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Separating fact from fiction in the New York Post column on ONE

By Ian Koski
Director of Communications for North America

ONE is deeply concerned about the false and misleading opinion piece published in the New York Post today by Paula Froelich. While some factual corrections have been made to the piece since it initially posted, many more still exist.

Below is an overview of the errors and false statements in the article.

1.) The piece presents a very misleading and false picture of ONE’s work. ONE is not a grant-making organization, as is clear from our website, nor do we fundraise from the public. We have achieved concrete change in the fight against AIDS and extreme poverty by building public and political support for tested, proven programs like PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which together have helped provide AIDS medication to 20 million people who otherwise would not have it. That is just one example of what ONE has helped achieve; see more on this below.

2.) The writer says one is a “think tank” which “tries to get African governments in places like Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, South Africa, Ethiopia and Rwanda, (not ones necessarily known for keeping their word) to agree to earmark foreign aid for causes.” This is demonstrably false. ONE is not a think tank and even basic research online would show it does not try to get African governments to earmark foreign aid for anything. ONE lobbies donor governments such as the United States, the UK, Germany and France to fund programs that fight disease and hunger and help put kids in school in developing countries in Africa. It also lobbies African governments to commit more of their own domestic resources to these same issues.

3.) The writer says it is “hard for the charity to point to any tangible achievements.” This is also demonstrably false. ONE and its, division, (RED), have helped secure the passage of legislation that has resulted in billions of dollars in funding for anti-poverty programs and saved tens of millions of lives. Achievements include the following:

  • (RED) has raised nearly a half-billion dollars to prevent and treat AIDS in Africa through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, whose work on AIDS alone has helped 11 million people with HIV get life-saving medication. Through its partnerships and campaigns, (RED) has helped to keep heat and public attention on the AIDS pandemic which is critical to ensuring policymakers don’t step back from efforts to finally defeat it.
  • ONE and Bono have helped raise $37.5 billion for the Global Fund and GAVI the Vaccine Alliance. These institutions have helped avert nearly 30 million deaths.
  • ONE helped orchestrate and advocate the passage of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. to get first-time energy access to 50 million people in Africa who do not have it.
  • ONE (through its predecessor organization, DATA) and Bono helped win the cancellation more than $100 billion in bad debts which has helped millions of children go to school for the first time.
  • Bill Gates, one of ONE’s first funders, has been quoted saying funding ONE was the best money he ever spent.

4.) The piece made a claim about Bono arriving into Mali in 2012 on a private jet emblazoned with ONE on the side. This is false. Bono did travel to Mali for the Festival in the Desert, but the plane in which he traveled had nothing to do with ONE and certainly was not emblazoned with a ONE logo. Bono and his family had been in Uganda visiting the Conservation Cotton Initiative with EDUN partner Renzo Rosso and his team at Diesel. It was Renzo Rosso who arranged for and paid for the cost of the group’s flight into Mali. Contrary to the implication in the story, ONE neither planned nor paid for any aspect of the trip. This false reporting about a purported ONE plane has since been corrected in the first sentence of the piece, but remains in the fictionalized anecdote beneath it.

5.) Speaking of which … the anecdote at the beginning of the piece, where the writer purportedly spoke to a ONE “rep” years ago appears to be fiction.  It cites the now-debunked plane with a ONE logo – which never existed. It gives the false impression an official representative from ONE was directly quoted – on something that never happened.

6.) The writer says Bono has been “quiet” and not said “one word” about the crisis in Mali, which followed the festival in 2012. This is false. He has spoken about it a number of times publicly, including at a conference hosted by the International Herald Tribune, video of which you can see here.

7.) The writer says ONE takes its “friends” on “sightseeing” trips. This is false. ONE hosts listening and learning trips for policymakers and other influencers to help them see, first-hand, the impact of programs to fight AIDS, get kids in school, and reduce hunger. It is crucial to show the impact of programs for which you are lobbying, so that policymakers know funds are being well-spent.

8.) Later in the piece, referencing ONE’s board chair, Tom Freston, the writer says: “And while neither Bono nor Freston are listed as accepting salaries from One — they get to fly themselves and their friends around the world for free through the charity.” This is also patently false. ONE has never paid for Bono’s travel in any scenario. He has traveled across the world to advocate on ONE’s agenda — and always at his own expense. While the writer says that “neither Bono nor Freston are listed as accepting salaries from ONE” – this phrasing suggests there might be some doubt about this fact, but by law any compensation for board members must be listed in the organization’s 990 form and it is clear in that form they received zero compensation, a fact which could have been easily checked. This has since been corrected by the New York Post.

9.) The writer insinuates that Tom’s Freston’s connection to Vice influenced ONE’s decision to hire them for a project. This is false. ONE’s board chair Tom Freston played no part in the decision by ONE’s division (RED) to engage Vice Media. Because of his involvement with Vice, by ONE internal policies Tom is recused from any discussions regarding ONE’s work with them. Indeed, the choice to hire Vice was reviewed and approved by the ONE board’s audit committee so as to scrupulously avoid any potential conflict. Vice did excellent work for (RED)’s shopathon campaign helping (RED) to raise $97 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.