UPDATE with video Bill Maher is no fan of Geraldo Rivera, at least not anymore. That much he made clear when the Fox News correspondent appeared on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher tonight – an episode that also had Maher defending Laura Ingraham.
“I want to defend Laura Ingraham,” Maher said, decrying the ad boycott against Fox News’ “deliberately terrible person” after she tweet-slammed Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg. “Really? Is that American?”
But the real heat was earlier, when Rivera appeared as the episode’s top of the show, one-on-one interview guest (and later joined the panel on the YouTube-only Overtime segment), with Maher kicking off their chat with a sleight-of-hand compliment.
“I remember you from Willowbrook,” he said, referring to Rivera’s groundbreaking 1972 reporting that exposed the deplorable conditions of New York’s Willowbrook State School for the developmentally disabled. “I mean, you were one of the original crusading reporters, and you cared very much about your legacy as a journalist. So I do have to ask, why Fox News?”
Rivera challenged Maher on what he said was a “stereotype” of Fox News. “I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-immigration reform, I’m pro-gun control and I’m on Fox News. It’s easy because Sean Hannity is such a big personality to say he represents the sum total of Fox.
“It’s not state-run TV,” Rivera continued. “It’s conservative-leaning. MSNBC is as liberal as you could possibly be aside from this show.”
After some talk about collusion, the Trump Tower meeting and 9/11, the real fun began. Maher described the Trumps as a “sleazy crime family,” leaving Rivera to parse the difference between “sleazy” and “crime.”
“You know Trump is my friend,” said Rivera. “I’ve known Trump for 40 years.”
“I knew O.J.,” Maher pretty much shouted, “but he didn’t remain my friend when I felt he had a certain moral lapse.”
Rivera insisted that Trump has “always been gracious to me, always been nice to my family. We were on Celebrity Apprentice together every day for six weeks.”
“Who gives a shit?!,” said Maher. “He’s running the world now, what does it matter that he was nice to you on Thanksgiving? I’m not trying to be an asshole to you. You’re a smart guy, this befuddles me. I looked up to you.”
“If you don’t look up to me because I’m still friends with the President of the United States, then shame on you,” said Rivera. “Who liberated the developmentally disabled? Who stood shoulder to shoulder with the GIs in all those places? My friendship with Trump doesn’t diminish me.”
Asked whether Trump’s “lying on a scale we’ve never seen” doesn’t bother him – like the whopper that millions of people voted illegally – Rivera offered a tepid, “He has never lied to me in 40 years.”
Despite smiles and a handshake bet of $1,000 over whether a connection between Trump and Russia will be proven, host and guest found no common ground until the YouTube-only Overtime segment, when Maher asked the crusader for the developmentally disabled about his take on Trump’s imitation of a handicapped reporter.
“It was terrible,” said Rivera. “It was terrible.”