George Clooney says Biden not the man he was in 2020, should drop out

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Actor George Clooney, a major Hollywood fundraiser for Democrats, said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden is no longer the same person who won the White House in 2020 and said he should drop his bid for re-election.

Clooney co-hosted a star-studded fundraiser for Biden in Los Angeles in June, about two weeks before the 81-year-old president struggled through a debate with Republican former President Donald Trump, his rival in the Nov. 5 election.

"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," Clooney wrote in the New York Times. "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," Clooney added.

A subsequent Biden interview with ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos "only reinforced what we saw the week before," Clooney said.

Often described as an "ATM for Democrats," Hollywood has traditionally been a significant source of donations for the party. Clooney's event, hosted with actor Julia Roberts, raised more than $30 million in what the Biden campaign said was the largest Democratic fundraiser in history.

After Biden's debate performance, several Hollywood donors called on the president to end his campaign.

Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, Disney heir Abigail Disney and filmmaker Rob Reiner are among those who have said Biden should step aside. Screenwriter Damon Lindelof proposed that his Hollywood colleagues stop writing checks to Democrats until Biden withdraws.

In Washington, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime Biden ally, said on Wednesday the president must decide quickly if he will stay in the race.

Clooney, who described himself as a lifelong Democrat, wrote: "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."

"This isn’t only my opinion; this is the opinion of every senator and congress member and governor that I’ve spoken with in private," Clooney wrote. "Every single one, irrespective of what he or she is saying publicly."

Asked to respond, Biden's campaign referred to a letter the president sent Democrats in Congress that said he was "firmly committed" to his candidacy and beating Trump. Biden has said he had a "bad night" at the debate and vowed to stay in the race.

Clooney said leading Democrats and candidates who risk losing in November should ask Biden to drop his campaign.

The actor suggested that the party decide on a new nominee at its August convention and offered the names of several possible contenders including Vice President Kamala Harris and several state governors.

"Let’s hear from Wes Moore and Kamala Harris and Gretchen Whitmer and Gavin Newsom and Andy Beshear and J.B. Pritzker and others," Clooney said.

He also expressed admiration for Biden and said he considered him a friend.

"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," Clooney said.

"But the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time."

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Heather Timmons and Howard Goller)