Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2003 / 24 Shevat, 5763

Bill O'Reilly

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The Clooney Factor | George Clooney's mocking of Charlton Heston's fatal disease has largely been ignored by the press, which may be the result of Heston's status as the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization many in the media loathe. As first reported by syndicated columnist Liz Smith, Clooney opined at a National Board of Review event that "Charlton Heston announced again today that he is suffering from Alzheimer's."

When asked by Ms. Smith if the remark went over the line, Clooney replied: "I don't care. Charlton Heston is the head of the NRA; he deserves whatever anyone says about him."

Having had a major dust-up with Clooney myself over the problems the United Way had distributing 9-11 charity donations, I know the actor can get very personal. He said nasty things about me, but almost everyone does as well, so that's not important.

However, the remarks directed at Heston are important because they are meanspirited and, perhaps, un-American. It is simply out of line to make fun of a person's personal tragedy because you disagree with his politics.

And then there's the press. Just imagine if a public figure like Clooney had mocked the paralysis of Christopher Reeve or the debilitating condition of Muhammad Ali. The media firestorm would have been ferocious; fear and loathing would have consumed newsrooms everywhere.

But because the press generally disagrees with Heston's politics, the verbal assault on him goes under-reported. If you ever needed an example of media bias, this is it.

Most Americans, I believe, do not loathe those with whom they disagree. This country was founded on vigorous debate. But some people simply cannot tolerate differing points of view. Hi, there, George Clooney.

Charlton Heston is not commenting, and his spokesman, Bill Powers, had only this to say about George Clooney: "apparently, in some cases, class skips a generation." Powers, of course, is referencing singer Rosemary Clooney, George's late aunt.

An interesting question now is, will Mr. Clooney's increasingly verbose posture hurt his career? In GQ magazine, he called President Bush "dim." In another interview he described the Bush administration as being "worse than 'The Sopranos.'" Both comments are certainly permissible in the intense discourse that politics often engenders, but there is a cumulative effect in verbal drive-by assaults.

It is my opinion that Alec Baldwin, an extremely talented actor, derailed his career by making emotional, poorly thought-out statements like those threatening Congressman Henry Hyde during the Clinton impeachment. Mr. Baldwin is no longer on many radar screens, even in liberal Hollywood, and has lately been doing movies for cable television.

The outrageous conduct of Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War absolutely hurt her image among Americans, and she is a divisive figure to this day. Ms. Fonda, another talented actor, has not been able to sustain her career.

There is strong evidence that the perception of poor behavior does influence the entertainment choices of many Americans. The career of Woody Allen cratered after he married his step-daughter. Michael Jackson took a huge career hit after allegations of pedophilia were settled in civil court.

Actions do, indeed, speak louder than words, and it would be foolish to compare the situations of Allen and Jackson with those of Baldwin and Clooney. But it is a mistake to think that barbed words don't matter. Many Americans bitterly resent statements of unfairness and cruelty.

Clooney's remarks about Charlton Heston were cruel, and, I predict, may well cause a vocational perfect storm, pun intended. George may be riding high now, but he had better watch it.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.


01/21/03: Poverty-inducing entertainment
01/13/03: To protect and serve
12/30/02: Global double Crossing
12/30/02: The villains of 2002
12/23/02: Finding offense where none is intended is a form of selfishness
12/16/02: The Houston lesson
12/09/02: Somewhere Santa is weeping
12/02/02: A taxing situation
11/26/02: Talk is expensive when it comes to Bill Moyers
11/18/02: Sanity has left the building
11/11/02: The right stuff
11/04/02: The Attorney General blues
10/28/02: This ain't no game
10/21/02: It's only rock and roll, but it's brutal
10/14/02: The root of all evil
10/07/02: When children murder
09/23/02: The death of outrage
09/17/02: Singing a different tune
09/09/02: Answering my critics about the Roush case
09/03/02: Let's misbehave
08/26/02: Money makes the world go 'round
08/19/02: Long live the King
08/12/02: A friendly reminder
08/05/02: Heaven only knows
07/29/02: Blood money
07/22/02: Suffer the children
07/15/02: Reaching critical mass
07/08/02: Believe it or not
07/01/02: Charity begins at home
06/24/02: Spinning a tale and the case for "Stupid White Men"
06/17/02: Blank those Europeans!
06/10/02: What does Bono want from us?
06/03/02: On fighting evil
05/28/02: A Tale of Two Churches
05/20/02: Crimes against humanity
05/13/02: Silence of the lambs
05/06/02: Hide the children
04/29/02: 'Paul, Paul, Paul!'
04/22/02: Barbarians in the Church
04/15/02: Pray for peace, polish the weapons
03/11/02: Do no harm? Time to spank "Dr. Phil"
03/04/02: Promoting the general welfare
02/25/02: Who's responsible?
02/19/02: Lay it on them
02/11/02: Buy dope, fund terror
02/04/02: Back room deals
01/28/02: From boom to bust
01/21/02: The Fairness Doctrine
01/14/02: Hey, Paula, take it to the bank and hush up
01/07/02: And justice for none
12/31/01: All that's left
12/24/01: Santa is appalled
12/17/01: Fight the power
12/10/01: The black challenge
12/03/01: How things have changed
11/26/01: Waiting in the Bushes
11/19/01: The sign of the Cross
11/09/01: Hollyweird strikes back
11/06/01: The fear factor
10/26/01: Show me the money
10/22/01: See no evil
10/15/01: Peace, but no quiet
10/08/01: The air war
10/01/01: I don't understand
09/24/01: We are all soldiers, and we have a job to do
09/14/01: Evil on display
09/11/01: Family matters!
09/04/01: End of summer blues
08/27/01: Summertime -- and the livin' ain't easy
08/20/01: The rap on rap
08/13/01: The truth hurts
08/06/01: Amnesty for illegals: Bush's political investment
07/30/01: The big picture on Condit-Levy
07/24/01: Silence of the Shams
07/16/01: Condit, Kennedy and cable news
07/09/01: Heather needs a childhood: The unnecessary loss of innocence
07/02/01: What would have happened if Steven Spielberg had recut "Schindler's List" for German audiences so they wouldn't be confronted with "emotional issues"?
06/25/01: Freak dancing
06/18/01: Work or die
06/11/01: Soundbite nation
06/04/01: Paying through the nose
05/29/01: Graduation Day 2001
05/21/01: Accepting the unacceptable
05/14/01: The Clinton legacy
05/07/01: Kerrey's ordeal
04/27/01: Is the party over?
04/20/01: Racism in public education
04/16/01: The fleecing of America
04/10/01: People who need perspective
04/03/01: Dubya's bottom line --- and ours
03/27/01: Don't tell, don't ask
03/20/01: Greenspan with envy
03/13/01: Clinton and Jackson
03/07/01: All that's left in America
02/27/01: The Letterman experience
02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
01/24/01: I have been investigating Jackson's finances for the past two years
01/17/01: Sifting Ashcroft's record

© 2001 Creators Syndicate