Metzger Alleges Rivera Set Up TV-Show Brawl

Times Staff Writer

A young white supremacy leader from San Diego who was in the thick of a melee during taping of Geraldo Rivera’s TV talk show said Friday that he believes Rivera deliberately set him up to be attacked to boost the show’s ratings.

He said Rivera boxed him on the ear and egged him into a fight before the taping began, and then, during the show encouraged black civil rights leader Roy Innis to “get him” just moments before the entire stage erupted into a fist-flying, chair-throwing brawl.

“It was all a publicity stunt,” said John Metzger, national leader of the White Aryan Resistance Youth movement. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the whole thing was a setup.”

Rivera and Innis, speaking to reporters in New York earlier in the day, said it was Metzger and other Skinhead white supremacists on the show who started the fight.


‘I Never Expected This’

“I never expected this,” said Rivera, who suffered a broken nose, either when he fell or when a chair hit him while he was lying on the floor. “I didn’t know it would boil into violence.”

Innis, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, said he simply reacted when Metzger used a racial slur. “I moved on him,” Innis said. “A guy’s going to jump up in my face, I’m not going to wait for damage.”

The 20-year-old Metzger is the son of Tom Metzger of Fallbrook, a TV repairman, former Southern California Ku Klux Klan leader and one-time congressional candidate who now heads the national White Aryan Resistance.


The younger Metzger said he and a group of Skinheads originally arrived in New York to tape the show two weeks ago. But he said they were confronted by 40 protesters who surrounded their cab when they pulled up outside the studio.

“They wouldn’t let us out, and we wouldn’t get out,” he said. “They were banging on the windows. They were trying to break the windows and shouting death threats. I thought I was going to die.”

Agreed to Come Back on Show

He said they drove back to the airport and returned to California. One of the show’s producers “called me every day, begging us to come back,” he said. He said the group agreed, but only after the show offered to tighten its security for the guests.


Metzger said that, on Thursday, just before the cameras began rolling, Rivera stepped in front of him and challenged him, almost as though he were spoiling for a fight. “Then he raised his hand and sort of flicked me in the ear,” Metzger said.

Later, with the taping under way, Metzger made a series of offensive remarks. He complained about “kikes,” then called Innis an “Uncle Tom.”

Innis got up from his seat and walked over to Metzger, placing his hand on the youth’s neck. Innis said he was “gently massaging his neck.” But Metzger saw the situation differently.

Metzger said he could hear Rivera speaking into his microphone, saying, “Get him, Roy! Tear him apart!”


Neck Hold Tightened

Metzger said one of his companions warned Innis to back off. But, when Innis refused, Metzger said, he tried to stand up. He said Innis’ neck hold tightened, and he then pulled halfway to his feet and swung his right fist at Innis’ face in defense.

“It was what I would call a soft right hook to the cheek,” Metzger said.

At that point, according to Rivera, it looked “like a bench-clearing brawl at a hockey match” as many members of the audience rushed the stage and joined in the fight.


Metzger said he believes the fight was a setup job for several reasons.

He said the producers begged him to return to New York to appear on the show with Innis, who was involved in a shoving match earlier this year on the “Morton Downey Show.” And he said Rivera seemed to want to get the most electricity out of the pairing of the two men, particularly in the way Rivera challenged him before the taping began and then encouraged Innis to “get him.”

“Geraldo’s ratings have not been that good,” Metzger said. “He’s desperate.”

But, like Rivera, the talk show host’s spokesman, Jeff Erdell, denied that the fight was a publicity ploy.


“No one wanted violence on the program, and we took every precaution imaginable to ensure that,” Erdell said.

The program is scheduled to be broadcast later this month. November is a ratings “sweeps” period to measure viewer audiences.