In a Sept. 5 analysis of Katrina coverage, Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley wrote:
"Fox's Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety."
A great image, and one that fits perfectly with the sorts of showboating we all know the man born as Gerald capable of. The only problem is that it's not true. Fox News and Rivera have provided the Times with tapes that show no "nudging," even with some outtakes. Yet the Times won't run a question or clarification.
In Howard Kurtz's Monday Washington Post column, Times editor Bill Keller explained the paper's unwillingness to run a correction this way:
"It was a semi-close call, in that the video does not literally show how Mr. Rivera insinuated himself between the wheelchair-bound storm victim and the Air Force rescuers who were waiting to carry her from the building. Whether Mr. Rivera gently edged the airman out of the way with an elbow (literally 'nudged'), or told him to step aside, or threw a body block, or just barged into an opening — it's hard to tell, since it happened just off-camera."
Got that? It's OK that Stanley said Rivera nudged the airman, Keller says, because there isn't any tape to prove he didn't.
But Rivera isn't buying that, and he's still pressing for a correction. (Incidentally, we should note, the Fox Newsman has no videotaped proof that Keller doesn't beat his wife. We're just saying.) And in today's Los Angeles Times, Rivera says he'll sue for the correction, if necessary.
Geraldo Rivera suing the Times! Over a charge of premeditated nudgery! This would be a delightfully hilarious sideshow, except for one thing: As Reference Tone demonstrated earlier in the week, Stanley is only marginally more accurate than Jayson Blair. Which means we'll never, ever forgive her for the sentence we're about to write, which goes against ever fiber of our being.
Geraldo's right, and the Times is wrong.