George Clooney urges US President Joe Biden to drop out in scathing yet honest New York Times essay

Reid J. Epstein
The New York Times
Hollywood star George Clooney, a long time supporter of Joe Biden has this morning called for the U.S. President to pull out of the upcoming election.

George Clooney, the Hollywood actor and Democratic financial powerhouse who co-hosted a major fundraiser for President Joe Biden last month, wrote in a New York Times guest essay Wednesday that Biden was too old to seek re-election and should end his campaign.

“The one battle he cannot win is the fight against time,” Clooney wrote. “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, who last month hosted a $28 million fundraiser in Hollywood for Biden that his campaign said was the largest ever for a Democratic candidate, is by far the highest-profile figure in the party to call for the president to end his campaign.

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The Biden campaign planned the Hollywood fundraiser around Clooney’s schedule, according to two people familiar with the preparations who insisted on anonymity to discuss the deliberations.

The event required Biden to fly from a Group of 7 gathering in Italy to California and back to Washington in a short period. Biden later blamed jet lag from that trip for his lethargy in the days leading up to the first debate and his weak performance during it.

On Tuesday, as the Biden campaign learned that Clooney was preparing his opinion essay, campaign aides began what three people familiar with the effort described as a full-court press to persuade the actor not to publish it.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the movie mogul who is a co-chair of the Biden campaign and its chief ambassador to Hollywood donors, led the effort to convince Clooney that he should stick with Biden, the three people said.

A representative for Katzenberg did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Clooney’s guest essay was published just hours after Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker who remains influential in Democratic politics, suggested during a television interview that “it’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run.”

Biden and his top aides have insisted that he is staying in the race until the end. On Monday, he told top donors that he was done addressing the debate — though he brought it up again during a video call with Democratic mayors Tuesday night.

Clooney wrote in the Times what scores of Democrats have been saying among themselves and in off-the-record conversations with reporters since the debate nearly two weeks ago — that Biden is threatening not only his own chances in November but also those of fellow Democrats down the ballot.

“We are not going to win in November with this president,” Clooney wrote.

“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.”

Many donors are also staying private with their concerns.

But in the first two weeks after the debate, figures from Hollywood have been among the loudest Democratic insiders to call for Biden to step aside.

Over the past 10 days, two of the industry’s most prominent executives, Ari Emanuel and Reed Hastings, have said publicly that Biden is making a mistake by staying in the race.

On Wednesday, another Hollywood figure with deep ties to Democratic fundraising, actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner, echoed Clooney’s call for Biden to quit the race.

“Democracy is facing an existential threat,” Reiner wrote on social media. “We need someone younger to fight back. Joe Biden must step aside.”

Clooney’s defection comes after Biden had appeared to stanch some of the bleeding from within Democratic ranks. But the combination of Pelosi’s suggestion that he had a decision to make and a famous and well-liked Democratic donor calling for him to quit is likely to set off a new round of unpleasant questions for Biden and his team.

Before the fundraiser last month, Clooney had complained to the White House after Biden criticized the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek a warrant against top Israeli officials over the war in the Gaza Strip. His wife, Amal Clooney, a human rights lawyer, had helped conduct the court’s investigation.

 Clooney, the Hollywood actor and Democratic financial powerhouse who co-hosted a major fund-raiser for President Biden last month, wrote in a New York Times guest essay, that President Joe Biden was too old to seek re-election and should end his campaign.
Clooney, the Hollywood actor and Democratic financial powerhouse who co-hosted a major fund-raiser for President Biden last month, wrote in a New York Times guest essay, that President Joe Biden was too old to seek re-election and should end his campaign. Credit: REBECCA SMEYNE/NYT

Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, referred questions about Clooney’s essay to the president’s letter to congressional Democrats on Monday, which reiterated that he would stay in the race.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2024 The New York Times Company

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