Wyclef Jean: Don't Bother Me, I'm Perfect

03/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jeff Norman Founder of Homefront Rising, a cultural revival led by veterans and their allies

Wyclef Jean's defensive and amateurish video response to legitimate questions about his NGO, Yele Haiti, suggests doubts about the charity are well-founded.

Under fire for alleged financial improprieties and the perception he's in over his head trying to raise funds on a massive scale for earthquake victims in Haiti, Jean simply ignored concerns about Yele's ability to compete with larger and more established groups such as the American Red Cross. Instead, he whined about the criticism and portrayed himself as selfless.

On Yele's website, Jean was indignant about the scrutiny he and his organization are receiving. "It is impossible for me to even comprehend the recent attacks on my character and the integrity of my foundation," the clueless singer complained.

Jean told reporters to stop bothering him. "The mainstream media's pursuit of [information] has required Yele to divert precious resources during this critical time in order to answer various inquiries. That must end."

Maybe donations to Yele should end.

Although Jean lashed out at only the media, his unwillingness to communicate also affects donors who are entitled to know exactly how and when their money will be spent.

It's not as if such information is obtainable elsewhere. Try finding a telephone number for Yele. If you find it, try getting someone to speak with you. Likewise, try getting a response from the email form on the website.

Although Yele is officially accepting internet donations, its website has already crashed at least once from heavy traffic, and it seems to be relying almost exclusively on contributions via text messages. As an Associated Press article pointed out, "It could take at least a month for donors' money to flow in because it is not released until they pay their phone bills."

It's not necessarily a bad thing to raise funds that won't be allocated for awhile. After all, Haiti can't be rebuilt overnight, and its inhabitants will need food and medical services in the coming weeks and months as well as right now. But it's just a fact that many people prefer to finance the immediate emergency response, and Yele should be forthright about whether it is rendering short-term or long-term assistance.

Unfortunately, Jean's bratty attitude makes me feel as if Yele can't be trusted to do anything.

The situation in Haiti is emotionally overwhelming. For that reason, Jean should be forgiven for his outbursts, but only if he asks to be forgiven. Otherwise, there are far too many relief organizations run and staffed by people who don't treat donors with contempt, to justify contributing to Yele. Jean needs to apologize, sincerely state his willingness to answer questions and enable the public to communicate with his staff - or get out of the charity business.