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HOWARD ROSENBERG

Readers Split On Rivera's Tactics

December 15, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG

We get letters. . . .

Geraldo Rivera mail was heavy. Like a tornado, he's noticed.

Then you begin assessing the wreckage. In the case of his recent syndicated special on KTLA Channel 5, "American Vice: The Doping of America," that means tallying the apparently innocent people swept up in live drug busts beamed to the West Coast on a three-hour delay. One of those was a house painter who was released after convincing police that she just happened to be sleeping inside a Houston house when it was raided. Another was a San Jose man arrested on live TV. By the time his arrest was shown here on videotape, however, he had already been cleared and released.

About half of the mail attacked me for attacking Rivera. A few writers also noted that I was incorrect in saying that the program made me "nauseous," when I meant "nauseated." How about just plain sick?

The mail:

While it's reassuring to learn that the judicial system still works, it is nonetheless a sad fact that the ambushed house painter in question had to spend three days in jail thanks to Rivera's foot-in-the-door (and mouth) journalism. Given this man's nose for the sensational, he'll probably see her as just another human grain to be ground exceedingly fine in his gonzo (or is it Bonzo?) journalistic mills. For example:

"This is Geraldo Rivera reporting on a very mysterious, sinister and new crime wave in America. We call our program, 'American Vice: The Painting of a Nation.' Tonight, we will reveal to you . . . live . . . the sordid story of hundreds, if not thousands, or maybe even millions of poor paint-splattered women who are being forced to live in duplexes as partial payment for painting them. You've heard of white slavery, but this is much, much worse; this is blue, green, red, and yes, even magenta slavery! Who are these women? And why are they being forced to live in houses as partial payment for painting them? Are they bad painters, or what? I'll be back . . . LIVE . . . in a moment with a stunning expose of how our male-dominated, color-blind society can enslave these innocent women. This is all LIVE, don't forget, except, that is, for my journalistic integrity, which of course is dead."

PETER MACKINNON

Santa Monica

Geraldo Rivera simply told it like it was. Why should we criticize a reporter for bringing us the truth--drugs are a dangerous game. I'd bet my life that everyone who they handcuffed during that program was either dealing or using drugs in large quantities. They'll have their day in court, and those who are found innocent should sue Channel 5 for defamation.

ELAINE CONTRERAS

Glendale

The live drug busts all ended up confiscating significant amounts of drugs and firearms. I'm sorry to say that my opinion on the matter is that no "innocent" faces were denied their legal rights by being shown on television.

KARTAR KHALSA

Los Angeles

Geraldo Rivera's so-called reporting represents the cheapest, most sensational, self-aggrandizing approach to journalism that I have ever had the misfortune to watch.

RICHARD N. GARTLAND

Los Angeles

You say one had to be on drugs to appreciate the show, but I think the opposite is true. Since it is no longer socially acceptable to take drugs, people must now get their kicks from violence and high drama--like "Rambo" and live drug busts.

As Geraldo said, there was an "adrenaline rush" watching cops kick in doors not knowing what fate awaited them. Maybe there'd be fights or even gunplay . . . all right! And tell me you didn't chortle when Geraldo snookered that two-bit dope dealer who recognized him. My favorite part was not so much the bluff, but the climax: "I am Geraldo Rivera and you're on 'Candid Camera!' "

Anyway, I think you take this stuff too seriously. Me, I take my entertainment where I find it. I'm looking forward to Geraldo's next blockbuster, "Capital Punishment: The Death Penalty. LIVE."

JEFFREY A. JOSEPH

San Diego

This morning I stopped in a restaurant for a cup of coffee. I went to the restroom and noticed the Los Angeles Times on a shelf by the wash basin. It was open and folded so that the Calendar page was exposed and the picture of Geraldo Rivera was on top.

After reading the article about him by Howard Rosenberg, I came to a conclusion: The newspaper was in the wrong place in the bathroom; it should have been at the bottom of the toilet with someone moving the flush handle.

LARRY BRITTEN

Diamond Bar

This man passes himself off as a journalist! How can he consider himself a member of this profession when he injects his own feelings and commentaries into his program . . . not to mention . . . exposing people on "live" television being handcuffed and thrown to the ground. Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty?"

DIANE THOMPSON

Hollywood

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