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. Steven B

    This is so distasteful to have a surrogate coming out the next day of a close and heated election to strong arm the presumptive nominee to a veep position. I'm sure Obama will consider Senator Clinton, however, this divisive public ultimatum is not helpful to the party to win in November. Any smart person know this is the case. As a African American, I take offence that Mr. Johnson is taking this approach to harm the party and Obama.
    This has been a historical primary with exceptional candidates and unfortunately someone had to lose. Everyone need to back off and let private discussions take place and if Obama feel that Senator Clinton is the appropriate candidate, let HIM make that decision.

    June 4, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. M. Floyd-Texas

    I believe Hillary showed last night what she thought about Obama's win. She did not even acknowlege it. Why on earth would he want her on the ticket? She should NOT be on the ticket because she would be a sabotager-she is bitter and it showed. He would have to watch every move she made. She is not trustworthy.

    June 4, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. Chut Pata

    Only a BILLIONAIRE BLACK will BACK BILLARY. Elitists for elitist, billionaries for billary. Race is not a factor here.

    June 4, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  4. Toya

    It is to late for it. The what you call the Clinton folks need to take a seat and let someone else shine.

    June 4, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  5. pika

    noooo waayyyy!!!!

    June 4, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. Peter Damoah-Afari

    That stupid man who insulted Obama is showing up now. Some people are not ashamed of their dealings. If I were him, I would not even think of something like this. I am more angry to see Johnson's face again.

    June 4, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Jonah Olsen


    June 4, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Sue

    People with any sense should not listen to Bob Johnson. We've heard his rants before. Obama should pick someone he can work with and TRUST. That would not be the two Clintons.

    June 4, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. shanika

    I"m very tired of people saying he should pick HC for VP. If the shoe was on the other foot, would she be encouraged to choose him- NO.
    I support Obama and will support him regardless of whoever he chooses, but i doubt that he will choose HC this is a very smart man and trust me he knows the damage that will come with HC and BC.

    June 4, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. Jasper

    Bob Johnson .. Who cares what you think. Use your billions to pay off Hillary’s debt then take your UNCLE TOM self and just go away. Why should Mr. Obama have someone (two with Billy boy) on HIS ticket that tried to get HIM as HER VP when HE was winning.

    I think there are many Blacks that will vote for McCain, for Obama's sake if Hillary is on the ticket. If Hillary was on the ticket, I would really be concerned about Mr. Obama’s safety . Hillary will do anything to be President

    June 4, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. GO-Bama - OH

    Mr Bob Johnson was the founder a BET. Imagine that! A corporate CEO involved in politics. Let me say first, it's not in your job discription to decide who will be the VP of the U.S.. You can't even remotely relate to us dude. You are part of the reason our Government has gone sour. It's the money that you use to pursuade washington to vote for things in best interest of your financial gain and/or personal interest.

    Obama's quite capable of making his own decision. Try to design a network next time that doesn't involve so much obsenity and vulgarity; that my friend would be a great place for you to start investing your money. Politics is not your forte dude!

    June 4, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. Laura

    If I remember correctly, is was Ted Kennedy (and he is supporting obama) who took his campaign to the convention, even when Carter had won the nomination. So why the double standard? Dems should remember the 18 millions that voted for her and her contributions to the party. As for me, I vote for the candidate I feel is best for the country, and usually that is a Democrat. This time around, however, I will probably vote outside my party or not vote at all. Unless, Clinton is on the ticket, I will not see the best candidate on the ballot and McCain would be the lesser of two evils.

    June 4, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. corin

    Robert(not bob) Jonhson please go away! obama will not concede to any hrc elitist political bullies that try to force him to make hrc VP .....no way! This is obama decision that he can make on his own.

    June 4, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. PCL

    Bob Johnson and Lanny Davis are only concerned about their own access to power. If Hillary is not on the ticket, they have to stop drinking from the urns of power. Barack Obama did not try to strip the skin off of Hillary like she tried to do to him. The Republicans are not going to be so benevolent.

    To the Hillary supporters I can only say "Whitewater" "Travelgate" 'Filegate" Rose Law Firm" "Vince Foster" "John Glasgow" "Gennifer Flowers" "Monica Lewinsky" "Impeachment". The Republicans are going to put these things on an endless TV loop. If you want a democrat in the White House, don't let these things become issues.

    And remember, Obama and Clinton are only a hair's breadth from each other on the issues. You really do get what you want.

    June 4, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  15. Carla - NC

    Why direct his "push" to the Congressional Black Caucus ? I would think by "being a billionaire" he should have more than enough, unless he's being offered more.

    June 4, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. Joy

    Hill and Bill needs to go chill, Barack is the Man!

    June 4, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. Independent in Iowa

    Mike Boston, MA: I'm right there with you. As are all of my friends and family that support her.

    June 4, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. curtis

    Obama won because he stated that the Bush /Clinton era was over and ran his campaign in that direction, so let it be. President Obama please stick to your belief even if it means you loose the general. It is better to stand for something than to fall for anything.

    June 4, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Edwin Portland

    Ron Paul!!!

    June 4, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  20. Independent in Iowa

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Shirley – Nancy P. is a joke. You've got to be kidding me.

    She's a woman with no real power or support. The fact she's anti-Clinton would doom Obama in November for sure.

    June 4, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. Barack the Vote in RI

    To "leon" –

    you are either a closet racist or are on crack. anyone who has been remotely paying attention to any of Obama's platforms and are still coming up with such venom has personal issues.

    June 4, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  22. New Orleans

    No, that is not a good suggestion, HRC is selfish and "surely" the American Voters, can see that, after last night and several other public appearances, Everything has to be Hillary's wait. Mr. Obama should pick someone he is comfortable with and not be pressured. The Clintons think there way is the only way. If he pick her, I will be voting for McCain this fall..

    June 4, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. pmac

    With all due respect to Mr. Johnson the Veep choice is President Obama's and his campaign staff, not yours or the Congressional members. So please keep your distance and let the Obama camp handle it, I think they've done a great job thus far, don't you. Stay out of it!

    June 4, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Doreen Augusta Maine

    Mr. Johnson, you have real gall to suggest that you have any authority to direct anyone or group to force Senator Obama to take Senator Clinton as his vice presidential candidate. Us Obama supporters remember your disgusting remarks even though you claimed you did not intend them as we interpreted them - yet another Clinton line when they are caught making disgusting remarks.

    You may have power in Hollywood, but you hold no power with us.

    June 4, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  25. TEO

    Again I have to say "No way in H... would I vote for a president that has BIllary on it. She's done too much harm and now all the sudden we're to believe she'll support the Barack? Listen to the people, 60% say "SHE SHOULD GO AWAY" and I'm one of them.
    Probably 100% of the republicans say "SHE SHOULD GO AWAY". He won't win without some republican support, that won't come with her on the ticket.

    June 4, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
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