Geraldo Rivera drew a major backlash Friday after claiming that Trayvon Martin's hoodie is to blame for his death and urging black and Latino parents to tell their kids to dress differently.
In an interview with Fox & Friends, Rivera, a Fox News commentator, said Martin made himself a target by wearing a hoodie that fateful Feb. 26 night. Martin, a black, unarmed 17-year-old, was walking home from a 7-11 when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, shot and killed him.
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"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," Rivera said. "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."
Hoodies have since become a symbol of protest in Martin's death and inspired the One Million Hoodie March. But Rivera, who first tweeted his stance Thursday night, believes the clothing sparks an "instant reflexive action" in people that suspicious activity is afoot.
"When you see a kid walking down the street, particularly 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!'" Rivera said. "People look at you and what's the instant identification, what's the instant association? It's those crime scene surveillance tapes."
He continued: "Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-11, the kid's 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."
Rivera's comments drew immediate backlash. ?uestlove
unleashed a series of tweets: "sorry @GeraldoRivera, what i gotta stroll around rocking a tux 24 7 so i can put others who are ignorant at ease? what about the OTHER side of that coin? How about parents drill into their kids that not everybody is "on drugs" (how does zimmerman know that Tray was "high on drugs"? that far away from his house? ice tea makes you walk staggering drunk? im sorry, i respect you but i have to disagree. youre basically saying there is a dress code for black & latin youth to put others at ease."
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Russell Simmons advised Rivera to read a blog entry on why white people "will never look suspicious like Trayvon Martin" and Seth Meyers cracked, "Even Geraldo's mustache is like, 'dude what the f*ck?"
Rivera defended his position on Twitter, but acknowledged that his son didn't agree with him.
"My own son just wrote to say he's ashamed of my position re hoodies-still I feel parents must do whatever they can to keep their kids safe," Rivera wrote. "Its not blaming the victim. Its common sense-look like a gangsta&some armed schmuck will take you at your word... Its sad that I have to be the one reminding minority parents of the risk that comes with being a kid of color in America--channel the rage."
Watch Rivera's comments below: