Tony Kushner: ‘Bernie Madoff’s a Murderer’

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

This year has been a hard time all around for charities, but last night at the Public Theater's benefit concert for American Jewish World Service and Partners in Health — organizations that fight world poverty — the urgency to raise money seemed palpable. See, the AJWS had recently found out they'd made some bad investments had recently taken a big hit in fundraising, thanks to one Bernie Madoff, who had cleaned out some of its donors.. And since the AJWS's job is keeping poor people alive, says Tony Kushner — who'd helped organize the concert by bringing together buddies like Meryl Streep, Daniel Craig, Kevin Kline, and Maggie Gyllenhaal to sing songs from Mother Courage and Her Children — this makes Madoff, unequivocally, a killer.

"One of the horrors of the Madoff scandal is this guy really killed people," said Kushner. "The work that American Jewish World Service does, and Partners in Health, is not just beneficial. It is in many places, like Darfur, the difference between life and death. If you close down things like AIDS clinics all over Africa, people die. So Bernie Madoff, in my opinion, is a murderer."

Kushner doesn't believe in capital punishment, so he thinks Madoff spending the rest of his life in jail is as acceptable a resolution as possible. “When you fuck around with people's money, you destroy the lives of a lot of investors, and he was particularly predatory to a lot of charitable organizations, particularly Jewish charitable organizations,” Kushner went on. “The amount of damage he did was incalculable. We call them white-collar criminals, but they're criminals. And this is violence, with lethal consequences.”