Published September 02, 2004
This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Sept. 1, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Tonight, the lead singer of the rock group U2, the legendary Bono. He has used his fame in a political way, forming a group called DATA, which stands for Debt AIDS Trade Africa. The group tries to help that continent, which is desperately poor, as you know, and ravaged with the HIV virus. What most people don't know is that Bono has worked with both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. He joins us now.
So are you a non-partisan guy?
BONO: I'm a non-partisan guy.
O’REILLY: You don't root?
BONO: I don't root anymore. Yes, I’ve stopped rooting. I'm rooting for people that don't have a vote and for people whose faces we don't see.
O’REILLY: OK. So you're not going out with Springsteen to try to get Kerry elected, you’re not going to do that?
BONO: I'm not going to do that. I love Bruce Springsteen, but I’m not going to do that. I put all that behind me when I went to work for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. That’s what I have to do. It’s hard for an Irish rock star, though, sometimes to shut up.
O’REILLY: Well, you don't have to shut up, it’s just about you have to make your points in I think a broader way than saying, I like this guy, the other guy is the devil. I think that alienates people. And you need bipartisan support, and indeed you have bipartisan support in the United States, do you not?
BONO: Yes, yes -- no. We've worked very hard to have it. And it’s difficult. We found the one thing that both parties can agree on, which is that it’s important right now for America that the world sees the greatness of America through their AIDS medicines, through their Peace Corps, through the real America, I see the America I was a fan of.
That’s the America my father…
O’REILLY: Do you really believe America is a great country?
BONO: Yes, I do.
O’REILLY: Because a lot of Europeans do not.
BONO: Yes -- no, I mean, I'm like an annoying fan. I'm like the one that reads the liner notes on the CD. I’m the one that -- I read the Declaration of Independence before a speaking tour we did on AIDS in the Midwest. I've read the Constitution. I've read these poetic tracks. And I suppose, you know, I'm just going around trying to remind people that their country -- why it is great, and in case they forget, why it’s great. Because the United States that I love is like the Statue of Liberty with its arms open, give me your tired, your poor and huddled masses. It’s not the continent behaving like an island, which sometimes it behaves like.
O’REILLY: All right. Let’s get specific now. The United States gives more money to poor people than any other country, raw dollars -- not per capita, raw dollars we give, and we have given. We've freed billions of people all over the world. But we have now a problem in this country, in the United States. We're fighting a very intense war that takes an enormous amount of money to fight, just to protect ourselves from people who would kill us. So that the largesse of the country is skeptical.
They want the money to go where it's best needed. Now, Africa is your cause. That is what you are front and center on, correct? Africa?
BONO: Yes. I wouldn't call it a cause, though.
O'REILLY: Well, whatever you want to say.
BONO: It's an emergency. 69,000 Africans dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease.
O'REILLY: I've been to Africa as you. I'm not as widely traveled as you, but it is a corrupt continent, it's a continent in chaos. We can't deliver a lot of the systems that we send there. Money is stolen.
Now, when you have a situation like that, where governments don't really perform consistently, where there's just corruption everywhere, how can you cut through that?
BONO: It's funny, we worked with this administration on two things. Historic AIDS initiative, and a thing called the Millennium Challenge, which is a way of increasing aide flows to Africa, but only to countries that are tackling corruption. So really important, and not well described initiative.
O'REILLY: So like Uganda, which is really trying to do something, the money would flow there.
O'REILLY: But in Sierra Leone, wouldn't go there.
O'REILLY: OK. I like that. Because that, at least, gives you a chance. You know, your friend, Bob Geldof you know.
O'REILLY: Remember, he raised all that money with the Live Aid he did. Very little of it got to anybody.
BONO: Well, look, I've seen what it did. I've been to Africa, I've seen -- it did a lot. But the reason I got involved in this whole business that I'm in now is largely to do with Live Aide, and it engaged me and engaged my generation to realize that we actually -- we can't escape what's going on in Africa, and that we have to look at sometimes the structural problems of the poverty of Africa.
And it's true, Live Aide, we made -- I think $200 million on the English side. And we thought, wow, we've cracked it. What an amazing thing. And then we realize that Africa pays $200 million every week on old debts that it was lent by -- you know, for Cold War reasons, you know, during the Cold War to dodgy dictators, and we were still collecting those debts, even though it was two generations later.
O'REILLY: Yes. And all the money in Switzerland with Mobutu and all these guys. Now, let's talk a little AIDS.
BONO: But there was corruption there on our part. You don't understand that.
O'REILLY: I don't know if it was corruption.
BONO: Not just on their part.
O'REILLY: I don't think you guys understood what you were getting into in the Live Aid situation. Oh, you mean there was corruption on the USA's part?
BONO: No, it wasn't just the U.S., but Europe, all the rich countries lending this money willy-nilly and then demanding it back a generation later. It was just a mistake.
O'REILLY: Let's talk about AIDS, because this is a very controversial topic within the United States itself. Now, we've got the epidemic under control here, primarily by education and frightening people into safe sex and all of that. In Africa, the education is almost nil. And that there's a tradition of men, as you know, not having sex protected, because of some kind of macho thing involved in it.
Now, Americans are going to say, I don't want my tax dollars going over to a civilization or a society that no matter what you tell them, they're going to continue to do disruptive practices. How do you answer that?
BONO: Look, if you see a car crash, somebody's lying there in the middle of the road bleeding and it turns out they're a drunk driver, you're still going to call an ambulance. We can't make these judgments about entire civilizations. We try to re-educate people, we try to deal with the problem.
And by the way, not dealing with the problem with something like AIDS, which metastasized, which grows on a geometric level, is really foolhardy. Because it will be more expensive to deal with it later.
O'REILLY: Look, you can't force the truck drivers who are spreading AIDS all over Africa, because they visit the hookers and then they drive their truck from one to the other to the other. You can't force them to use condoms.
BONO: Let me tell you something -- just on truck drivers. Because we did this tour through the Midwest, because politicians in D.C. said Americans don't care about what's happening in Africa. They don't care what's happening with this AIDS stuff. We believe they were wrong.
We went all over, schools, you know, colleges, churches. I was in a truck stop, and there was this big, big guy, big truck driver, tattoos over his eye, you know, like a big, big guy. And he heard what we were talking about, and he interrupted us and he said did you say that 50 percent of all truck drivers are going blind, they've all got this death sentence of AIDS.
BONO: And I said yes, they had some stupid practices, but they're all going to die. He says I don't want to pass judgment on people, they made mistakes. He said if you need someone to drive trucks over there, you've got me.
O'REILLY: Well, Americans are very generous people. And I think it's the kids that are -- that's my focus, it's the important children.
BONO: But we can't even judge mentalism, and we're not wrong in the statements you've made to excuse our inaction. That's not going to fly...
O'REILLY: We have to take action that's...
BONO: God is not going to accept that as an answer and history is not going to accept that as an answer.
O'REILLY: True. But action has to be efficient and people in the United States, most of us, are struggling to make our own lives solvent, and to ask them to give more money to people who aren't going to help themselves is foolhardy. But I do agree we have to find a way. Why hasn't the United Nations -- why hasn't the United Nations taken a more aggressive posture in fighting the AIDS epidemic which they are cut out to do?
BONO: I don't think that's true. I mean, the Global Health Fund to fight T.B., AIDS and malaria was set up by Kofi Annan. And this administration is funding it, it's actually got bipartisans...
O'REILLY: Do you think you're doing a good job over there?
BONO: No one's doing a good enough job. Let me just say this. I have myself seen people queuing up to die, three in a bed, two on top, one underneath.
BONO: People who don't want to even admit they have the virus, because it's such a stigma. They say they've got T.B. When you see people dying like that, you just -- these -- these -- you know, you put away all your -- you just want to reach out and do the right thing. We have these drugs, these anti-retroviral drugs are great advertisements for America...
O'REILLY: Now what do you want America to do?
BONO: Get the message because these are great advertisements for America products. For your technology, your ingenuity. Imagine China, when Europe was going through the Bubonic Plague and lost -- 1/3 of Europe died in the Middle Ages to the Black Death. Imagine, say, China had a treatment for the Black Death and hadn't because it was difficult or expensive. What would we think of China now?
O'REILLY: You want American drug companies then to send to Africa all the drugs they can possibly...
BONO: I'm not asking drug companies to behave like philanthropists. I'm saying we, our governments, United States and Europe, have to deal with this problem. If we don't, we will reap a very ill wind. This is -- it's not just being bleeding hearts here. The strategic implications. There's 10 million AIDS orphans in Africa right now. There will be 20 by the end of the decade. 12 right now. This is chaos. This is a consummating (ph) havoc, and the war against terror, which you talk about every night, is bound up in the war against poverty. I didn't say that. Colin Powell said that.
O'REILLY: I agree.
BONO: And we have to join the dots here.
O'REILLY: Let me ask you this. We liberated Iraq from a terrible dictator, Saddam Hussein. And the polls show that most Iraqis don't appreciate America's sacrifice in doing that. Do you think Africans would appreciate if Americans actually, you know, said, OK, we're going to suffer financially, we're going to do what you want. Do you think we'd be appreciated even if we did it?
BONO: I think it would turn around the way the United States is seen in the world right now. I think that's one thing as well as it just being this great -- this awful thing. This is a chance for the United States to redescribe itself to the rest of the world, show its greatness, and respond to what is the greatest health emergency in 600 years. I absolutely believe that. And the people who are watching this show, people all over America, they are more interested in this than the politicians in D.C. realize. I know this from...
O'REILLY: But they've been helpful to you, the politicians in D.C.
BONO: Yes, they have. But they're not talking. It's not on the news. It's not on the agenda here. It's the greatest health crisis in 600 years but it's not on the news.
O'REILLY: But it's not their fault when you've got the war on terror so intense and so -- look, if 9/11 didn't happen, you would have a much easier time with your crusade.
BONO: I disagree.
BONO: Yes. I disagree. Two things happened on 9/11. There was -- the one that's reported, of course, is the attack on America. But the one that has not been reported, and reported with less disgust, is what happened in the aftermath, which was those pictures around the world of people jumping up and down, celebrating the Twin Towers turning to dust. One of the most disturbing -- they were the most disturbing images for me as a fan and a person who loves America.
A lot of people and this great country went. I don't care who you are, a politician, you stop that. How did this happen to us? How did this -- and this is the America that liberated Europe? Not just liberated Europe, we built Europe with the Marshall Plan which cost, by the way, 1 percent GDP over four years. That's when "Brand USA" was at its brightest.
Right now "Brand USA" has taken some blows and some knocks. And I'm saying there's an opportunity here. The Marshall Plan rebuilds Europe as a bulwark against Sovietism in the Cold War. It was smart. It wasn't just goodness of heart, which it also was. It was smart. And I'm saying in a hot war, here's a chance now to redescribe ourselves and be a bulwark against other militarism.
O'REILLY: And you believe that the world's negative opinion of America would change if America took the lead to save people in Africa?
BONO: One hundred percent. They are. America is taking the lead.
O'REILLY: But more aggressively.
BONO: I have to say this. President Bush has done it, John Kerry is big on AIDS. What we want here is to -- why is it not an emergency? How can three of these a week, three Madison Square Gardens a week, how can -- you know, a giant stadium every two weeks disappearing, you know, a preventable, treatable disease like AIDS, how can that not be an emergency?
O'REILLY: Because those people aren't in our eye line. Look at Darfur in the Sudan? I submit to you that in theory, you are correct. And I'm glad you're doing what your doing by the way. I admire you greatly for doing it. But I think, in practice, it becomes more complicated. And I think you're right. If the United States got out in front of this, started to introduce U.N. resolutions, that's the way to go. But the world really has to come together.
BONO: They will on this. See, this is a war -- this is winnable. There is actually -- it's really winnable. There's more lives at stake. It's a war against a tiny little virus, as Bill Frist says. But it's, in a way, it's the one we all agree on. This is the one where the United States.
O'REILLY: Yes, who's going to say, 'Yes, I want the African kids to die.' Nobody. It's just a matter of how engaged they're going to get. How much they're going to feel. Because we, again, have problems here that we have to take care of.
BONO: I understand that.
O'REILLY: Let me ask you a couple of questions. I understand the late Jesse Helms, the arch conservative, the late Jesse Helms of North Carolina was a very big booster of your cause, is that correct?
BONO: Yes. It's been amazing. I've been really surprised. You know, I came at this from -- you know, I grew up in a Labour household, you can imagine in the north side of Dublin. I have all my opinions. I have my opinions of conservatives, and they weren't all good. And then I met some conservatives that really turned me around on that. They were really just conservatives. They were people that will had their convictions that were different to mine, but they held them, you know, from a true place.
Then I met Jesse Helms, who you know, who people in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) wouldn't speak to me because I was meeting Jesse Helms. And he did an extraordinary thing. He did something no politician does. He publicly apologized for the way he had thought about the AIDS virus. He says, 'I've got it wrong.' And he got emotional about it, and he turned it around. And he made a lot of other people who were very judgmental about AIDS...
O'REILLY: Look at it in a different way.
BONO: ... look at it in a different way.
O'REILLY: And our pal John Kasich was a champion on the Hill when he was congressman from Ohio, is that correct?
BONO: Well, absolutely. I mean, I arrived in Washington, D.C. with Bobby Shriver, with a Kennedy, and I was trying to get this done. And somebody says, I think it was Arnold Schwarzenegger said, you might need some other folks to balance it up.
O'REILLY: Right. You got it in John.
BONO: I meet John Kasich and it helps. And look, it's very difficult to work both sides of the aisle. But I'm telling you, this is the one thing...
O'REILLY: That can bring everybody together.
BONO: It works for people.
O'REILLY: I like it, and I think it can be done. You're going to have to work hard to get it done. Is that a rosary around your neck there? Is that a rosary?
BONO: The pope gave me this, it's a Michelangelo designed. You know, when the pope could stand up and carry around this big cross, this is a little miniature of him. And myself and Geldof and Quincy Jones went to see him, and he swapped a pair of my sunglasses for a rosary.
O'REILLY: I've never seen the pope wear your sunglasses.
BONO: You know what, there was a lot of photographs taken at that moment, because he put them on.
O'REILLY: Well, look, I mean...
BONO: One day you might.
O'REILLY: You're certainly doing God's work. I mean, I admire you very much for what you're doing.
BONO: God must have a great sense of humor to have me on board.
O'REILLY: No. No. We need people like you to command a worldwide audience and to get people at least thinking about this. And then we need the politicians out here in the convention, in both conventions to come up with a strategy. I do agree that if America could take the lead, it would turn public opinion around and help us in the war on terror.
I’ll give you the last word on it.
BONO: It a really, really important time right now in the world. And I'm a fan of America, and my band comes here and we love it here. But it’s dangerous around the world. We travel around the world.
O’REILLY: Yes, it’s dangerous.
BONO: And my father grew up, and his generation grew up, and they thought they were American, they loved it so much. And I would just ask Americans to think back when was the brand brightest.? And I'll tell you when it was. As I said earlier, the Marshall Plan, it cost 1 percent of the GDP. Right now the United States is at 0.15 percent, and in the list of the richest countries and what they give to the poorest as a percentage, they are No. 22 in the list…
O’REILLY: OK. Well, we’ve…
BONO: Including private philanthropy, it makes it like No. 15. This is a great country, generous, generous, generous people. I think if they think the money is not going to be wasted, if it’s not going down a rathole, they're with us.
O’REILLY: All right, Bono.
BONO: Thank you.
O’REILLY: Thanks for coming in, a pleasure to meet you.
BONO: All right.
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