Hollywood Reacts as Biden Stumbles and Trump Lies Through CNN Debate: ‘Fear and Grievance, Ad Infinitum’

Reaction was swift to the CNN-hosted presidential debate in Atlanta on Thursday as a raspy-voiced, sometimes rambling President Joe Biden faced off against a consistently lying Donald Trump.

With November’s general election five months away, many political pundits maintain that, in general, it is too early to tell whether or how much the first debate will move the needle in favor of one candidate or the other. But a June 26 article on ABC News’ opinion poll site 538 noted that this debate may matter more than usual, considering how close the race is.

On average, according to 538, recent polling showed Biden with a 0.1% lead over Trump, but the forecast for Biden worsened slightly over the last week. Persuadable voters and opinions change, the article noted, and “a small boost for Biden — or Trump — could be the whole ballgame.”

Judging from last night’s debate, many voters are about ready to leave the ballpark altogether.

“Let me just say after watching tonight’s debate, both of these men should be using performance-enhancing drugs,” “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart said in his live post-event coverage on Comedy Central. “As much of it as they can get, as many times a day as their bodies will allow. If performance-enhancing drugs will improve their lucidity, their ability to solve problems — and in one of the candidates cases, improve their truthfulness, morality and malignant narcissism, then suppository away!”

The actor and comedian Russell Brand also weighed in: “Having watched the debate live, it’s certainly worth watching this,” Brand said in a tweet, sharing a link to a video by third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who did not qualify for the debate. In the video, Kennedy rails against CNN for excluding him from the debate stage before he offers his own response in real time to the debate questions.

As the candidates sparred over issues including reproductive rights, the U.S.-Mexico border, the Jan. 6 insurrection — and even their abilities on the golf course — some Hollywood celebrities took to their political party corners and weighed in on social media.

“Fear and grievance, ad infinitum,” actor and comedian Bette Midler, a Democrat, said on X during the debate in response to Trump’s performance. In support of Biden, she wrote, “[He] answered the questions, Trump never did. He feinted, he wove, he dodged, he lied. Biden, his voice weakened by a cold, answered the questions, softly, but still. I leaned in and heard him fine.”

In another tweet, actor James Woods said of Biden,“There’s no way whoever is in charge of this presidency didn’t know this man was suffering from serious cognitive challenges. I loathe today’s Democrats, but when they can manage to make me feel sorry for Joseph Biden, they are more than loathsome. They are beyond reproach.”

TV personality Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, noted her distress. “I have been shunned, called a traitor to my family, disinvited places because I kept sounding the alarm Joe Biden is too old to be president,” she said in a post on Friday. “I will never forgive the media and DNC propagandists for putting Americans in this position and signaling to our enemies how weak we are.”

Signs that Democrats are worried over the president’s performance were immediate and continued to mount this morning, with some calling for Biden to step aside even as the Biden campaign spun the situation as a “slow start but strong finish,” as Vice President Kamala Harris said on CNN.

“What’s Joe Biden’s superpower?” Andrew Yang, former Democratic presidential candidate, posted Friday. “That he’s a good guy who will do the right thing for the country. In this case, that’s stepping aside and letting the DNC choose another nominee.” His tweet also included the hashtag #swapJoeout.

Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s former White House communications director, called the president’s debate performance “really disappointing.”

Underscoring that sentiment, GOP chair Michael Whatley tweeted that Trump gave “an absolutely dominant debate performance.” The former president “understands how to solve the problems plaguing the American people. Biden couldn’t even understand the questions,” he said.

Calling Biden’s performance “terrible” on Fox News this morning, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said the debate will result in a change in the polls for Trump “without question.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, swamped by reporters after the debate as a Biden on-site surrogate and supporter, reportedly shrugged off their questions about whether he would step in to replace Biden. “No, our nominee is Joe Biden,” he said. “I’m looking forward to voting for him in November.”

When asked in a tweet whether the debate would move the needle, Mike Madrid, cofounder of The Lincoln Project and a Republican political consultant, said no. “There will likely be movement, that settles back in a few days or so, but does it change the race? No,” he said.

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