Cash for moral compromise: Hilary Swank screws up (and blames everybody else)

Don’t you just hate it when accepting six-figure sums to attend a brutal dictator’s birthday bash blows up in your face?

That’s what happened to Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank, who got into hot water when she accepted a six-figure fee to attend the 35th birthday party of Chechnya’s autocratic president, Ramzan Kadyrov. When human rights organizations accused her of cavorting with an unscrupulous leader who has been accused of torture, murder, rape and kidnapping, Swank was contrite. She said, “I deeply regret attending this event. If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be, I would never have gone.”

Nevermind that Swank’s statement indicates she has no idea what she’s apologizing for (it was, in fact, intended to be a birthday party, which it was), that still wasn’t enough. Rather than take responsibility for her own failure of curiosity, Swank instead fired the people who work for her. This morning, the UK Independent reported that Swank fired her manager of 8 years, Jason Weinberg, who also represents Madonna and Demi Moore, as well as her agents at CAA Amie Yavor and Josh Lieberman. A fourth, CAA’s Lauren Hale, who traveled with Swank to Grozny was also fired.

Understandably, Swank is pissed that not one person who worked for her cared enough to look past the dollar sign to investigate Ramzan Kadyrov. But she has herself equally to blame for failing to do something as simple as a google search. The words “corruption” and “human rights violations” appear in the third paragraph of Kadyrov’s Wikipedia entry and scrolling down further reveals a huge amount of information, with citations and references, detailing “accusations of human rights abuses”. Not that Wikipedia is a lapidary source, but as far as anticipating potential PR fallout, the sheer volume of information associated with violence and torture (not to mention perverse sexual habits) might have been cautionary.

Did her staff deserve to be fired? Well, yes. This is a moral failing of everyone involved, Swank included. And it should serve as cautionary tale to all celebrities who hobnob for pennies and prestige—easy money usually comes with a price. Curiosity and concern are free.