After longtime “Today” show host Matt Lauer was fired over allegations of sexual misconduct, Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera defended him, claiming that women who come forward with their sexual harassment experiences “may be criminalizing courtship.”
Writing over Twitter on Wednesday that he feels “sad” about Lauer’s termination, Rivera called the host a “great guy” who was “empathetic [with] guests” and “a real gentleman.”
“News is a flirty business,” he continued, later adding: “How do we explain so many newsroom courtships that have led to happy marriages?”
“It seems like [the] current epidemic of #SexualHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship [and] conflating it [with] predation,” he wrote.
Rivera also pitched a very limited definition of sexual harassment and suggested some people’s complaints may be simple attempts to “get even” with “bad bosses or hated ex[es],” perpetuating rhetoric that questions victim credibility.
A Fox News representative reached out to HuffPost on Wednesday night to share the following statement:“Geraldo’s tweets do not reflect the views of Fox News or its management. We were troubled by his comments and are addressing them with him.”
Rivera apologized and walked back his remarks late Wednesday night.
“I didn’t sufficiently explain that this is a horrendous problem long hidden,” he said over Twitter. “Harassers are deviants who deserve what is coming to them ― Often victims are too frightened to come forward in a timely fashion ― I humbly apologize.”
Lauer was terminated from NBC News on Wednesday after two decades on the “Today” show following a complaint from an unnamed female colleague. The woman’s lawyer said in a statement that she was not ready to reveal her identity.
NBC News Chairman Andy Lack did not reveal the nature of the woman’s complaint, which the organization later confirmed stemmed from an incident at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Lack added that NBC has “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
A report by Variety published later in the day detailed multiple misconduct accusations against Lauer. The former “Today” star reportedly gave one female colleague an explicit note and a sex toy, exposed himself to another and asked female producers blunt questions about their sex lives.
Variety reporter Ramin Setoodeh tweeted earlier Wednesday that NBC knew of the outlet’s investigation, which was the product of two months of work.
Soon after the Variety report, The New York Times published an account from another woman who said Lauer once called her to his office for sex.
In his Twitter screed, Rivera invented a list of requirements for sexual harassment complaints, saying a “slight chance exists” that “some victims are motivated by more than justice” due to “settlements in multi-millions.”
Rivera’s reaction to the news of Lauer’s firing bears a strong resemblance to his response to allegations against the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes.
In a Facebook post last fall, Rivera also referred to journalism as “a flirty business.” He said he regarded one of the former Fox chief’s accusers with “extreme skepticism” due to his own personal experiences.
Ailes was forced out of the network in 2016 amid a barrage of sexual harassment accusations.
In a 2014 interview, Rivera lauded workplace culture in the “’70s and ’80s” and bemoaned contemporary “workplace protections.”
“Now if you look at an intern with cross-eyes you go to jail, I mean, you get fired,” he told The Blaze. “It was almost like sex was free. You have no HR, no human resources, no workplace rules against it.”
Rivera has faced a clear accusation of sexual abuse from Bette Midler, who once told Barbara Walters that Rivera and a producer “broke two poppers and pushed them under my nose and proceeded to grope me” in the 1970s.
This story has been updated with a statement from Fox News and an apology from Rivera.