Ben Affleck goes to the Congo as a Nightline special correspondent

Ben Affleck seems to have made wise decisions about his career and personal life in his post-J.Lo time period. He’s taken the appropriate amount of time to stay out of the spotlight, has not starred in another dumb action movie, and has married and fathered an adorable child with a woman who is so down to earth that it’s hard to find anything to pick on her about.

Now he’s taken a Nightline camera crew to The Congo with him to chronicle his personal journey meeting victims of the war and humanitarian crisis there. Affleck realizes that he looks like a tool as an actor traveling to the third world, but he’s willing to take the hits if it means a greater awareness of the vast need in the area for help. Affleck has been to The Congo three times this past year and this is the first I’ve heard of his charity work. His people asked Nightline to cover this story after seeing Don Cheadle visit nearby Rwanda, which borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the East. Cheadle went to Rwanda with Nightline in 2005 in an attempt to learn more about the people there after making the film Hotel Rwanda:

He’s been to the Congo three times in the past year. He said his motive was to learn about the war and hunger that have killed thousands of people per month in the past decade in hopes that the outside world would be moved to help, and his celebrity opened some doors.

“It’s fairly clear that in the modern age that there is a currency to celebrity, or celebrity is a currency, really,” Affleck told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I’ve discovered that you can spend it in a lot of ways, or you can squander it. You can be taxed, as well. I really started thinking long and hard about how to use that currency as long as I had it.”

His representatives approached “Nightline” with the idea of reporting on his journey. Affleck said he was impressed by “Nightline” stories in 2005 where “Hotel Rwanda” actor Don Cheadle visited that country.

“Nightline” executive producer James Goldston admitted to skepticism. ABC News took heat a decade ago for letting Leonardo DiCaprio interview President Clinton, and the idea of a concerned celebrity taking on a world problem has become a news staple.

“I was quite persuaded by how candid he was about the cliche of it, or the potential cliche,” Goldston said.

Affleck deals with that issue in the opening of his essay: “I want to try to bring people along to learn and if they might not tune into this unless there was some celebrity involved in it, either because they’re interested in the celebrity or because they want to see the celebrity kind of make a fool of himself, then so be it,” he says.

He doesn’t act as a reporter, Goldston said. The idea was to present the story as a personal journey, following Affleck as he met with survivors of the conflict, relief officials and even some warlords.

“Nightline” hasn’t done its own story on the Congo since 2002, although Cynthia McFadden recently took a trip to Africa to report on several issues there.

Affleck said one “Nightline” piece isn’t likely to change much, but the goal is to spread the word and hope that people in the United States can identify with some people who are suffering.

[From AP via The Huffington Post]

About 45,000 people a month die in the Congo. One in five children will not live past five. Affleck spoke of the way the people he met touched him and how he understands that there is suspicion of his motives:

“The people here in my experience are really extraordinary people, and they’re dealing with sometimes some extraordinarily difficult circumstances, sometimes even horrific circumstances,” he said. “But I don’t see them as victims; I see them as people who are doing extraordinary things and who deserve to have some attention paid to what they’re doing. I want to kind of bring people along, and if they might not tune into this unless it was some celebrity involved in it — either because they’re interested in the celebrity or want to see the celebrity make a fool of himself — then so be it.”

“People should see actors on television doing charitable work and be suspicious of that, and at the end of watching this I hope they find themselves less suspicious of that and more interested in this and perhaps involved in it,” he said.

[From ABC News]

Ben Affleck’s appearance on Nightline will be shown tonight on ABC at 11:35 pm. He’s right that it’s a cliché that once a celebrity learns about a specific problem it gets coverage, but they also have an incredible opportunity to bring attention to people who are in dire straits. I’d rather celebrities focus on getting help to the third world than making it seem glamorous to carry purses worth enough to support an entire family there for a year.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

21 Responses to “Ben Affleck goes to the Congo as a Nightline special correspondent”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Silly Lilly says:

    About 45,000 people a month die in the Congo

    Can someone check the typo/stats on this? I am not being bitchy but that is completely impossible.

  2. Mary Ann says:

    I wish it was a typo:

    The death rate has been this high since 2004, and most deaths are due to preventable disease and starvation rather than violence.

    The full report ( was done by the IRC (, who are a highly reputable group that has been working in humanitarian crises for decades.

  3. elisha says:

    Wise career desicion for Affleck. Poor one for Nightline. How embarassing for Broadcast journalism.

  4. Celebitchy says:

    Lilly that quote about 45,000 deaths a month is from ABC News from the linked story above:

  5. Leandra says:

    That could be right because a lot of the babies born there probably don’t see their first birthday and there are a lot of them born in that area. Good for Ben – he’s trying to make people aware at least because usually the rest of the world only has a very vague idea of the suffering that goes on outside their safe little cocoon they live in.

  6. Mary Ann says:

    My prior comment is in the mod queue because I included links, but the figures are from a report done by the International Rescue Committee, who are a highly reputable group that has been working in humanitarian crises for decades.

    I wish the death rate was a typo, but it’s not, and the death rate has been this high since 2004. Most deaths are due to preventable disease and starvation (the two often go together) as well as to the continuing violence.

    You can find the full report on the IRC’s website.

  7. lola says:

    What a weird cause to take up Ben. I don’t for a moment believe he was watching CNN and the plight of the Congolese just got to him. I guess Sudan is already taken, so is Iraq, Cambodia, Malawi etc. I wonder where his PR machine got Congo from.

    Here is a Tip, why don’t you get your wife pregnant and have your baby there, better still, leave her sensationally for your next costar and then make a spectacle of yourselves before finally having a baby in the Congo, that way you will make people know that there are those suffering out there.

    Phew, got that off my chest.

  8. Bodhi says:

    Huh? Man, it must really suck to be so damn negative all the time…

    Anyhoo, good on ‘im. Anything to get people to pay attention to REAL problems instead of whos knocked up who in Hollywood

  9. irl says:

    I looooooooove Ben! What a handsome guy! Phooey on an any neg remarks or critics.
    He’s always been involved in civic and social issues.
    Brangie aren’t the first and / or only ones who care and try to make a diff. other celebs been doing it for years and years.

  10. I choose me says:

    I applaud Ben and any celeb who gives their time and or money to worthy causes.

  11. texasmom says:

    Which Congo is this, anyway? The Republic or the Democratic Republic? I can’t ever tell them apart or remember which one has which gruesome history. Although at this point, it seems like all of central Africa is just completely over-run with refugees from various conflicts.

  12. Tess says:

    Elisha nails it.

  13. Celebitchy says:

    This is the Democratic Republic of Congo I think. You can read about the differences on Wikipedia

  14. texasmom says:

    Ahh. . Wikipedia is a great thing. But all the reports on Ben just say “Congo” or “the Congo.” Not “one of the Congos”!

  15. Celebitchy says:

    I read up on the differences in the two Congos on Wiki before I wrote this story, and just assumed it was the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, as that makes more sense.

  16. Jenny says:

    I’m so excited that you posted this story! I’m passionate about raising awareness of what’s happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and am glad that the media has finally started to talk about it. If you’re interested in what’s going on in the DRC, please visit – it’s the story of two young women who worked in the eastern part of the DRC for a year and it’s simply amazing. Please please please check it out and pass it along! Again, thanks for posting this a story that so desperately needs to be told!

  17. countrybabe says:

    Elisha, so right last I heard you had to come from an ivey league school to work at ABC. They should’ve picked Matt.

  18. Nan says:

    A good move posting this story, CB. That’s one of the reasons this site is so great. A celebrity gossip blog that isn’t shallow. How refreshing.

  19. dave says:

    good for ben……hope some good comes from his work and efforts

    he is using his money wisely and it is horrible what is happening there

  20. Emily says:

    I love Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner – what a refreshing change they are from the usual Hollywood idiots. Good on ya Ben!

  21. Jess says:

    This is something that he did, IMO, primarily to improve his image. The people he is trying to help may derive some small benefit from the airing of this Nightline piece, but he benefits the most by far.