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. pat


    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  2. Voting Obama

    He should be able to pick whoever he wants. People need to stop this and let him make his own decision. Personally I do not want her. Look at all she has done. She through everything but the ktichen sink to this man he still stayed strong. And if she goes into office with him I am not sure about his safety. I think she would try and do something to him. So not on VP for HRC. She showed her true colors.If it was the other way around do you think she would pick Obama and people woruld force her to no. So back off!! He doesn't need HRC to win. People want others to believe that.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  3. Bushwhacked in Eugene, OR


    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Why does he have to chose Clinton, she has more baggage than he does. I think race is minor in this election due to Obama's views on the world and making a difference in America. It will alway's be ahead if the media continues to use is as a storyline. It appears the only channel that continues to try to use this over and over again is CNN

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. Tim in NC

    The gall ittakes to say that sort of thing now, after EVERYTHING she ha spulled to try and take this away from him.

    This contest was over after super tuesday, Clinton just refused to admit it. Now this guy (and I won't even start on the things he said about barack) is trying to throw his money bags around to get her back in the White House.

    Get over yourself and start looking at whats best for this country, it sure has Hell isn't Billary!

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  6. laura

    NOOOO, Hillary should not be on Obama's ticket she is deceitful and underhanded and very misleading we've had enough of that with bush she and her aides , thats close to her McCAulliff . she took or tried to take the Glory from Obama last night at no time in her s speech did she acknowledge him as the nominee

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  7. Jay Bonds

    Bob Johnson needs to just hide under his money somewhere and stay out of politics. Wasn't he attacking Obama at first? He is such a disappointment, and he is no Bloomberg.

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  8. Damion K. Miles

    I think it's absolutely laughable that anyone can make any demands of Barack Obama. He and his team are going to make the best decision for first, the country and then, his family. Hillary is far from being the ideal running mate. Her speech last night did not, in any way, make a clear distinction between him being the nominee and her being something other than the nominee. The only thing she did was elaborate on what she's been saying for months now – she should be the nominee. There will be no unity in her mind. She may do what she has to do publicly for the party so that she doesn't end her political career, but, make no mistake about it – Hillary will act as she's supposed to be President.

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  9. Catherine

    Her behavior last night indicates she is not VP material. To be VP one must be a team player. Her failure to concede and throw her support behind the nominee belies a selfishness that will do the party more harm than good.

    Additionally, at this point her husband is a liability.

    Finally, the GOP would be jumping up and down in their seats if she is VP. They know that with Hillary and Bill on the ticket the Republican base will come out in droves to vote against them.

    I hope we democrats are smarter than that.

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  10. JD

    I don't think anyone needs reminding of what Johnson has previously said about Obama. He has no right bullying the victor and nominee on who should be his running mate.

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  11. tom

    This up to Obama, Already the lobbying superstars of Washinton have started, this is what Clinton is going to bring. Obama you did it without Clinton, if these people are worried about the party they should just come and unite the party without pre-conditions, they created that division they should fix rather than trying to tie strings on Obama. Obama if you loose in November you loose with diginity do not fall in the Old Washingto for the first time Stand up for the Change We Believe In say no to Old washington. It up to the American people to crusify their country because HRC lost let them do it. No Hillary On the ticket.

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  12. Antoinette

    How dare you write a letter to the Majority Whip and demand "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. No, other president that I have known has ever been "pressured" into making a choice of such high nature. He will need to choose a Vice President he can TRUST, who is LOYAL, and who has the best interest of the PARTY as well as the NATION, when you look at those three things HILLARY does not come to mind.
    But let me say that I did not think for a moment that she was going to suspend nor conceed the nomination last night, but out of pure unity and support of the party she SHOULD have congratulated him and focused on what THEY together have done in this primary season and what still needs to be done in the general election. In the beginning I was all for a " Dream Ticket" even when Bill was saying things and when Hillary was slamming him against the wall, but she and the CLINTON machine has lost all respect and any type of chance in my book to claim the 2nd prize. Johnson is a man of what I thought was good judgement but he like his nominee is tryin to "fight" but this fight is dividing not Uniting us to come together. He does not have the nation at heart he wants what he wants and does not care how far or how long it will take. They are trying to steal a moment in history away because it was not the right moment of choice.

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  13. José

    It doesn't make any sense, this teaming up with Clinton for VP. During her divisive campaign she has shot at Obama incessantly; those bullets are now being used by McCain.

    McCain has nothing but praise for HRC... no wonder, she did her best to weaken the democratic party chances in November for any other democratic candidate and she provided some ammo the republicans are planning to use (as they said).

    Besides she brings no change and Obama campaigned on change, not pandering to special interests.

    At various rallies, she scoffed at his vision of America, talked about "celestial music, angels coming down from the sky, and all will be well", clearly (no "misspeaking") mocking Obama.

    How on earth do you expect him to pick her as VP, unless he's blackmailed hard?

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  14. Brenda W.

    How does he speak for African Americans? Who made him our spokesperson? Better yet, I am an American of African decent and he does not speak for me. I can, however, speak for myself and no one else. Why doesn't he look in the mirror at his sexist, racist , offensive videos he promotes on his cable BET network and hop right on the same team with those West Virginians that voted for Hillary because Obama was black.........

    I am so glad that Obama is asking all Americans to work together. If we, as Americans, have endorsed Obama as our Canidate, then why his this man trying to be the first "lobbyist" Americans are trying to get rid of in our government. We elect someone because he or she represents the people not a "friend of Clintons".....

    Let me be clear, If Obama asks Senator Clinton to be his Vice President on his own accord fine. If he doesn't ask her thats fine too.

    One questions Mr. Bob Johnson, how much were all those Clinton favors worth?

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  15. Candi SC

    Obama have time to campaign in the states he needs to win and get to know these people without the interference of Hillary.. Hillary caused a lot of voters not to vote for Obama in the first place. I really object to her being on the ticket because of the harsh words, Bill and others that would under mind his messge tone. Obama be smart and don't take the baggage that is set forth and as you have told your voters that don't vote out of fear. We are trying to come together, and if Hillary was a true player she would have conceded last night and tried to get the show on the road. Hillary don't care about what will happen to this party because she is still stuck on stupid and want the role as nominee for President. That want happen Hillary no no no. and a big No.

    June 4, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  16. Cliff

    Obama would be a fool to take her as a running mate. It would be the republicans' dream come true.

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  17. Nathan Johnson

    I am with you Brina. That woman is a cancer and she would do nothing but undermine his presidency every chance she got. There are more qualified candidates (men and women) who would serve Senator Obama better as a VP.

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  18. MJAMES

    This man has some nerve. As soon as I saw his face I remembered him introducing Clinton at an event and speaking very poorly about Obama. Talking about how Obama was doing drugs while Hillary was fighting to save the world. I'm not against Clinton on the ticket and it certainly would bring some much needed unity to the party but she needs someone else to spread that message. This guy needs to go back to 'whatever he was doing' in his neighborhood.

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  19. Linned

    I think as the Democratic nominee that he should be able to pick who his VP candidate is no matter what anyone says. He has earned that right.

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  20. Excited Dem


    I totally agree that you have the BEST political team coverage, but why lead off with this story?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The real news of the day is Senator Obama!!! And, NO WAY should Bob Johnson get a say so in who Obama chooses for HIS V.P.!!

    The first words out of Johnson's mouth at the start of the campaign were totally disrespectful to Obama, so he should either sign up to work for Obama to beat McCain or "SHUT UP" & sit on the sidelines because I'm sure his opinion means nothing to Obama!!!!!!! at least I hope not!


    Proud African American Female Veteran for Obama 08 and BEYOND!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  21. AF

    If she is on the ticket, the White House is guaranteed. If not, who knows. Obama supporters are acting like she won 10 to 15% of the vote. If that were the case, I would say look all you want. But the people of the US have spoken and chosen the top two for the ticket. The question that was finally resolved last night was who would be on top. The Democrats need a unified ticket that will guarantee the White House and taking complete control of Congress. Obama/Clinton 2008 will see more turnout than ever before. People need to remember that even though they have been back and forth fighting like siblings, the bigger picture is clear to both of them and they both know what is needed to drastically change the course of this country and move it in the right direction.

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  22. TD

    It sounds like pressure to me. Let Barack make his own choice Bob. How about you try and make a difference and clean up some of the mess that your programming on BET caused instead of worrying about your friend being on the ticket.

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  23. Terry M

    Hillary and Barak are almost similar on the issues. If one decides to vote for McCain because Hillary lost, then I can not help but think race is a major factor here. In other words. A democrat voting for McCain out of anger at Obama ensures only one thing and that is racism is live and well. I feel sorry for those who base their votes on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethinicity rather than on the issues.

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  24. Maureen Mather

    I am a 66 year old long-time feminist, and am I the only one who finds Hillary Clinton's behavior in defeat a very negative reflection on women? Can anyone imagine the loser in Game Seven at a World Series going back into the locker room and refusing to "concede" to the winning team? Picture this: The manager saying to the press: "We played an incredible series, and we need a few days to adjust to this loss. You have to allow us time to adjust." Oh, and then trumpeting how his/her team actually played so much better in every way than the eventual winner. I am all for fight and tenacity, but this is just ridiculous!

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  25. born in the USA

    Johnson is out of his mind about the deep affection that millions of African Americans hold for both Senator Clinton and President Clinton after the type of mudslinging, kitchen sink throwing campaign the Clintons used to discredit Obama

    June 4, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
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