George Clooney joins $28m Hollywood fundraiser for Biden following White House spat over Amal’s work

George Clooney appears to have mended fences with President Joe Biden as he and fellow A-lister Julia Roberts joined a star-studded Hollywood fundraising gala on Saturday night which raised $28million.

The event, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, was held at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles, with room for 7,100. Kimmel moderated a discussion with Biden and former president Barack Obama, where the three took turns blasting Biden’s presumed 2024 opponent, Donald Trump.

Clooney’s attendance came after he called the White House earlier this month to rebuke Biden for his reaction to an International Criminal Court announcement that it would seek arrest warrants for both Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ leadership over the brutal devastation of Gaza. Clooney is married to Amal Clooney, an international human rights attorney, who served on a panel of experts which agreed to recommend filing the arrest warrants.

The glitzy event was a rare moment in which Obama took the opportunity to firmly lay out the case against his Trump.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama pose for a photo with actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts at a fundraiser Saturday evening in Los Angeles (X/@mmpadellan)
Joe Biden and Barack Obama pose for a photo with actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts at a fundraiser Saturday evening in Los Angeles (X/@mmpadellan)

“Look, part of what has happened in the last several years is we’ve normalized behavior that used to be disqualified,” said the former Democratic president. “The other spectacle of the nominee of one of the two major parties is sitting in court and being convicted by a jury of his peers on 34 counts. You have his foundation, it’s not allowed to operate because it was engaging in monkey business and not actually philanthropic. You had this organization being prosecuted for not paying taxes.”

He added: “There was a time when we had certain core values that we agreed with. We believed in basic honesty. We believed in paying your taxes. We believed in making sure that we didn’t make fun of [prisoners of war], that we did not try to politicize our military, that we respected the ballot.”

Biden joined in, mocking Trump over his Covid-era suggestion that sunlight or cleaners with bleach could somehow be used to fight the virus within the human body, a suggestion made at an early 2020 White House press conference attended by top federal health experts.

“Remember the pandemic, he said, ‘Don’t worry, just inject a little bleach,’ ” Biden reminded the audience. The president then quipped: “It worked for him, the color of his hair.”

Biden also took a more serious tone as he laid out the stakes of the election: “The idea [that] he’s threatening retribution. This is the United States of America. Did you ever think you would hear anything like this?”

Joining the president and Obama was a long list of stars which included Barbra Streisand, Abbott Elementary’s Sheryl Lee Ralph, comedian Keegan Michael-Key, and actors Jason Bateman and Kathryn Hahn. Bigwigs from the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which represents major sports and media figures, were also present.

The Biden family itself also turned out. Recently-convicted Hunter Biden and sister Ashley Biden were in attendance, as was the president’s granddaughter Naomi. California’s Democratic political establishment were also present including Governor Gavin Newsom and LA Mayor Karen Bass.

The event was projected by Biden’s campaign to have netted the president’s team at least $28m. It’s the second major star-studded fundraiser the Biden campaign has held this year, with a previous event being held at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in March. That event raised about $26m for the president’s campaign, triggering the Trump campaign to launch a similar event for megadonors at Mar-a-Lago in April.

The ex-president raised just over $50m, according to the Trump team, but it’s unclear if he can repeat the performance. Many of his donations are being sapped by his mounting legal expenses, made worse by his conviction on 34 felony counts in New York last month. He has vowed to fight the guilty verdict in an appeals process that is likely to be both long and expensive.