George Clooney calls for Biden to step aside weeks after hosting $28m fundraiser

George Clooney, who just weeks ago headlined a star-studded fundraiser that raked in $28m for president Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, has penned an emotional op-ed telling his “friend” in no uncertain terms to take himself out of the 2024 presidential race.

The actor, one of Biden’s most high-profile supporters, said that he had witnessed first-hand a change in the 81-year-old, as he accused party leaders of essentially gaslighting the public by blaming the president’s abysmal debate performance against Donald Trump on the fact that he was suffering from a cold and was exhausted by his busy travel schedule.

“The one battle he cannot win is the fight against time,” Clooney wrote. “None of us can. 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.”

The actor’s blunt assessment comes at a critical time for Biden, who faces calls from more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers to bow out before it’s too late. The editorial board of The New York Times has also urged Biden to step aside in two separate op-eds, saying he has “continued to appear as a man in decline” in the wake of the debate.

On Wednesday morning, the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that Biden could still change his mind about his re-election bid, as she refused to say whether she personally felt that the president should press on with his campaign.

“It’s up to the president to [decide] if he’s going to run. We're all encouraging him to make that decision because time is running short,” she insisted.

Clooney, who is a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party, and whose wife, Amal, is a prominent human rights lawyer, spoke of his “love” for Biden as a senator, vice-president and president, praising the many “battles” the White House incumbent has won since taking office in January 2021.

Joe Biden, then vice-president, meets George Clooney at the White House in 2009 (The White House)
Joe Biden, then vice-president, meets George Clooney at the White House in 2009 (The White House)

But he suggested that Biden’s halting, often confused, and generally low-energy appearance on an Atlanta debate stage opposite Trump was consistent with what he had observed when he hosted the president at the record-breaking fundraising event last month.

It was reported in June that Clooney’s attendance at that Los Angeles fundraiser had been thrown into doubt after the actor directly called a top Biden aide to complain about the administration’s rebuke over the issuing of an international arrest warrant for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a case that his wife had backed. But the actor and the president have enjoyed a long and warm relationship, with Biden praising Clooney in 2022 for his “deep empathy”.

In his op-ed, Clooney said Democratic Party leaders needed to stop “telling us that 51 million people didn’t see what we just saw” after the 27 June debate.

“We’re all so terrified by the prospect of a second Trump term that we’ve opted to ignore every warning sign,” he said.

“Is it fair to point these things out? It has to be. This is about age. Nothing more. But also nothing that can be reversed. We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won’t win the House, and we’re going to lose the Senate,” he continued, adding later that his opinion was shared by “every senator and congress member and governor” he had spoken to privately since the debate.

The actor and activist also compared the behaviour of Democrats to the way in which Republicans have ceded their party to Trump – “a single person who seeks to hold on to the presidency” – and chided members of Congress for “opting to wait and see if the dam breaks” rather than speaking up.

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