Biden raises $28m at LA fundraiser featuring Obama, Clooney and Roberts

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Some of Hollywood’s brightest stars headlined a glitzy fundraiser for President Joe Biden, helping raise what his re-election campaign said was $28m and hoping to energize would-be supporters for a November election that they argued was among the most important in the nation’s history.

George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Barbra Streisand were among those who took the stage at the 7,100-seat Peacock Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel interviewed Biden and former president Barack Obama, who both stressed the need to defeat former president Donald Trump in a race that’s expected to be exceedingly close.

During more than half an hour of discussion, Kimmel asked if the country was suffering from amnesia about the presumptive Republican nominee, to which Biden responded, “all we gotta do is remember what it was like” when Trump was in the White House.

Luminaries from the entertainment world have increasingly lined up to help Biden’s campaign, and just how important the event was to his re-election bid could be seen in the Democratic president’s decision to fly through the night across nine time zones, from the G7 summit in southern Italy to Southern California, to attend.

He also missed a summit in Switzerland about ways to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, instead dispatching Vice-President Kamala Harris who made a whirlwind trip of her own to represent the United States there, a stark reminder of the delicate balance between geopolitics and Biden’s bid to win a second term.

Further laying bare the political implications were police in riot gear outside the theater, ready for protests from pro-Palestinian activists angry about his administration’s handling of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The event featured singing by Jack Black and Sheryl Lee Ralph, and actors Kathryn Hahn and Jason Bateman introduced Kimmel, who introduced Biden and Obama. The comedian deadpanned, “I was told I was getting introduced by Batman, not Bateman.”

But he quickly pivoted to far more serious topics, saying that “so much is at stake in this election” and listing women’s rights, healthcare and noting that “even the ballot is on the ballot” in a reference to the Biden administration’s calls to expand voting rights.

Kimmel asked the president what he was most proud of accomplishing, and Biden said he thought the administration’s approach to the economy “is working”.

“We have the strongest economy in the world today,” Biden said, adding, “we try to give ordinary people an even chance.”

Trump spent Saturday campaigning in Detroit and criticized Biden’s handling of the economy and inflation. The president was fundraising “with out-of-touch elitist Hollywood celebrities”, Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said.

But Biden told the crowd in California that “we passed every major piece of legislation we attempted to get done.” And Obama expressed admiration for sweeping legislation on healthcare, public works, the environment, technology manufacturing, gun safety and other major initiatives that the administration of his former vice-president has overseen.

“What we’re seeing now is a byproduct of in 2016. There were a whole bunch of folks who, for whatever reason, sat out,” said Obama, who, like Biden wore a dark suit and a white shirt open at the collar.

Obama, speaking about the supreme court, added that “hopefully we have learned our lesson, because these elections matter in very concrete ways”.

Trump nominated three justices who helped overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to an abortion. The audience expressed its displeasure at the mention of Roe, to which Obama responded, “don’t hiss, vote.”

Biden said the person elected president in November could get the chance to nominate two new justices, though a second Biden term probably wouldn’t drastically overhaul a court that currently features a 6-3 conservative majority.

He also suggested if Trump wins back the White House, “one of the scariest parts” was the supreme court and how the high court has “never been this far out of step”.

Biden also referenced reports that an upside-down flag, a symbol associated with Trump’s false claims of election fraud, was flown outside the home of supreme court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2021. He worried that if Trump is re-elected “He’s going to appoint two more who fly their flags upside down.”

Biden’s campaign said it was still counting, but Saturday night’s gathering had taken in at least $28m, more money than any event for a Democratic candidate in history.

That meant outpacing the president’s fundraiser in March at Radio City Music Hall in New York, which raised $26m and featured late-night host Stephen Colbert interviewing Biden, Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Biden held an early lead in the campaign money race against Trump, but the former president has gained ground since he formally locked the Republican nomination.



Read More: Biden raises $28m at LA fundraiser featuring Obama, Clooney and Roberts

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