Protesters interrupt Biden, Obama, Clinton fundraiser

When a protestor inside the theater interrupted Obama, the former president snapped back

Published : 29 March 2024, 03:46 AM
Updated : 29 March 2024, 03:46 AM

President Joe Biden and his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, headlined a star-studded fundraiser with former President Bill Clinton on Thursday that organisers said raised more than $25 million for Biden's US reelection campaign.

Biden, who arrived with Obama on Air Force One on Thursday afternoon, and Clinton took part in a discussion moderated by "The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert at the iconic Radio City Music Hall in front of thousands of guests.

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

"Shame on you, Joe Biden" one yelled.

Obama said Biden has "moral clarity" on the Israel issue and is willing to listen to all sides in this debate and find common ground.

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"

Obama said Biden's re-election campaign is not just about making a case against Trump, but a positive case for Biden, who expanded healthcare, capped insulin prices and made a record setting transition in energy.

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. 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.

The protests interrupted a carefully planned event with 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.

Mindy Kaling, an actress and comedian, offered some comic relief early in the event. She joked it was nice to be in a room with “so many rich people,” adding that she loved the wealthy attendees were supporting a president who “openly” promises to “raise your taxes.”

She also noted she was getting older but when compared to Biden, Obama, and Clinton, she looks like a “cast member on Euphoria,” a popular HBO series that chronicles the lives of high school students.

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 percent 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.

In contrast, a 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.

Tickets for Thursday's Biden event, expected to bring some buzz to his reelection effort, cost between $250 and $500,000, according to a Democrat familiar with the planning. The campaign said it raised more than $25 million.

More than 5,000 people were expected to attend. The event will not be televised, but the campaign plans to post clips on social media.

Small-dollar donors paid $25 to take part in a separate virtual event with Obama, Biden and Clinton. 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.


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 criticising 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.

Obama has voiced concerns to Biden that Trump could win, ahead of a shakeup of Biden's team that sent two top White House aides to the Wilmington, Delaware-based campaign.

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

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