In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, George, inspired to support the families of the 9/11 dead, was a prime organizer behind the September 21, 2001 America: A Tribute to Heroes telecast. The program featured dozens of top Hollywood stars, including Clooney, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and Chris Rock, and raised about $129 million, which was given to the United Way for distribution.
On October 31, 2001, Bill O'Reilly attacked attacked celebrities like Clooney, Roberts and Hanks for not coming on his Fox News program, The O'Reilly Factor, to defend themselves from scattered news reports that money they helped to raise through the Tribute to Heroes telethon wasn't going to the victims of September 11.
Quipped O'Reilly, "When a telethon to help the victims' families is presented, the stars clamor to be a part of it....Those fundraisers bring the stars great publicity." He continued to the New York Post, "[These stars] get a lot of positive publicity when they do these events, but when it's time to take some responsibility, they are MIA."
Infuriated, Clooney famously wrote an angry letter to O'Reilly on November 6, 2001 in which he scolded, "The fund is not only the most successful single fundraiser ever, it is doing exactly what it is designed to do. Responsibly. The money is going out to the right people...
It took one phone call to find this information. One phone call you did not make. But hey, it's the first week of sweeps and you need to run a hard-hitting expose of irresponsible, pampered performers and try to bait them on your show with inflammatory statements. I'm sure it must have been frustrting for yu that not one person took the bait. Hell Bill, even McCarthy got a few people to show up."
Clooney's missive was the stuff of headlines and talk show fodder for weeks after O'Reilly discussed it on air.
Clooney & O'Reilly Spar Again
Clooney and O'Reilly again sparred publicly three years later when Clooney took a leadership role in organizing the star-studded January 15, 2005 telethon, Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope, to benefit victims of the late-2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
O'Reilly sniped on his Fox News show that he "will be watching to see if the money gets to the tsunami victims....we applaud the time and generosity of George Clooney and the other stars. But with power comes responsibility. and we expect all the telethon people to understand that."
Clooney responded, "I'm booking the talent for the Tsunami event...and you, Mr. O'Reilly, are now officially invited to be a presenter....This way, you can personally follow up on our fund-raising. This is your chance to put your considerable money where your considerable mouth is...."
George Clooney in the 21st Century
Several media sources quote George Clooney saying in 2003, "The problem is we elected a manager, and we need a leader. Let's face it: Bush is just dim."
Ultra-conservative website CelebPolitics.com gives George "a conservative-friendly rating of -14, making George a Wacko Liberal Nutcase." The site also reports that Clooney has made $10,000 in liberal campaign contributions and none in conservative caampaign contributions.
Clooney publicly supported John Kerry for President in 2004, and donated $2,000 to his campaign. In fact, Clooney purchased his Lake Como, Italy villa from the Kerry-Heinz family for a reported $7.8 million prior to Kerry announcing his candidacy for the 2004 presidential race.
George Clooney donated $1 million in September 2005 to the United Way Hurricane Katrina Response Fund to help out the victims of the hurricane. Clooney is a member of the United Way Board of Trustees. Said Clooney when he made the donation, "Today our neighbors need food, shelter and health care, but the very near future is when the difficult part of rebuilding lives and homes and cities starts. We're all in this one together." In March 2006, Clooney donated his Oscar gift-bag (Value: about $100,000) to the United Way, to be auctioned off to benefit that humanitarian organization's programs.
In 2006, as he promoted his two most recent films, Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana, Clooney spoke more openly and freely about politics.
In March, the Associated Press reported, "George Clooney has faulted Democrats for their timidity in the months before the start of the Iraq war, saying many party leaders muted their criticism of the Bush administration rather than risk being branded as unpatriotic. 'The fear of (being) criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war,' Clooney said..."