Furious Hollywood Moguls Lash Joe Biden Fundraiser Jeffrey Katzenberg: ‘He Lied.’

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Hollywood’s Democratic powerbrokers were in civil war over Joe Biden’s 2024 re-election bid Friday as his top fundraiser was accused of “agewashing” the embattled president.

A group of studio bosses, agents and billionaires more used to fighting over Oscars than politics was engaged in a feud, with vast amounts of cash for Biden and other Democrats on the line.

They pursued it by briefing, often anonymously, against their common enemy—Biden’s cheerleader Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former DreamWorks CEO and co-founder of the ill-fated Quibi. He had assumed the mantle of Biden’s fundraiser-in-chief with particular fervor. “Age is his superpower,” he was known for saying about Biden, drawing parallels to the enduring careers of octogenarians like Harrison Ford and Mick Jagger.

Katzenberg’s legendary fundraisers, often star-studded affairs featuring the likes of George Clooney and Barbra Streisand, have pulled in millions for the campaign. When donors expressed anxiety over Biden’s rumored loss of attention, he would offer to put them in a room together to see for themselves.

Katzenberg has been silent since Biden’s catastrophic debate performance. Attempts to reach him were passed off to a Biden staffer who wrote back “It’s July fourth.”

U.S. President Joe Biden looks up with his mouth open during a campaign event at Sherman Middle School
USA-ELECTION/BIDEN

Hollywood power brokers, traditionally major Democratic voters, say they feel Biden's fundraisers and his inner circle lied about his state.

Nathan Howard/Reuters

But his fellow Hollywood moguls have been less restrained—including one who told industry insider newsletter The Ankler: “Everyone in town is furious with him.” Another donor, described as a “Hollywood veteran” told the Financial Times: “He had this famous quote for everybody, which was ‘I’m happy to put you in a room with him and you’ll see for yourself.’ But nobody did it.” And a third told The Wrap, “Jeffrey lied about the whole Biden thing. The whole Biden inner circle lied… It’s such an act of hypocrisy.”

Others have gone on the record to attack Biden and Katzenberg in blunter ways. “We are in fuck city,” Ari Emanuel, super-agent and CEO of Endeavour, told Tina Brown at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the morning after the debate. “I’m pissed off at the founding fathers. They had the start date of 35 years old… and well, everybody died [back then], so they didn’t have to give the end date.”

Emanuel’s rant, first reported in The Hollywood Reporter, blamed Biden’s advisers for being less than frank about the president’s physical condition. “He said he was going to run for one term, and he’s doing it to restore democracy. He then runs for a second term—that’s the first bit of malarkey, as he would say. He and his cohorts have told us that he’s [been] healthy for over a year,” he continued doubtfully, saying neither Donald Trump nor Biden should be running “a $27 trillion company called the United States.”

Ari Emanuel in tuxedo and his taller wife

Ari Emanuel, seen arriving at the Oscars with wife Sarah Staudinger, described the Biden crisis as "fuck city."

DANNY MOLOSHOK/Reuters

Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix who has given more than $20 million to the Democratic Party in recent years, also raised doubts about the president’s viability in an email to The New York Times.“Biden needs to step aside to allow a vigorous Democratic leader to beat Trump and keep us safe and prosperous.” Elsewhere, Hastings has stressed, “it’s not about loyalty, it’s about winning”.

Disney heir and documentarian Abigal Disney told CNBC she was planning to suspend her donations to the Democratic Party until Biden steps aside. “We have an excellent VP,” she told the network.

And asked by The Ankler if he continued to support Biden, Barry Diller (founder of IAC and co-founder and part-owner of The Daily Beast) said simply, “No.”

Fellow Democratic donor and three times Emmy-winning screenwriter and showrunner Damen Lindelhof, who worked on Lost, The Leftovers and Watchmen, also weighed in. Writing a guest essay for Deadline he said he had written a check only two weeks ago but that the debate had been “game changing” for him. He called on Democrats to replace Biden if the party had any chance of winning against Trump. “I’ve been asleep at the wheel and it’s time to wake the fuck up.”

This Hollywood schism underscores a larger narrative of uncertainty and introspection within the Democratic Party. As Biden’s approval ratings wane and his age becomes an increasingly contentious issue, the pressure mounts for a clear and compelling alternative.

As the 2024 election looms, the question remains: Can Katzenberg’s star-studded support keep Biden’s campaign shining, or will dissenting voices like Emanuel and Hastings prevail, pushing for a new Democratic torchbearer?

The answer will shape not only the future of American politics but the legacy of Hollywood’s political influence.

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