Video of Bette Midler recounting the alleged incident to Barbara Walters in a 1991 interview resurfaced after Geraldo Rivera defended Matt Lauer

By Michele Corriston
December 01, 2017 03:49 PM

News reporter Geraldo Rivera says he’s sorry for allegedly groping screen and stage star Bette Midler in the 1970s, though he is not admitting to sexual misconduct.

“Although I recall the time @BetteMidler has alluded to much differently than she, that does not change the fact that she has a right to speak out & demand an apology from me, for in the very least, publically embarrassing her all those years ago. Bette, I apologize,” he tweeted Friday — one day after Midler, 72, called him out on Twitter.

Bette Midler (left) and Geraldo Rivera
Mireya Acierto/Getty; Mike Coppola/FilmMagic

Video of Midler recounting the alleged incident to Barbara Walters in a 1991 interview resurfaced after Rivera, 74, defended friend Matt Lauer, who was fired from the Today show this week following accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior at work.

Midler revealed the alleged incident to Walters after the veteran journalist asked about Rivera’s claim that he and the stage star had a sexual encounter.

“Geraldo and his producer came to do an interview with me, in the ’70s, the early ’70s,” Midler said. “And this was when he was very, sort of, hot. And 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.”

(The word “poppers” is slang for the recreational drug alkyl nitrite.)

Rivera addressed the encounter in his 1991 memoir called Exposing Myself, which was reviewed by the Washington Post at the time. A short line about the encounter was excerpted, in which Rivera wrote, “We were in the bathroom, preparing for the interview, and at some point I put my hands on her breasts.”

As for Lauer, 59, Rivera tweeted on Wednesday, “Sad about @MLauer great guy, highly skilled & empathetic w guests & a real gentleman to my family & me,” adding, “News is a flirty business & it seems like current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation.”

Matt Lauer
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Following his tweets, Rivera issued an apology Wednesday evening after receiving backlash: “Reaction to my tweets today on #sexharassment makes clear I didn’t sufficiently explain that this is a horrendous problem 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 also issued a statement: “Geraldo’s tweets do not reflect the views of FOX News or its management. We were troubled by his comments and are addressing them with him.”