Billionaires Bailing On Biden: Barry Diller, Christy Walton, Reed Hastings Urge Biden To Drop Out


President Joe Biden’s shaky performance in CNN’s presidential debate last week has sparked an outcry from Democratic pundits, a handful of Democratic lawmakers and some donors, with a growing list of billionaire Biden supporters and Trump critics like IAC chair Barry Diller and Netflix’s Reed Hastings urging Biden to drop his reelection bid.

First Presidential Debate; Biden vs Trump

President Joe Biden’s donors have been split on whether the 81-year-old should stay in the race, following a lethargic debate performance.

Anadolu via Getty Images

Key Facts

When asked if they would hold firm with Biden’s reelection campaign, Barry Diller (worth $4.1 billion, according to Forbes’ estimates) and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, told The Ankler simply: “No.”

Christy Walton ($15.2 billion) and crypto investor Michael Novogratz ($2.5 billion) reportedly signed a letter with over 100 others calling on Biden to “pass the torch” to “the next generation of Democratic leaders.”

Reed Hastings ($4.8 billion) argued Biden “needs to step aside to allow a vigorous Democratic leader to beat Trump,” according to an email obtained by The New York Times, marking a 180-degree shift for the Democratic megadonor who, along with his wife Patty Quillin, contributed $1.4 million to pro-Biden groups in 2020.

Billionaire investor, Dallas Mavericks minority owner and “Shark Tank” host Mark Cuban ($5.4 billion), a Biden supporter who attended a Biden fundraising event in March, told CNN last Saturday he wants to see polling to “find out if there are any potential replacements” who could outperform Trump in a hypothetical matchup.

Cuban, who previously supported former South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley in the GOP primary, told the outlet it’s “worth considering” a replacement for Biden to “step in and immediately change the race.”

In a post on X last week, Cuban added Biden’s “performance was awful” and the 81-year-old appeared “feeble,” though he also argued Trump “couldn’t directly answer a single question and lied with every response,” adding: “I’ll vote ethical every time.”

Reid Hoffman ($2.5 billion)—one of the biggest pro-Biden donors—urged supporters to stay the course, calling it a “bad idea” to push Biden to step down and arguing it could backfire if Biden decides to “prove the doubters wrong,” according to an email obtained The New York Times that lauded Biden’s “values, instincts, patriotism and courage” and said Biden could still win (Hoffman has donated $17.7 million to support Biden).

Meanwhile, Avram Glazer ($1.7 billion), the billionaire part-owner of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, did not shy away from reportedly hosting a campaign fundraiser for Biden at his home in East Hampton, New York, on Saturday.

Laurene Powell Jobs (worth $14.5 billion along with her family) was part of a group of Silicon Valley supporters who privately expressed alarm about Biden’s debate performance, according to the Times, though she hasn’t spoken publicly.

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Billionaire Pershing Square Capital Management founder Bill Ackman—a Biden critic—slammed Biden’s performance after the debate, claiming in a tweet Biden’s shaky performance marked an “indictment of the Democratic Party for misleading party members and the country” about Biden’s mental acuity. Ackman, who has become an outspoken critic of Ivy League schools for their response to student-led protests critical of Israel, argued after the debate last week Trump “came across as strong and reasonable on the important issues,” saying: “Trump knows he is going to win. So does everyone else.” Billionaire Elon Musk, meanwhile, mocked Biden Friday morning, responding “Lmao” on X to a months-old clip from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in which host Joe Scarborough argues Biden “is far beyond cogent.”

What We Don’t Know

Whether the debate will hurt Biden’s fundraising efforts. One anonymous Democratic donor told CNBC the debate was “terrible” and people in their circle say “Biden should drop out,” while an unnamed Democratic campaign advisor lamented “game over” about Biden’s hopes for the White House. The Times notes another unnamed Silicon Valley donor decided to back out of hosting a Biden fundraiser. But even as donors express concern, Biden has still raked in donations: Last Friday morning, the Biden campaign said it had raised $14 million after the debate, and Biden attended a litany of fundraisers last weekend. Some major backers have publicly remained supportive. Hedge fund manager Barry Rosenstein, who held another fundraiser for Biden on Saturday, lauded the “integrity and professionalism” of the Biden administration to the Times. At the Rosenstein fundraiser, Biden acknowledged he “didn’t have a great night” but claimed “neither did Trump.”

Who Would Replace Biden As Democratic Nominee?

There’s no indication Biden will drop out, after he cruised his way through the Democratic primary cycle over a meager field of longshot challengers, including author Marianne Williamson and Rep. Dean Phillips, Minn., who Ackman had backed in the primaries. While no Democrats have since come forward to challenge Biden, several have been name-dropped as possible alternatives, including Vice President Kamala Harris and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, though neither might come forward to replace Biden. Harris’ approval rating has sunk to below 40%, according to FiveThirtyEight, while Newsom has repeatedly rejected speculation of a presidential bid. Other potential picks include Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Key Background

CNN’s debate, the first of two scheduled ahead of the 2024 presidential election, spiraled into a series of personal jabs and multiple falsehoods spewed by both candidates Thursday night, though throughout the 90-minute affair, the biggest point that stood out to political pundits was Biden’s shaky voice and rambling and, at times, incoherent responses. Biden’s poor performance was quickly mocked by Trump supporters, and added to Democrats’ concerns of the 81-year-old’s advanced age and mental fitness. Biden seemed to acknowledge his sluggish performance in the debate in a press conference less than 24 hours later, admitting he does not “debate as well” or “speak as smoothly” as he used to, saying: “I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious.” In that follow-up speech, Biden emphatically vowed to stay in the race, speaking in a more powerful tone that marked a stark difference from just one night earlier.

What To Watch For

Post-debate polls released last Friday and Saturday found a majority of Americans believe Biden is too old for the job, with only 42% of respondents in an Ipsos poll saying Biden is mentally fit (56% of respondents said Biden is mentally fit before the debate). Three in five respondents—including 47% of likely Democratic voters—in a post-debate Morning Consult poll said Biden should be replaced by another Democrat. But surprisingly, Biden’s rocky night might not hurt him in a head-to-head matchup with Trump. Biden took a narrow 46%-44% lead over Trump in a post-debate Ipsos poll, and a 45%-44% lead in Morning Consult’s post-debate poll, over his 44%-44% polling ahead of the debate.

Further Reading

MORE FROM FORBESBiden’s Debate Performance Torched-Even By Trump Foes-Over Weak Voice And Verbal Stumbles: ‘Hard To Watch’By Sara Dorn

MORE FROM FORBESWarning Signs For Biden: Post-Debate Polls Show More Voters Worried About Biden’s Fitness-But Race Still Virtually TiedBy Brian Bushard

MORE FROM FORBESThese Are The Likely Democratic Presidential Candidates If Biden Drops Out-As Rough Debate Prompts Calls To Stand DownBy Sara Dorn