George Clooney calls on Biden to drop out of presidential race to give Democrats chance of beating Trump

Hollywood star George Clooney has called on Joe Biden to pull out of the race for a second term in the White House, stating he's "not the Joe 'big f***ing deal' Biden of 2010".

Clooney, a lifelong Democrat, wrote a guest essay in the New York Times three weeks after he was in President Biden's company at a fundraising event.

On the night, questions were raised about the president's health after his predecessor, Barack Obama, took his hand to exit the stage.

In his opinion piece, Clooney said: "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."

Mr Biden's re-election effort has been under intense scrutiny since a disastrous performance in a debate with Donald Trump last month.

In a withering critique, Clooney continues: "It's devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fundraiser 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."

"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."

The president, 81, has so far resisted calls to step down, including from some in his own party, saying he is "firmly committed" to staying in the race - and urging his fellow Democrats to put the debate to rest.

But 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."

He added that after the debate "the dam has broken."

"We can put our heads in the sand and pray for a miracle in November, or we can speak the truth."

He admitted changing the nominee with so little time to go to the November election would be "messy", but argued it would also "enliven our party and wake up voters who, long before the June debate, had already checked out".

The piece was headlined: "I Love Joe Biden. But We Need a New Nominee", and concluded by saying Mr Biden was a "hero" for beating Trump in the previous election.

"He saved democracy in 2020. We need him to do it again in 2024," Clooney said.

Mr Biden's re-election effort suffered another significant setback on Wednesday after one of his most prominent and long-time allies declined to endorse him.

Former house speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped short of offering her support when asked if she backed his run for a second term in the White House.

Ms Pelosi was asked on the MSNBC show, Morning Joe, if he had her support to be the head of the Democratic ticket.

She replied: "It's up to the president to decide if he is going to run. We're all encouraging him to make that decision because time is running short."

Asked if she wants him to run, Ms Pelosi said: "I want him to do whatever he decides to do, and that's… that's the way it is. Whatever he decides, we go with."

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With regard to the public debate over Mr Biden's future, Ms Pelosi said: "I've said everyone, let's just hold off, whatever you're thinking, either tell somebody privately, but you don't have to put that out on the table until we see how we go this week."

President Biden is hosting NATO's 75th anniversary summit in Washington DC this week and is due to host a solo news conference on Thursday.

The events are regarded as critical tests of his mental fitness.

A number of Congressional Democrats have gone public with their fears that Mr Biden's performance will cost him the election and hamper them in their election contests for the Senate and House of Representatives.

Mr Biden has so far stalled the momentum of party revolt, although Democrats remain divided over his future.

Part of the president's effort to demonstrate his fitness for office included an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, during which he was grilled about his fitness for office.

The media outlet TMZ broadcast a clip of the TV host being asked, on camera, by someone in the street: "Do you think Biden should step down?"

Mr Stephanopoulos replied: "I don't think he can serve four more years."

He has since issued a statement of apology. ABC has said that Mr Stephanopoulos had "expressed his own point of view and not the position of ABC News".