Geraldo Rivera never blended well on “The Five.”
This was evident to the majority of Fox News viewers during every minute he spent on the set of one of the network’s most popular programs, where he was routinely defeated in battles of intellect with his better-armed, more conservative co-hosts.
Now, weeks after being dismissed from “The Five” and leaving the network in response, he admits the truth.
“They made a very pragmatic decision, a business decision,” Rivera told Mediaite, a liberal news website that focuses on coverage of the media itself.
“And it looks in retrospect that they made the right decision.”
It would be difficult to locate a Fox News viewer who disagrees.
It’s not as if “The Five” cannot accommodate a liberal perspective. The late, grumpy Bob Beckel was able to fulfill this role for many years without humiliating himself or the network with unconvincing arguments. Even though his opinions were unpopular, Beckel was welcomed as a member of the show.
(Beckel, unfortunately, had worse problems than a liberal opinion.)
But Rivera’s insufferable haughtiness and condescending self-righteousness were never a match for the quicker, better-prepared conservatives with whom he attempted to compete.
Greg Gutfeld, co-host of “The Five” and Fox’s late-night comedian, was a frequent adversary of Geraldo Rivera, scoring like the Harlem Globetrotters against Rivera’s ineffectual Washington Generals.
The fact that Gutfeld was expressly cited as one of the reasons for Rivera’s departure would not have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Gutfeld, Rivera, or the show itself.
Gutfeld may have been the most vocal of Rivera’s ideological opponents, but he was by no means alone.
Essentially, viewers of “The Five” would cringe whenever Rivera offered his opinion on a particular topic.
His opinion on electric vehicles was priceless, if only because it demonstrated how out of touch he is with average Americans.
His attack on Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett following last year’s Dobbs decision invalidating Roe v. Wade was not only spiteful, but also baseless.
In the context of a Fox News program, his knee-jerk, completely predictable liberal condemnation of Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” truckers during the COVID-19 pandemic was undoubtedly intended to be iconoclastic. It was precisely the opposite; Geraldo the Establishment was lecturing the downtrodden.
His co-hosts, however, did not allow him to get away with it, and Fox News executives are aware of where their audience’s emotions truly lie.
“Was I satisfied with how Fox handled the tensions? No,” Rivera told Mediaite.
“The other cast members were perceived to be far more significant to the overall thrust of the program than I was. And so I became a kind of collateral damage. If you look at how well that program has done since I’ve left, if anything, [ratings are] back up. So I can’t say that they’ve made the wrong decision.”
(On Thursday, according to the industry publication Advertising Age, “The Five” was the No. 1 program on cable news. That’s not unusual for the show.)
The other cast members on “The Five” — such as Gutfeld, former Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino, and rising Fox star Jesse Watters — are, in fact, far more significant than Rivera’s role as a reflexive liberal spewing empty opinions that could have been plucked from the NPR trash.
But when it came to his perspective on his role at Fox in general and “The Five” in particular, Rivera was, for a change, accurate.
“I should have left a long time ago,” Rivera told Mediaite. “But for various reasons, not the least of which was my own insecurity about where I would end up, I stuck around and I stayed too long at the dance.”
He stayed too long and was essentially always out of sync.
And he realized it long after everyone else.