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'Kony 2012' director not on drugs or drinking, family says

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:04 PM EDT, Sat March 17, 2012
Jason Russell is one of the founders of Invisible Children, whose documentary
Jason Russell is one of the founders of Invisible Children, whose documentary "Kony 2012" went viral on YouTube.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Jason has never had a substance abuse or drinking problem," family says
  • Source: Jason Russell was picked up by police after running in the street in his underwear
  • He has been hospitalized for "exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition," his nonprofit says
  • Russell has made a flurry of media appearances since the documentary went viral

(CNN) -- Jason Russell, director of a documentary about a notorious Ugandan warlord that went viral, does not have a drinking or drug problem, according to his family, after the filmmaker was seen running through the streets of San Diego in his underwear.

Russell was picked up by police Thursday after several people reported a man running through the streets in his underwear, screaming, sources said.

While San Diego police declined to provide the identity of the 33-year-old man, an official familiar with the case confirmed him to be Russell.

Police said the man, who 911 callers said was interfering with traffic and acting irrationally, was not arrested and was transported to a local medical facility.

Russell is one of the founders of the San Diego-based nonprofit group Invisible Children, which produced the half-hour film about warlord Joseph Kony. "Kony 2012" skyrocketed to popularity on YouTube, propelled by thousands of posts on Twitter and Facebook, garnering nearly 80 million views since its March 5 release.

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"Let us say upfront that Jason has never had a substance abuse or drinking problem, and this episode wasn't caused by either of those things," the Russell family statement said. "But yes, he did some irrational things brought on by extreme exhaustion and dehydration. On our end, the focus remains only on his health and protecting our family."

The popularity of the film led to a flurry of media appearances for Russell and his fellow Invisible Children co-founders and prompted scrutiny from some who argued that the social media frenzy was too little, too late.

Russell's family said some of the criticism has affected the filmmaker.

The group has said it hopes the film and other efforts will make Kony a household name and drum up international support to halt killings, rapes, abuses and abductions committed by his group, the Lord's Resistance Army, in central Africa.

Kony, who has operated in central Africa for two decades, is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. In October, the United States sent 100 combat-equipped troops on a mission to kill or capture Kony.

"We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it. While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason—and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard," the statement said.

Ben Keesey, the group's chief executive, issued a statement Friday confirming that Russell was hospitalized for "exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition."

"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.

CNN's Rachel Wells contributed to this report.

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