The United Way

Bad news concerning the United Way.  Buster Sappenfield, who lives in Lawrenceville, Georgia, writes, "Bill, thanks for getting the Red Cross to do the right thing.  Now, please get the United Way straightened out."

Not easy, Mr. Sappenfield.  We've given the United Way enough time to sort things out, and they have let us down.  The September 11 Fund has now collected close to $300 million, half of that from the TV telethon.  At this point, just 15 percent of the money has been disbursed, and there are some very questionable organizations getting some of the donations.

As we've been telling you, the United Way does not give money directly to people, they give it to other nonprofit agencies who then decide what to do with it.  So with your donations, the United Way has lent the Brooklyn Philharmonic, for example, $200,000.  The Institute for the Development of Earth Awareness got a grant for $5,000.

The Jennifer Muller Dance Troupe got a grant for $25,000.  And the New York Scandia Symphony got as much as $20,000.  The Mothers' Voice AIDS prevention program got a grant for $100,000.  Harvestworks got a loan for $30,000.  That organization makes production facilities available for filmmakers and composers.  A digital art operation called Three-Legged Dog got almost $33,000 of your money.

Now, the United Way says that these and other organizations like them were all adversely affected by the terror attack, and we have no argument with that.  But that's not what Americans were told by the Hollywood celebrities who pitched us on TV.  We were pitched helping the families.

And there's more.  The United Way has given $60,000 to the Arab American Support Center, almost $60,000 to the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest organization, which dabbles in environmental justice.  And the United Way has given $30,000 to the Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Again, these organizations may be very worthy of support, but they should be under the banner of the 9/11 fund?  Should they be under that banner?

The fact is that the United Way has changed the mandate in midstream, saying now the entire 9/11 fund will not go directly to the grieving families, as was the telethon pitch.  In the new turn, the fund will go toward, quote, "immediate and longer-term needs of the victims, their families, and communities affected by the tragedy."

So now the canvas is much wider, and some Americans believe they've been snookered.  So the right thing to do is for the United Way to give refunds if people want them.  A canceled check or credit card slip would be proof.

If the United Way is not willing to do that, it will be forever marked as an outfit that cannot be trusted.

And that's the memo.

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

You may have read last week about The Factor expanding to radio.  In fact, I had actually had to interrupt my vacation to call in here and explain the situation.  That prompted this e-mail from Helen Holmes, who lives in Bayville, New Jersey.  "Mr. O'Reilly, I am deaf, and I am writing to you because I was honestly heartbroken to think you were trying to take advantage of Rush Limbaugh's recently found disability.  Thanks very much for explaining."

Well, thank you for considering what I had to say, Miss Holmes.  We all feel bad for Mr. Limbaugh, and I'm putting any radio plans on hold until his operation in January, and hopefully his surgery will be successful.  We're all praying for him.  I would never exploit anyone's malady.

Sad part about this is that you'll be reading a lot of stuff in the press like that about me and The Factor, and most of it'll be false, outright not true, because we've become very powerful here, and that means we are one big target.

It's ridiculous, but that's life in the fast lane in America.

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