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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
WEBCommentary Contributor
Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  March 24, 2010
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Topic category:  Conservative/Libertarian/Right

Has Sean Hannity Met the O'Reilly Celebrity Responsibility Standard?

Will Bill O'Reilly investigate Ms. Schlussel's allegations or look away? Let the chips fall where they may. Assuming that O'Reilly wants contributions to Freedom Alliance to go to wounded warriers and their children as much as he wanted United Way and tsunami contributions spent on the intended beneficiaries, he will look into the matter, demand proof, ascertain the facts and report the truth, whatever it is...or else George Clooney will crow that O'Reilly isn't really "looking out for the folks."

Fight on the right: Debbie Schlussel versus Sean Hannity.

On March 18, 2010, Ms. Schlussel (who sometimes refers to Hannity as Vannity) posted "Sean Hannity’s Freedom CONcert Scam: Almost None of Charity’s $ Went to Injured Troops, Kids of Fallen Troops; G5s for Vannity?" (www.debbieschlussel.com/6938/sean-hannitys-freedom-concert-scam-only-7-of-charitys-money-went-to-injured-troops-kids-of-fallen-troops-g5s-g6s-for-vannity/).

Ms. Schlussel:

"For the last several years, Sean Hannity and the Freedom Alliance 'charity' have conducted 'Freedom Concerts' across America. They’ve told you that they are raising money to pay for the college tuition of the children of fallen soldiers and to pay severely wounded war vets. And on Friday Night, Hannity will be honored with an award for this 'Outstanding Community Service by a Radio Talk Show Host' at Talkers Magazine’s convention.

"But it’s all a huge scam."

Ms. Schlussel alleged that Hannity had exploited the charity, not just failed to oversee it.

Ms. Schlussel:

"In February 2009, a well-known conservative writer sent me this, about a friend at FOX News: 'The guy went on to tell me about Hannity’s “Freedom Concerts,” which are staged across the country with the proceeds going to children of slain soldiers. Of course, as the guy tells it, there’d be a lot more money every concert to go to the cause if Hannity didn’t demand–and get–use of a Gulfstream 5 plane to fly him and his family/entourage to the concerts; a “fleet” (that’s the word the guy used) of either Cadillac or Lincoln SUVs for him and his family/entourage; and several suites at really expensive hotels for him and his family/entourage. The promoter apparently values Hannity’s star demands at well over $200,000 per event. The source says he heard that Oliver North pulled Hannity aside at one of the concerts and told him that this had to stop. But that may mean that, from now on, Hannity has to fly on a G4 instead of a G5, gets only a few luxury SUVs, and two or three suites."

That's a sensational charge, but Ms. Schlussel did not offer any evidence that would be admitted in a court of law to substantiate her charge that Hannity received such fringe benefits from Freedom Alliance.

However, Ms. Schlussel used publicly available tax returns to make a case against Freedom Alliance.

For example:

"According to its 2006 tax returns, Freedom Alliance reported revenue of $10,822,785, but only $397,900–or a beyond-measly 3.68%–of that was given to the children of fallen troops as scholarships or as aid to severely injured soldiers.

"On the other hand, 62% of the money went to 'expenses,' including $979,485 for 'consultants' and an 'advisor.' Yes, consultant/advisors got more than double what injured troops and the kids of fallen troops got. The tax forms show that 'New World Aviation' got paid $60,601 for 'air travel.' Was that for Hannity’s G5? Like I said, neither the charity nor Hannity is talking. And finally, that year, Freedom Alliance spent $1,730,816 on postage and shipping and $1,414,215 on printing, for a total of $3,145,031, nearly half the revenue the charity spent that year and about eight times what the injured troops and the children of fallen ones received.

"That’s especially heartbreaking when you compare the hundreds of thousands consultants got and the millions spent on printing and postage to the outrageously small amounts given to wounded soldiers. In 2006, Freedom Alliance gave only $1,000 to a soldier from Bay City, Michigan, whom the charity says was in the following condition: Face was blown up and lost sight in one eye. And that $1,000 was relatively generous, when you consider this soldier from Romulus, Michigan, whom Freedom Alliance only gave $200: SM [serviceman] was involved in roadside bomb incident in Iraq, which caused loss of both legs and left arm.

"Romulus is a mostly Black Detroit suburb, which is one of the poorest cities in Michigan and in America. Freedom Alliance gave this brave soldier roughly $67 per limb. That’s sickening."

Ms. Schlussel obviously thinks that Hannity is a sickening self-promoter and liar too.

Ms. Schlussel:

"Since Sean Hannity is always bragging about his phony 'investigations' (stuff he just rips offrom others) and 'investigative' skills, you’d think he could figure out how to read a tax return and bother to look at Freedom Alliance’s. But you would be wrong. He has neither the skills nor the desire. He knows better and is well aware that they waste money on him and his luxe accommodations and travel. But this isn’t about that or truly about helping the troops and the kids of our war dead. It’s about promoting himself, the same way Angelina Jolie and Madonna get the press to film them in Africa.

"To make matters worse, Hannity deliberately lied to his radio audience about how much money was going to the kids of the fallen American soldiers. On May 28th of last year, Hannity told his listeners, 'Our new sponsor, Boca Java, just pledged $30,000 to the Freedom Concerts. That will provide a full one-year college scholarship for a kid of a fallen soldier.' In fact, Freedom Alliance’s tax forms indicate it has never given any student more than $6,000 in a school year, and usually it’s been far less. Many students only get $1,000, which will barely cover anything at most colleges, today. A Boca Java spokeswoman told me that last year was the coffee purveyor’s last one sponsoring the Freedom Concerts, as it now donates directly to the troops, sending them free coffee and through sales of its Brew of Bravery.

"A friend of mine was one of the artists who performed in Hannity’s Freedom Concerts and was shocked when I showed him the tax forms and the expenses. He no longer performs at the concerts because he was tired of the egomania. Now, he’s just angry. 'We paid our own way and for all of our costs and expenses to perform because we thought we were helping the troops and their families and that all the money was going to them.'"

Freedom Alliance responded to Ms. Schlussel's allegations: http://biggovernment.com/falliance/2010/03/19/freedom-alliance-responds-to-allegations-against-sean-hannity/#more-92622.

With respect to Hannity, it stated:

"False Accusations

"1. The blog posting accuses our friend Sean Hannity of personally benefiting from Freedom Alliance. This is FALSE. Freedom Alliance has never provided planes, hotels, cars, limos, or anything else to Sean. Sean gets nothing from Freedom Alliance except our gratitude for his personal generosity and for all he has done to help the troops and our organization. We have never had to ask Sean for anything, he always generously offers his help before we have a chance to ask him. But to be clear Sean pays for all his own transportation, hotels, and all related expenses for himself and his family and friends and staff, which over the years has added up to tens of thousands of dollars. He does not use any Freedom Alliance Funds or Concert funds in any way, period.

"2. Sean Hannity has contributed $100,000 to the Wounded Warriors Foundation, over $200,000 to the Freedom Alliance, and over tens of thousands of dollars to other military charities and individuals. We only make this information public because of the outrageous slander against him. Sean has no management or operational involvement in, or control over, Freedom Alliance. He has been a selfless patriot in his efforts to raise funds for the education of children of armed services personnel."

Both Ms. Schlussel and Freedom Alliance can't be right, of course.

Ms. Schlussel replied at her website:

"In fact, the Freedom Alliance 'response' doesn’t answer any of the questions I raised and goes on to lie more. They don’t address why they gave a triple amputee only $200—and in fact there are many of these examples provided in their tax return addendum, but I only cited a few for brevity’s sake. They also lie and claim that they gave a lot more money to charity b/c they categorize it as 'program expenses.' But I’m sorry—calling $3 million in consulting fees, printing, and postage 'program expenses' doesn’t change the fact that it still went to their cronies, not to a fund and not the soldiers who only got on average less than $900 apiece. It also doesn’t change the fact that out of the money spent (I didn’t use the money they claim they raised for their scholarship fund) the vast majority goes to those kinds of expenses.

"Also, the 'scholarship fund' is really a war chest for something else. We’ve been at war since 2001, when we went into Afghanistan, and we’re winding down in Iraq. Unless the kids were born in 2001 or thereafter, many of these kids are in college now and Freedom Alliance is giving them a pittance toward their college tuition, while they continue to build this massive war chest. With a giant multi-million dollar fund, why aren’t they giving the kids a free, complete ride to college? And how many kids of deceased troops will there be in the future? Enough to exhaust a multi-million dollar fund? Doubtful.

"Moreover, because they hoarded millions of dollars, their returns show the fund shrunk by several million dollars with bad investments and market losses. That money could have put these kids through college for the entire time. What’s their excuse for the soldiers with no limbs and with severe burns? Are they waiting for two decades from now when technology is better? $165 for a soldier who is blind and his face blew up? No excuse for that. Their 'response' is simply a non-response and an attempt to cover up the fraud. I will be posting more on this and on more fraud at Freedom Alliance, in the coming days. Stay tuned."

Ms. Schlussel has not proven that Hannity received anything from his association with Freedom Alliance except positive publicity and exercise but Hannity has not publicly presented documentation to support Freedom Alliance's assurances.

What ARE the facts?

And even if Hannity and friends never received any benefit or favor from Freedom Alliance (and the burden of proof is on Ms. Schlussel), has Hannity met...the O'Reilly Celebrity Responsibility Standard?

After the 9/11 attacks, the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon featuring such Hollywood stars as George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts raised $129,000,000 that was given to the United Way for distribution.

On Halloween 2001, O'Reilly criticized celebrities for not coming on "The O'Reilly Factor" to respond to reports that money they helped to raise through the telethon wasn't going to the victims of September 11.

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."

"[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."

On November 6, 2001, George Clooney wrote to O'Reilly:

"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...."

In 2005, Clooney helped organize 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 promptly announced 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...."

Will Bill O'Reilly investigate Ms. Schlussel's allegations or look away? Let the chips fall where they may. Assuming that O'Reilly wants contributions to Freedom Alliance to go to wounded warriers and their children as much as he wanted United Way and tsunami contributions spent on the intended beneficiaries, he will look into the matter, demand proof, ascertain the facts and report the truth, whatever it is...or else George Clooney will crow that O'Reilly isn't really "looking out for the folks."

Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.


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