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. Tim

    If Bob Johnson really cared he'd throw his support behind Obama without any hesitation. This parlay for Hillary to have some kind of power position smacks of desperation since he, and many other wealthy and powerful democrats backed the loser. Uniting the party does not mean a joint ticket, it means putting aside egos and ambitions and bringing people together. If HRC's support of Obama's nomination and campaign for president hinges on a spot on the ticket then she's lied all this time claiming she cares. If she wants her supporters voices heard she needs to get behind Obama without hesitation so that a Democrat gets into the White House.

    June 4, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  2. Super Democrat

    Makes you wonder what's in it for Bob? He's not on Senator Obama's political team and no one asked Bob for his "advice." I would rather see McSame in office than to ever let Bill and Hillary disgrace our country again. Bill had his chance and the sins of his flesh prevailed. I cannot fathom why the Clintons and others seem to think Hillary deserves the VP spot other than this may be a way of somehow redeeming Billary . There are others who would be more compatible with and more loyal to Senator Obama. Mr. Obama has earned the right to choose the person that will help him shape his legacy. He does not need the baggage that comes with the Clintons!

    June 4, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. KH

    More bullying from HRC and her supporters–does this remind anyone of the Mafia, or is it just me?

    June 4, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  4. Marissa

    shut up, bob, and go away.

    As Thurgood Marshall said, in reference to Clarence Thomas, there is no difference between a black snack and a white snake. You are a black snake. Keep your venom to yourself. Thanks.

    June 4, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. I have seen the promised land

    Bob Johnson has been and always will be an Uncle Tom, pure and simple. He hates to see any black man out do his position of being number one. He is selfish, self serving and has done nothing to advance his race. Anything he does is strictly to add more money to his pockets. His pathetic letter will fall upon deaf ears as he does not speak for the average black american who have been waiting for a true leader that has a united vision for America. Take your billions of dollars you earned through the exploitation of blacks and return to obscurity. You made your uncomfortable bed so now lay in it with the rest of the dogs and fleas. I have seen the promised land and your kind is not welcomed.

    June 4, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  6. The Patriot

    You Obama supporters will ensure that the party fails in the GE. Because of your nasty attitudes towards 50% of the Dem voters, you will alienate us and YOU will be the reason we fail in the Fall. Remember that!

    June 4, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  7. Obama Supporter in North Carolina

    At first I was like maybe...but when you try to force your way in and you can not even say congrats to Obama and his team...that is NOT unity. That is ignorance, I can not even believe that Bill Clinton would allow his wife to act this way. I'd rather have Bill be the VP, not his wife. She needs to retire. I am actually upset at Barack for even saying nice things about her-she is rude and ignorant, and I am saying this b/c its cliche. Its the truth, and I can not even believe that ANYONE in this country with brains would even follow herf, unless in some odd way its benefitting them-like corrupt CEO ( Bob Johnson), or women whom feel our time should be forced as POTUS, or politicians that are corrupt-WHATEVER. This is a joke. Its Obama's time.

    June 4, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Shasta

    leon- he's asking you to focus on real issues for once instead of the flag pin controversy or what church he went to. I know it's difficult for you to wrap your head around, but try really hard. Take Tylenol for any headaches.

    June 4, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. Wood

    This guy peddled smut on BET for years, irreparably damaging scores of young minds in the process...all for a buck and a place on the Forbes 400 for a few years.. and we're supposed to listen to him?

    Go back to running your inept basketball team...

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

    It's a shame that Bob Johnson and others are publicly trying to force Senator Obama into picking Hillary. I don't recall any other Democractic nomimee being put into this situation. Hillary Clinton's refusal to acknowledge Obama's achievement last night shows just how selfish she is. Instead of talking about his becoming the nominee and stressing party unity, she spoke about herself. How can Bob Johnson lobby for someone like this. I'm ashamed of him.

    June 4, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  11. Ola

    This is from a proud woman's perspective. I think Senator Clinton took the battle too far. She seems like a difficult person to work with regardless of what she has been through as a wife or mother or public figure.

    I think Senator Obama should look for a real virtuous woman as describes in Proverbs in the Bible since he is a Christian.

    Senator Clinton's age is also a minus for the change thing.

    She seems to represent all that is old in politics.

    June 4, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  12. victor

    Leon That is the most absurd thing I've read in a long time. But I ask that you back it up with some facts. We know his religious beliefs, HE'S A CHRISTIAN that is a fact.. we know he is a patriot, that is a fact, and we know his values. YOU CHOOSE NOT TO LISTEN TO FACT. Bring some real facts to the table NOT the fiction you seem to believe.

    June 4, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  13. The Bush Twins : George and John

    Hillary Clinton doesn't want whats good for the party as everyone seems to keep saying. "Sen. Clinton will do whats best for the party". She doesn't care about the party only her selfish self. She bashed Sen. Obama all through the campaign, now she wants to weasel her way onto the ticket. Forget it, if she's on the ticket, I will not vote. Good luck America you're going to need it.

    June 4, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Debby

    I think out of respect Obama should offer it to her, if she turns it down then give her a good cabinet position because she has brought out alot of supporters into the Dem. party vs. the other VP candidates mentioned who couldn't even bring in an 1/8 of what she did. I also think he should give Donna Brazile a position on his team. She showed last night that she practice's what she preached and didn't care about that 2 min. of fame she could have had. I think Obama, Clinton, Brazile, Clark, Gore can be an unstopable team. I think Bill Clinton should just stay out of this entirely and let the newcomers work fo us Am.

    June 4, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Joseph, Los Angeles

    Hillary doesn't want to be Vice President; she wants to be Co-President. This is not a good match for Obama and we should not be pushing him to pick anyone, it's his choice.

    June 4, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  16. Connie Sturgeon

    As the old saying goes the worm has turned. Mr.Johnson ,Hillary's other supporters and she and her campaign have put Senator Obama down now they are trying to twist his arm. They say give Hillary time well give the nominee time, let him decide when he is ready . I will vote for him no matter his choice of VP, but I am for Sen Webb,Chuch Hagel or Gov.Strickland. I would like to see Hillary as Secretary of Health,Edwards AG and Bill Richardson Secretary of State.

    OBAMA 08/12 Connie from Indiana

    June 4, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  17. No McCain

    No Chance Sir. We don't trust Hillary enough to make her our VP. Plus the fact that she finished a stong second doesnt' mean that she qualifies for VP slot.

    June 4, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  18. MP

    Big Mistake...they could not be more different. Hilary is combative, negative and divisive. As a Republican considering to vote for Obama this fall will send me in another direction...McCain.

    June 4, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  19. Dear Hilary supporters........

    Johnson is absolutely the wrong surrogate to stnd in for Hilary. The black community does not respect this man!!!!

    June 4, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. Sam Padayachee

    Remember, if Obama picks Clinton for his runningmate, he is going to "get two for the price of one"....two people that may continue to undermine his abilities as a president. I believe that Obama is smarter than that. If his campaign is truly about change, then he should look to someone thatthinks outsid the box...like he does. The United States has an opportunity to elect a president that I would put in the same category as great socio-political thinkers such as Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King and the great Mahathma Gandhi. It would be refreshing to have a candidate that does not exploit the politics of fear and for once do what is truly in the best interest of the American people....and hopefully for the rest of the world. Obama would therefore need to choose a runningmate that shares the same vision. I sincerely believe that the American people are sophisticated enough not to choose a president based solely on who the runnungmate is, but they will chose a president based on his/her parties values and their confidence in the presidential candidate's ability to impliment those values.

    June 4, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. Tabbath

    the saying goes that one is suppose to keep their enemies close but with this woman...NO. Her interest is only in herself..it's impossible to hear what she is running for because every other word out her mouth is about her. She says "I" more times in a sentence then anything else. I see it as a way of brain-wash..if she says "i" long enough, someone will finally believe in this "I" persona of hers. She loves being in the lime-light and hates to give it up. She would undermine Obama just to be in the forefront of every issue. She did it the whole campaign and will if she is VP. This count can't afford to support her and Bill's ego.

    Being "popular" is a short term phase and not long term and because someone likes hearing you say " I, I, and I" all the time does not make a good president, Bush is a testament to that–when he first ran and became President the "popular" vote favored him too and look what the end result was, no jobs, an unpopular war, foreclosures, high gas and "Mc Pain" wants to follow Bush's agenda.

    June 4, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  22. Kevin, Little Rock

    Hmm, after trashing Obama about somehow using drugs, agreeing with Geraldine Ferraro about Obama would not be where he is if he was a white man, and the person you supported lost, you think you can have a say to somehow to lobby the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse Hillary for VP. Sorry, Mr. Johnson it will not happen.

    If you know Obama does not take lobbyist money or PAC money. So your plan to have Hillary as VP will not work. And if you really do your research, the African-American communtiy does not have the same affection for the Clintons like they did years ago.

    June 4, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  23. Robin Armstrong

    I would just say to Mr. Bob Johnson no one has told you who to pick as your GM and coaches of your Basketball team, so why do you feel you have the right to tell Mr. Obama who he should have work on his team. This is not your decision nor is it the Black Cacusas decision. The sad part is you did not even congraulate him on this great history making win. Now I understand how you and Mrs. Clinton are such close friends you think it is all about you.

    June 4, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. Jenny, Rio Vista, CA

    This is what makes me laugh. Hillary Clinton talks about sexism, but she is pally with this piece of work. BET is notorious for degrading women.

    Talk about arrogance.............demanding that Hillary Clinton be on the ticket! Who do Hillary Rodham Clinton cronies think they are?

    Choosing the VP candidate is a decision for the nominee and nobody else.

    June 4, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  25. Desdemona

    One more thing, i do not understand how Bob Johnson could have the audacity to ask Barack to reach out and pretty much implying that he plead with Hilary to be the Vice President. Obama has been nothing but pleasant to Hilary, whilst on the other hand i cannot say the same for her. Last night i watched both his and Obama's speech and hers was very devisive, disrespecful and truthfully it did not seems like she was going to really make an effort on her end to unite the party. Hilary is only thinking of herself and her ego. As a woman she did make me proud, but now i realize that she had alterior motives, whatever they were. I am happy she did not win. I honestly feel that when all is said and done, Obama is quite capable of winning more voters to him, be it from Clintons or Mc Cains voters, just give him some time. He does not need Clinton to win.

    June 4, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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