June 4th, 2008
10:05 AM ET
14 years ago

BET founder to push for Clinton as Obama's VP pick


Watch Johnsons comments to CNN Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Billionaire businessman Bob Johnson, a close adviser and friend to Sen. Hillary Clinton , launched a campaign Wednesday to persuade Sen. Barack Obama to offer the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket to Clinton.

Johnson told CNN's "American Morning" that Clinton knows about his push but "she didn't direct me to do it."

A day after the final two primaries, Johnson sent a letter to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Wednesday to lobby the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse Clinton as Obama's running mate. He said it needs to be done for the sake of party unity.

"There's no question that Sen. Clinton will do whatever she's asked to do for the party and she will certainly ... entertain the idea if it's offered," Johnson said.

In his letter directed at the Congressional Black Caucus, Johnson wrote:

"As African Americans we agree that the stakes in this election are far too high to take any chances that this party will not be unified from the top to the bottom in our effort to gain control of The White House."

He further wrote:

"You know as well as I the deep affection that millions of African Americans hold for both Senator Clinton and President Clinton. ... But most important, we need to have the certainty of winning; and, I believe, without question, that Barack Obama as President and Hillary Clinton as Vice President bring that certainty to the ticket."

Johnson, who founded Black Entertainment Television, also owns the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team.

He told CNN he was not trying to limit Obama's options, or force him to pick Clinton.

"My letter was not a pressure letter," he said. "This is Sen. Obama's decision.

"If the Congress members can come together and agree as I do that it would be in the best interest of the party to have Sen. Clinton on the ticket, they carry that petition to Sen. Obama," he said.

"This is not a pressure. This is elected officials giving their best judgment."

Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday night, according to CNN estimates of the delegate count.

He praised Clinton in a speech on Tuesday evening and said she will be central in the battle for universal health care and efforts to transform energy policy and lift children from poverty.

But in her speech after winning the South Dakota primary, Clinton said Tuesday night she would make no immediate decision on her next steps.

Obama and Clinton spoke by phone for a few minutes early Wednesday. He told her he wants to "sit down when it makes sense for" her, said Robert Gibbs, an Obama spokesman. She indicated she believed that would happen soon, Gibbs said.

Johnson created a stir and drew wide criticism in January for comments he made at a Clinton campaign stop in Columbia, S.C., that some interpreted as a reference to Obama's acknowledged drug use as a teenager.

In defending the Clintons' record on civil rights, Johnson said, "To me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood - and I won't say what he was doing,
but he said it in the book - when they have been involved."

Many people believe Johnson was referring to Obama's drug use, which the senator publicly wrote about in his memoirs, though Johnson later said he was not.

soundoff (516 Responses)
  1. Tiffany Glenwood, IL

    I am ashamed of Bob Johsnon, if the shoe was on the other foot Hilary Clinton would not be pushed into picking Obama as her VP. This is Obama's historical moment and he should not and will not be pushed into accepting Hilary Clinton as his VP when she could not even acknowledge his historical moment. At one time I loved the idea, but at this time, due to all of her negativity, I do not believe she has his best interests at heart nor do I want her on the ticket.

    It he needed her to win, he should not be even running, and he doesn't need her!!

    June 4, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. cgrad

    i question Bob's "motives"....

    June 4, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. YOLA

    I think HRC would be an excellent VP ; however, as far as Mr. Johnson is concerned, we do not need nor do we want you to speak for us!

    June 4, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. anon


    If Barack beat Hillary, what makes me think he cannot beat McCain?

    Clinton represents old-style politics. She did her best to tear Barack down since Iowa. She has such a sense of entitlement that she couldn't bring herself to acknowledge Barack won the nomination. She (and Bill) dominates the news cycles. We have to move on.

    June 4, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Pauline

    Bob Johnson take a breathe. Let Mr Obama and the American people enjoy this historic moment. Shame on you!

    June 4, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. Gem, GA

    I orginally voted for McCain and have since decided that Obama is the one who will get my vote. However, if Hillary is decided to be his VP, I will cast my vote for McCain. The Clinton's had their time and it is over!! This is a time for new blood and change. Look at the past years we had George Bush and son twice and Clinton in the middle, and look at us now. If Obama chooses a Clinton to be VP, I sends the wrong message, he is not really about change!!! Any one who has kept up with the Clinton's over the years can see that Hillary can not play second best. If he does choose Hillary and I do not vote for McCain, can I pencil in Ross Perot in???

    June 4, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Rhae Oklahoma

    I could live with Hillary on the ticket and might even forgive the DNC for cheating her out of the nomination to begin with. It's for sure that he needs her worse than she needs him. The party might look a little better to me. PIGS

    June 4, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. Trapon

    What is the guarantee that Hillary will respect the rules as VP? Will she not make her own rules to challenge the President? Think seriously about it. To Obama I say, be very careful! It is dangerous to eat the bread of her that has an evil eye for the morsel shall choke you!

    June 4, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Put Hillary/Bill out to pasture

    PCL you got it we do not want the MCClintons on any ticket with Obama.
    We backed Obama all the way

    Enough of the McClintons,McBushes,McShames and McDooms
    (only place they need to be is in the rear view mirror )


    June 4, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. wilhemina

    Her mouth might say sure I'll take the number 2 spot but quite frankly I don't believe her ego could take the number 2 job. Make her the education minister or helath and human services but not VP

    June 4, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. News Nag


    The BET man early on repeatedly characterized Obama as a drug-pushing gang member type.

    And now he's supposed to have some sway with Obama about making Hillary, who also semi-pushed the Muslim and racially tinged negative memes, the VEEP.

    Please, "news" people: Could you please cover actual issues and news FOR A CHANGE from now on no matter how stupid you actually may be. You CAN learn, you know.

    It'd be appreciated.

    June 4, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. Canadian Watcher

    I am listening and watching from Canada. And I cant believe that people have the guts to be pressuring Obama to take Hillary on as he VP. No one in her Party has acknowkedged him from the start, they all believe that he is beneath them and now that he has the Nomination all of a sudden he should pick her as his VP. She did not even acknowledge him last night that he was the Nominee how can you want to be some ones VP when you dont acknowledge them and the fact that they won. I believe the Clintons think that the country owe them everything and that she has some right to be the president. Its not all about them its about the country.....I DONT THINK HE SHOULD PICK HER AS HIS VP....you should know better than that,..Shame on you BOB JOHNSON everyone has the right to choose and make up there own mind. when are you and the clinton supporters going to acknowledge the fact that Obama has been choosen as the nominee before you start pressuring him to take someone on.

    June 4, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. J. Bow

    Barack Obama can and needs to win this election without adding the old political war horse Clinton and her loose cannon husband Bill. The old Blue Plate special spent their entire campaign tearing down Barack and now they want to snuggle up and play nice? To add Hillary will only show that he is what she has been saying all along that "he is not the strongest candidate".

    June 4, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  14. Judy in Arkansas

    Mr Johnson you have no credibility to offer or sugesst anything to anyone.

    June 4, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. Es Jay

    I am disappointed at how Hillary is behaving. After last night's speech, she should definitely not be on the ticket. There are plenty of others who can bring in more votes. They don't necessarily have to be Hillary. She may end up doing more harm than good being on his ticket. She should take a clue from Al Gore....he was gracious about his loss. AND, does she really care about the democratic party or does she care about winning? Time will tell.

    June 4, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. Gary in VA

    Stop it right now Bob Johnson. Your making me wish I never supported BET. You and the hillary clan are being very disrespectful right now.

    June 4, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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