June 4th, 2008
10:05 AM ET
13 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. Mark

    Hillary and Bill did much for the US.

    Now they should not ruin their legacy by tearing Obama down.

    June 4, 2008 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  2. Shasta

    How can Obama take Hillary as his VP when she refuses to admit she's not still running for president?

    June 4, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |

    OBAMA DON'T DO IT!!!!!


    June 4, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  4. PT

    I think this man is somewhat coo-coo!

    June 4, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |

    OBAMA '08


    June 4, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  6. Josh

    Well, if Bob Johnson says its a good idea...


    Most people are starting to come around to the fact that most of the "If not Hillary then McCain" comments are by republicans involved with operation chaos. We get it, playing dirty is McSame's only chance.

    Now let's see if CNN posts this.

    June 4, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  7. Mikey, Scottsdale AZ

    President Obama,

    Please, please, choose a VP you can trust …in my mind that very very short list would include Colin Powell, Joe Biden, or Wesley Clark.

    Mrs. Clinton says "now" she is ready to do "whatever it takes to put a Democrat in the White House.

    " N O W ??????????


    Healing a political party is not as important as healing a country and a world .

    Making an error here may obliterate all you have accomplished which has been spectacular and amazing.

    You are not only our Candidate for change, but our only hope for restoration !

    From a genuinely concerned 60 year old white male under $40K income with two eyes, two hands, two feet, and a burdened heart for America !

    God Bless & Protect You, Mr. President

    June 4, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  8. Hillary Clinton

    One word: DENVER!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  9. Bonnie in CA

    I'm sorry, but Bob Johnson is a Lobbist.
    Obama spoke against Lobbist.

    Also, would BJ want someone to pick his VP..
    Well, this decision is up to Barack & Michelle Obama.

    I love Hillary, I voted for her early in the election.
    However, its time to come to grips, this decision is Obama's..
    Not Billary's Lobbist!

    June 4, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  10. Manny

    Why isn't Barack the first "Biracial" candidate? Doesn't his mother's family count for anything. After all they're who raised him after his biological father deserted them. If you go by the one drop theory, then wouldn't Dick Cheyney be the first black VP since they are distantly related?

    June 4, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  11. BettiH, Indianapolis, IN.

    KISS OFF ... That should be Obama's choice.

    June 4, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  12. Unknown


    June 4, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  13. Alisa--GA

    He has not credibility. You has add just as much negativity to the race as the other surrogates. Obama will decide who he wants to be vice president. I hope it is not Hillary Clinton.

    OBAMA 2008!!!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  14. Susan

    This man is delusional. After her pity party last night, and her churlish and childish behavior by not conceding, she has show once again that this is all about her, not about the Party. As an Independent, I would never vote for such a candidate! Obama won, fair and square, and she has no right to demand anything!

    June 4, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  15. Sandy, OH

    Since when is it ok to pressure the nominee to pick the loser as VP? I have no problem having HRC as Obama's veep, but the Clinton camp's tactics in pushing for her nomination is disgusting. I hope Obama doesn't feel obligated to pick her. He should do what other candidates do and carefully consider the pros and cons of everyone on his list. Should Clinton come up on top, good. Otherwise, everyone pushing for her nomination right now needs to STHU and let Obama make his decision in peace.


    June 4, 2008 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  16. LeAnn

    As an African American, I don't even respect him. And alot of "us" haven't for many years now. So his input means nothing.

    June 4, 2008 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  17. Obama dont need her

    He dont need her to get black votes, he already has them. The African American community has clearly made their move to Obama.

    June 4, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  18. Heather

    Absolute rot! I am black and female and think Hillary Clinton would be an awful vice president- she has indicated that she is a sore loser and would challenge him every step of the way . No loyalty. What is Bob Johnson thinking? He would not tolerate someone like this working for him. Why stick Obama with her?

    June 4, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  19. S Callahan New York

    Just the thought that Mr. Johnson felt such desire to write a letter to drum support for Obama Clinton ticket turns me off. He is clearly what has devided America, a champion of his dollors with disregard for the true needs in America. This is corporate pleading. Enough.

    June 4, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  20. San

    Hey Bob–
    I guess the soul DOES have a price....

    Can HRC be ANY more disrespectful short of spitting in Obama's (or Michelle's) face?

    June 4, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  21. JC

    Thanks to Democracy!
    Bob Johnson counts as much as I am, one vote in November.
    He will have to push the voters, not the party leaders.
    The Democratic party's root was of the people.
    Do not forget about the people.
    Johnson may be very sorry for what he wishes for.
    Learn from Obama.
    People are sick of entitlements in D.C. and big corporations.

    No more Clinton or Bush anywhere near the White House!
    Vote American Democracy!

    June 4, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  22. Mary

    What about the ill feelings she has towards Senator Obama? You're right when you say the decision is his to make.

    June 4, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  23. Sherry

    I'm a Republican and was going to vote for Hillary. Go independent and she also has my household vote. I can't and will not vote for Obama, I will not vote for someone who doesn't stand up for the people of the USA. He should man up and realize he lost by the voice of the people not by super deligates. He stole my vote and i will not vote for him even if hillary is on ticket as VP, He should be VP and Hillary President, I would vote for that so unless Hillary is on ticket for President, My household of 2 WILL vote for John McCain this year and maybe our VOTE will count.

    Sherry – FLORIDA

    June 4, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  24. teesha

    Of course why not.. Oh let's see that will make it easier for you, no reason to pay her debt.... Obama will do it..

    June 4, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  25. Ivar

    Nonsense. Obama gets to decide his vice president. Npo one else. Every one did their best to get Hillary to win but she LOST. Npow its time for her to do the right thing by backing off.

    June 4, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
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