George Clooney, who hosted major fundraiser for Biden last month, says Democratic Party needs a new nominee

Washington CNN —

The actor George Clooney, who had been among President Joe Biden’s biggest supporters and donors in Hollywood, called on Biden to bow out of the presidential race on Wednesday, just weeks after he headlined a major fundraiser for his reelection campaign.

“I love Joe Biden,” Clooney wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. “As a senator. As a vice president and as president. I consider him a friend, and I believe in him.”

But, Clooney added, the Biden he saw during the June 15 fundraiser, which also included former President Barack Obama, “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 added, referencing Biden’s faltering and disastrous performance at the June 27 presidential debate on CNN.

That statement was a stunning assessment of Biden’s current state from someone who has interacted with the president privately — that the way the president presented himself during that debate, which the White House and Biden campaign have alternatively blamed on a cold and a tiring travel schedule, was not an aberration.

Clooney is not just a movie star and a prominent donor: He’s someone who has spent time with Biden over the years and has always been a big fan. This goes all the way back to Biden’s early days as vice president, when Clooney came by the White House and dropped in to Biden’s then-office down the hall in the West Wing from the Oval Office and ended up having an extended visit talking about helping Darfur.

Clooney is friendly with Obama too, but he and Biden have stayed in touch over the years, and the strength of that relationship held even when Biden criticized the International Criminal Court’s May decision to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a result of his actions in Gaza – which Clooney’s wife, international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, had been a key part of crafting. Clooney called a top White House adviser to complain, but he did not pull back on his support then, or on his participation in the June fundraiser. Biden forcefully criticized the ICC’s efforts because of the implication of an equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

Clooney is also seen by many Democratic backers in Hollywood as a sort of compass given his engagement and activism. His standing with Biden until now helped rally wider donor and celebrity support, even among some who had never been big Biden fans and were not enthused about backing him long before the debate.

Asked for comment Wednesday, Biden’s campaign pointed toward the letter the president wrote to members of Congress on Monday indicating he would remain in the race.

Clooney’s opinion piece represents the biggest defection against Biden in Hollywood, which the party has long relied on for big-named support and money. It comes as a handful of Democrats in Congress have also publicly demanded Biden step aside due to persistent concerns about his age and mental acuity.

The fundraiser that Clooney headlined raised $28 million for Biden’s reelection campaign, the most for the Democratic Party from a single event in history. A source familiar with the event says that part of the reason that the Los Angeles fundraiser took place on June 15 – immediately after Biden’s travel to the G7 summit in Italy – was because that was the one date Clooney said would work for him. Biden has cited his intense travel ahead of last month’s debate as one reason for his poor performance.

In the opinion piece, Clooney called on key Democrats — naming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — to ask Biden to “voluntarily step aside.”

“We are not going to win in November with this president,” Clooney warned, adding that the lawmakers he has spoken with privately shared this view.

He said the country deserves to hear from other politicians who are seen as potential replacements for Biden on the ticket, including Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Vice President Kamala Harris, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Saying “the dam has broken,” Clooney wrote “we can put our heads in the sand and pray for a miracle in November, or we can speak the truth.”

Many anxious Democrats who have been holding their breath and waiting to see what happens to Biden’s reelection campaign have been stunned by the past 24 hours.

One widely shared view had been that everything was likely to come to a head after this week’s NATO conference that the US is hosting just blocks away from the White House. Instead, devastating headlines have come out in rapid succession as Biden has been juggling various engagements on the global stage.

“This seems to be moving more rapidly than I thought,” one senior Democrat said.

Clooney’s opinion piece comes amid the most crucial week of Biden’s reelection campaign, as cracks in the coalition of Democratic support behind Biden continued to grow. At least ten members of Congress from his own party have publicly asked Biden to step down from the ticket.

On Wednesday, CNN reported organizers for at least one Chicago fundraiser scheduled during the Democratic National Convention have decided to not to proceed with the mid-August event, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Organizers paused conversations on planning the fundraiser until after the July 4 holiday to allow the dust to settle. This week, the host committee decided not to proceed with the event, citing a disagreement over how to proceed given the continued erosion of support for Biden’s candidacy.

The event, designed as a lunch for a few dozen wealthy Windy City denizens, is just one of many events planned in conjunction with the party’s convention, when the campaign was expecting to tap into high-dollar supporters’ enthusiasm and wallets for the home stretch of the race. A spokesperson for the Biden campaign told CNN the event was not affiliated with their official fundraising schedule.

Clooney isn’t the only prominent Hollywood Democrat who has asked Biden to step down. Rob Reiner, a Biden surrogate who attended a fundraiser alongside Harris after the debate, also called for the president to step aside.

“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,” Reiner said in a post to social media platform X Wednesday in which he linked to Clooney’s op-ed.

Reiner began his calls on Biden to step down earlier this week.

“It’s time to stop (expletive) around. If the Convicted Felon wins, we lose our Democracy. Joe Biden has effectively served US with honor, decency, and dignity. It’s time for Joe Biden to step down,” he wrote Sunday.

Actor Michael Douglas said Wednesday that Clooney made a “valid point.” Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, hosted a fundraiser for Biden in New York in April.

“I mean, I’m, I’m deeply, deeply concerned. I mean, especially is difficult because the Democrats have a big bench. I mean, a lot of heavy hitters,” he said on ABC’s “The View” when asked about Clooney’s opinion piece.

Biden is participating in high-stakes meetings with NATO allies on Wednesday and will hold a solo news conference — his first since the debate — on Thursday.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s MJ Lee, Jamie Gangel, Kayla Tausche, Arlette Saenz, Betsy Klein and Isaac Dovere contributed to this report.

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