New Reports Claim Nearly Half A Million Dollars Donated to Jena Six is Missing

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 14, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Impact" segment tonight, you may remember the case of the Jena Six. African-American high school students charged with beating a white student after a racial incident at Jena High School, in Arkansas.

Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders rallied to assist the six students. And reports say about $500,000 was raised for their defense.

Now there are questions about where that money has gone. Pictures of defendant Robert Bailey with $100 bills have surfaced on the Net. Two other defendants appeared well heeled at a music awards event they traveled to.

Joining us now from Washington, where he's leading a march for justice on Friday, is Al Sharpton. And from Dallas, Texas, Howard Witt, who broke the story for The Chicago Tribune.

You know, I like The Chicago Tribune. I think it's one of the few newspapers in the country where you get an honest appraisal of the news. But if you had to put a headline on this story, Mr. Witt, what would it be?

HOWARD WITT, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, I think the headline would be lots of question marks around the funds that were collected for the Jena Six defendants. There's been rumors about the fate of that money floating around the Internet as you mentioned for quite a while now. Several weeks, but the controversy really broke into the open last week when Michael Basin, who's a prominent black talk radio host based here in Dallas, actually went on the air and accused a group called Color of Change of having actually somehow been shady with the money.

The irony of that is that Color of Change, which has raised about $212,000 for the Jena Six defendants, they're the only group in all of this that actually has been completely transparent about how they have distributed the money. And they've basically shown how they have paid it all out to the attorneys.

There's a lot of other questions regarding the rest of this money hanging out there. And including Michael Basin himself, who until I started asking questions about it, he himself was not forthcoming about how he had distributed the money. So there's a lot of questions.

O'REILLY: OK, how many charities are there? And they're not really charities because they were just funds set up. But how many funds are there that are helping these defendants?

WITT: Well, it's an unknown question how many there really are. There's a lot of Internet scammers out there who were raising money on behalf of the Jena Six. And no one knows where that money went.

But of the big major groups, there's Color of Change which is an Internet based civil rights group and an established group. There's the NAACP. And there's a group called the Jena Six Defense Fund. That is money that is controlled by the parents themselves. And it's sitting in a bank account in Jena, Louisiana, controlled by the parents. Those are the major sources.

O'REILLY: All right, so the parents themselves are controlling — now we hear that the parents have bought Escalades, big cars, are driving around in them since these funds were established. Is that true?

WITT: No, I -- I have no — see no evidence that that's true. That's one of the rumors that's out there. There's no evidence that that's the case. The problem is in the absence of any kind of transparency about this money.

O'REILLY: Yes, you don't know. You don't know. But you haven't found out that they did indeed spend money on expensive cars? That you haven't found out, OK.

WITT: No, there's no evidence that they've misused the money, but no one knows for sure because.

O'REILLY: Well, what -- all right, what about this Robert Bailey, the picture where he's holding $100 bills and his mother says that he earned this money parking cars. Do you know anything about this specifically?

WITT: Yes, in fact, I talked to his mother about that. Not parking cars. He works as a parks maintenance worker down there in Jena. She claims that that's money he earned on his job. It could be.

The question is, you know, it wasn't a very smart thing for him to do to be seen posing with this money, because again it just seems like

O'REILLY: Yes, $100 bills, I mean, that's a lot of park maintenance.

All right, Reverend Sharpton, now when you have this kind of a flow of funds — and you've been doing this for a long time — into a system where there is an umbrella accountability here, one agency is accountable, the others aren't, there is, you know, the perception that something may be going wrong because a half million dollars is a lot of dough. How do you see it?

AL SHARPTON, REV., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Well, I think, first of all, let's not confuse many of us that were involved had nothing to do with the fundraising. National Action Network, my group, had nothing to do with any of the funds. And so when we say civil rights leaders protested and put all that in with who's on the Internet, those are not the same parties.

Secondly, I think that when you talk about the group Color of Change did over $200,000, that's half of the money that you're saying was raised. So half of it, you are saying is transparent.

As I understand state law, that you make annual reports. And people are required to report what they did in `07 and `08. So are we asking here for people to have to do a transparent report before it is due? And whether or not that is a legal requirement is another question, I don't know.

I would be — I'm very happy to hear him say that there is no evidence that the parents have bought Escalades. There's no evidence of people running around, misusing the money personally with the family. So I think this is all about a distraction.

I think Michael Basdin, because he was one of the moving forces of the protests, has this for Friday, was concerned about that and concerned about the families. And he legitimately raised it. He used his platform to do it.

When there was answers, he apologized. And I think that's the responsible thing to do. But I think in any movement, there's always distractions. At the end of the day, what are we saying? The parents we don't think did anything. We don't know who did, but it just looks funny.

O'REILLY: Well, it looks funny. And whenever you have cash, you guys know, whenever there's cash coming in, you got to account for it.

SHARPTON: All right. Well, let me ask a question. Do you, Mr. Witt, have any evidence that someone has done something wrong with the money? Who? I mean, let's say. Rather than tarnish a movement for justice with some ifs and maybes, be straight. What is it that you're saying is happening?

O'REILLY: Well, I think he's just raising questions. I mean, Mr. Witt — as a journalist, I would raise them, too.

SHARPTON: Well, let's raise the question about unequal justice. Let's raise the question about the cost.

O'REILLY: Well, I think we've already done that, reverend. You've been on this program and every other program raising the questions.

SHARPTON: You've been very fair about that, Mr. O'Reilly. But what I'm saying is to raise the question without any substantive charge is really a distraction.

O'REILLY: No, no, no. That's where you're — reverend, now if I'm going to train you in journalism, you got to listen to me now.

SHARPTON: All right. Go ahead.

O'REILLY: You raise the question and then evidence comes forth.


O'REILLY: It's like Watergate.

SHARPTON: And my question is.

O'REILLY: You have a little evidence, and then it starts to grow. This is a legitimate story.

SHARPTON: My question is if you are showing me journalism, the question is that if you're already saying there's no Escalades, there's no evidence of splurging, then what is the question?

O'REILLY: The question is where's the other $250,000? And what's being done with it? Gentlemen..

SHARPTON: And who are you asking the question.

O'REILLY: And we will stay on this story. Reverend.

SHARPTON: And you need to ask those that raised it, because.

O'REILLY: And we are going to do it. We're going to do it.

SHARPTON: (INAUDIBLE) did not raise the money.

O'REILLY: All right.

SHARPTON: And I think he would tell you that.

O'REILLY: If you want to get some exercise, you can join the reverend in D.C. on Friday. He'll be marching for justice as we do here every day on "The Factor ." Gentlemen, thanks very much.

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