By Hillary Busis
Updated August 20, 2012 at 02:15 PM EDT
Tom Williams/Getty Images

Don’t get Barack Obama wrong: While he regularly rubs elbows with the likes of Catwoman and Sarah Jessica Parker at fundraisers, he’s not constantly palling around with Hollywood’s elite. No, sir. Not one bit. Well, except for George Clooney, who is legitimately one of the president’s close buddies. “George is a wonderful guy,” Obama tells Entertainment Tonight during a segment that will air this evening.

“And he’s cute, too!” his wife Michelle chimes in.

That’s right: Obama and Clooney are tight, and apparently have been since the commander-in-chief’s pre-White House days. As Obama explains, “The truth is we got to know each other because of a substantive issue. 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. And so when I was a senator — this was well before I was president — 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. And so we got to know each other, and he is a good man and a good friend.”

Obama isn’t the first American president to have close Hollywood ties. (Remember JFK and Marilyn?) But he’s a lot more open about his connection to the entertainment industry than perhaps any other president — and Obama’s recent tendency to duck the national news media for outlets like ET, People, and superpower-obsessed New Mexico radio stations isn’t helping to silence critics who have slammed him for acting more like a celebrity than the nation’s leader. In Obama’s defense, Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter said on Sunday that places like ET are equally important as hard news outlets because “that’s where a lot of Americans get their news.” (Paging Will McAvoy!)

But at least one good friend is looking out for Obama’s image. As the president tells ET, Clooney is “very protective about not bothering me. And he’s also sensitive to the fact that, you know, 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 is, however, cute, as Michelle reminds the audience again before the segment ends.

More of Obama’s interview airs tonight on ET (syndicated).

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