Celebrities should not exploit Haiti disaster

After a scandal or a tragedy, many people come to defend or speak out against the particular situation. Then, there are those who come only to gain notoriety or boost their public images.

By now, most people have seen or heard of the devastation caused by a 7.0 earthquake that hit Port au Prince, Haiti, almost one month ago. Celebrities, politicians and regular everyday citizens have donated money to help those in the impoverished nation. Yet, some just want to “cash in” on the highly publicized natural disaster to gain attention.

Controversial radio host Rush Limbaugh said on his show that Americans don’t need to send Haiti any donations. In his words, “You already give to Haitian relief – it’s called the income tax.”

After receiving complaints and a national tongue lashing from the White House, he didn’t take back what he said but rather cleared it up. Limbaugh said he was trying to get people to donate through private channels such as the Red Cross, instead of through the government.

Others criticized Limbaugh for not only being inconsiderate during a critical time but also for being an opportunist. The same could be said for celebrities who are donating money, hosting telethons, organizing charities and wanting to adopt children in response to Haiti’s devastation.

It’s honorable and commendable for singers, actors and those alike to donate a small portion of their millions of dollars to disaster relief. The same happened when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.

It’s telling that celebrities are just now deciding to help, when Haiti has been in dire straits for years. Stars like Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Alicia Keys, George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and Bono have tried to help other poverty-stricken countries and charities that serve them. Some have even adopted children from these countries.

Now, other celebrities feel the need to get their names out by trying to adopt Haitian orphans. Though it’s a good deed, their timing will trigger more publicity than if they had adopted Haitian children prior to the earthquake.

With the potential of TV and magazine coverage across the nation, the average citizen may wonder if celebrities’ gestures are genuine.

It was reported that female rapper Trina wanted to adopt a child from Haiti. In an interview with AllHipHop.com she said, “I would like to contribute on a higher level for more personal reasons – in addition to being ready to raise/nurture a child – by being involved on a day-to-day basis.”

It begs the question if she, or any other celebrities who want to adopt Haitian children, understand the reality of their choices.

Before the earthquake, celebrities seldom received coverage for adopting these children. Yet, the country is now at the forefront of the world’s attention.

Their gestures don’t make them wrong because Haitian orphans do need stable environments to live in, especially now. It has been difficult to adopt from Haiti in the past because of its strict government.

People should contribute to relief efforts, but they should not use the disaster to put the focus on themselves.

Naomi Prioleau is a junior majoring in mass communications.