WASHINGTON: Buckling after coming under withering public scrutiny,
the American Red Cross has announced that all money donated to the
September 11 Liberty Fund will be given to the victims' families and
their long-term financial needs.
Two weeks ago, the Red Cross hired Edelman's Washington, DC practice and
the firm of Cholpak, Leonard, Schecter & Associates to shape a message
that would help the charity group navigate through the barrage of bad
press that was threatening to undermine its good work. The Red Cross was
accused of misleading the public on how it would spend the $564
million that it had raised for the Liberty Fund.
On November 14, the Red Cross held a press conference with members of
the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee to announce that it would not be diverting $200 million of the money to a plan to prepare for future terrorist
"We deeply regret that our activities over the past eight weeks have not
been as sharply focused as America wants, nor as focused as the victims
of this tragedy deserve," said Harold Decker, CEO of the Red Cross at
the press conference. "The people affected by this terrible tragedy have
been our first priority, and beginning today, they will be the only
priority of the Liberty Fund."
Cholpak Leonard helped prepare the press conference, and set up
television appearances for Decker so that he could explain the group's
new position on the Liberty Fund. Decker appeared on CNN's MoneyLine,
various nightly news programs, and Larry King Live. The national print
media picked up the story the next day.
The Red Cross also decided to provide a database with the names of
25,000 families to whom it has provided assistance, which will be shared
by various relief groups. In another change, the Red Cross stated that
the operating costs of the Liberty Fund, including the toll-free lines
that were used to locate victims' families, will be paid by the interest
earned on the fund's balance.