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. GARY

    no way hilliary should be on the ticket she is deceitfull plus bill would be sticking his nose in everything, besides if she was on the ticket if i was obama i would have to get a food taster and beverage drinker to test my drink i do not trust the clintons on anything

    June 4, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  2. Matt in VA

    I would rather see her get a cabinet position and then the first Supreme court nomination Obama gets to appoint. This would be the best case for Hillary, as she will continue to do the hands on work for the good of the country she loves and we benefit from!

    June 4, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  3. Amber

    This guy is so smart. I love him. He's made some real intelligent observations over the course of the past year, and today he makes another one.

    June 4, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  4. Glenn - Texas

    It was a hard fought primary and the person with the most delegates and the most popular votes has won. It’s not for anyone to partition or any other strong arming measure.

    Let’s all just sit back and let him continue with this remarkable history making campaign.

    June 4, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  5. Anthony - Morgantown

    After her speech last night...I hope she's not even in the Cabinet, let alone the VP office.

    June 4, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  6. Doug

    Regardless of the feelings expressed about this idea of Hillary being the VP nominee...
    I think her true value would be in the Senate where she has respect from all sides. I'd personally like to see her replace Harry Reid and help the Obama administration put forth some worthy solutions to America' problems.
    This will sound weird, but I think he should pick Chuck Hagel. He's the sensible republican that McCain claims to be but isn't.

    June 4, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  7. Didine - Maryland

    Obama is a smart man. He knows exactly what is good for the party. He do not need a pressure from Robert Johnson or anyone else. He will chose the right person to be his running mate. There are many others brillant people out there other than Mrs. Clinton. He will give her another duty other than the VP. and he will pick the person he will trust and feel comfortable with.

    June 4, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  8. Defiant

    Last night was Hillary's golden chance to be a beckon for the party's unity, and she failed. Her actions always contradict her campaign statements... even to this very end.

    June 4, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  9. Koo

    New era....change we believe in....yes we can = No Clinton

    The Clinton era is done.

    June 4, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  10. Jennifer, VA

    I think what Bob Johnson is doing is selfish and self-serving. If Clinton and her supporters would show genuine support for Obama's candidacy, I have no doubt that we could win the White House. She does not need to be on the ticket for that to happen. This is ridiculous and he is just as incorrigible as she is. And I speak as an intelligent African-American woman who has made a lot of observations over the last year as well. I supported Hillary Clinton in the beginning, and long before the primary season started. But I researched, I studied, I prayed and I listened. Thus my choice for Obama. And the speeches I heard last night solidified my choice. As usual, her speeches were punctuated with the word "I", while he spoke of what "we" as a nation could do. He empowers us as a nation, she empowers herself.

    June 4, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. Hard Working Martha

    Hillary should NOT be on his ticket because she cannot play by the rules and that's really sad.

    June 4, 2008 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  12. Becky

    It's completely Obama's choice. Everyone has their opinions. Like mine is Bill Richardson!

    I was disappointed Hillary Clinton didn't acknowledge in her speech last night Obama's win of the nomination. She continues to disappoint me.

    June 4, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  13. Randy M

    NO, NO, NO....I've supported Obama for months. I've left the Republican party but if he chooses or is forced into having her and Bill on the ticket he will lose my support and many more Republicans who have had enough of the party's rhetoric.

    Don't ruin what you've accomplished Sen. Obama. Adding her takes away far more than it brings. You've received 18 million votes without her help. You don't need to add her devisivness to a great cause.

    June 4, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  14. NoHillary

    Why did Hillary commit political suicide last night? She blew her chance at unifying the Democratic party and getting the VP spot by opening her big mouth to suggest contesting the popular vote with her and Harold Ickes twisted logic. She really had a chance to get the VP spot last night, but now she is trying to hold Barrack up to it under duress... this is going to be the fundamental reason for him to choose someone else. So don't be surprised if you are a Clinton voter... Obama is going to choose someone else as VP.

    June 4, 2008 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  15. Bob

    Hillary is proving to be a bad Looser. On one hand she doesnt want to concede, an on the other she is negotiating for VP. In other words what she is saying is, this is not about unifying the Party, it is all about how i benefit.

    June 4, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  16. martin

    billionaires dont make the decisions for the people,anymore .get lost bob johnson!you've done nothing to help obama's campaign,so,quit trying to influence OUR choice for president.why dont you write in hillary,because this obama supporter has no respect for elitists like you.i hope obama taxes the billions out of you when he's elected president.

    June 4, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  17. Ki - A concerned American

    Robert Johnson...Please take this opportunity NOT to initiate a political "Headlock" on Barrack Obama. Your statements, although genuine should be keep submerged in that brilliant mind of yours. Allow Mr. Obama to make his decision.

    1st-Americans, 2nd-Democrats and 3rd-"I HAVE 18 Million voters!! You still amaze me, Senator Clinton.

    For those Dems who are considering voting for McCain, please consider the result of your actions. Anger will only continue to separate us as a nation. Please think about your decision. Can we survive 4 more years of the current economic, military and global status? We should expect more for our future generations.

    June 4, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. Scott Hughes in Atlanta


    June 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. Sharon in Oklahoma

    I really wonder if Mr. Johnson isn"t wrong when he says Hillary will do whatever she is ask to do for the party. All the evidence points to the fact that Hillary will do anything to advance Hillary not the party. She has lost a lot of respect these last few days.

    June 4, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  20. ok

    Bob enough of this! Remember, it is the same Senator Obama you trashed many times during the nomination.

    June 4, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  21. Ted

    If there's no question that she'll do whatever she can for the party, how in the world do you explain her speech last night? And, thank you , Robert Johnson, but aren't you the same fine citizen who inserted very inflammatory remarks into the discussion earlier this year?!?! I'd strongly encourage you to just be quiet and exit the process, since you have lost all credibility.

    June 4, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. BHO

    Political unifications are common. The question: How far Hillary be an honest person on the issues Obama won?

    I hope Hillary is not a suitable person as VP because of her campaign history was so deceptive.

    I think CNN never publish my comment as usual!

    June 4, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  23. Citizen-Denver

    I am an obama bit surrogate and supporter however, if he picks Hillary, I am NOT going to vote in November.

    June 4, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. captain

    I supported the idea of an Obama/Clinton ticket until I witnessed her shocking display of narcissism last night.

    June 4, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. shirley

    Hillary is a divider who is manipulating her supporter's and trying to blackmail the DNC for the Vice Presidental slot. NO, this should be the last corrupt move she is allowed to make. I am ashamed that so many women believe Hillary is our best chance for a woman President, I want someone my daughter and grand daughter can look up to and emulate. Nancy Pelosie would be a much better choice, she is honest and has personal integrity.

    June 4, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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