In the never-ending cable news cycle, Bill O’Reilly is King. And he knows it. It matters not to the master of disinformation what the “facts” are or who he slanders, the great beast must be fed. Many have tried over the years to take on O’Reilly and provide their point of view, only to be shouted down, insulted, and ridiculed.
Enter George Clooney.
Back in the aftermath of 9/11, Clooney and many celebrities, in coordination with the United Way, of which Clooney is a board member, hosted a telethon for the victims families… America: A Tribute To Heroes raised over $129 million for the families. But O’Reilly didn’t like it. Not one bit. O’Reilly believed the money was being mismanaged and not reaching those it was intended for. He interviewed Ralph Dickerson, Jr., President of the United Way.
O’REILLY: Less than 10 percent of the money that you’ve raised from the September 11 Fund, and that was the big fund with the special with the movie stars and everything, has been distributed. Now do you have to be cautious about giving the money? Do you have to take this long?
RALPH DICKERSON, JR., PRESIDENT, UNITED WAY: Well, I tell you what. There’s both an immediate need of cash assistance.
DICKERSON: Rental payments, mortgage payments.
DICKERSON: Just some longer term needs.
O’Reilly then went on to claim the fund was being mismanaged and the remaining money given to other charities.
Clooney fired back with a scathing (and quite snarky) letter:
On the evening of October 31st you ran a story that has no basis in truth. What is not important is your attack of the performers who gave their time to raise money during the telethon for the September 11th fund. What is important is your accusation that the fund is being mishandled and misused. That sir, as you know, is nothing short of a lie.
The fund is intact and has already handed out some 36 million dollars to victims’ families (fifteen thousand checks), with over $230 million more to be allocated as The United Way sorts through the complicated process of who is in the most need. To have given out all of the money only six weeks after it was raised, would truly be irresponsible. If you were a journalist you would have known that.
The fund is not only the most successful single fundraiser ever (over 260 million dollars); it is also doing exactly what it is designed to do. Responsibly. The money is going out to the right people and to make certain of this, the United Way is taking some time.
It took one phone call to find this information. One phone call you did not make. But hey, it’s the first week of sweeps and you need to run a hard-hitting expose’ of irresponsible, pampered performers and try to bait them on your show with inflammatory statements. I’m sure it must have been frustrating for you that not one person took the bait. Hell Bill, even McCarthy got a few people to show up.
Here’s the problem, and why I’m forced to respond: People are coming up to me and asking if it’s true that the telethon was a fraud. That means the next time we try to raise money, like when the CD from the telethon comes out this month, fewer people will participate. Because of your unsubstantiated, untrue statements about the September 11 Fund, You, Mr. O’Reilly will be taking money away from people who need it….and all because it’s the first week of sweeps.
I will say this; you were right about one thing. You accused all of the performers of lying. You named them one by one and read each of their excuses for not responding to you.
Tom Cruise, “Too busy”.
Brad Pitt, “Too busy to respond”.
Tom Hanks…..you get the idea.
You’re right, Mr. O’Reilly, we lied…all of us. Of course we weren’t too busy. And if you were Peter Jennings, or Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose, The Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, or pretty much anybody else, we would have dropped everything and explained what we know. You see Bill, these are journalists. So, yes we lied when we said we were too busy to do your “entertainment show”. We were just trying to not hurt your feelings.
I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the February sweeps.
Now if only that were the end of it. Now O’Reilly is back and his target, once again, is Clooney and a disaster relief fundraiser. This time for the tsunami victims. In his “Talking Points Memo” of January 6th he lets George know that he is watching…
As Yogi Berra once said, “it is deja vu all over again.” You may remember that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, there was a celebrity-driven TV telethon that raised millions for the affected families. And now, there will be another telethon raising money for those hurt by those the tsunami.
And once again, our pal George Clooney will be involved. You may also remember that Clooney strenuously objected to “The Factor” investigation that uncovered problems in distributing the 9/11 money, even though we proved our case and the Red Cross revamped its entire operation because of it.
Clooney objected to many things, but one of them was my insistence that if celebrities ask for money, they have a moral obligation to see the donations go where they’re supposed to go. — Clooney disagreed.
So now we’re back in the same spot. A national TV telethon will raise millions and “The Factor” will be watching to see if the money gets to the tsunami victims. If it does not, there will be trouble. And this time nobody can say they weren’t warned.
Seems reasonable enough on its face, but if you notice, nowhere in the letter does he mention what happened the last time they “investigated”… there were claims thrown around that the money didn’t reach its target — was this true? Did it eventually reach the victims as Clooney said it would? From the tone of this dispatch it appears it did not, hence why The Factor would be keeping a close watch. Now, you may say, but O’Reilly says they proved their case and the Red Cross revamped its entire operation because of it. Yup. But it was The United Way that held the fundraiser with Clooney. Another nice piece of Fox disinformation… throw in a moderately correct, although completely irrelevant fact and trust your audience won’t know the difference.
On Monday Clooney responded (I nominate him for the King of Snark):
In response to your lead story on January 6, where you attack the Sept. 11 telethon, it is incumbent upon me to help you get your facts straight.
First, to clarify, it was not the Red Cross but the United Way that sponsored that telethon… an easy mistake to make… if you’re 3.
Second, contrary to what you claim, no one objected to you investigating where the funds were going, but we strenuously objected to you insinuating that it was a fraud (which is what you did) as we were still waiting for a list of names of the dead. 6,000 was the number when you broadcast your attack (some 3,000 was the real number), that is simply a fact… no spin. There’s no question, sir, that you have become quite powerful. The panic that you started that week scared other charitable organizations into simply handing out money to anyone who walked into their office. I suppose the threat of a Senate investigation would scare most anybody. It was an interesting week though… you showed up on the Today Show to talk about the telethon, but when pressed by Matt Lauer, admitted that you would only talk about the scandal if they hawked your new book. Fact… no spin. You said your tactics weren’t about ratings, and that same week took out ads bragging about beating Larry King for the first time, all while Eliot Spitzer and Frank Thomas and Josh Gotbaum were weeding through the difficult task of who was dead and who was not.
I don’t make as much money as you, Mr. O’Reilly (a fact that’s easy to check), but I’m fascinated by your use of the word CELEBRITY as if you’re not one… you put on make up, you do Leno, The Today Show, go on book tours, and do junkets, so let’s be clear… you are a well paid celebrity. Period. No spin. And, to quote you last week, “with power comes responsibility”… people canceled their pledges because YOU told them that the telethon was flawed… a lot of money that should have gone to a lot of needy families didn’t, because you wanted a controversy… and controversy has made you a celebrity… remember, sir, that this is me you’re talking to publicly. I was the one you called several times the day before the telethon to say that we “had to include ‘The Factor’” in the press interviews, and that it “wasn’t fair to leave us out, we’re a news program”. Fact… no spin. I think people should know that.
Now, here’s the only important fact: the 9/11 telethon was an unqualified success from the beginning to the present and we make sure of it. (I say WE because I’m on the board of directors of the United Way).
Your report last Thursday was a preemptive strike… NOT to protect the families affected by the tsunami, but to create more controversy for your own personal gain. Because of it, fewer people will donate money to help truly traumatized victims; they’ll be afraid that their money will do no good.
So all right, Mr. Journalist… come on in. I’m booking the talent for the Tsunami event… and you, Mr. O’Reilly, are now officially invited to be a presenter… (at this point, not one of the people I’ve invited to donate their time has said “No”)… this way, You can personally follow up on our fundraising… this is your chance to put your considerable money where your considerable mouth is… show up… help raise money… and if we’re doing something wrong, point it out. I believe firmly in the check and balance system… you’ll get nothing but a handshake and a “Thanks for helping out” from all of the rest of us “celebrities”.
So what do you say, Mr. O’Reilly… either you ante up and help out AND be that watch dog that you feel we clearly need… or you simply stand on the sidelines and cast stones, proving that your January 6 TV show was nothing more than a “box of lights and wires” designed to make you wealthy.
We do the show this Saturday, it’s across the street from where you shoot “The Factor”.
I’ll need a quick response.
That sounds good to me but I have to see what the format is. I would like to go over there and check things out whether I make a pitch or not depends on how organized things are.”
Right, criticize & obfusticate all you want, but when it comes time to ante up you need to see how “organized things are”? For a UW telethon… to help tsunami victims… fine, don’t participate, but how much of your own money and time have you donated so far, Bill? Not so much fun once the so-called controversy is gone, is it? People in glass houses….
ps – due to overwhelming negative press, O’Reilly has capitulated and will appear. Maybe his only complaint now will be they didn’t have enough falafels for him in the Green Room….