NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera said Friday that the hoodie an unarmed black teenager wore when he was killed in Florida is as much responsible for his death as the man who shot him.
The veteran TV personality, speaking on “Fox & Friends,” waded in with an opinion on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a story that has attracted national attention over the past month. He later acknowledged that his comments were “politically incorrect.”
People wearing hooded sweatshirts are often going to be perceived as a menace, Rivera said.
“I’ll bet you money that if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way,” Rivera said.
The unarmed 17-year-old Martin was killed Feb. 26 in Sanford. He was wearing a hoodie and returning from a trip to a convenience store when neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. Zimmerman hasn’t been charged and says he shot Martin in self-defense.
The case brought hundreds of people together in New York with Martin’s parents for a protest march this week. The BET television network said it would air a special, “Shoot First: The Tragedy of Trayvon Martin,” on Monday.
Of Martin, Rivera said, “God bless him, he was an innocent kid, a wonderful kid.” But he said the case should be a warning to parents to watch what their children should wear.
“If you dress like a hoodlum eventually some schmuck is going to take you at your word,” he wrote in a commentary posted Friday on the website Fox News Latino.
Hundreds of people had posted messages on Rivera’s Facebook page by Friday afternoon, the overwhelming majority of them negative about Rivera’s comments.
Rivera compared his own comments to those of fellow Fox analyst Juan Williams, who was fired by National Public Radio in 2010 for saying on Fox that he gets nervous when he sees people on a plane with clothing that identifies them as Muslim.
“No one black, brown or white can honestly tell me that seeing a kid of color with a hood pulled over his head doesn’t generate a certain reaction — sometimes scorn, often menace,” Rivera wrote in his commentary.