Veteran journalist and TV personality Geraldo Rivera dropped by the studio Tuesday morning ahead of his upcoming Fox News special "Beauty and the Beast, When Kate Met Chapo." Howard and Geraldo discussed a wide range of topics during his visit, including his opinions about Donald Trump, who the snobbiest actor in Hollywood is, his relationship with John Lennon, and El Chapo's demise.
Check out the highlights from Tuesday's interview with Geraldo Rivera below.
Geraldo Calls Out His Friend, Donald Trump
When Howard and Geraldo's discussion turned toward their mutual friend, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Geraldo didn't mince words.
First, he described Trump's well-publicized animosity toward his Fox News colleague Megyn Kelly as "silly." "One hard question from one hard reporter and you're going to go off like this?" Geraldo said. "I thought it was weird and it was pointless. Very, very uncomfortable."
Then, the self-described Puerto Rican Jew called Trump out for his hardline stance on immigration. "I begged him on immigration. I begged him," Geraldo told Howard, "In a general election, how could I vote for someone who wants to deport families that have citizen children? You can't do that."
Geraldo went on to criticize The Donald for failing to quickly disavow noted white supremacist David Duke and also his repeated calls for building a wall between the United States and Mexico.
"The wall's gonna be, what, 20 feet high?" Geraldo joked. "They're gonna spend billions and billions and the Mexicans are gonna have a 21-foot ladder that they'll get for three bucks at Home Depot."
Still, Geraldo said Trump knows that he loves him and he thinks that he understands why the candidate has taken such controversial positions on so many issues.
"The problem is this, Howard - if you want to be the Republican nominee these days you have to be a crazy person," Geraldo continued. "You gotta be nuts."
A Liberal Puerto Rican Jew on Fox News
It may seem curious for Geraldo to be a correspondent for Fox News considering his stance, but Rivera told Howard that the transition was for a very specific reason.
Geraldo had a good thing going when he worked at CNBC in the late '90s. He had his own show, "Rivera Live," which he said earned him $5 million a year. He told Howard that allowed him to get out of the daytime talk show business, which grew tiring considering it was so often exploitative in nature.
Geraldo had been a member of the arguably left-leaning mainstream media for over 40 years when, in 2001 he took a pay-cut to become a war correspondent for the conservative outlet Fox News. Howard wondered why the self-described Puerto Rican Jew from New York would sign on with a right-leaning network.
"Because they took down the towers, the scumbags took down the towers," Geraldo told Howard. "I had to go to war and NBC wouldn't let me."
"Remember where I was at that time," Geraldo continued. "I lived in Mammoth County ... Middletown, New Jersey. 135 dads we lost … the highest per capita anywhere. We lost six dads in my kid's grade school ... I was so angry, that it's so personal and NBC says, 'We have war correspondents, you're on the #1 rated cable show, you gotta stay here,' and, you know, I said, 'I can't.'"
So, when Fox News chief Roger Ailes approached him after 9/11 and offered him a job covering the war in Afghanistan for half of what he was making at his last gig, Geraldo took it. And he's stayed at Fox News ever since.
How is working at Fox News different than the other cable networks?
"Every place else I've ever worked, it's basically run by Jews," Geraldo explained. "Fox is the only place I've ever worked where it's run by Irish Catholics. So they're anti-abortion, they're anti-immigration, they have a different world view."
Exposing Willowbrook State School
Howard spoke with Geraldo about his early days as an investigative reporter at New York's WABC-TV, including the up-and-coming newsman's first big break: his Willowbrook State School exposé in 1972, which revealed gruesome conditions for neglected mentally disabled children enrolled there.
"It's one of those things, like I can talk about it now and I'd be weeping in a minute … It was worse than the worse dog kennel," Geraldo told Howard. "Kids smeared with their own feces, naked, unattended, one attendant 60 kids."
Geraldo snuck into the school to break the news story and Howard asked him if he had told his boss about it beforehand. "No, it's illegal," Geraldo replied.
When the footage came back to the station later that evening, Geraldo said his bosses were "totally freaked out" by what they saw. "The reaction was so overwhelming, the rage. Remember, here's the nation's largest institution for the developmentally disabled. It's the worst place you could think of and it's in New York City," Geraldo explained.
Howard was quick to point out that Geraldo's report "led to government investigation, court intervention and eventually they closed the whole goddamn institution."
"Not just that institution, they closed every institution in this country," Geraldo added. "I think it is the defining moment in local news history."
Is Kevin Spacey 'The Snobbiest Guy In Hollywood'?
Howard and Geraldo discussed the ever-changing media landscape, which included, of course, the success of Netflix -- a fact that reminded Geraldo of an important piece of information: Kevin Spacey is "the snobbiest guy in Hollywood," he proclaimed.
Rivera recounted how he attended the White House Correspondents Dinner one year and ran into the actor.
"He snubbed me," Geraldo told Howard. "And I was with [Bill] O'Reilly. He snubbed us both."
Howard jokingly wondered if Geraldo reminded Spacey of Willowbrook to which Geraldo replied, "I didn't have to tell him Willowbrook; he knew exactly who we were. Too good for us."
Despite the snub, Howard and Geraldo both agreed that "House of Cards" is still a good show.
Opening Al Capone's Vault
Another one of Geraldo's big TV accomplishments is notable not for its social impact, but for the record number of viewers who tuned in to watch.
As Geraldo pointed out to Howard, Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of his live syndicated TV special "The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults."
"It is still the highest rated syndicated show in the history of television," Geraldo told Howard. "It had Super Bowl ratings and it was on live in 16 countries,"
But the news icon admitted he wasn't in it for the ratings or the exposure, he was in it for the payday.
"I needed the money," Geraldo told Howard. "I had been fired by ABC … My monthly nut was 50 grand." He said he told his agent that, if they paid him $50,000 and allowed him to air a documentary on the Chicago mob beforehand, he'd accept the gig.
In some ways, the special turned out to be a bust, as the vault was void of anything of value except for some empty bottles, but it still drew huge ratings and propelled Geraldo's career forward. He told Howard that he got 22 job offers after the special aired.
Intimate Memories of John and Yoko
Geraldo gained many fans after his scoop on the scandal at Willowbrook, including one of the world's most famous musicians, John Lennon.
After seeing the report, the Beatle apparently invited Geraldo over to his house to spend time with him and his wife Yoko Ono. "It was a wonderful intimate meeting, but then it became a relationship. We became best friends, hang-out buddies,"
Geraldo said it became a regular thing quickly and that he even smoked weed with the deceased rock pioneer: "Not only that, he performed for me privately with a guitar and an amp just sitting in a room."
Geraldo told Howard that this private concert lasted all night but, "we spent many, many nights together."
John Lennon was assassinated on December 8, 1980 in New York City, apparently within earshot of Geraldo, who lived nearby. "I was working for ABC News, I was at my house … windows open, I swear to God I heard the shots," Geraldo told Howard. "You know, you discounted it because there was plenty of shots in those days in Central Park, then the phone rings. It's 'Nightline.'"
They told Geraldo to come in because his "friend got shot." He rushed into work and sat with Ted Koppel on-air. "I had no script or anything like that, I was just trying to vamp and tell everyone, how, what he meant to me, what he meant, more importantly, to the world." Geraldo said, adding, "It was really one of the worst nights of my life."
Beauty and El Chapo
This Saturday, Geraldo will host "Beauty and the Beast, When Kate Met Chapo," a Fox News special covering the unlikely relationship between the billionaire drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and the beautiful Mexican actress, Kate del Castillo.
Geraldo drew parallels between their fateful relationship and the one between King Kong and Ann Darrow in the 2005 "King Kong" remake with Jack Black, telling Howard that El Chapo's demise was, at least in part, a result of his unwavering adoration for the popular Mexican actress.
In real life, del Castillo played a drug kingpin in her 63-episode series, "La Reina del Sur" ("Queen of the South"). "She plays basically the female 'El Chapo,'" Geraldo told Howard. "She's ruthless and she uses sex and uses charm and everything, to build up her Sinaloa Cartel."
Geraldo says that when the real El Chapo escaped from prison he became obsessed with the series, reached out to del Castillo via twitter, and eventually exposed himself to the authorities during his now infamous interview with Sean Penn.
Tune in to Fox News on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST to watch "Beauty and the Beast, When Kate Met Chapo," and be on the look out for an upcoming Geraldo Rivera special with a unopened vault allegedly belonging to Pablo Escobar.