Well, more wild reaction to our ongoing investigation into the charities set up to help the grieving families of the terror attacks. George Clooney has the lead role in this evening's Talking Points memo. Mr. Clooney sent me a letter today about my criticism of celebrities that refuse to issue a statement about the charity situation.
(Click here to read Clooney's complete letter.)
The letter says in part, "Mr. O'Reilly, 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 11 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 not only the most successful single fund raiser ever, it is also doing exactly what it is designed to do."
Well, George Clooney is entitled to his opinion, but facts are facts. On October 9, the president of the United Way, which is distributing the money from the celebrity telethon, appeared on The Factor and here's what he had to say.
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.
Well, it is those longer term needs that are in question. Tomorrow on The Factor, we'll get an update on the United Way's progress. But as of today, listen to this George Clooney, the September 11 Fund has collected $250 million. Just $35 million of that has been given out, but not directly to the families.
That money was given to other charities. Many of the grieving families, most of the ones that we've spoken with, have heard nothing from the September 11 Fund. And confusion is everywhere. I'll also remind Mr. Clooney that the Red Cross is only giving the families 20 percent of the money it has received after 9/11. The other 80 percent's going for other things.
And The Wall Street Journal is reporting that not one cent has been given out by Mayor Giuliani's Twin Towers Fund, which raised more than $100 million for the families of the firefighters and police officers killed. The mayor's office says the fund is again, for long-term needs.
Are you getting the picture here, George? Talking Points believes that all the celebrities involved in fundraising for the families have a responsibility to care about what happens to the money they asked for. Mr. Clooney can call me any name he wants, but facts are facts. And his letter is silly. Here's how it closes.
"You're right, Mr. O'Reilly, we the celebrities lied, all of us. Of course, we weren't too busy to give The Factor a statement. And if you were Peter Jennings or Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Charley Rose, we would've 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."
What can I say? I believe Mr. Clooney's tone speaks for itself.
Of course, as always, he's invited to appear and debate with me on The Factor, but there's really very little of that around. We've presented the facts. What we've reported is true. What we do here is real life, not Hollywood.
And that's the memo.
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
Time now for the most ridiculous item of the day. Lots of buzz about Matt Drudge column, which cites TV ratings showing The Factor beating our main competition, Larry King, by a wide margin. Mr. Drudge quotes an anonymous CNN executive as saying, in reaction to that, "I don't understand the appeal of O'Reilly, never underestimate the stupidity of the American public."
Whoa, this guy must be hanging out with George Clooney.
Unfortunately, an anonymous Fox producer is also quoted as saying some ridiculous things about Mr. King, which I'm not going to repeat. I will tell you that we respect Larry King and all our competition, and that people who attack others using anonymity are true weasels, whether they work for CNN or for Fox.
That kind of stuff is ridiculous.
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Bill O'Reilly currently serves as the host of FOX News Channel's (FNC) The O'Reilly Factor (weekdays 8PM/ET), the most watched cable news show for the past 13 years. He joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York.