Bill O'Reilly questioned the motivations of George Clooney and other activists focused on the genocide in the Sudan, stating that their interest in Darfur "may have something to do with color." O'Reilly then falsely claimed, "Surely the Marsh Arabs in Iraq slaughtered by Saddam [Hussein] did not get George Clooney's attention."
During the May 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly questioned the motivations of actor/director George Clooney and other activists focused on the genocide in the Sudan, stating that while "the slaughter in Darfur must be stopped," their interest in Darfur "may have something to do with color." O'Reilly added, "Surely the Marsh Arabs in Iraq slaughtered by Saddam [Hussein] did not get George Clooney's attention." In fact, Saddam's slaughter of Shiites did get Clooney's "attention." In October 1999, Clooney starred in the film Three Kings (Warner Bros.), which, as the Los Angeles Times described it, depicts three U.S. soldiers who "come face-to-face with Iraqis -- who had been encouraged by the West to rise up against Hussein -- being rounded up, tortured and killed by Hussein's Republican Guard," and "must decide whether they should drop what they are doing and help the Iraqi civilians escape."
In promoting the film, as noted in an October 1, 1999, Knoxville News Sentinel film review, Clooney stated:
"This is a story" with "absolute truths. Did we rearm the Republican Guard after we beat 'em? You bet. And did the Shiites who had been told to rise up and overthrow the government, were they left there as targets? Absolutely. If it makes people open their eyes and question things, great. Then go read and learn."
O'Reilly has previously attacked Clooney; on October 31, 2001, O'Reilly suggested that the money donated to the Clooney-backed fundraising event, "America: A Tribute to Heroes," "will not go to help the grieving families" who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and asserted that "the majority of these people are phonies, much more interested in their own images than solving any social problems." A week later, Clooney responded to O'Reilly's accusations:
"[Y]ou 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.
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 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 that from people who need it ... and all because it's the first week of sweeps.
Clooney and O'Reilly clashed again in January 2005, when Clooney organized a national telethon, "Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope," to benefit victims of the 2004 tsunami. O'Reilly warned Clooney, on the January 5, 2005, edition of The O'Reilly Factor that "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." Continuing, O'Reilly stated, "Americans must demand reasonable accountability," adding, "it is our job here to make sure you are not taken advantage of. And we will do that job. We want the telethon to be a big success, and we applaud the time and generosity of George Clooney and the other stars. But with power comes responsibility. And we expect all the telethon people to understand that."
Clooney again responded to O'Reilly's threat, reportedly arguing that "[b]ecause of it [O'Reilly's accusations and threats], fewer people will donate money to help truly traumatized victims; they'll be afraid that their money will do no good." Clooney then challenged O'Reilly to participate in the event:
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 fund-raising. ... 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.
"Either you ante up and help out and be that watchdog that you feel we clearly need ... or you simply stand on the sidelines and cast stones."
O'Reilly responded on his television show that Clooney's offer "sounds good to me, but I have to see what the format is. ...Whether I can make a pitch or not depends on how organized things are." (The O'Reilly Factor, 1/10/05). O'Reilly apparently did end up participating in the event.
From the May 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: The pro-amnesty people largely believe the USA has a moral obligation to accept millions of poor people as citizens. The reasoning varies. Hardcore Democrats like [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean and [Sen.] Ted Kennedy [D-MA] see future votes. [Archbishop of Los Angeles] Cardinal [Roger] Mahony sees future parishioners and wants a more compassionate approach toward the poor in general. And some activists believe it is America's fault there's poverty in Mexico and other countries.
On the peace front, most of those demonstrators believe the USA is a flawed country and so is Israel, and it's our fault there's terrorism in the world. On Darfur, the intentions are better, but there's a hard left base here as well. It may have something to do with color. Surely the Marsh Arabs in Iraq slaughtered by Saddam did not get George Clooney's attention. Even so, the slaughter in Darfur must be stopped and President Bush should take the lead in this case. So many questions; so little time. And that's a memo.