Elton John, Pope Francis turned down Clinton Foundation invites
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A number of high-profile notables, including Elton John and Pope FrancisPope FrancisJudge in same-sex marriage denied communion at Michigan Catholic church Pope appeals to world leaders to renounce nuclear weapons During visit to Nagasaki, Pope Francis denounces use of atomic weapons MORE, turned down invitations to attend the Clinton Foundation's upcoming event in New York, according to Politico.

The foundation tried to invite Pope Francis to its glitzy Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) gathering New York, and wanted to present British rock star Elton John with an award for his work to combat AIDS, but both figures declined the invitations.

The organization has been embroiled in controversies surrounding its fundraising initiatives, and the report suggests many celebrities are trying to distance themselves from the group.


Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats battle for Hollywood's cash The House Judiciary Committee's fundamental choice Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE, the Democratic front-runner, is also stepping back from the group as she runs for the White House.

“They’ve had a lot of rejections from people – both from membership renewals and speaking roles this year between the campaign, Hillary not being at CGI this year, bad press,” one person who has helped plan events for the organization told Politico.

Other important figures who turned down invitations to the event reportedly include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said he had a conflict, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who served as Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager during her successful 2000 U.S. Senate bid, and President Obama, who is skipping the event for the first time since taking office due to a busy schedule.

The foundation also wanted either Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen or French economist Thomas Piketty to deliver a presentation on income inequality, but both declined.

Picketty said his decision not to attend had nothing to do with his opinion of the Clintons.

“I’m not particularly a fan, but I am not a non-fan either,” the French economist wrote in an email, adding that he “preferred Hillary’s health plan to Obama’s.”

Foreign heads of state such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also declined to attend the event.

Big names who have confirmed their attendance are actress Jessica Biel, philanthropist billionaire Bill Gates, and scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others.