Hours after delivering a statement on the shooting massacre of nine people at an historic church in Charleston, S.C., President Obama and a group of entertainment industry donors had a lengthy discussion about the roots of gun violence in the first of two Hollywood-centric fundraisers in Los Angeles on Thursday, according to an attendee who was present.
About 30 people attended the event at the Pacific Palisades home of Chuck Lorre, executive producer of “Two and a Half Men.” Tickets for what was billed as an intimate discussion with the president sold for up to $33,400 each, with proceeds going to the Democratic National Committee.
Among those attending were Kiefer Sutherland, Matthew Perry, Conan O’Brien, UTA’s Jay Sures, Bob Broder, Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon and writer-producer James Burrows.
The attendee described the meeting, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes, as different from other events in that it offered an opportunity for Obama to have a “long, thoughtful” and serious discussion about issues, including gun violence and his presidency, in a much more “macro” sense than in other forums. The discussion about gun violence touched on gun laws, mental health and race, among other factors, the attendee said. Obama talked about being an optimist, especially about the country’s place in history.
Next on Obama’s agenda was a larger, $2,500-per-person event at the home of Tyler Perry. Perry is a longtime supporter who also held a fundraiser for Obama’s re-election campaign in Atlanta.
He also addressed the Charleston shootings at the Perry event, before a crowd of about 250 people.
“To see such a horrific event unfold like that is particularly shocking and it’s a reminder that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Obama said, according to a pool report.
Perry introduced Obama, saying that he was “one of the most incredible people I have ever met.” He joked that Obama volunteered to take over the Titanic after it had already struck the iceberg, according to the pool report.
Perry also told about going to the White House for dinner. On the Truman Balcony afterwards, Obama winked at Michelle who “turned into a 15 year old girl,” Perry said, per the pool report.
Among those also at the event were January Jones, Ted Sarandos, Jason Collins and Matthew Weiner.
The Lorre event was closed to the press, while the Perry event, held at his Tuscan-style home off of Mulholland Drive, was open to pool reporters.
“There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace,” Obama said at the White House earlier on Thursday. He said that he and first lady Michelle Obama knew Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, who was one of the victims.
“We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said, adding that “at some point, we as a country have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”
A White House spokesman told reporters that there had not been discussion of calling off the fundraisers in the wake of the shootings. While there was speculation earlier on Thursday as to whether the trips would proceed, in the past the administration has held to the president’s schedule in the face of major events. Obama also has fundraisers scheduled in San Francisco on Friday.
Obama’s trip will be followed on Friday by Hillary Clinton’s trek to Los Angeles to raise money for her presidential campaign. She is scheduled to fundraise at the home of Peter Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield Corp., at a lunchtime gathering. That will be followed by an early evening reception at the home of Michael Lombardo, president of programming at HBO, and his husband Sonny Ward, and then another event the home of actor Tobey Maguire and wife Jennifer Meyer.