The two escalate their feud over the actor's actions to raise money for charity

By Sharon Cotliar and Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 10, 2005 04:00 PM

George Clooney is once again battling FOX commentator Bill O’Reilly over the question of celebrities raising money for charity – and the actor-producer is now inviting O’Reilly to “ante up” and get involved in an upcoming telethon for victims of the South Asia tsunami disaster.

O’Reilly, in his on-air O’Reilly Factor editorial on Thursday, reminded viewers that “in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, there was a celebrity-driven TV telethon that raised millions for the affected families, (and) now there will be another telethon raising money for those hurt by those the tsunami (including) our pal George Clooney.” (The telethon airs Saturday on NBC, and also features performances by Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera and Tim McGraw.)

O’Reilly went on to say: “You may also remember that Clooney strenuously objected to The Factor investigation that uncovered problems in distributing the 9/11 money, even though we proved our case and the Red Cross revamped its entire operation because of it.”

The FOX star contends that “if George Clooney and other stars go on TV and ask you to give, then they had better be involved all the way down the line (in how the money is dispersed).”

In an open letter to O’Reilly released by Clooney’s publicist Monday, the Ocean’s Twelve star responds, in part: “It is incumbent upon me to help you get your facts straight. First, to clarify, it was not the Red Cross but the United Way that sponsored that telethon … an easy mistake to make … if you’re 3.

“Second,” Clooney continues, “contrary to what you claim, no one objected to you investigating where the funds were going, but we strenuously objected to you insinuating that it was a fraud (which is what you did) as we were still waiting for a list of names of the dead.”

Clooney also accuses O’Reilly of starting a “panic” among charities with his initial editorial. The actor then makes the argument that O’Reilly is a celebrity in his own right (“you put on makeup, you do Leno, The Today Show, go on book tours and do junkets, so let’s be clear … you are a well-paid celebrity”) and closes his letter by personally inviting O’Reilly to take part in the telethon.

“Either you ante up and help out AND be that watchdog that you feel we clearly need … or you simply stand on the sidelines and cast stones, proving that your Jan. 6 TV show was nothing more than a ‘box of lights and wires’ designed to make you wealthy,” Clooney writes.

“You can personally follow up on our fundraising. … We do the show this Saturday, it’s across the street from where you shoot The Factor. I’ll need a quick response. Your fan, George Clooney.”

On his Monday night broadcast, O’Reilly said, “I got a letter from my pal George Clooney today. I don’t think he likes me.” Still, he said the invitation to join the telethon “sounds good … but I want to see what the format is.” He also put forth the notion that “Clooney may be considering me for a part in Ocean’s Thirteen, where I meet an unpleasant demise.”