George Clooney Calls For New Democratic Nominee In Latest Hollywood Plea For Joe Biden To Step Aside

UPDATED, with additional details and react from other co-host: George Clooney, fresh off co-hosting a star-filled fundraiser for Joe Biden last month, is calling on Democrats to pick a new nominee and for the president to be a “hero” in stepping aside.

Clooney cited concerns over Biden’s age, and said that the president’s appearance at the fundraiser, in which he did a sit down with Barack Obama and Jimmy Kimmel, was similar to how he was at the debate with Donald Trump.

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Clooney wrote in The New York Times, “I love Joe Biden. As a senator. As a vice president and as president. I consider him a friend, and I believe in him. Believe in his character. Believe in his morals. In the last four years, he’s won many of the battles he’s faced.

“But the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time. None of us can. It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe big F-ing deal Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”

Clooney is one of the most influential celebrity supporters of Democrats, and the Biden campaign used his appearance at the event to raise millions in small-dollar donations, holding a contest in which the winner could meet the actor and Julia Roberts. All told, the event raised more than $30 million for the campaign.

In the Times op ed, Clooney also wrote that he was unpersuaded by Biden’s answers to George Stephanopoulos as to why he had such a poor debate performance with Trump.

Clooney wrote, “Was he tired? Yes. A cold? Maybe. But our party leaders need to stop telling us that 51 million people didn’t see what we just saw. We’re all so terrified by the prospect of a second Trump term that we’ve opted to ignore every warning sign. The George Stephanopoulos interview only reinforced what we saw the week before. As Democrats, we collectively hold our breath or turn down the volume whenever we see the president, who we respect, walk off Air Force One or walk back to a mic to answer an unscripted question.”

Clooney also wrote that Biden’s presence in the race threatened down-ballot candidates, suggesting that many Democratic lawmakers harbor big doubts about his candidacy in private.

Clooney wrote, “This is about age. Nothing more. But also nothing that can be reversed. We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won’t win the House, and we’re going to lose the Senate. This isn’t only my opinion; this is the opinion of every senator and congress member and governor that I’ve spoken with in private. Every single one, irrespective of what he or she is saying publicly.”

Clooney is the latest Hollywood figure to call on Biden to exit the race. Rob Reiner and Stephen King did so earlier this week, despite past vocal support. Reed Hastings and Ari Emanuel have done so as well. Last week, Damon Lindelof published an essay in Deadline calling on donors to stop giving until the situation is addressed.

Clooney’s op ed did not call on Hollywood to withhold donations, but it is potentially more demaging in that affirmed the notion that Biden is not up to the task of challenging Trump. One Hollywood activist said that it likely slows Hollywood giving to the campaign. It also may send a message to potential Biden campaign celebrity surrogates, who now may be more reluctant to get on the trail for the president’s re-election bid.

Clooney also called on top Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries and Nancy Pelosi, to ask Biden to voluntarily step aside. In an appearance on Morning Joe today, Pelosi suggested that Biden reconsider his past insistence that he was staying in the race. But some Hollywood activists, in regular touch with Democratic lawmakers, have been dismayed that what elected officials say in private about the Biden situation differs from what they say publicly in support of the president. “Cowardice,” says one top industry activist.

Clooney did not endorse Vice President Kamala Harris to take Biden’s place, but called for a process in which candidates step forward to offer themselves as the nominee.

Clooney wrote, “Let’s hear from Wes Moore and Kamala Harris and Gretchen Whitmer and Gavin Newsom and Andy Beshear and J.B. Pritzker and others. Let’s agree that the candidates not attack one another but, in the short time we have, focus on what will make this country soar. Then we could go into the Democratic convention next month and figure it out.”

Clooney’s comments about Biden’s appearance at the fundraiser — held at the Peacock Theater in downtown Los Angeles — echo those of a number of members of the media who were let in the room for a portion of the event. Biden appeared tired, having traveled from Europe, but some news outlets keyed in on a moment afterward in which is appeared that Obama was leading the president off the stage. The White House and the Biden campaign challenged that interpretation of the moment, instead describing it as an instance of the camaraderie between two friends.

The Biden campaign did not have an immediate comment, but a source has been telling The New York Times and other outlets, “The President stayed for over three hours, while Clooney took a photo quickly and left.” Another prominent industry donor, James Costos, who hosted the president for his first Los Angeles reelection fundraiser in December, countered Clooney’s account of the June fundraiser. Costos, who also was one of the co-hosts at the June event, noted that the fundraiser was the most raised for any Democratic event in history. He said that there were “many donors and supporters who attended with me, in fact for many hours with the President, and if he was tired, who can blame a guy that traveled a long time from Europe to LA in a day to be with us.”

In the statement, Costos added that “as a response to others’ opinions that came out of the event and the op-ed…all I have to say is that I was proud to be there and I’m proud to be with the President now, I’m firmly committed to supporting and respecting President Biden and the Biden-Harris ticket.”

Biden himself has dismissed calls for him to drop out as coming from Democratic party elites, pundits and the press. In a call in to Morning Joe earlier this week, the president said, “The bottom line is, we’re not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere. I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t absolutely believe I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2024. We had a Democratic nominating process where the voters spoke clearly.”

Reiner, also a stalwart Democratic donor and fundraiser, highlighted Clooney’s op ed. Reiner wrote on X/Twitter, “My friend George Clooney has clearly expressed what many of us have been saying. We love and respect Joe Biden. We acknowledge all he has done for our country. But Democracy is facing an existential threat. We need someone younger to fight back. Joe Biden must step aside.”

David Axelrod, the Democratic strategist and CNN commentator, said on the network this afternoon that Clooney’s op ed was “devastating.”

The Democratic Hollywood activist said that Clooney’s op ed likely gives “cover” to other prominent industry figures, and even Democratic lawmakers, to call for Biden to drop out. On Capitol Hill today, reporters peppered elected officials about the Clooney op ed, creating a new sense of uncertainty after a day in which it looked like Democratic lawmakers were falling in line behind Biden. While Clooney endorsed Biden’s 2020 race and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid, he was particularly close to Barack Obama during his campaigns and his presidency.

Biden has also tried to assure donors, speaking on a call earlier this week with the campaign’s national finance committee that included Jeffrey Katzenberg, who as campaign co-chair has been among the leaders in the president’s fundraising efforts, traveling to Atlanta for the debate and with Biden for a post-debate fund-raising swing. He has said little publicly since the debate.

The campaign’s efforts to address donor concerns appear to have done little to temper anxieties in Hollywood, given Clooney’s suggestion that he and other Biden supporters, in their drive to defeat Trump, ignored warning signs about the president’s age.

Kate Bedingfield, a CNN commentator and former White House communications director under Biden, called on the campaign to show how it can win, given the “battle over the public data is so overwhelmingly negative.”

“If they have data that supports the path to victory that they see, they should put it out there now and help people who badly want to beat Trump rally around it. People want to see the path,” she wrote on X/Twitter.

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