The night president Biden lost George Clooney’s support

President Joe Biden shakes hands with actor, director and producer George Clooney. Movie star and lifelong Democrat George Clooney is adding his voice to calls for Joe Biden to leave the presidential race. (File Photo: AP)
President Joe Biden shakes hands with actor, director and producer George Clooney. Movie star and lifelong Democrat George Clooney is adding his voice to calls for Joe Biden to leave the presidential race. (File Photo: AP)


A fundraiser meant to turbocharge the president’s re-election bid was the beginning of the end for one of his staunchest supporters in Hollywood.

Less than four weeks ago, George Clooney stood on a stage in downtown Los Angeles and told an audience that President Biden was the real star.

On Wednesday, he called for a change of cast.

In an op-ed that ricocheted across show-business and political circles, Clooney called for Biden to step down as the Democratic nominee for president, breaking the silence of A-list supporters and joining members of Congress and prominent donors who believe the president should step aside.

Clooney’s words recast memories of a major fundraiser he hosted weeks earlier with other Hollywood stars, a campaign stop that should have been a highlight of the 2024 cycle. Biden joined Barack Obama on stage for a conversation with comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

It was a night that combined Democratic politics with Hollywood star power. Clooney’s co-host was his frequent co-star, Julia Roberts. Barbra Streisand jeered Donald Trump, and Jack Black took to the stage in a pair of overalls adorned with the stars and stripes.

The president received a standing ovation when he took the stage. But for some audience members, the mood changed when he started taking questions.

To some in the audience, Biden appeared to struggle through answers or keep up with the conversationalists, a harbinger of what millions of Americans would see in the debate weeks later. Clooney on Wednesday added himself to the growing list of prominent Democrats who said he had concerns over Biden’s at-times frail condition, well before it spilled into public view at the debate.

“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 wrote.

For years, Clooney has been among the entertainment industry’s most prominent Democrats. Now, he is in a growing fraternity of donors calling for the president to step down as their nominee in time for a new candidate to take the top of the ticket, which they say is the best path forward toward beating former President Trump. Clooney’s L.A. event last month raised more than $30 million for the campaign.

Time with Biden at the event was a turning point in his support, Clooney wrote.

“The one battle he cannot win is the fight against time," Clooney wrote of the 81-year-old president, in an essay published in the New York Times.

When Kimmel joked at the Los Angeles’s Peacock Theater that he had given his son, Billy, a stuffed animal of the president’s dog, “and it bit Billy’s toe off," the president didn’t register an immediate response—but Obama chimed in with a reference to his Affordable Care Act, quipping, “Fortunately he’s covered!"

In a video taken at the event, Biden is halting in his delivery of some responses and occasionally stares into the middle distance when not answering a question.

To some in the room, Biden, who some have noted had just returned from the Group of Seven summit in Europe, seemed to have a hard time keeping up with Kimmel’s quick patter. Obama seemed to pick up loose threads in Biden’s responses, and filled in gaps when he couldn’t keep the dialogue flowing. Obama more often parried with Kimmel when the host made jokes, while Biden sat and smiled. One attendee who sat near the stage said it was clear to him by the end of the evening that the president wasn’t as sharp as he once was.

Biden spoke with Obama and Kimmel for more than a half-hour, reiterating his campaign talking points of his handling of the economy, and the prospect of the new president naming two justices to the Supreme Court. The conversation was repeatedly interrupted with cheers and applause.

“The president stayed for over 3 hours, while Clooney took a photo quickly and left," a campaign aide who was at the event later said.

Critics of Clooney also privately pointed out that his wife, Amal Clooney, was among a panel of experts supportive of the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek an arrest warrant against Israeli leaders over their role in conflict with Gaza. That put her at odds with the president, who has called its application for warrants “outrageous."

Since the debate disaster, other Hollywood players, such as director Rob Reiner and superagent Ari Emanuel, have called for Biden to leave the race.

Others have stopped short of calling for his ouster but have voiced concerns about his age. Actor Michael Douglas said on “The View" Wednesday that Clooney made a “valid point" and that Democrats have a big bench of fresh talent.

“I don’t worry necessarily today or tomorrow, but a year down the line I worry," said Douglas.

Though Biden has been in the public eye for decades, the president hasn’t been as well known to the Hollywood donor class as other Democratic nominees like Obama or Hillary Clinton. Biden has hosted more than a half dozen fundraisers in the Los Angeles area this year.

The president’s relationship with Clooney has stretched back many years. In late 2022, Biden toasted the actor as a recipient of a Kennedy Center honor, among the highest recognitions for the arts.

“He is unrelenting and undaunted. That is character in real life," the president said of the actor’s on-screen work and off-screen humanitarian efforts. “And that is George Clooney."

Annie Linskey contributed to this article.

Write to Erich Schwartzel at and Sarah Krouse at

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