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George Clooney defends Brunei boycott after critics attack ‘tokenism’

Nick Duffy April 2, 2019
George Clooney of 'Catch 22' speaks onstage during the Hulu Panel during the Winter TCA 2019 on February 11, 2019 in Pasadena, California.

George Clooney of 'Catch 22' speaks onstage during the Hulu Panel during the Winter TCA 2019 on February 11, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Rachel Murray/Getty)

Actor George Clooney has hit back at criticism after he launched a celebrity boycott of Brunei-owned luxury hotels over the country’s anti-LGBT laws.

Clooney has led Hollywood celebrities vowing to boycott the luxury Dorchester Collection hotels owned by the Southeast Asian state over its new law imposing the death penalty for gay sex.

The actor’s involvement has been challenged by critics including Real Talk host Bill Maher, who branded the boycott “virtue signalling” and “chickensh**t tokenism.”

In an emotional op-ed for Deadline on Monday (April 1), Clooney acknowledged concerns that a boycott “hurts the people who work at the hotels.”

George Clooney: Brunei boycott ‘for the greater good’

However, Clooney retorted: “To equate their situation with the fact that this week the 5th richest country in the world would take a young woman who is found to be gay, bury her up to her neck and have 25 men throw stones at her head until she is dead seems unfathomable.

“This exact argument was used during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. And yes a lot of hard working, presumably innocent bus drivers were hurt … but no one would argue that the boycott was for the far greater good.”

George Clooney boycott: Five of the nine Dorchester Collection hotels owned by Brunei: (top L-R) Hotel Meurice in Paris, The Dorchester in London, The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, (bottom L-R) The Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and The Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles.
Five of the nine Dorchester Collection hotels owned by Brunei: (top L-R) Hotel Meurice in Paris, The Dorchester in London, The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, (bottom L-R) The Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and The Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. (Getty)

Clooney added: “It is true that the Sultan won’t be terribly hurt by a boycott, but the scores of companies he funnels money through will distance themselves. That’s what a boycott does.

“The most dangerous issue is Brunei’s neighbors. Indonesia has plenty of human rights issues, but they haven’t stoned anyone yet. But there was a law on the books, and if Brunei isn’t met with loud, forceful resistance that shakes their business establishments, then anything is possible.”

George Clooney: ‘Sunlight is the great disinfectant’

Raising “what-about-isms” about other countries with anti-LGBT laws, Clooney wrote: “For my part I spend the better part of my days chasing corruption and criminals led by some of the worst human rights violators in the world.

“And we do it by chasing their finances and confronting the establishments that they’re laundering money through.

“Believe me, no banker living in London wants to be outed as a human rights profiteer. Sunlight is the great disinfectant. Boycotts are sunlight.

“You can’t make the bad guys be good, but you can stop the good guys from being complicit.”

Clooney added: “Let me just paint you a picture: 20 years from now, you or your kids are asked, ‘Is it true that the guy that owned all of these great hotels was stoning gay people to death?’

“And you say ‘yes.’ The next question will be, ‘And you still went there?'”

More: Asia, boycott, Brunei, Brunei, Clooney, Gay, George Clooney, LGBT, US

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