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It's O'Reilly vs Clooney in the Battle of the Titans: The Telethon Tiff

Reported by Marie Therese - January 11, 2005

Here are the transcripts of Rounds 1,2 and 3 of the epic battle being waged between Bill O'Reilly and George Clooney on the topic of the tsunami relief telethon. In one corner, Bill "Falafel" O'Reilly, known for his quick footwork and nasty right cut. In the other corner, George "Hunk" Clooney, armed with a wicked left hook and a great smile. This is priceless. Check back for updates. I'll post them as they happen. (ROund 4 posted 1/12/05 at end of Rounds 1, 2 &3.)

Stars, Money and the Tsunami...
Thursday, January 06, 2005
By Bill O'Reilly

Stars, money, and the tsunami: they are the subjects of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."

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 [actor] 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.

If George Clooney and other stars go on TV and ask you to give, then they had better be involved all the way down the line. Now I don't expect the celebrities to audit the books, but if problems are brought to their attention, they must help solve those problems.

Sending billions of dollars into chaotic areas is fraught with danger, even if is the right thing to do. Americans must demand reasonable accountability. We expect some of the money to be stolen or wasted. But we also expect American authorities to hold people accountable and to let us know if bad things are happening.

"Talking Points" believes the American people are the most generous in the world. But 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.January 10, 2005

January 10, 2005

Mr. O'Reilly,

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.

Your fan,
George Clooney

January 10, 2005

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

I got a letter from my pal George Clooney today. I don't think he likes me. After a few insulting paragraphs, Mr. Clooney invited me to be a presenter on the tsunami telethon this upcoming weekend, saying I could watch the fundraiser first hand.

Now that sounds good to me, but I have to see what the format is. I'd like to go over there and check things out. Whether I can make a pitch or not depends on how organized things are. When we ask you for something, we have to be sure the situation's under control.

Remember, we raised more than $1 million for the Wounded Warrior Project over Christmas, and we are watching that money closely.

Anyway, it may be ridiculous, but I think George Clooney may be considering me for a part in "Oceans 13" where I meet an unpleasant demise. We'll keep you posted on that situation.

By the way, our billoreilly.com poll question is: Are you confident the tsunami donations will get to the victims? Are you confident the tsunami donations will get to the victims? Everybody can vote - it's free - on billoreilly.com. We'll give you the results on Wednesday.


The tsunami telethon: That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." As we mentioned last night, my pal, George Clooney, sent a letter to nearly everyone in America —we hope you got your copy— scolding me for my continued interest in the charity industry. In the body of the letter, Clooney invited me to participate in the tsunami telethon this coming Saturday, which will be broadcast on NBC, but not before saying that my interest in overseeing public fund-raising is driven by greed and other unfortunate character flaws. — George is one fun guy.

Anyway, the letter is entertaining and has gotten the telethon some quick publicity, which was probably Clooney's intent to begin with. Not a bad thing, but kind of sneaky, George. And one point: In his letter, Clooney says, "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." Clooney goes on to say that my investigation of the 9/11 charities made me rich and famous and shallow and — well, you get the idea.

Now a couple of things, George...

If I am making more money than you, you need a new agent, babe. [That's a] Hollywood term. And since reports say you're making about 15 million bucks for some movies, maybe you need a new calculator as well. But there is a serious point here, and that is distributing money to victimized people is not easy. When Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in '99, $9 billion was pledged to help the folks down there. According to the Center on International Cooperation, most of that money never materialized. When an earthquake hit Iran in 2003, $1 billion was pledged. $17 million dollars showed up.— Much of that problem was the corrupt Iranian government's foolishness.

But let's not kid ourselves here. The $7.5 billion already pledged to tsunami victims is no lock. Only strict oversight by the media and responsible governments can forestall wrongdoing. That being said, I am going to do the telethon. NBC is funneling the donations to the American Red Cross, which is now a good, honest agency. It's accountable and transparent. And all I have to do is show up and introduce one of the acts. It will probably be Triumph, the insult dog.

Unfortunately, Mr. Clooney will still be in L.A., and I'll be here in New York, so we'll just have to continue being long-distance pen pals, although he's welcome on "The Factor" any time. Finally, should you help the tsunami victims if you can? Sure. Generosity is the hallmark of Americans, and whatever you give from the heart is worthwhile. After it leaves your hand, then people like me should make sure the right thing is done, and I'll try my best to see that it is. And that's "The Memo."

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