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. Phoenix

    If he really wants to win-He needs to put his ego aside and choose her for VP if she wants it-

    June 4, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Aida Yohannes

    I couldn't agree more with Mr. Johnson. We have two amazing candidates who have both made history. They have very few real differences with regard to the important issues. True there were some things said and done that would have been better not said and done but hey that happens even in the best of families and friendships.

    Obama is our party nominee....let us now move forward and go for the White House united. An Obama-Clinton ticket is one that would blast away our real opponents.....the Republicans!

    Aida, California

    June 4, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Tim

    This guy is BAD news...He clearly has an agenda that Hillary is a part of...

    June 4, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Fred

    Why i smy comment (posted at 12:09 p.m.) still "awaiting moderation", while other comments posted at 12:33 have been cleared? Could the censors at CNN please hurry up!

    June 4, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Dee

    NO VP !!!!! NO WAY. Bob Johnson I can not believe you. Hillary lost all options last night. Because of her behavior and the tactics of her campaign, not to mention the fact that She totally disrespected the next Democratic President. How could you even suggest such a dumb found request. I thought you were a smart man!
    I say we boycott Mr. Johnson for being soooooo stupid.

    June 4, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. James from Toronto

    Mr Johnson,

    I can't believe you dare to urge a man you've been trushing not long ago asking him to hire a person you thought was unstopable. What a traitor.

    If she is that good, why don't you let her manage your billions? Obama need decent , sincere and honest people around him in order to deliver what he promissed to the american people.

    June 4, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |

    Hillary's speech last night was very smart, by an exceptionally smart woman. Her 18,000,000 supporters, who are begging her to take it to Denver, would have been angered by her conceeding last night. She knows she has to unify, and she will edge the supporters in gently. They must continue to trust her. Hillary Clinton loves this country and her party and even after they made an unwise decision. It should have been Hillary on the top, with Obama as VP to get experience.
    The Dems would have had the Whitehouse for 16 years. Big mistake, because now they have to worry about winning. Only if both parties agree, should she be the VP. Hillary supporters are very serious about voting for John McCain in the General Election, because they refuse to fall in line like Senator Obama said they would. Most still do not trust him. Most are voting for the person not the party because they feel the party was not fair. People should get over the campaigning because both were in it to win, and both were at each other. That is how you campaign. Now lets get on to the election in Nov and how they will win the Whitehouse. I myself will not vote for Barack Obama, I just do not think he is experienced enough and I do not know enough about him that is positive.

    June 4, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Independent in Iowa

    June 4th, 2008 12:34 pm ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    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 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. S Adrienne

    Please, this would be a serious error of judgement on Obama's part to allow the what was to enter his what will be change campaign. The Clinton's should take a hike back to Arkansas and get out of politics. If they are such good speak writers and book authors and speak makers they could earn a very good standard of living as they have been since the White House was last ripped off as I recall we sent a truck to pick up the stolen belongings that we the people own, NOT the Clintons...they feel so entitled to everything, even our stuff....

    Let Obama bask in his own glory and pick his candidate that will serve this country proudly and that takes pride in themselves and start the country off fresh come January with his agenda, plans and hopes for the USA...enough people have spoken, now let him speak....Amen!

    June 4, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. Independent in Iowa

    June 4th, 2008 12:33 pm ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Mike Boston, MA: I'm right there with you. As are all of my friends and family that support her.

    June 4, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. Beverly

    She'll do whatever the party wants . . . then I hope the party wants her to GO HOME. ABC . . . anybody but Clinton for VP.

    June 4, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  12. Richardson for V.P

    bill richardson for v.p

    June 4, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Mary Smith

    What is he after, the Clintons already made him very rich, why can't he be content? Go away Johnson, you have no credibility! After you called Barack a dealer you think you can ask for favours, you are MAD!

    June 4, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  14. Ken

    In America we are taught from a very young age that if we loose at something we extend the hand of friendship and go train harder. Its called Good Sportsmanship. As a matter of fact we award those who follow that simple principle with our utmost respect.
    In my heart I know that good sportsmanship is an important component within our system of morality and one of the things that makes us unique in this crazy world.
    If Hillary and her followers dont feel the need to adhere to our system of morality they dont deserve our respect or adoration.
    As for Bob Johnson, he is the leader of no-one and actually unimportant. Being rich does not give him the authority to push his beliefs on anyone.

    June 4, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. Kathryn Irby - Metairie, LA

    Oh please!

    June 4, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  16. Brad Kelsey

    Wow. I'm an independent, but I noticed a lot of stupid democrats can't get their act together. They would rather vote for someone from the opposite party or with totally opposite views than their preferred candidate rather than vote for the other democrat. What idiots. That's like saying if i can't have a BMW I'd rather drive a pinto than a Mercedes or if I can't have the dinner I want then I'd rather eat out of the garbage can than eat from some similar restaurant. WHAT MORONS. So you would rather have four more years of GEROGE BUSH than vote for the next closet thing to your preferred candidate. That's how we got eight years of bush in the first place. But I guess those people are too stupid to remember. Brace your self america we'll be at $20 a gallon gas with no health care soon.

    June 4, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  17. Brian

    I don't appreciate my name/IP address being banned, and it amazes me how you block thought provoking commenets, yet allow hate mongers start arguments between Obama and Clinton everyday.

    June 4, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Diane Boyd

    Why does he think Obama owes Hillary Clinton something? Obama needs to keep the Clintons out of his Cabinet. They are ruthless, dishonest, racist and total trouble makers. She is so spiteful that she would not even make a positive comment on his nomination last night. It was all " me me me em.and I , I, I, I truly do not like self serving people. She has done evrything to divide the party from the beginning when she realized he was a formidable candidate. If she was VP, she would find a way to knock him off so she will be president. The Clintons can't accept defeat. They think the White House belongs to them. Obama needs to pick someone trustworthy that would enhance his abilities and not someone who thinks he can't handle the job. Americans deserve the best. When people put aside their prejudices, they will see a true leader instead of the fact that Obama is African American.

    June 4, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. Oregon calling -

    I meant the People's House :-)*

    June 4, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  20. Zwarmeck

    Hillary has a huge ego that does not qualify her as a VP. If she is a VP she will try to overshadow Obama and overtake the administartion. Didn't she say Obama was not qualified to be president? How would she accept a positionof VP under someone less qualified? It does notmake ense. We want change, that' s why we voted Obama, period.

    June 4, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. Josephine

    Mr. Johnson give President Obama and his supporters a break.

    June 4, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. AK in LA

    Can we just some out of denial and maybe pose the question that Obama may not be in the strongest position to win the election? If he was so unstoppable, as he is deemed, why has he lost the last many primaries (and at double digits no less). He's just NOT a sure thing, people. Let's keep all our options open if we want a democrat in the White House!!!

    June 4, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |

    If it is in God's plan for Obama to be president (and I think it is), then nothing anyone says or does will change it. God has the last say. I believe he is using Obama as his vessel.

    Obama should pray that God sends him the person he wants him to have on the ticket. Take your time Obama – if Hillary can take hers so can you. People keep saying he's not experienced! He brought down the Clintons didn't he?!!! Stop underestimating him.

    June 4, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. goawaymongers

    What would President Clinton's position be?

    June 4, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  25. Beltway Insider

    Yawn – go back to figuring out how to most efficiently exploit your own people through marketing stereotype-driven programming on your insulting tv network, and stop trying to figure out how to most efficiently exploit your own people through our political system.

    June 4, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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