The tsunami telethon: That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."
As we mentioned last night, my pal, George Clooney (search), 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 (search) devastated Central America in '99, $9 billion was pledged to help the folks down there. According to the Center on International Cooperation (search), 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 (search), 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."
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
You may have heard that the New York Yankees have signed pitcher Randy Johnson (search) and will pay him 16 million bucks a year. But Johnson has never experienced the incredibly aggressive New York City media. Uh-oh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMERAMAN: Hey, Buddy. Hey, how are you doing?
RANDY JOHNSON, NEW YORK YANKEES: Hey.
No cameras, man. No cameras.
CAMERAMAN: What was that? What is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras.
JOHNSON: Get out of my face. That's all I ask.
CAMERAMAN: I'm just taking a picture.
JOHNSON: No, you're not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras.
JOHNSON: No cameras.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it, Randy. I got it.
JOHNSON: All right? Don't get in my face. I don't care who you are. Don't get in my face.
CAMERAMAN: I'm just taking a picture. You're supposed to be...
JOHNSON: Don't get in my face, and don't talk back to me, all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Randy.
CAMERAMAN: Welcome to New York.
Indeed. Ridiculous? Well, Johnson is going to have a hard time in this place.