NEW YORK (AP) — Ben Affleck feels more comfortable speaking his mind than pretending to say what people want to hear. So before receiving his award at Wednesday’s Save the Children Illumination Gala, he praised wife Jennifer Garner on her dedication to their family, and then shared insight into his recent spat with “Real Time” host Bill Maher over generalized remarks about Islam.
On an episode last month, Affleck took issue with Maher saying that Islam is “the only religion that acts like the Mafia.”
“I was ultimately making a ‘Sesame Street’ argument. You don’t judge a whole group of people based on the actions of a few,” Affleck said of their heated debate.
The “Gone Girl” actor makes no bones about speaking his mind when it comes to hot-button issues.
“That’s the environment around my dinner table when we talk politics,” he said. “I think I’d rather tell the truth and say what I believe in and make people unhappy than sort of pretend to think something else to accommodate them and try to be liked. That’s just the way it goes and I don’t think I’m any great champion of anything, but if they’re going to put me on a show, I’m going to say what I think.”
As for Garner, the 42-year-old actor says he’s grateful that his wife takes on the “lion’s share” of responsibilities, dedicating her time to raising their three young children, while maintaining her career and charity work.
“She’s been really smart about choosing her projects, doing ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ or ‘Alexander and the Terrible Day,’ smart, good movies that luckily have been successful. And then, they’re not so time-consuming that she can’t do this work and be there for our kids, which is the most important thing to her,” Affleck said.
Garner spoke of how the couple divides their time for philanthropy.
“He works on Eastern Congo Initiative, and I work on the U.S. programs for Save the Children, and within that, I really work on getting kids started on the right foot from birth to 5, helping families get their kids up and ready for school and healthy,” she said, adding: “We don’t scatter our energy around.”
Affleck co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010 with Whitney Williams. The organization advocates the economic and social growth of the country through various programs. And while some of their missions focus on the well-being of children, Affleck says he doesn’t make “value judgments” of where the problems are more dire.
“There are children in the United States, my wife has traveled, been in their homes in Kentucky, West Virginia, in the central valley of California who can’t speak and they’re 4 years old, who can’t read until five years later than they should, who get no stimuli, who are really suffering, and we recognize it. In this country, with our wealth, with our, I think, decency and empathy, we should be taking care — at the very least educating all of our citizenry.”
He added: “I also think it’s important to take care of people who are suffering on a different level, which is in Eastern Congo suffering from war and famine and preventable disease. And where maternal health is non-existent, so 1 in 5 children dies before the age of 5.”
Affleck was honored with the Global Child Advocate Award for his support in providing children around the world a stronger start in life. Among the evening’s other recipients were former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who received the Global Legacy Award, and Austin Hearst of the Hearst Corp., who was honored with the Humanitarian Award.
Follow AP Entertainment Producer John Carucci at http://www.twitter.com/jacarucci