Geraldo Rivera, who Fox News Channel said ''voluntarily'' left Iraq on Tuesday to cover the war from Kuwait after the Pentagon asked FNC to remove him, may be headed back to the front after all. The reporter has been in the military's sights since a live report Monday, in which he drew a map in the sand that revealed U.S. troop positions. But the New York Post reports that the Pentagon will allow him back if Fox chooses to send him the next time an embedment slot opens up for the network, provided that Rivera has learned his lesson. Fox has not said whether it would return Rivera to the front, but it may do so ''as long as it is clear to him and to [FNC] what was wrong the first time and that it not happen again,'' Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. David Lapan told the Post.
But Rivera has a history of such behavior, retired Green Beret Keith Idema tells the New York Daily News. When Rivera was covering the war in Afghanistan for Fox in 2001, Rivera paid Northern Alliance soldiers to desert and show him where U.S. sniper teams were hiding in the hills of Tora Bora, then broadcast their locations, Idema says. He and his fellow commandos were so incensed that ''several of us were drawing straws about who would knock him out and escort him out of the place,'' he says. Fox and Rivera have not commented on Idema's allegations.
Rivera's departure from Iraq, coming two days after MSNBC fired Peter Arnett for giving an interview to state-run Iraqi TV in which he called initial U.S. war plans a failure, has sparked a war of words between the two cable news channels. MSNBC ran a promotional spot that didn't mention Rivera by name but said its coverage would never ''compromise military security or jeopardize a single American life.'' Fox, in turn, ran a promo blasting the fired Arnett, saying, ''He spoke out against America's armed forces; he said America's war against terrorism had failed; he even vilified America's leadership. And he worked for MSNBC. Now, ask yourself, is this America's news channel?'' MSNBC told the New York Times its spot had been produced during the war in Afghanistan (were they thinking about Geraldo then?) and issued a statement saying of FNC that it was ''outrageous they would run their spot and continue to employ Rivera.'' In response, a Fox spokesman told the Daily News, ''If I'm MSNBC, I'd be more concerned about getting out of the ratings cellar than the No. 1 network's employment practices.''