NEW YORK >> Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera said Tuesday that he’s sorry for suggesting that a hoodie worn by unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was as much responsible for his death as the neighborhood watch captain who shot him.
Rivera said a conversation with his oldest son on Monday convinced him he was wrong. Rivera said it was the first time 32-year-old Gabriel Rivera had said he was ashamed of something his dad had said — and it caused the dad a sleepless night.
"He had never, ever used language like that," Rivera said. "It was like, ‘Whoa, what have I done that would make my son say that?’"
Rivera’s comments last week triggered an angry response among people concerned about the case involving the 17-year-old Martin, who was carrying a bag of candy and a can of iced tea while returning to the Sanford, Fla., home of his father’s fiancée when he was shot last month.
Martin, who was black, was shot by George Zimmerman, who has a white father and a Hispanic mother and has said he was acting in self-defense. The lack of legal action taken against Zimmerman has stoked racial tensions and led to protests around the country and debate about self-defense legislation.
Rivera said he was apologizing "for offending anyone."
"I apologize for the language," he said. "I don’t apologize at all for the substance of my advice. I was trying to save lives."
Rivera said his oldest son was witness to tension between his father and brother, 24-year-old Cruz Rivera, over the young man’s clothing. Rivera said he wanted urban parents to realize that clothing their children wear — such as hooded T-shirts or low-slung pants — could appear menacing to people who don’t know them and could put them unnecessarily in danger.
People lost sight of the message because of the provocative words blaming the hoodie as much as Zimmerman, Rivera said. The death of an unarmed teenager should be the issue, he said.
"I wanted to provoke a response," he said. "I never expected it to be a viral avalanche."