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. Joe Schmoe

    This is nobody's business but Obama's. I personally don't like that Clinton hasn't conceded or that this pressure is occurring. I'm getting more disgusted with her by the day.

    June 4, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. john williams san diego, ca.

    NO-NEVER–NO...you will not get my vote.

    June 4, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. Bill - Charlotte

    Who cares what Bob Johnson thinks? Like Hillary, please go away.

    June 4, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. Laura PA

    NNNNNOOOOOOOO!!!!!! He does not need her to be his running mate & you can best believe Barack Obama will be our next President of the United States. Also, Bob Johnson has a lot of nerve after everything he said about Obama during the primaries. This man better not ask President Obama for ANYTHING.....

    June 4, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. Mike Boston, MA

    As a hardline Clinton supporter, I will be voting for McCain if Clinton is not on the ballot.

    June 4, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. Hannah - Kentucky

    Obama represents all of us. He is black, white, has muslim family (which ISN'T a bad thing), and has an open mind (which you can't put a price on!!!). I think he will do a great job speaking for and serving ALL Americans. I love and respect you Hillary. You would have made a great president, and I honestly think this situation should be in reverse. Nonetheless, PLEASE consider the VP spot. Your other supporters for some reason are wanting to vote for McCain just to "show" Obama. If you are on the ticket, I guarantee that won't happen. I'm actually optimistic about America's future if you two run together! Democrats unite! 🙂

    June 4, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. erik b

    i dont think thats a good ides.just think shell be praying for something tragic to happen to obama,so she can get the only thing she really cares about and thats power.

    June 4, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. Amazed

    Hillary Clinton has the ability to do something great for this nation. She can help heal race and gender relations to an extent that no one else has been able to. I hope she will seize this opportunity and do good with it. However, she can't do this by bullying someone into giving her a position as VP. I hope these two sit down and really see where she is needed and go for it. She can not try to highjack this nomination by demanding that she be on this ticket. That would not be the right thing to do.

    June 4, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  9. Peter Paul

    I think the decision belongs to Obama and not a rich man like you or anybody else. If you knew my story first you will never dream of a ticket with hillary instead a nightmare is on the corner,,,

    June 4, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  10. Carolyn

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

    Yeh, right! Does he understand that picking the VP is NOT his job.

    Since when is the Vice Presidency an elected position???

    June 4, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. leon

    Obama is a divider and a real manipulator of the average American's dreams for his own political ambition. The more I know about the man the more is clear who he really is.

    Now he wants Americans not to discuss about his values, his religious belief and about his patriotism? He is asking us to be blind and to not have our own judgement. he is using the same tactics used by Fidel Castro and other Communist dictators had used. To blindly believe in a leader without questioning him for the sake of the nation.

    June 4, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. Shannon Solomon, Cincinnati, OH

    Sen. Obama should be allowed to pick the VP he can work with and trust. I'm tired of hearing people say that he must pick her because trust me if the tables were turned she wouldn't pick him.

    I really did like Hillary but I have lost a lot of respect for her during this primary season including her horrible speech last night. Reality needs to set in quickly so the Democratic party can heal, unite and take back the White House come November.

    June 4, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  13. Kingsley Okere

    Obama needs a team during this turbulent days of America. HRC will still be prosecuting her ambition in various ways if picked by Obama as VP. Anyhow, Ted Kennedy has once said that Clinton will not be Obamas running mate and I believe and support him.

    June 4, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  14. Clifford R.

    Wow. I think I need to start watching more BET. Good for him and I hope many more will follow in his foot steps so we can have an Obama/Clinton ticket.


    What has Sen. Obama done that would make anyone question his values, his religious beliefs, or his patriotism? Seriously, I just don't see it.

    I would actually like to question McCain about positions he is taking on many topics. He seems like he is dancing around topics that will put him in favor of republicans or indey voters.

    June 4, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  15. Flo


    June 4, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. Leon, you're an idiot

    It's not that Obama doesn't want people to discuss his religious beliefs or his patriotism – it's that he doesn't want people to misstate his religious beliefs (he's a Christian, not a Muslim) and he doesn't want people to base his patriotism on whether he wears a stupid flag pin on his lapel (which McCain doesn't do either).

    And comparing him to Castro and Communist dictators? That's worse than laughable, it's idiotic

    June 4, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. Jack

    Obama cannot beat McCain w/o Clinton Democrats.... it's that simple.... right now, Clinton Democrats would rather support McCain than Obama

    June 4, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. RAY

    over and over and over again commentators speak of Barack as an African-American. I find this a peculiar vestige of America's racism. Barack is as much European-White-American as he is African-BlackAmerican. He was raised by his white mother and white grandmother. He embodies both races. Why is the fact that he is European-White-American disregarded and only his African descent emphasized. The media remains unconsiously racist. As for Israel, no American President will abandon Israel or endanger Israel.

    June 4, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. Duncan

    @ Leon, what does that have to do with THIS particular article though??

    and NO to Clinton being on the Democratic ticket as a Veep.

    June 4, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. The Clear Thinking Indepedent

    Its simple …

    Obama CAN win without her … he CAN win with her …

    Obama CAN govern without her…. he CAN'T NOT govern with her …

    Her behavior over this campaign and her professional career indicate she is not a team player. HEr race baiting, pandering, throw the kitchen sink methods, her defiance last evening during Mr. Obama's moment and Bill's emotional outbursts combine to make her an unworkable VP candidate.

    June 4, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  21. kheard

    I think it is wrong for Senator Clinton or any of her surrogates to impose anything on on our future president. He has attempted to remain above her drama and has respectively honored her contributions to her campaign and this country.
    It seems that she and her supporters continue to want to make everything about the Clintons'. Mr. Obama is the winner of the nomination after an extremely hard fought primary season.
    What is wrong with these people that they can't honor the winner, but can make demands. The voters have spoken. She really is not entitled. Go away, until summoned.

    June 4, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  22. Desdemona

    He just needs to go away, that does not mean because he is filthyly rich he can buy his way and other peoples way into positions. He did not have faith in Obama when he started running anyways. No thanks to him, he was not part of history in the making on Obamas end shame on him, who the heck he thinks he is anyways?

    June 4, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. King

    Bob Johnson sold out Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton just like he sold out Black Entertainment Television to Viacom. LOL why should anyone listen to him. As far as Hillary goes she can get lost just like she got lost last night in her non concessionary speech she missed a perfect opportunity to UNITE the party ! Obama deserves to pick who he wishes !

    June 4, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  24. Democrat against Obama

    If she is not on the ticket, I will cast my vote for McCain or write Hillary's name in.

    Good day Barack.

    June 4, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  25. Dave

    she just wants on the ticket because she thinks Obama won't be around to serve the whole term. typical.

    June 4, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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