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

    For whatever it's worth, there are actually two roll calls at the convention. One is for president, the other is for vice president. If Hilary wants the VP spot, if she really wants it, it's her's, whether you like it or not.

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  2. Cesar in FL

    She seriously hurt her chances last night. Day after day, she's had plenty of opportunities to offer an olive branch, but she keeps coming back to "me, me, me, me, I'm the strongest, me, me, me..." She blew it last night, she had the chance to be a shoe in for the V.P. but she blew it, I don't know if he can chose her now, it will look like she is twisting his arm.
    She could have given his campaing all the reasons why she his best choice for V.P. in private, but to step up to the podium & speak about herself and "her 18 million" is sad, that she feels like she has to dangle her followers like bait, do that in private, not in public.
    I'm sure that Hillary is not the only Democrat on the V.P. slot that can help with older women voters and the blue collar worker.

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  3. Francis

    No presidential candidate wants people trying to shove a VP decision down his throat. Clinton keeps saying that she will do whatever it takes to unify the party then why didn't she support Obama in her speech last night? That was her chance to take the first step at unifying the democratic party. If she is on the ticket I will not be voting in June. I don't believe in McCain's politics and where he stands on the issues and I don't feel that I could support Obama if she was on the ticket.

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Steve in DC

    Bob Johnson...as a fellow African, I say to you...

    Go to Hell!

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  5. Turnabout is Fair Play

    You see how Clinton just won't STOP?? No matter what happens, she continues to be devisive, vindictive, and bullying!! She WILL NOT BE OBAMA'S VICE PRESIDENT!!! I don't care how many of her bought and paid for friends in the House and Senate try to pressure him! It's wrong as hell for them to be trying to do this to him; let the man enjoy the fact that he has become the nominee!! It's HIS decision to make, NOT HERS!

    Obama/Sebelius '08 – NOT CLINTON

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  6. Victor, NJ

    What type of shady deal those this guy have with the Clintons? Her speech last night was shameful.

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |

    Bob Johnson needs to worry about his sorry Charlotte Bob-cats! No one can tell him(Obama) who to pick because it's his choice. Hillary is trying to hold onto her 18 million supporters and use them like they are her property. They are people who will make their own minds up in November. If he picks Hillary, I will not support him because it will show a sign of weakness and because she is a self centered witch. I am a black man saying this.

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  8. char19145

    Yes, it should be a decision he should make. However, that wife of his will stick her nose in it. Even though it would most likely unite and heal the party, she is just to insecure and full of hate to "let" him do that. Talk about "whipped".

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  9. Philip

    Barack Obama will make this decision. Clinton played dirty, tried to change the rules when she started to lose, and will not even conceed when she knows she lost. If anything, she should be made to wait, if offered at all. Change means something now, out with the old, in with the new.

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  10. jane

    Bob Johnson keep talking about what the Clinton's have done for African Americans. What have they done? What have he done? What about what the African Americans have done for the Clintons? No matter what the African Americans have done for the Clintons or what they so call have done for the African Americans. There racist remarks, degrading remarks and there insults doesn;t go away. One thing the Clintons should realized is words hurt, ask any domestic violent person who has been belittle. The mental abuse is worst than physical abuse. The Clintons said some ugly things about African Americans. Bob Johnson, Tavis and Maya Angelou aren't from the area of where the minority of African Americans came from. They don't know what it is like to work day after day to try to make ends meet, neither do Hillary. They are out of touch with reality. We want change not a dream team thats will lose focus on the AMERICAN DREAM.

    OBAMA 08

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  11. BOB


    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  12. c

    john mccain is deaf to the people of america when it come to whether or not americans have a say in the war even though he says he answers to the people not the press,..and also.the press is a important part of the community..its people reporting to people whats going on in their world...john mccain measure the success in in iraq by combative strength not by political independence..

    June 4, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  13. Joe

    This guy is a wack job, he ruined black TV for this generation and he thinks he has a say in who should be VP? How is this news?

    Here is a Headline for CNN– Avg Joe, Obama should tell Clinton to resign her seat in the senate!

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  14. Mike

    I am so disappointed in CNN and everyone else covering this election. As a so called minority in this world I was truly disappointed, again it is up to us to be the strong one. Not to stand up and push back we are to apologize and to make the other person feel better. Hilary Clinton lost, and it is Obama who should be the one to not fight back. I understand he needs to gain her voters but come on, she was rude with her speech last night.

    If her voters are that silly to vote for Mcain or not vote which is the same, they are just as crazy as the Clintons are.

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  15. Josh

    Of course people are gonna pressure him to put Hillary as VP...HE COULDN'T WIN WITHOUT HER!!! Hillary, if you are asked for the VP, please do not lower your standards to his level...HE SHOULD BE YOUR VP! Take this all the way to Denver! I have a good feeling that something nasty about Obama will come out soon!

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |

    Johnson you can go kiss someone else's butt now.

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  17. Paul, Tampa, FL

    I think that it would be an insult to Sen. Clinton for Sen. Obama to offer her the veep spot given that she is still running to be president. He should only choose among those no longer in the race and he needs to choose his running mate as soon as possible since she could drop out any week now!

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  18. TD

    Mr. Johnson is a complete joke! This man called Sen Obama unworthy and thinks anyone, especially Sen Obama cares what he thinks – get REAL!!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  19. Timothy

    No. He's like a trained monkey.

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  20. king from toronto

    this is gettin me upset!! this entitlement behavior.the clintons need to go.hope everyone is seein this!!

    June 4, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  21. Doug

    Isn't it a bit hypocritical to have "black caucases" and "Black Entertainment Television"? If someone were to create "White entertainment television" or "White caucases" they'd be sued down to their last bread crumb.

    Racism is wrong, no matter from whom it originates.

    June 4, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  22. Juan (A Republican voting for Obama)

    I may not be a billionaire but I am a voter. The billionaire's vote will only count as ONE vote – so as mine. Mr Obama can and will be able to obtain the funds needed without the support of this billionaire who will donate with conditions – a prime example of a special interest group (I'll give you money if you do this)

    Bob Johnson wants what SHE wants – to be in the White House again and she will do everything she can to ruin Obama so she can be the President.

    If her supporters won't vote for Obama – what makes you think that Obama supporters will vote for her ? Obama was talking about uniting the party yesterday and she was still hoping some super delegates will flip and denying that Obama won by not
    conceding. If that is the way she is – very good at dividing and conquering what she destroyed then who would want a person like that in the White House?

    I am a Republican who will be voting for Obama ONLY if Hillary is not the VP. My vote count as one so does the billionaire's.

    June 4, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  23. p Coleman

    Hope Clinton does not take the VP, she is better than this and if anything happened to his campaign she would be blamed.

    All these people that are so caught up with Obama and hate Clinton so bad had better think about what is known and what is not. We know Clinton has committed her life to public service, no one is perfect.

    June 4, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  24. Ed, Santa Fe NM

    Absolutely not.... NO CLINTONS FOR VP....

    Hillary has slung far too much mud in her push for power. The Clintons could never be trusted as VP.....


    June 4, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  25. Nik, Florida

    He needs her more than she needs him. She should just go back to the Senate, and run again in 2012 instead of being in the shadows. We all know that he cant win withoout her, especially states like Florida.

    June 4, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
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