Wyclef Fires Back at New York Times, Receives Death Threats
Running for president of Haiti is proving to be a daunting task for musician/activist Wyclef Jean. After Jean publicly fired back against a New York Times article claiming that he frivolously squandered earnings meant for his non-profit organization, Yele-Haiti, he was forced to go into hiding due to death threats. Jean revealed the threats in emails sent to the Associated Press, explaining that he was laying low in an undisclosed location in the country.
Prior to going into hiding Jean adamantly denied statements made against him. The article published Monday (August 16), alleges that the former Fugees frontman misappropriated funds for personal use, including in 2006 when he is believed to have used $250,000 from his non-profit to purchase a costume worn on a Carnival float. "First, I freely admit that missteps were made when Yele was in its infancy as a grassroots movement before the earthquake," he said in a statement to The BoomBox.
"The administration of the group was a bit naive, but once we started to get donations from all around the world, the first decision I took was to reform management. Of the $10.5 million that Yele has raised since the quake, a third has been spent. The new management team at Yele seems committed to investing the lion's share of the balance of funds in infrastructure-related projects: public schools, roads, and hospitals, to name a few; but in order to do that Yele needs to work with the government, which is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt. I want to save Haiti's sovereignty."
"As to the specific allegations in the New York Times piece: first, the claim that $250,000 was misappropriated is an outright falsity. I am disappointed that the Times is presenting these assertions as fact, even in the face of clear, indisputable evidence that we have submitted highlighting the absurdity of some of these claims. It is also clear that the sole sources of these unfounded rumors are disgruntled ex-employees, one of whom contradicts the CEO of the parent company of Voila, the actual sponsor of the float in question." Jean went on to clarify other topics that have been swirling around the news circuit, including a $2.1 million tax lien against his property, which he stated has been paid.
According to Jean he also has not and has no intention of using Yele funds to assist in his current presidential campaign. "I am disappointed that the Times would make accusations and attacks on Yele Haiti and myself at a time when we are both trying to make a genuine difference, but I knew when I threw my hat in the ring for the presidency of Haiti that politics is a contact sport. I expected to have to answer false allegations and negative reports, and I will do that whenever they pop up." Jean has yet to find out if the CEP, Haiti's electoral commission, will accept or reject his presidential bid. The Haitian constitution requires that candidates running for president live in the country for at least five years, a roadblock that Jean new he would face due to his residency in the U.S. However Jean's ambassador status, which he was granted in 2007, may exempt him from that rule.
Despite the negative attention, Jean remains unshaken by the daily allegations and bad press. "They can knock me down, but I'll always get back up," he added. "Especially if it's in defense of my good name and my undying devotion to the country I love."