George Clooney brought his considerable star power to the National Press Club on Thursday, for a briefing on his recent trip with his father, Nick, to Darfur, a war-torn area of Sudan. His mission: to bring attention to the tragedy occurring there.
“What we cannot do is turn our heads and look away and hope this will somehow disappear,” said the Oscar-winner who was flanked by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who support aiding humanitarian missions.
Clooney, with a wry grin, admitted that while on the trip he’d finally agreed to eat goat. “The next day the goat was taking its revenge on me,” he said.
The actor also showed video of him with his father interviewing displaced villagers who spoke about the brutal conditions they face. “It’s not a political issue. There is only right or wrong,” Clooney said.
Clooney and his dad just returned from the region on Monday. The idea for the journey started with a conversation, PEOPLE reports in its new issue. “We can make it a higher-profile story,” Clooney told his father. “Why don’t we just go over there and find out what’s happening?”
With that, father and son, plus a cameraman and a Darfur expert, traveled to the African nation, where an estimated 180,000 people have been killed and 2 million displaced in three years of political unrest.
“We were freelance,” says the elder Clooney, 72, of the journey, which the group documented on film.
Clooney Sr., a columnist for a Cincinnati newspaper, also plans to write about the trip. “It was difficult,” he says. “It’s been a long time since I’ve slept in a mud hut and had a tarantula over my head.”
Father and son split expenses: “George paid for the transport and lodging. I paid for the cigarettes and coffee.”
The actor, 44, and his father plan to attend a Save Darfur rally on the National Mall in D.C. on Sunday.
As for the trip, Obama appreciated the Clooneys’ efforts. “George combines celebrity with real knowledge and commitment,” he tells PEOPLE. “He does his homework and he takes this stuff seriously.”
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