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. NC for Obama

    As an Obama supporter and volunteer, I knocked on many doors for Obama in NC. I would be very disappointed in Obama if he selected Hillary as a VP. He would not only lose me as a volunteer, he would also lose my vote.

    Hillary has been the wedge that has divided the party. What Bob Johnson needs to do is get a petition together to pressure Hillary to concede the nomination and support the candidate with the most delegates as the DNC rules state.

    Frankly, Bob Johnson is the biggest sell out of the AFrican-American community. BET is a perfect example of what he has really done for African-Americans. BET implies that African-AMerican are so stupid that the only thing we are interested in is shaking our butts and loud music. BET is not allowed on in my home. Bob Johnson has NO clout in the African-American community.

    June 4, 2008 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  2. MD in GA

    Bob Johnson is the last person Senator Obama should take advise from but I think he will need to review all possible running mate carefully including Senator Clinton.

    Senator Obama is on a mission and he will need to decide who can best help make the VISION a reality. If it's Senator Clinton so be it. If it's not, that's ok too.

    I hope he will give strong consideration to people like Joe Biden, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Sebelious and Claire McCaskell. Maybe even Sam Nunn. All highly qualified people in their own right.

    June 4, 2008 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  3. Sam Haight

    All I know is that I voted and trust Obama and I TRUELY don't trust Clinton. If Obama were to pick Hillary as his runny mate, I would vote third party again just because I think she would be horrible for the future of America.

    June 4, 2008 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  4. nikita

    Please no. She's not someone who can accept anything less than top dog. She'll make Obama's life a living hell.

    June 4, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  5. hakeemsdad, Florida

    Shut up rich punk! who gives a crap about your thoughts!

    Go work for Billary in Porto Rico!

    June 4, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  6. Marcia

    Hillary is my candidate! The Democrats will have an uphill battle to win, as all my female friends and neighbors will NOW vote for McCain, and wait for her for 2012. Obama talks platitudes and is unrealistic about the "change" that he thinks will occur. A great orator YES, a man with a plan NO. McCain will only be 4 years. Vote McCain in supprt of Hillary.

    June 4, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  7. Bill PA

    Hillary for VP job, all the way.

    June 4, 2008 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  8. Joiner in Texas

    no way – keep her off the ticket.

    she is a wonderful lady, but her talents should be put to use somewhere other than vp.

    plus bill will always be in the mix and obama can not control the out of control

    June 4, 2008 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  9. SDunn

    Hillary backers need to back off! He is the nominee whether Hillary concedes or not and she needs to give him the respect to make that decision and not pressure him. If she was the nominee she too would deserve that same respect. He won with honor and he deserves our respect. It's his choice to make not Hillary's and definitely not this BET President.

    June 4, 2008 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  10. Carl of NYC


    June 4, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  11. Christy

    I think we should be cautious about meeting Clinton's demands for a consolation prize. This is her overwhelming sense of entitlement talking, and she is holding 18 million voters as ransom. The time for party unity was last night; it's come and gone. That sends the message-loud and clear- that this is not about the party, or the United States. It's about her. I've lost my respect for her as a Democrat and I think it's time for the games to stop so that we can move on and heal.

    June 4, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  12. Debra, Alton

    Wasn't he insulting Obama a couple of months ago? Leave Obama alone and let him make his own decision. He hasn't had a chance to absorb the fact he just made history and this IS NOT ABOUT HILLARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  13. hillary 08!

    Clinton on the ticket = 1 vote from Me!

    June 4, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  14. Paul, FL

    By offering Hilary the VP spot, Obama would contradict he message of change, and turn a lot of supporters against him!!

    How can he emphasise change when there is ANOTHER clinton on the ticket?? well he cant!

    She has already done enough damage by not rallying behind Obama last night! She is NOT in a position to demand anything.. She makes me sick!

    June 4, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  15. Travis (in the real world)

    Here's a plan....Billionaire Bob Johnson should pay off Billary's millions and then buy her a throne and place it in downtown San Juan PR so she can give the hand wave to all her uneducated subjects.

    The Clintons SHOULDN'T be...yes I said Clinton(s) anywhere near the Whitehouse, although Bill thinks she ENTITLED to be on the ticket....These people are sickening.

    June 4, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  16. Flem

    Can you say..."Lose the Election"?

    Stay true, Obama. Why do you think millions of people voted for you? Because they saw Hillary for the lying opportunist that she is! This would be like voting in Hitler to lead Isreal.

    June 4, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  17. Connie

    Mind your own business.

    June 4, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  18. A-Train

    Bob Johnson should concentrate his efforts on the programming he offers African-American youth on BET instead of politics.

    June 4, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  19. sety

    I just can not stand this guy. He always cause confusion.

    June 4, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  20. Michael in Lorton, Virginia

    Obama captures the nominee, and Hillary's opportunity to begin party unification was dismissed by her in her speech in South Dakota last night. It was and still is all about "Hillary." Her strategy now is to used her voter based support as leverage to pressure on Obama and the party to offer her the Vice Presidency, her now her "entitled place" on the Democratic ticket........a mistake that Obama cannot afford. Her opportunity for party unification presented itself to her last night, and she should have conceded......but instead elected to keep the political wound open.....just proves she is less than a lady more of a politican. Look cautiously before you leap Obama.

    June 4, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  21. Kevin, NC

    This coming from a man, who made his money pimping a sub-culture of degrading black women and demonize the black community by promoting intoxication and booty shaking.

    We dont his advice and cant trust it after the insults he's hurled and the Clinton campaign has hurled on Obama.

    Obama you choose who you want, to hell with the Clinton and Bob Johnson and Magic Johnson.

    June 4, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  22. joe cincinnati

    ignorant man.
    how you gonna
    make a stupid
    its over for hillary
    she should
    go and seek
    other avenues

    June 4, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  23. Bob/NH


    June 4, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  24. nate

    Perhaps we should recall a few of his other pearls of wisdom earlier in this campaign.

    June 4, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  25. Prashant

    I would rather see Mr Johnson stay out of the limelight for a little while having completely lost his credibility with his previous comments through out the course of the campaign. I am sure all the insults he hurled on Obama make his very near and dear to the Obama campaign!!

    June 4, 2008 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
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