- Film and television actor
- Supporter of Democratic candidates and causes
Born on May 6, 1961 in Lexington, Kentucky, George Clooney studied broadcast journalism at Northern Kentucky University but dropped out in 1981 without earning a degree. He broke into show business in the mid-1980s, playing bit parts on such television sitcoms as The Facts of Life and Roseanne. But it was his role on the popular NBC drama ER in 1994 that solidified his status as a Hollywood heavyweight. Since then, Clooney has been an A-list actor appearing in numerous major films.
Along with his rise of celebrity, so too has Clooney’s stature grown as a political activist. “I’m an old-time liberal,” he says, “and I don’t apologize for it.” On another occasion, Clooney said: “Yes, I’m a liberal and I’m sick of it being a bad word. I don’t know at what time in history liberals have stood on the wrong side of social issues. We thought that blacks should sit at the front of the bus, that women should be allowed to vote, that maybe [Senator Joseph] McCarthy was a jerk, that Vietnam was wrong and strip-bombing Cambodia was probably stupid. We’ve been on the right side of all these issues.”
Disparaging President George W. Bush’s 2002 reference to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil,” an outraged Clooney said: “Listen to the language! ‘Evil.’ ‘Evil’? ‘Nexus of evil’? ‘Evil-doer’?… What’s wrong with their vocabulary: couldn’t they come up with ‘schmuck’?”
Prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Clooney said he did not believe that President Bush would “try and talk [to the Saddam Hussein regime] without jumping in and killing people first.” This was particularly appalling, he explained, because “there’s no connection between al-Qaeda [the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks] and Iraq.” Clooney further asserted that America’s looming invasion of Iraq illustrated how “we’re picking on people we can beat”—a stark contrast to the U.S. stance on North Korea: “[W]e’re going to go in and negotiate with North Korea because they have a [nuclear] bomb, because we don’t want to get involved in a fight that could result in a real problem.”
In Clooney’s view, war as a means of solving international disputes had become anachronistic. “You can’t beat your enemy anymore through wars,” he said in February 2003. “Instead you create an entire generation of people revenge-seeking…. Our opponents are going to resort to car bombs and suicide attacks because they have no other way to win.”
Over the years, a number of Clooney’s films have reflected his political positions. In 2005, for instance, he directed and starred in Good Night, and Good Luck, about left-wing journalist Edward R. Murrow’s attempt to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Communist scare of the early 1950s. That same year, Clooney starred in Syriana, which traced the roots of Islamic terrorism and anti-democratic movements in the Middle East to a corrupt collusion between American oil companies and the U.S. government.
A staunch proponent of limiting the rights of gun owners, Clooney is a committed foe of the National Rifle Association (NRA). When receiving a special filmmaking achievement award from the National Board of Reviews in January 2003, he said, jokingly, that the NRA’s then-president, Charlton Heston, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, had “announced again today that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s.” When asked later if he regretted having made that remark, Clooney responded, “I don’t care. Charlton Heston is the head of the National Rifle Association; he deserves whatever anyone says about him.”
Clooney is also an environmental activist. In 2006 he appeared—along with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Julia Roberts, and Al Gore—on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine’s “Special Green Issue,” beneath the headline: “A Threat Greater than Terrorism: Global Warming.” In November 2013, Clooney derided anyone who doubted the allegedly grave threat posed by anthropogenic global warming. “It’s just a stupid argument,” he told reporters. “If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you ‘you are sick’ and 1 percent that says ‘you’re fine,’ you probably want to hang out with, check it up with the 99.” Clooney’s implication was that the vast majority of climate scientists were in agreement about human industrial activity being a key contributor to climate change. (The falsity of the numbers Clooney cites is explained here and here.)
During the 2008 presidential election season, Clooney publicly supported Democratic Senator Barack Obama, stating, “I’d love him to be president, quite honestly.” Throughout the campaign period, Clooney was in almost-daily contact with Obama—via text messages, emails, and phone calls—even offering the candidate advice on presentation, public speaking, body language, and foreign policy; e.g., he advised Obama to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq if he were to become president. Clooney also took part in an overseas fundraising event for Obama. In 2011 the actor described Obama as someone “who is smarter than almost anyone you know, who’s nicer and who has more compassion than almost anyone you know.” And in May 2012, Clooney held a $15 million fundraiser on behalf of Obama’s re-election bid.
Clooney has likewise been a longtime admirer of Hillary Clinton. In May 2015 he vowed to support Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in “whatever way I can help.” “I think she’s a tremendous candidate,” said Clooney. “I know her and I think the world of her. And I think I would be very happy if she were president.”
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