People

Bette Midler describes being drugged and groped by “slimy” talk show host

Posted by
Amy Swales
Published

An interview in which the star recounts a disturbing incident with a talk show host and his producer has resurfaced.

As more people tell their stories, and more high-profile men are finally being held accountable for past sexually aggressive or inappropriate behaviour, old interviews and clips are being unearthed online – revealing the extent of society’s problem with sexual harassment and assault.

Now a 1991 interview with Bette Midler has been circulating, in which she describes a disturbing encounter with Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera, claiming he and a TV producer forced her to sniff poppers before groping her. Midler has since said on Twitter that he is yet to apologise.

Speaking to Barbara Walters in the video, the actor and singer is asked about Rivera’s autobiography, in which he brags of having slept with many women and described Midler as “insatiable”, according to Walters.

Midler initially laughs that she thought the description was “fabulous” as it perhaps dented the public view of her as “strait-laced”. She then says: “In a way, I had to laugh. My husband and I had a big laugh over it.”

She goes on: “But the truth about it is that I didn’t – I didn’t remember. I mean, one thing I did remember and that was how I met Geraldo. And that was not funny.”

Midler then expresses doubt that she should tell her story, saying: “I’m gonna get in trouble. It was very unpleasant.”

Prompted to explain, she says Rivera and a producer “came to do an interview with me” in the early Seventies. “And this was when he was very, sort of, hot,” she explains. “He and his producer left the crew in the other room, they pushed me into my bathroom, they broke two poppers and pushed them under my nose, and proceeded to grope me.

“And I didn’t have any – I did not offer myself up on the altar of Geraldo Rivera. He was unseemly. His behaviour was unseemly.”

Midler goes on to say: “I’ll tell you the truth, if I’d known 20 years later he was gonna wind up a slimy talk show host, I never would have… even let him in the room. You know. You have no way of knowing at the time if these things are going to come back to haunt you.”

It’s unclear whether they had a relationship, but Midler said in 2011 that they had “had sex”. Responding to a question about Rivera’s mentioning her in his book, she said: “I wouldn’t write about having sex with Geraldo. Ew.

“I had sex with Geraldo but I don’t think I would write about it. It was nothing to write home about.”

In a 1992 interview, reports the same huffingtonpost.co.uk article, she recounted the tale again in similar terms, this time describing him as “grotesque” and pointing out that she was young at the time.

“Oh, he was a slimeball,” Midler said. “Actually, he was grotesque. I was very young, well, relatively young, and he and his producer pushed me into my own bathroom and broke two poppers under my nose and started to grope me. And I kept going, ‘What is this? What is this? What’s going on?’

“My friends say, of course, he was such a charmer, right after that I had to go to bed with him. He pursued me all the way to Oklahoma. I think he was doped up.”

Responding to the rekindled interest in the video clip, Midler said on Twitter Thursday (30 November): “Tomorrow is my birthday. I feel like this video was a gift from the universe to me. Geraldo may have apologized for his tweets supporting Matt Lauer, but he has yet to apologize for this. #MeToo.”

Rivera has been forced to apologise in recent days for defending fellow TV host Lauer – who has admitted some of the allegations against him are true and was sacked by NBC – by saying news was a “flirty” business.

Rivera also said in a series of tweets that women may be “criminalizing courtship and conflating it with predation” and called for sexual harassment claims to be “made in a timely fashion – say [within] five years” as well as be subject to “corroboration, like witnesses, electronic or written communications”.

He apologised for reinforcing the damaging prevalent belief that the sooner a victim reports an incident, the more credible it is, writing on Twitter: “I didn’t sufficiently explain that this is a horrendous problem [and] long-hidden 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.”

Fox News has described his comments as “troubling” and said they were being addressed.

Image: Rex Features

Topics

Share this article

Author

Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.

Related Posts