Is this a burial of the hatchet or just an escalation of poker-game bluff-calling? The latest in the war of words between Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and NBC tsunami telethon talent recruiter George Clooney has the pundit accepting the actor’s invite to appear on Saturday’s TV benefit concert — and serve as watchdog to make sure the funds reach victims and survivors, a role O’Reilly says Clooney failed to fulfill three years ago after he spearheaded a similar celebrity fundraising effort in the wake of 9/11.
When O’Reilly revived his claim on the air last week that Clooney’s alleged failure to follow through by monitoring the 9/11 charity drive once cameras stopped rolling marked him as a typical dilettante celebrity, Clooney responded with an e-mail refuting the claim. Clooney also wrote that O’Reilly’s comments could discourage people from pledging to the Jan. 15 telethon, that the O’Reilly Factor host was himself a wealthy celebrity (who earns more than Clooney, the actor claimed), and that O’Reilly should ”put your considerable money where your considerable mouth is” by serving as a presenter on the show. In turn, O’Reilly responded on air that he was considering the invite but needed more information.
On Tuesday, Clooney replied with a statement, issuing an ultimatum: ”We’re not playing games here, we’re trying to save lives. It’s as simple as this: you’re either with this joint effort or against it.” Apparently, Clooney hadn’t gotten the message that O’Reilly had accepted the invitation two hours earlier, telling the audience on his radio show, ”NBC has faxed us over information that all of the money that you donate to the telethon on Saturday night is going to the American Red Cross — all of it. I like that. So, I’m gonna go over and do it.” Later in the day, Clooney’s rep told the press that ”George was very pleased” to learn of O’Reilly’s decision.
O’Reilly joins an ever-growing list of stars scheduled to appear on the two-hour Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope. On Tuesday, NBC announced that Elton John, Annie Lennox, and Nelly were joining the list of musicians performing on the show, a lineup that already included such acts as Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, Norah Jones, Mary J. Blige, John Mayer, Kenny Chesney, India.Arie, Tom Jones, Eric Clapton, Gloria Estefan, and Sheryl Crow. Other presenters added Tuesday were Clint Eastwood, Renée Zellweger, Ben Affleck, Meg Ryan, Morgan Freeman, Ray Romano, and Robert Downey Jr. Previously named presenters included Halle Berry, Kevin Spacey, Usher, Uma Thurman, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, Danny DeVito, Tim Robbins, and Clooney. Saturday’s concert airs live at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, Bravo, Trio, USA, Sci Fi, MSNBC, CNBC, Pax, and Telemundo.