(Reuters) - The director of a video gone viral that calls for the arrest of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony has been hospitalized in California following an “unfortunate incident” that his group said on Friday stemmed from the emotional toll of recent weeks.
Jason Russell, director of the 30-minute “Kony 2012” YouTube video and co-founder of the group Invisible Children, was hospitalized on Thursday for “exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition,” Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey said in a statement.
“The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday,” Keesey said without providing details.
“Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue,” he said.
The video Russell directed became an Internet sensation this month, racking up nearly 80 million hits on YouTube since it was posted with the aim of waking up the world to atrocities committed by the Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, including kidnapping children and forcing them to fight.
Celebrities including George Clooney, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Oprah Winfrey have announced their support for the cause. The company owned by powerful producer Harvey Weinstein has contacted Russell to buy the film.
A San Diego police spokeswoman, asked about media reports that Russell had been detained, said only that a 33-year-old white man had been taken to a medical facility on Thursday morning.
“The San Diego Police Department received several calls that he was acting bizarrely, running into traffic, interfering with traffic, yelling,” police spokeswoman Lieutenant Andra Brown said.
She said officers detained the man, who according to witnesses was in “various stages of undress,” but did not arrest him after deciding it was better to take him to a medical facility. She declined to name him.
The phenomenal success of Russell’s video has been hailed for inspiring young people to activism, but has suffered criticism including that it oversimplified a long-standing human rights crisis.
Russell, who narrates the video with a personal story that juxtaposes shots of his young son in San Diego, California, with the hopelessness of Ugandan children, has said the video was meant as a kick-starter to a complicated issue.
A spokesman for the San Diego-area hospital where Russell was thought to have been taken could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was not clear if he was there on Friday.
Editing by Tim Gaynor and Xavier Briand