Relaxed and ready, if not tanned: Hillary Clinton swooped in to Malaria No More’s annual fundraiser in Gotham on Monday night to be feted for her efforts to fight what she called an “ancient scourge.”
Many in the crowd noted that Clinton looked the part of a presidential candidate even if she barely touched on politics in her brief speech accepting the award from the org co-founded in 2006 by Peter Chernin and United Nations exec Ray Chambers.
Malaria No More was one of three Gotham events Clinton attended Monday night, which necessitated her brief touchdown at the Jazz at Lincoln Center gathering. And she cut quite a figure in a Nehru-style jacket and newly bobbed hair.
Clinton noted that the increased funding to address malaria problems was at the heart of her “health diplomacy” initiatives during her tenure as Secretary of State, in part because women and children are among the most vulnerable to malaria.
“This is a reflection of the generosity of the American people,” she said, adding that it’s a true bipartisan effort that started during the George W. Bush administration.
The closest Clinton came to any kind of politicking was asserting that the U.S. has a “strategic interest” in fighting malaria because eliminating the disease will bring more peace and prosperity to Africa and other regions. And to crowd stocked with wealthy donors, may from the world of science and healthcare, Clinton made no bones about another politically contentious issue that spurs the spread of malaria.
“Climate change is a factor. Higher temperatures allow the vector that delivers malaria to spread to new areas,” she said. “Fighting malaria is urgent, affordable and irreplaceable.”
Chernin, the former News Corp. prexy turned investor, demonstrated his usual wry wit in noting that “nobody is winning elections because they support malaria.”
But because the disease that still kills a child every 60 seconds (mostly in Africa) is entirely preventable and treatable, he brought a CEO’s mentality to launching an org with a clear business plan to raise awareness, spread low-cost treatment and most of all, preventative measures such as distributing insecticide-treated nets to keep mosquitos away.
Malaria No More was born out of a discussion between Chernin, Chambers and former MPAA chief Jack Valenti at Allen & Co.’s annual Sun Valley conference for moguls and billionaires. Further study made Chernin convinced that malaria could be eradicated in his lifetime.
“The only time I’ve seen Peter that excited is when he got the opening box office numbers for ‘Avatar’ ” quipped Time Warner exec Gary Ginsburg, who received the org’s kudo for media leadership. Among other contributions, Ginsburg was a key player in facilitating the malaria-themed HBO telepic “Mary Martha,” directed by Richard Curtis.
Deaths from the disease have fallen 33% in Africa since 2006, or down to about 600,000 a year from more than 1 million.
Also recognized was the pharmaceutical concern Novartis, which was highly praised for producing a vital malaria treatment drug at a loss to the company.
Songstress Ingrid Michaelson was on hand to deliver two tunes, one of which with the Brooklyn Youth Choir. “The Daily Show” correspondent Jason Jones did the heavy lifting of pushing the crowd to write checks.
When one of the night’s big donors noted that his daughter had been an intern on “Daily Show,” Jones quipped: “Everyone remembers interns.” Clinton had already left the aud but Jones made a point of assuring that crowd that he was just ad-libbing and didn’t mean it to be a crack at her expense.
“I’m working without a net — like the people in Africa,” Jones joked.
The evening closed with an upbeat perf from Cameroon pop star Sine, whose ability to shake his rump in skin-tight pants was the subject of much discussion as attendees made their way out of the Time Warner Center. The event raised more than $1.2 million for Malaria No More.
(Pictured: Malaria No More founders Ray Chambers, left and Peter Chernin)