Bono Said an African Child Dies Every Time He Claps?

Claim:

U2’s Bono said during a performance that every time he clapped a child in Africa died, to which an audience member shouted at him to stop.

Rating:

False

In May 2024, a claim began to spread across Facebook that alleged U2 vocalist Bono once said during a performance that a child in Africa dies every time he claps, to which an audience member shouted at him to stop, as though the clapping caused the deaths.

One post said:

Random Thoughts:  Bono

Singer Bono, who is known for his charity work and world-wide relief efforts, is about to perform for a sold-out crowd in Belfast Ireland 

He walks on stage, steps up to the microphone, and claps his hands. Six seconds later, he claps his hands again.  Another six seconds, Bono yet again claps his hands.

About a minute goes by of Bono clapping his hands every six seconds, then announces, “Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.”

Bono begins to clap again, pausing every six seconds between each clap.

Finally, a voice is heard from the audience with a thick irish brogue saying……….. “Well then, stop clapping … !”  

We previously fact-checked this claim in 2006, where we found the claim was false, beginning as a “joke” with the audience member’s retort and since taking on a life of its own.

This tall tale’s origins lie in a commercial made as part of 2005’s “Make Poverty History” campaign. In the ad, celebrities like Brad Pitt, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Emma Thompson in addition to Bono are shown wordlessly snapping their fingers every three seconds, with a voiceover stating towards the beginning of the video, “A child dies completely unnecessarily as a result of extreme poverty every three seconds.”

The fact-check stated the joke became attached to Bono in 2006, around the same time the singer called upon the Irish government to send more aid to Africa. That was also the year U2 moved its music publishing company from Ireland to the Netherlands after the former said it would scrap a tax break that let musicians avoid paying taxes on royalties. 

We wrote in the fact-check:

While tax-avoidance among the super-rich is the common way of things, this particular very wealthy person’s seemingly acting to keep his own money out of the tax pool that would fund the increase in aid he was calling for left a bad taste in the mouths of many.

Like many other claims we’ve written about before, it appeared these facts eventually merged together to create the clapping “joke” easily believed to be true by users across the internet unfamiliar with what had actually happened.

Bono has publicly denied the claim. In 2007, a spokesperson for Bono told the New York Daily News that Bono was “baffled” by the assertions, stating, “He’s never even done the clapping thing.”

We found the joke has been reworked to target other public figures, like former U.S. President Barack Obama. We found a forum post from 2008 that told an extremely similar version of the tale, inserting Obama for Bono and dying African children for dying American children (from gun violence):

Barack Obama, the lead Presidential Democratic Party candidate, is for banning all guns in America. He is considered by those who have dealt with him as a bit more than just a little self-righteous.

At a recent rural elementary school assembly in East Texas, he asked the audience for total quiet. Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands once every few seconds, holding the audience in total silence.

Then he said into the microphone, “Children, every time I clap my hands together, a child in America dies from gun violence.”

Then, little Richard Earl, with a proud East Texas drawl, pierced the quiet and said:

“Well, dumb-a**, stop clapping.”

Because there is no evidence that Bono ever said what was claimed, because the singer has publicly denied he said it, and because there’s proof the claim began as a joke that has since featured fellow public figures instead of him, we have rated the claim about Bono clapping as “False.”

We have fact-checked other claims about Bono, like a true claim that he was photographed singing with Freddie Mercury and Paul McCartney in 1985

Sources

@Stephen Judge. “Make Poverty History – Click.” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eih_ybKdVXU.

“Bono Denies Clapping Incident.” Irish Examiner, 28 Dec. 2007, https://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/arid-30342209.html.

Ibrahim, Nur. “Is This a Real Photograph of Bono, Paul McCartney, and Freddie Mercury Singing Together?” Snopes, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/bono-paul-mccartney-freddy-mercury/.

L. A. Times Archives. “U2 Avoids Taxes with Move.” Los Angeles Times, 17 Oct. 2006, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-oct-17-et-bono17-story.html.

Liles, Jordan. “CNN Leaked Footage of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ and Jay-Z’s ‘Underground Play Tunnels,’ as Videos Claim?” Snopes, 31 May 2024, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/diddy-jay-z-cnn-video/.

Mikkelson, Barbara. “Did Bono Say Every Time He Clapped a Child in Africa Died?” Snopes, 12 Nov. 2006, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/bono-of-contention/.

“Too Funny.” For A Bodies Only Mopar Forum, 27 Oct. 2008, https://www.forabodiesonly.com/mopar/threads/too-funny.46947/.

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