Geraldo Rivera Jumps Shark: Suggests Trayvon Martin’s Hoodie Contributed to Death

I’m mostly offline today but I went online enough to see this mind-boggling assertion by Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera. I’ve often defended Rivera, noting that he was an excellent reporter in his earlier years before me became more celebrity than working journalist. But no more.

My reaction is not “PC.” It’s to the logic and the fact that it sends out a VERY dangerous message to others. He deplored the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin but suggested that Martin wearing a hoodie was part of the reason and that when people dress that way, that can happen. Think Progress:

On the March 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera reacted to the killing of 17-year-old, unarmed Florida resident Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman by claiming, “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman.”Rivera said: “I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted” but went on to claim Martin “wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way.”

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Let’s talk about the Trayvon Martin case and what’s going on in Florida right now.

GERALDO RIVERA: Well, I have a different take, Brian, on that. I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.

JULIET HUDDY (guest-host): What do you mean?

RIVERA: When you, when you see a kid walking — Juliet — when you see a kid walking down the street, particularly a dark skinned kid like my son Cruz, who I constantly yelled at when he was going out wearing a damn hoodie or those pants around his ankles. Take that hood off, people look at you and they — what do they think? What’s the instant identification, what’s the instant association?

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Uh-oh.

RIVERA: It’s those crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-11, the kid is wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or they get the old lady in the alcove, it’s a kid wearing a hoodie. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta, you’re gonna be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens. It is an instant reflexive action. Remember Juan Williams, our colleague? Our brilliant colleague? He got in trouble with NPR because he said Muslims in formal garb at the airport conjure a certain reaction in him or response in him? That’s an automatic reflex. Juan wasn’t defending it. He was explaining that that’s what happens when he sees these particular people in that particular place.

When you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street. You try to avoid that confrontation. Trayvon Martin’s you know, god bless him, he’s an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hand. He didn’t deserve to die. But I’ll bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that — that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way.

DOOCY: What about the fact that — I mean, the people of New York, a couple of nights ago, they had a “Million Hoodie March.” You’re not helping.

RIVERA: You can not rehabilitate the hoodie. You’re not going to — I understand that the reaction might be overzealous or even irrational in some extent, I mean, when you look at the statistics. It may be. But you’re not going to rehabilitate the hoodie. You’re not going to –
DOOCY: Just stop wearing it.

RIVERA: Stop wearing it! Don’t let your kid — you know the old Johnny Cash song, don’t take your gun to town, son. Leave your gun at home. There is some things that are almost inevitable. I’m not suggesting that Trayvon Martin had any kind of weapon or anything, but he wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way and if he had been dressed more appropriately, I think unless it’s raining out, or you’re at a track meet, leave the hoodie home. Don’t let your children go out there.

HUDDY: Perception is reality.

So we learned here: Rivera thinks hoodies are gangsta gear. REALITY:

DEAR MR. RIVERA:
Let me clue you in:
1. You see people of all ages wearing hoodies. Visit any school. Elementary schools. Some of these kids wear hoodies. So if an 8 year old is blown away by some guy who feels he has authority because he sees a kid in a hoodie it’s understandable? How old do you have to be when it is understandable that wearing a hoodie a)may get you murdered, b)may be an explanation for the murder? Except for wearing a ski mask, since when does a piece of clothing in any way explain or even remotely justify ending someone’s life?
2. I have seen many young kids and people of all ages and races wearing hoodies. Should they now make hoodies with targets on their backs since that what hoodies really are?
3. If someone wears baggie pants is it understandable that they be shot dead if they are armed with Skiittles and iced tea?
4. Suppose a man wearing a tux or leather jacket is killed in a very poor neighborhood. What would you say to someone who said, “Well he was earing a tux and leather jacket in a poor neighborhood. That’s what you get when you decide to dress wealthy in a poor area.”

The hotel I’m in now has a computer that won’t let me post graphics so I can’t post the jump the shark graphic.

It isn’t PC to object to Rivera’s comments. If he was on any other network than Fox he’d be demoted. But, then, his comments have demoted himself more than Fox could ever demote him.

You’ve heard of the Twinkie defenses? Geraldo is seemingly suggesting a new one:

The Hoodie defense.

P.S. Mr. Rivera. Get out of your limo and visit places with young people of all ages. Young people of all ages and sexes wear hoodies. It is no longer gangster attire. In fact, when I was living in New Haven, CT in the 50s jackets with hoodies were standard fare in the winter and spring.

But no one considered me a Jewish gangster.

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  • Rcoutme

    Joe, calm down! I am not going to defend Rivera, but he did not justify the killing of Trayvon because the kid was wearing a hoodie. He equated the hoodie to wearing a ski mask (your metaphor, but a good one to what Rivera was saying). Fair is fair. He pretty much condemned the shooting and insisted that the reaction was not logical. He was asserting that the unreasonable reaction would be repeated.

    I agree that his claim has sent a chill down my spine. I love to wear hoodies. Is he suggesting that I throw them out in order to prevent nut jobs from using me for target practice? Even still, he did not justify the shooting; he is only trying to come up with some sort of explanation for it.

  • roro80

    ” he did not justify the killing of Trayvon because the kid was wearing a hoodie”

    that seems to be in direct conflict with what he said, Rcoutme.

    “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”

    As I said in the last thread, Rcoutme, we are infused in this culture with the idea that young black men are dangerous. In the last thread, you insulted me deeply with a totally inappropriate and ignorant answer. So here it is, being said by Geraldo, and you are defending it. Women who wear certain types of clothing are not responsible for “getting raped”, and men who wear common clothing while black are not responsible for “getting shot”. Rapists rape, and shooters shoot people.

    And, since you are white, don’t worry about losing your ability to wear hoodies. I, too, am white (and a blond woman at that), so I won’t have to worry about people telling me I look too gangsta in the hoodie I’m wearing today. But I’m sure you’re right — it’s just me and my awful racist upbringing that leads me to believe that there is a racial subtext that teaches us to be afraid of young black men. Maybe my parents and Geraldo’s parents are the same people.

  • Rcoutme

    I apologize if I insulted you. As for his claiming that the hoodie was just as responsible as Zimmerman–that actually supports my point. He is not saying that the killing is justified. Once again, I AM NOT DEFENDING RIVERA’S COMMENT. I am only pointing out that he did NOT justify the killing.

    You are suggesting that the boy’s race was a significant contributing factor. Does that mean you are blaming the boy for being black, thus justifying the killing? No! Give Mr. Rivera the same consideration that you want. He suggested that the boy wearing a hoodie caused an unstable man to equate hoodie = dangerous.

    I don’t happen to agree with Rivera, but I am not going to accuse him of something he clearly DID NOT DO. He did not suggest that all black, young men wearing hoodies be used for target practice. If anything, he was suggesting that young, black men no longer wear hoodies because unstable idiots WILL use them for target practice. That does not mean he condones them for doing so.

  • roro80

    “You are suggesting that the boy’s race was a significant contributing factor. Does that mean you are blaming the boy for being black, thus justifying the killing? No!”

    Uh…no, I’m putting the blame on the shooter for being a racist who acted out his racism with lethal violence, and the police who have obfuscated the evidence in order to allow Zimmerman to go free. Rivera is putting the blame on the hoodie, the kid who wore the hoodie, and the parents who let their children wear hoodies. As much blame, he says, as should go to Zimmerman. This is classic victim blaming, Rcoutme, and it’s not ok.

    Marginalized people are told they can’t act like everyone else or the crimes committed against them are on their own heads. Don’t wear a low-cut shirt. Don’t drink too much. Don’t walk home alone. Don’t walk through a parking lot without your keys in your hand. Learn martial arts for self-defense. Don’t sag your pants. Don’t wear hoodies. Don’t listen to hip hop. Don’t wear your hair in a fro or cornrows or buzzed or long or short. Don’t walk to the store to get snacks. Watch your back. Get a peephole in your door. Get a security system. Always walk in groups. Never walk in groups.

    It’s all just victim blaming to try and blame someone for the crimes committed against them. It’s a natural thing — we have to pick out something that this kid was doing wrong (it evidently doesn’t even matter what it is) so that we can tell other people how to prevent their own murders. It makes us feel safe. Oh, well, this was a black kid wearing a hoodie, so since I will never be a black kid wearing a hoodie (how dare he!), I should be fine. But how do you think all the black and dark-skinned Latinos feel in Florida right now? Do you think they feel safe? Do you think they feel confident that if someone stalks them from a car and shoots them for no reason, that their murderer will come to justice?

  • rudi

    Of course GH was insulting and stupid. Many young males, black, white or other dress in the hip hop style. If Mittens sons or grandsons were wearing hoodies would they be considered as dangerous?

  • roro80

    “I am only pointing out that he did NOT justify the killing.”

    Also, Rcoutme, I don’t know why you keeps harping on this point. Neither Joe nor I implied that Rivera is saying that what Zimmerman did was ok because the kid was wearing a hoodie. He is telling all black people to change the clothing they wear so they don’t get shot. See: “I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies.” How about, instead of putting this on the heads of every parent of a black kid, we could instead put it on people like Zimmerman to, oh, I dunno, stop being a violent racist.

  • slamfu

    Rcoutmen you are so off base on this I don’t even know where to start. Rivera was absolutely blaming the kid for wearing a hoodie in plain language. Blaming the victim is part and parcel of justifying what just happened. Man gets hit by a meteor and killed instantly. What that you say? He shouldn’t have been standing there? Good point. He is every bit as much to blame as the meteor that stalked him while being recorded by a 911 dispatcher.

  • adelinesdad

    Rcoutme,

    I understand the argument you are trying to make, and I agree that Geraldo is not justifying Zimmerman’s actions, obviously. However, Geraldo’s argument is still nonsensical, if not racist. It reminds me of the argument over the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords where everyone wanted to talk about overheated rhetoric as a contributing factor, citing the fact that it might be misinterpreted by a psycho. I didn’t like the argument then and I don’t like it now. People should not be restricted in what they say or do because someone might illogically misinterpret it. I object to being held responsible for how someone unreasonably misinterprets something I am doing or saying.

    And in this case the argument is even worse than in the Giffords case (in case I’ll be accused of drawing a false equivalency), because:

    (a) Giffords didn’t contribute to the overheated rhetoric, but Trayvon did wear the hoodie, so it seems particular insensitive since it comes across as blaming the victim. (Although Geraldo doesn’t justify the killing, the argument he makes DOES inherently put partial blame on Trayvon and his dad for allowing him to wear the hoodie).

    (b) As others have mentioned, there is nothing remotely wrong or uniquely “gangsta” about wearing a hoodie.

  • bluebelle

    As the parent of a teenager with many teenage friends, I have to agree with that last sentence. Its standard dress for all teenagers regardless of race, sex, class etc.

    To me its like the old argument for rape– yes of course its wrong, but look what she was wearing says she was asking for it

  • dduck

    Remwmber Blackboard Jungle? Well when I was in H.S., that movie came out and we all were kind of tainted by the imagery of wild kids in NYC schools. The News and I believe the Daily Mirror jumped on the band wagon. Nothing was further from the truth.

    My mother didn’t want me to wear “cargo” pants and my J.H.S agreed as they banned them, because they felt they carried a negative image (go figure).

    Later, The Wild Ones and motorcycle jackets. Oh, you get the picture there are plenty of examples.

    Geraldo may be wrong in his conclusion, but he is making the the point that clothes do make the man/woman, in a negative or positive way. Hey, try to get into a cool club with your chinos and bobby sox, sometime.

    Jumping all over RC doesn’t change our old-fashioned bias against certain clothes.

    The problem is that he had a weapon, which groups like the Guardian Angels don’t carry cause if you ain’t got a weapon you can’t add to the problem.

  • The_Ohioan

    Geraldo is worried for his kids’ safety and Joe (I’m assuming here) is worried for his kids’ safety and neither want their kids to become a target for some racist with a persecution complex. Perfectly understandable – we all feel the same way.

    This incident makes all parents nervous because we can’t protect our kids against random violence and react strongly when such horrors occur. Geraldo blames particular clothing because he sees that clothing as denoting a certain type of person to some people, and doesn’t want any kid to be killed in part because of wearing the current fasion.

    Gangsta gear IS a style – baggy pants, hoodies, oversize tee-shirts and jewelry – which can be purchased on several “gansta” websites. Kids wear them because kids always wear rebel (and celebrity) gear. In my day it was tight jeans and leather motorcycle jackets (The Wild One) and duck-tail hair cuts.

    And bad people wearing such gear are caught on camera doing all kinds of bad things – which is Geraldo’s point. If all baddies wore preppie clothing, we would have a tendency to associate that clothing and bad behavior.

    I find Geraldo admirable for wanting to keep all kids safe; even though not wearing certain clothing probably won’t help, he thinks it might. I find Joe admirable for wanting the same thing and getting upset about what he sees as a foolish response from a worried father. Both are trying to be good parents. We all are.

    Peace.

  • DaGoat

    You know there is some truth to what Geraldo and some of the commenters are trying to say, but my take is that this is such a effed-up move by Zimmerman and such a tragedy that the time is not right to start a diatribe against hoodies. By all accounts the kid did nothing wrong and the tapes apparently show that Zimmerman was the guy that escalated the situation. One of the rare times I agree with Al Sharpton – Zimmerman should be in jail. Even if Geraldo didn’t mean to imply that Martin bore some responsibility for what happened, that’s sure the way it comes across.

  • zephyr

    FYI, hoodies aren’t anything new. We wore them all the time as teenagers back in the 60′s in Michigan. Everyone I knew had them. That was almost 50 years ago! They’ve been around every single year since then. Nobody stalked us and killed us for it. What is wrong with Rivera???

  • Rcoutme

    “So if an 8 year old is blown away by some guy who feels he has authority because he sees a kid in a hoodie it’s understandable? How old do you have to be when it is understandable that wearing a hoodie a)may get you murdered, b)may be an explanation for the murder?”

    3. If someone wears baggie pants is it understandable that they be shot dead if they are armed with Skiittles and iced tea?
    4. Suppose a man wearing a tux or leather jacket is killed in a very poor neighborhood. What would you say to someone who said, “Well he was earing a tux and leather jacket in a poor neighborhood. That’s what you get when you decide to dress wealthy in a poor area.”

    Sorry, but those quotes suggest that Rivera was justifying the killing; he was not.

    Roro: try to understand something. I AM ON YOUR SIDE!!!!

    “It’s all just victim blaming to try and blame someone for the crimes committed against them. It’s a natural thing — we have to pick out something that this kid was doing wrong (it evidently doesn’t even matter what it is) so that we can tell other people how to prevent their own murders. It makes us feel safe.”

    Yes. That is exactly correct. Rivera was wrong (as I asserted above). I was only pointing out that he was not justifying the killing (although I agree that he did incorrectly equate the wearing of a hoodie with the actions of the perpetrator).

  • bluebelle

    Maybe the rest of the gangsta wear is questionable– but even many adults wear hoodies- so I find Rivera’s remark out-of-step with today’s world. Walk on any high school or college campus and that is what you will see 75% of the kids wearing.

    When there is a shooting we blame the shooter not the weapon. So in this case we also need to put 100% of the blame on the shooter– not the hoodie

  • dduck

    Snarky remark: I am sure Sharpton and Jose Serrano from the Bronx are only interested in Justice and not their own self aggrandizement. (Took them a while to get to Fl, could be the publicity was not high enough three weeks ago.)

    Yes, this tragedy is bordering on a circus.
    (Never let a crisis go to waste.)

    Plus, I expect to be called an insensitive, bigoted, racist Republican.
    BTW, what sort of federal investigation does this matter need?

    To, Geraldo, ditch the mustache, don’t you know it makes you look like a bad guy.

  • DaGoat

    Actually dduck it crossed my mind there is a similarity between Geraldo and Sharpton in that both are using the tragedy for their own self-interests. The difference is that Geraldo appears to minimize what looks like a real miscarriage of justice.

    I also question whether this is the right time for a federal investigation, seems like it needs to play out a little bit first.

  • dduck

    DG, Obama mentioned federal yesterday, as reported on the front page, lead column of the NYT, today.

  • DaGoat

    Yep I saw that – I thought Obama’s comments in general were fine although I don’t see where the feds need to get involved yet.

  • dduck

    They don’t that’s the point.

  • StockBoyLA

    Rivera IS justifying Zimmerman’s actions with the hoodie,

    “I’m not suggesting that Trayvon Martin had any kind of weapon or anything, but he wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way and if he had been dressed more appropriately, I think unless it’s raining out, or you’re at a track meet, leave the hoodie home.”

    “…he wore an outfit that ALLOWED SOMEONE TO RESPOND in this irrational, overzealous way.”

    If that’s not justification I don’t know what is. The whole conversation is justification. Rivera was saying that Martin should not have worn the hoodie. And why did Rivera say that Martin should not have worn the hoodie? Because it allowed Zimmerman to respond in that way.

    Speaking of which… We don’t (or at least I don’t) even KNOW if the hoodie was “up” or “down”. The examples Rivera gave of guys wearing hoodies and robbing stores gives me the impression that Rivera was referring to people who covered their heads with hoodies to commit crimes. Was Martin wearing his hoodie “up”?

  • StockBoyLA

    The Florida law enforcement should have handled the case. However they did, determined that no crime had been committed and let it drop. This happened back in February. It seems that the parents tried to get FL officials to investigate further. Three weeks later Trayvon’s parents ask the Justice Dept. to become involved.

    If Florida could properly investigate the case then the federal government would not have to. However FL screwed it up and refused to reopen the matter. It’s a shame local law enforcement dropped the ball on this, but that’s the whole point of why everyone is in an uproar…. the actions and sloppiness of the police and the police’s easy dismissal of the shooting of a black teen.

  • StockBoyLA

    roro80: your comments about people finding reasons to blame the victim…. spot on right.

  • StockBoyLA

    Interestingly Rivera said this, “I think unless it’s raining out, or you’re at a track meet, leave the hoodie home.”

    So he’s not against hoodies. You just have to wear them for the right occasion. But if you’re going to a track meet, that means you’re leaving your house and will be walking down the street. I doubt someone who is thinking of killing you because you’re wearing a hoodie is going to go up and ask you if you’re going to a track meet.

    Rivera said it was fine to wear a hoodie if it’s raining. What if it’s chilly? Is it OK to wear something to protect you from the elements? I did a quick search for the weather in Sanford, FL the day Trayvon was murdered. The low was 51 and the high was 69. If I were in Sanford, FL that day walking to the store chances are I would have been wearing a hoodie. And chances are I would not have been shot since I’m white and have blond hair.

    http://www.almanac.com/weather/history/zipcode/32771/2012-02-26

  • DaGoat

    @StockBoyLA

    A grand jury is being empaneled on April 10th to consider murder charges against Zimmerman. Florida should be allowed to work through their process before the feds get involved.

  • dduck

    DG, Sorry it took so long (we wouldn’t be blogging if they were faster),not a good reflection of law enforcement and protection in that area.