How Geraldo Rivera touched off Dan Patrick's debate challenge

On the Aug. 21, 2018 edition of "Hannity" on Fox News, Geraldo Rivera made comments later referenced by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in challenging Rivera to a debate (Fox News video).

Republican Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor who’s poised to debate New York personality Geraldo Rivera, said he was piqued when Rivera inappropriately qualified his concern about an Iowa woman’s death allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant.

We looked into exactly what Rivera said to provoke Patrick, whose debate challenge Rivera accepted in a tweet stating in part: "Let’s see and hear who has the moral and legal high ground."

Patrick--who’s declined to debate his Democratic challenger on the November ballot, Democrat Mike Collier--brought up Rivera’s comments in a Thursday appearance on Fox News.

On Fox News, Patrick maintained that the slaying of college student Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa—a crime charged to a farmworker who law enforcement officials say was in the country illegally—pointed afresh to the need for stricter immigration security and for President Donald Trump’s wall along the border with Mexico.

Patrick also criticized those who oppose tighter immigration controls, saying they have Tibbetts’ blood on their hands. "The CNNs, the MSNBCs, most of print media in this country, the Democrats — they are all accomplices in the death of this young girl," Patrick said.

Patrick next mentioned Rivera, a Fox News correspondent at large, and said:

"Even Geraldo Rivera — and I’ve never met the guy, I seem to like him, it seems like he’s got a good heart — you know, I saw him here on Fox saying, ‘Well I feel badly about this, but.’ There is no ‘but,’ and I’ll be happy to debate Geraldo Rivera anytime, anyplace, anywhere on this issue. We have to secure this border and protect the lives of American citizens."

Rivera, on Twitter, responded by criticizing Patrick and other unnamed politicians for using Tibbetts’ death for a "fear-mongering" attack on immigrants.

So, what did Rivera previously say about Tibbetts’ death—including the "but" singled out by Patrick?

We emailed Patrick’s campaign consultant, Allen Blakemore, and reached out to Patrick’s campaign and state office about specifying the Rivera comment that Patrick was referencing--and didn’t immediately hear back.

Meantime, our web search turned up a Rivera appearance on Tuesday’s edition of Fox News’ "Hannity" show in which Rivera expressed concern about Tibbetts’ death fueling sweeping claims about people living in the country without legal authorization.

Sean Hannity initially asked Rivera about the importance of vetting individuals before they enter the country.

Rivera replied:

"You know, Sean, I totally understand the anger that so many people are expressing and feeling over this horrible case. And my heart breaks for the Tibbetts family, it really does. This is absolutely horrific, I feel so sorry for them. As the father of five, it is so so saddening for me. It is saddening for what this family has suffered.

"And it is sad because it will fuel the malignant false notion that this terrible savage crime is characteristic of this population. The 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country are not all MS 13."

HANNITY: "No, that’s absolutely true, you’re right. But we’ve got to try and be able to try and vet those who appear because they love our country--"

RIVERA: "Of course, there’s no argument; there’s no distance between us on that point.

"But what I fear is that this case will now become the rallying cry to deprive the Dreamers of their, of their protected status, to harshly crack down on the mom and pops who have been here for years, and and care for our babies and mow our lawns and wash our dishes."

Footnote: Patrick has previously debated someone not on the ballot against him. On Univision in 2014, he and then-San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro engaged on immigration issues.