President Obama's reelection campaign has benefited immensely from the backing of much of Hollywood's elite, but few share a closer relationship with him than George Clooney. In an interview to be aired Monday, the president contends those ties were born out of shared policy vision before assuming the Oval Office.
"The truth is we got to know each other because of a substantive issue," the president says. "He is a terrific advocate on behalf of the people of Darfur, and to the people of Sudan who've been brutalized for a long time."
Speaking with CBS' " Entertainment Tonight," Obama recounted laboring with Clooney on the troubled region when he was a senator.
"That was an issue that I was working together on a bipartisan basis, and George, who had traveled there, done documentaries there, and was very well-informed, came to testify in Congress," he said. "And so we got to know each other, and he is a good man, and a good friend."
Clooney has become a permanent fixture of humanitarian movements regarding Sudan, which the United Nations estimates still houses nearly 2.5 million displaced individuals after years of strife. In March Clooney was arrested outside Washington's Sudanese embassy in protest of the ongoing turmoil.
Despite the close relationship, Obama says in the actor and film producer is acutely aware of the image problems involved with getting too close to the White House.
"He's very protective about not bothering me. And he's also sensitive to the fact that if he's around a lot, then somehow it'll be tagged as 'Obama hanging out with Hollywood stars,' and that's not who he is," he said.
Regardless, Clooney has contributed significantly to Obama's reelection campaign, most recently hosting a star-studded fundraiser at his home in March that drew in $15 million.
Obama's "ET" interview comes as he faces mounting criticism for a string of recent softball interviews with entertainment media and local television outlets outside the Washington press. On "Fox News Sunday" this morning, Obama campaign man and former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended the move.
"The notion that this president is somehow not doing interviews is ridiculous. Not long ago, we were answering questions and charges that somehow Obama was over-exposed," he said.
Republicans have attempted to pin the campaign on this point, with Mitt Romney taking the unusual step of making himself available to the press twice recently. However, Romney himself sat down with People Magazine last week, joined by running mate Paul Ryan and their families.