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.” From Fox & Friends:
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.
Update: Politico reported that when asked later whether he would retract his statement, Rivera replied “absolutely not.” From Politico:
Asked whether he would take back his earlier comments on Fox News in light of the criticism, Rivera told POLITICO in an email, “Absolutely not,” while citing his recently published column on Fox News Latino called, “Geraldo Rivera: Trayvon Martin Would Be Alive but for His Hoodie” that makes the similar arguments that the Fox News host made on the air.