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Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 10/12/2011

Hilary Swank: Could the Chechen party controversy damage her reputation?


Hilary Swank, onstage during the celebration for Ramzan Kadyrov. (Musa Sadulayev - AP)

When invitations to the birthday celebration for Chechen Republic President Ramzan Kadyrov were sent to various celebrities, a number of them RSVP’d no.

Kevin Costner couldn’t make it because of scheduling conflicts. According to the Hollywood Reporter, both Eva Mendes and Shakira declined as well.

But Hilary Swank said yes. And her decision to attend the lavish, Oct. 5 concert/bash for a leader accused of numerous human rights violations has invited strong criticism.

The Human Rights Foundation, an organization focused on the global defense of human rights, has come down hard on Swank and other stars who attended the party — Jean Claude Van Damme was there, as was British violist Vanessa Mae, who also performed and was reportedly paid $500,000 to do so.

According to a release shared with Celebritology by the HRF, the Foundation sent Swank and other invitees a letter prior to the party to make sure they understood the issues surrounding Kadyrov’s leadership, including allegations that he has tortured or caused the disappearances of numerous individuals since he was appointed Chechen president in 2007 by Vladmir Putin. According to the HRF, Swank’s manager responded to the letter and wrote in an e-mail that “Hilary has no current plans to attend the party you mentioned below.”

But she did attend and, according to the Associated Press, said during the festivities that she “has been taken by the Chechen government’s ‘passion to make peace and to make something beautiful.’ ”

CBS news reports that Swank’s manager said that at the time of her visit, the actress was unaware of the allegations against Kadyrov. An e-mail to Swank’s publicist seeking comment has not been returned.

All the famous people who went to the party could be subject to criticism. But it’s Swank — a two-time Oscar winner who often plays morally centered women and, via her recent role in “Conviction,” advocated for justice for wrongly accused criminals — whose image could be hardest hit. Swank, 37, is one of those stars who is well liked because she often comes across on-screen as someone sincere who wants to do the right thing. Fairly or not, that’s an image the public expects her to project in real life. And in most of her appearances and interviews, she has.

So what happened here? Did Swank honestly not realize why attending the event might be a bad idea? Or did she think her attendance was unlikely to be noticed by the media?

Whatever the case may be, Swank should consider traveling the same road Beyonce, Nelly Furtado and Mariah Carey took after performing at parties for the family of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi — apologize profusely and donate to charity any money she received for attending the Kadyrov soiree.

With a major movie to promote this season — she’s one of the roughly 8 zillion stars in the ensemble rom-com “New Year’s Eve” — questions about this matter are not going to go away. An apology or carefully worded statement of regret certainly won’t make them disappear, but it will demonstrate that she’s not insensitive to the matters raised by HNF.

What do you think about this situation? Does it affect your impression of Swank? Will it impact your desire to see her future films?

Weigh in by posting a comment.

By  |  10:58 AM ET, 10/12/2011

Categories:  Celebrities

 
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