Protesters interrupt Biden, Obama, Clinton at $25 million New York fundraiser


Protestors, calling for ceasefire in Gaza, attend a demonstration near Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, on the day of a fundraising event for U.S. President Joe Biden with him and former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in New York City, U.S., March 28, 2024. 

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

President Joe Biden and his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, headlined a star-studded fundraiser with former President Bill Clinton on Thursday, offering a robust defense of the White House’s handling of the Gaza crisis as protesters interrupted the event.

Biden, who traveled with Obama on Air Force One to New York, took part in a discussion with Clinton moderated by “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert at the iconic Radio City Music Hall in front of thousands of guests. Organizers say the event raised more than $25 million for Biden’s U.S. reelection campaign.

But the fundraiser was punctuated by several protests inside the massive auditorium, with attendees rising at several different moments to shout over the discussion, referencing Biden’s backing of Israel in the Hamas war that has killed more than 30,000 people in Gaza.

“Shame on you, Joe Biden!” one yelled.

Obama and Clinton offered a presidential perspective of the Gaza crisis that stressed the political realities of being in the White House.

A president needs to be able to support Israel at the same time as fighting for Palestinians to have more access to food, medical supplies and a future state, they said.

“It’s a lonely seat,” Obama said. “One of the realities of the presidency is that the world has a lot of joy and beauty, but it also has a lot of tragedy and cruelty.”

People “understandably, oftentimes, want to feel a certain purity in terms of how those decisions are made,” he said. “But a president doesn’t have that luxury.”

When a protestor inside the theater interrupted Obama, the former president snapped back: “You can’t just talk and not listen…That’s what the other side does.”

Former US President Barack Obama (L) and US President Joe Biden arrive for a campaign fundraising event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on March 28, 2024.

Brendan Smialowski | Afp | Getty Images

The pair of former presidents also defended Biden’s handling of the economy, which gets low ratings in national polls.

Clinton said Biden’s economic numbers have significantly outpaced Trump’s administration.

“I believe in keeping score,” Clinton said. “He’s been good for America” and deserves another term.

Before the event, the three leaders’ motorcade passed hundreds of protesters demonstrating against Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, another sign that some young voters and other progressives who voted for Biden in 2020 are furious about his staunch backing of Israel in its response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

Lizzo, $500,000 tickets

The event included musicians Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo and Lea Michele performing. Some high-paying attendees had their pictures with the three presidents taken by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s Republican challenger in November’s election, was in the New York area on Thursday as well, attending a wake for a slain New York City policeman.

Biden, 81, has faced concerns about his age and fitness for a second four-year term. Recent Reuters/Ipsos polls show his approval rating at 40% and in a tight race with Trump, 77, ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

The show of support from Biden’s predecessors was meant to demonstrate party unity and project fundraising strength.

Tickets for Thursday’s Biden event cost between $250 and $500,000, according to a Democrat familiar with the planning. More than 5,000 people were expected to attend.

Biden’s high-profile allies are seeking to shore up his support despite opinion polls showing tepid enthusiasm for the president and in contrast to a Republican Party where many major figures oppose Trump.

Biden showed flashes of humor at the event. He referenced President Harry Truman’s advice that if you wanted a friend in Washington, get a dog. Biden quipped that he got one and it bit a Secret Service agent. The president’s dog Commander left the White House last year after a series of biting incidents.

The event closed with each of the men donning aviator sunglasses, Biden’s trademark.

“Dark Brandon is real,” Biden bellowed, referencing a meme about himself.

Trump in Long Island

Earlier on Long Island, east of New York, Trump attended a wake for Jonathan Diller, the policeman who was gunned down during a routine traffic stop earlier this week in the city.

“These things can’t happen. We need law and order,” Trump, surrounded by mourning uniformed officers, told reporters gathered outside a funeral home in Massapequa.

Trump has sought to make supporting police a focal point of his campaign, while criticizing law enforcement that targets him.

He faces four criminal trials for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election, his mishandling of classified documents and his involvement in a “hush money” scheme involving a porn star. He was fined hundreds of millions of dollars for overstating his net worth to lenders. He says he is innocent.

Biden has been routinely outraising Trump and is taking in more money than his rival in big donations and small donations under $200. Biden’s reelection effort raised more than $53 million in February and $10 million in the 24 hours following his March 7 address to Congress.

Trump aims to raise $33 million in an April 6 fundraiser, a source familiar with the Republican’s plans told Reuters.

Trump campaign adviser said on Thursday the candidate won’t be able to match Biden’s totals, blaming the disparity on the Democrat’s “billionaire” supporters and painting a picture of a Trump campaign fueled by grassroots, working-class supporters.



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