entertainers like, say, Al Franken and Jesse Ventura can’t change their image and get elected. But talk-show hosts thrive on controversy, which inevitably alienates potential voters. Do you think Chris Christie, no shrinking violet, is going to let Geraldo cruise to the nomination? And by the way, how does the 69-year-old pundit plan to raise all the money?

The media would love to cover a Geraldo candidacy, or even Senator Geraldo, given the sizable collection of dullards that work in the Capitol. But it is probably a fantasy.

If Geraldo gets serious, Fox News would have to take him off the air, as would his radio syndicator. When such Fox contributors as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were weighing presidential campaigns, the trigger for booting them was when they took steps toward forming an actual exploratory committee.

On Fox & Friends on Friday morning, Geraldo described himself as a “modern Republican,” saying: “The Senate race is still a good year away … So I’ve got some time to hone a message, get around, and ride my Harley to all parts of the Garden State.”

Don’t worry, Geraldo fans. He can ride that bike all he wants, but the man’s not going anywhere. He'll talk up his Senate ambitions for awhile, bask in the political limelight, and then stick with his current shtick.