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. applecrispbetty

    This guy never gives up does he? Let Mr. Obama make his choice, not you, Mr. Johnson.

    June 4, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  2. Trey

    Robert "Bob" Johnson and Hillary Clinton should board a bus and leave for, "never return land..."

    We can not trust him and she has proven time and time again why we should not trust her.

    By the way, Bob – how would you like it if we decide to boycott the games next season for opening your mouth at the wrong time for the third time. Do not underestimate the power of the people of Charlotte.

    Trey – Charlotte

    June 4, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  3. Dems Unite!!!

    Listen pal, your the equilvilent of Father Pfleger with your race baiting earlier on in this campaign. Do you think that we would forget the things that came out of your mouth as a Clinton surrogate around the run up to the SC primary. NO WE DIDN"T. Just shut up and go. Who are you to make demands of a Presidential candidate, wait, your NO ONE!!!

    June 4, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. Francesca


    If Obama picks Hill for the VP slot then I say the FIRST order of buisness should give her a looong VACATION for all of her hardwork!
    Something like FOUR YEARS should give her plenty of rest.
    I'm sure many of his supporters and others agree she deserve at least this much respect.

    June 4, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. dion


    June 4, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. C!


    OBAMA / CLINTON `08!

    June 4, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. Terry from NJ

    Obama supporters are a hateful bunch it seems on these forums. Do you think that you don't need the 18 millions voters who voted for Hillary? Naive you were in voting for Obama for primaries and caucuses and naive you obviously are for the Presidential Election in November. This isn't a Democratic Primary in November. If you continue to insult Hillary and her supporters with your hateful and arrogant talk you will NEVER get her supporters to vote for Nobama. You need Hillary as the VP. Don't think so? Wait until November when the Koolaid man loses to McCain. You can all blame yourselves then for choosing the weaker candidate to begin with and then being arrogant or clueless enough to think you can win the Presidential Election with half the Democratic voters that voted in the primaries..

    Obama/Clinton or write Hillary in or vote for McCain

    June 4, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. Yvonne in NC

    Please do not put Hilary on the ticket! I will not vote for Obama if he chooses her as his running mate and I've been a supporter since day one. I've been a registered Democrat since 1982, but cannot support Hilary Clinton. She has shown her true colors once again by not conceding last night. Obama doesn't need her to win this election. Please take anyone else–just not Senator Clinton!

    June 4, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  9. sheep

    You my friend have been nothing but critial of MR. OBAMA, and have no say in who he decides to have as V.P. THIS ISNT A POPULARITY CONTEST . Millions voted and will continue to support him because we trust his judgment not yours. Take a look around you see the people of the world there reacting to him the nomminee not what could have been but what is . The popular vote is very disputable . I live in a caucus state and im a delagate . W e also had a popular vote that day , include my vote please and other states that voted overwhelming for him. Shes been saying she has the popular vote for months when it was a lie sooooooooo and i do not take lying lightly from anyone even a politician that thinks theres no such thing as a lie .

    June 4, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  10. California Independent Voter

    I will not vote for Obama if Hillary is his VP nominee. I cannot believe that the Clintons and his supporters are trying to bully Obama into nominating this woman who has divided the democratic party, and is quite unpopular right now – with the educated voters. Hillary: accept that you lost, and then step down and help heal the party – you are not entitled to the VP seat, and your presence on the Obama ticket will ENSURE ANOTHER FOUR YEARS OF REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP – I am sure the Republicans are hoping to have you be Obama's VP nominee – please do what is right for the country and do not insist on doing more damage!

    June 4, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. Connie

    If you wanted this job of picking a VP. You should have run in the primary yourself. He gets to pick whom ever he wants, so but out.

    June 4, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |

    I'm sorry but Hillary is not owed anything. Let Obama go through the process and choose THE BEST QUALIFIED PERSON FOR THE VP SPOT instead of having one forced down his throat.

    June 4, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. Katrina M - Dallas, TX

    Barack Obama is the nominee for the party and his decisions have to reflect what is best for the country. Though Clinton supporters think that she is best, I have to disagree.

    If she is all about party unity, her speech last night would have reflected that – and not the "I'm going to stay in this" nonsense she was spewing. She had a chance to concede and truly take a step to back the party's nominee and show her "unity" – all we got was how she is going to continue to fight on behalf of those who voted for her.

    I also find it funny that Bob Johnson, who went out of his way to condemn, disrespect and attack Obama, now wants him to select Clinton as his VP. Everything that Clinton has done and said has been part of calculated moves on her behalf – not our country's. And sending out people like Johnson, who says Hillary knows about his actions, but did not ask for them, to do her campaigning for the VP spot, shows just more calculation.

    She said she will do anything to unite the party and make sure a Democrat is in office in November – what she didn't add is she will do that as long as SHE is the VP. I have lost respect for this woman over the past few months and never had any for Bob Johnson.

    June 4, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. Pat

    I have such "little respect" for Bob Johnson. He should just "shut up" with the thought that Senator Obama needs Hilllary to win. Let Senator Obama make his own decision without any in put from Johnson.

    June 4, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Ellisa

    Sorry, but if I were Hillary, the last person I would have lobbying on my behalf is Bob Johnson. He's a clown with no moral fiber.

    June 4, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. kravitz

    Just so Robert Johnson knows, in most of the custom installations I've ever done, BET is the most 'dumped' channel among my customers.

    In a similar way, he has nothing to say after how he's behaved on this campaign. No credibility. Nothing I want to hear either.

    June 4, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  17. Ralph

    Don't push too hard. You'll hurt yourself trying.

    June 4, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. BlameBarack

    I am boycotting BET!!!!!!

    June 4, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. Truth Over Lies

    Hillary should not be on Obama's ticket and I am appaulled that your trying to elbow him into choosing her, Mr Johnson. She can't even congratulate the man for winning the primary. Again, the reason why she is fighting so hard is because, HILLARY COMMITED A CRIME DURING HER CAMPAIGN. SHE DOES NOT WANT TO BE IDITED. SHE WILL DO WHAT EVER IT TAKES NOT TO BE THE NEXT MARTHA STEWARD. And, she must have promised you some favors Mr. Johnson, but take it from Peter Paul, the Clintons cannot be trusted.

    June 4, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. RENEA


    June 4, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. PernellI

    I just have to say Bob Johnson and EVERYONE else need to let this idea of Hillary Clinton for VP the Hell alone. I am so tired of hearing about it. Would she even consider him as her VP if the roles were reversed. I think not. I am an educated Black man and see NO benifits of having her on HIS ticket. ITS HIS CALL. If Hillary and the rest of america are TRUE Democrates, then get behind the man that WON the nomination acording to the rules. Its a shame that such a MONUMENTUS event in our country's history is being tainted by this talk of her being HIS VP. Let just stop the madness and the talk and reporting of this and let our next PRESIDENT (Barack Obama) focus on winning the White House. And Mr. Johnson, I was a true fan of yours until your comments about Obama...now you compound it even more. I am no longer going to even attend any Bobcat games...I will not support anything you have a hand in. I already don't watch BET. As Hillary should do...you too need to just go away and get ready to give up your huge tax breaks you have enjoyed over the last 8 years.

    June 4, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. Jeff

    Excuse me? You are the man who implied months ago that Barack had drug issues and other unsubstantiated garbage. Do me a favor bub.....crawl back under your rock. Barack needs no advice from the likes of you. Hillary...get over it you lost. Why don't you try and redeem yourself back in the Senate

    June 4, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. hesma

    No one has been pressuring Mc Cain to pick a VP after all the months he has won the race. Why should Obama be pressured in to naming Hillary as the VP. Who cared about the other MEN in the races after they lost. They all took their blows, accepted defeat and went home and has since backed the nominee. And they say that as a woman she is being treated unfairly. By the way MR. BET you are out of place with that letter. It should have come months later. Let the man be free to pick who he wants. It was his hard fought battle. Back off.

    June 4, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  24. Terri

    Vote for McCain all of those threatening to do so. I hope your sons and daughters are first on the list to be sent to Iraq.

    Bob Johnson has no business pressuring Obama to pick Clinton as his VP, especially under the insinuation that black people still hold great affection for the Clintons. No longer is that true. All Americans should allow Obama and his advisors go through this process and take his time to make the right choice. It is what the Clinton supporters are asking for Hillary, Obama deserves the same.

    June 4, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. womanforObama

    I hope that Obama ignores this type of background clutter (blackmail). It is unbecoming of Hillary/surrogates to make this effort. It is counterproductive and demeaning. Yes, I believe that Obama's first leadership act will be to "manage" the Hillary drama. She has run an amazing campaign; but she has not won. To attempt to wrestle the VP spot for her is so "yesterday. " Get with the program. Obama style leadership is the future – God willing that the USA should be so ready and lucky to achieve his Presidency. People – he actually will require a VP who is a counterpart to his philosophies – not counter productive.

    LS – St. Louis

    June 4, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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