Hollywood power players pull funding from Biden campaign in hopes he is replaced

Damon Lindelof smiles in a black outfit with a blue tie.
The debate about whether to replace or back President Biden after his weak presidential debate has played out among Hollywood elites, with some strong backers now cutting off funding to the president’s campaign. Damon Lindelof, above, a once ardent Biden backer, is among those who are no longer contributing to the president’s reelection campaign.
(Richard Shotwell/Invision / AP)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Sunday, July 7. I’m your host, Andrew J. Campa. Here’s what you need to know to start your weekend:

    Hollywood debates backing Biden

    The fallout from President Biden’s debate performance in late June has led to calls that he step down from the presidential race by a variety of media outlets and fellow Democratic politicians.

    The editorial boards of the New York Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and the Economist made such an argument.


    Democratic Reps. Angie Craig of Minnesota, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Mike Quigley of Illinois have also asked the president to step aside in favor of another candidate.

    Columnist Mark Barabak noted that even old allies, like former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, acknowledge “something was off” with Biden at the debate.

    Boxer gave the president two weeks to convince the nation he’s capable. “And if he can’t, he can’t,” Boxer said, “and there will be someone else.”

    There have been Biden defenders too, from former President Obama saying “bad debate nights happen,” to First Lady Jill Biden telling Vogue we “will not let those 90 minutes define the four years.”

    This debate about whether to replace or defend Biden has played out among Hollywood elites as well, with some strong backers now cutting off funding to the president’s campaign.

    No longer ridin’ with Biden


    “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof wrote a column Wednesday for the online entertainment news site “Deadline” in which he said he would no longer cut checks for the Biden campaign.

    He thanked Biden for being a “good man and a great president” but likened the 81-year-old to a starting pitcher who needed to be replaced. Lindelof proposed a “DEMbargo” with no checks for any Democratic candidates until Biden bowed out.

    “For me, this isn’t about the ability to govern, it’s about the ability to WIN,” he wrote to The Times.

    Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, too, called for Biden to “step aside to allow a vigorous Democratic leader to beat Trump and keep us safe and prosperous,” according to the New York Times.

    Endeavor Chief Executive Ari Emanuel, brother of Democratic politician Rahm Emanuel, has shown concern about Biden while media titan Barry Diller replied with a blunt “no” when asked by the Ankler if he would continue to support the Biden campaign.

    Filmmaker and Disney heir Abigail Disney said she would also withhold donations until Biden was replaced at the top of the Democratic Party’s ticket.


    Why does Hollywood matter?

    Hollywood has long been a major funding source for the Democratic Party, with industry power players often hosting major fundraisers and publicly throwing their support behind candidates.

    It wasn’t long ago that some of Hollywood’s elite were at a star-studded fundraiser for Biden at the Peacock Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

    The event raised more than $30 million, according to the Biden campaign.

    Hastings and his wife have contributed more than $20 million to the Democratic Party over the last few years, the New York Times reported.

    Lindelof said he donated $125,000 this cycle to the Biden campaign and nearly as much to Democratic Party Senate and congressional candidates.

    That’s why the industry’s current anxiety looms large over the Biden campaign.

    What’s next?


    Deciding whether Biden can stay in the presidential race will come down to three factors — Democratic Party leadership, the president’s polling performance and sentiment among big donors, said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School.

    “If your key donors jump ship, that’s not just a pocketbook hit, but it’s a big signal to other people as well,” she said.

    Some in Hollywood aren’t hitting the panic button, though.

    “Everyone just needs to take a breath,” Democratic Party fundraiser and Hollywood advisor Andy Spahn said in an email Friday to The Times. “This will sort itself out soon enough.”

    For more analysis on Hollywood’s anxiety, check out this article by journalists Samantha Masunaga, Wendy Lee and Jenny Jarvie.

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    For your weekend

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    My L.A. neighbor followed up on second-date details. I asked for a day to rearrange my schedule. Within minutes, he jumped to asking, “Are you sure you want to date me?” In that moment, “Let It Go” from “Frozen” echoed in my head. I crave someone who’s patient, kind and understanding.

    Have a great weekend, from the Essential California team


    Andrew J. Campa, reporter
    Carlos Lozano, news editor

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