June 4th, 2008
10:05 AM ET
14 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. Carl of NYC


    June 4, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  2. Floridian

    This man is a joke. How in the world could he even start a push to have Hillary as the VP. Just because he is a clinton suck up he is not speaking for a lot of african americans when he say the clintons have done a lot for us. Yes Bill was a good president but are we suppose to forget how ugly both of the clintons were during this race? Are we suppose to forget the things they both said? And why should we listen to you, you made your own negative comments in January with your reference to Barack and drug use. What's in your closet Bob? You claim it's about the party, no it's about people like you that want us to follow what you say because you kiss up to the clintons. shut up and sit down you are pathetic and you do not speak for us the african american people. So what you are the founder of BET, that's the worst network out there, promoting what is wrong with our young people today. I hope Obama DOES NOT put her on the ticket, if she comes then so does Bill which is what you want. SHUT UP!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  3. tonybama, grahamsville, ny

    Don't listen to that nut case!

    Remember if you choose Hillary, you're stuck with her "scum bag" husband too.

    And will Hillary's true supporters really sit back and elect McCain and watch Roe v. Wade get overturned?

    Obama/Hagel 08

    June 4, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  4. victoria

    I can't stand that man! I hope that Obama choose Hillary, but not because of this man letter.

    June 4, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. DAVID

    Haven't we heard enough from this "genuis". Being rich doesn't mean you are smart. Why attach Billary to ruin Barack's good name.

    June 4, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  6. joe cincinnati

    these are the kind of people who make billions and forget about where they came from. Barack has won, hence has the right to choose anyway he wants as a vice. Mr johnson, you represent the politics of yesterday. wake up mr. cant you see history is in the making? hill is done. she threw all the kitchen sink on him, he survived now she need to bow out peacefully.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  7. Larry

    Bob Johnson should go sit down and shut up. He insulted Obama early on and was part of a nasty trend of injecting race.

    He is like most Clinton apologists that feel they are 'entitled' to something. She lost. Hello, she lost. And yet they continue to try to set the agenda for the winner. Their drive now is really about trying to divide and destroy the party. Last night was about a historic race won, yet the Clinton team continues to try to make it about her.

    McCauliffe, Rendell, Rengell and others are still on the trail this morning campaigning. That Clinton 'kool-aid' must be awfully powerful. They are saying he is the weaker candidate, while still putting their hand out to help retire her debt. They are the fools.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  8. Anna

    no she should not be the vp, she doesn't need to push herself onto the ticket. She should have given Obama some kind of credit last night. I"m tired of her acting like this is owed to her for some reason and that he has NO skill at all. She needs to be a little humble and gracious towards him. Last night was historical and she should have given him credit for that. As a democrat, I'm embaressed by her and the way she has and is still acting.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  9. bill

    You horrible, stupid woman..Get out of this race now. You've lost and you know it, so save us the crap and support your dem nominee. I know what your doing, as I've known your pathetic plans to get the presidency all along.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  10. Ally

    I am kind of having a problem with this. Blacks threw Clinton aside - and now they want her back, so they can win. This isn't about party unity; it is about blacks being nervous that their candidate can't quite make it without Hillary. Which is true. But while I was once concerned about Obama not running with Hillary, now I am not so sure she should bother. Let Obama try without her. Or her supporters.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  11. linda crawfford

    Bob Johnson is a hater. He denied Barack as a valid candidate who cares what he has to say. Why in the world should Barack listen to this idiot who needs to stay in the field entertainment and shut up.

    His BET television network has been one of the worst cases of black stereotyping under his reign, videos promoting violence and sexual stereotyping agains women. Encouraging of immoral behavior among teens also needs to be added to the list .

    Bob Johnson you make me sick!

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  12. georgia

    Johnson has no experience nor knowledge of politics other thn sucking up.So he should be quiet on this matter It's not surprising tho as he is just as self serving as the Clintons. Hopefully Ny will oust her in the next senate race.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  13. Alexander

    He was on of the reasons Clinton lost !

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Bob Johnson just shows that ignorance transcends socio-economic lines

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  15. Change?

    Senator Clinton is NOT change. If she is selected as Senator Obama's running mate, Senator Obama will lose. Let us not forget the hatred that lies outside of the Democratic Party, and the scandalous baggage that she and her husband are carrying with them. They will line up in droves to keep her from gaining national power ever again. Furthermore, I myself would, for the first time, question the genuineness of Senator Obama.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  16. Nateru

    Hillary for VP would be TERRIBLE for Obama.

    He needs a fresh start with someone that hasn't dissed him along the way. If it WERE to be Hillary, she would be held accountable for all the slams she's said about Obama, and it would very much weaken the message Obama needs to tell.

    HRC said last night, "I will not be making any decisions tonight"...she's still acting like she's in the driver's seat!

    Does she not understand that the country has spoken, and she is not the candidate?

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  17. Karrah

    Wasn't ol Bob the same one that dogged Senator Obama and acted as if he had so much hatred inside of him for the man. Bob needs to get a life.

    June 4, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  18. misspolitics

    Bob Johnson has no right to "advise" Obama to pick Clinton as his running mate. After what he said during the primaries, he has lost any credibility he had with the black community – dude needs to get out of politics and focus on his company (oh snap, he sold BET didn't he?!)

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |


    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  20. bill

    It puzzles me that people don't see right through you clintons, and the horrible tactics your using in your efforts to destroy obamas chances of winning, but I do, so here it is..After Iowa, you knew you had to invoke race into the contest because barack was winning the white vote. You played the good cop while your dispicable husband who'll never regain his legacy back played the bad.

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  21. jo

    This is a decision that Obama will take !!!
    Nobody should put pressure on him!!!
    It's even ridiculous to do that know!!!! An probably doing it publically won't surely help!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  22. Brina

    If she's on the ticket, I'm voting for McCain.

    Obama may be an unknown, but we know plenty about Hillary, and it's all bad.

    McCain is somewhere between the two.

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  23. WOW - Cedar Hill, TX

    Not a good Idea.....Obama can bring this party together without HRC becoming VP....Why make him when no one else has been made. This is for Obama to decide and he should not be pushed into something that the world thinks he should do.

    He is his own man and you can take this from him....He does not need HRC to beat J. McCain...He has already done that and it is not November. Stay out to the way BET!!!!!! unless you are supporting Obama all the way

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  24. Rene D, Bel Air, MD

    It's going to take a few Johnsons to get the word through; good start.

    One, it's the easy way to victory, everything else being equal; they collectively brought in some 95% or so of a huge democrat vote. Two, both have proven they can reach the emotional heart of partially overlapping, but mostly diverged, consitutent body. Three, it would leave no room for "Obamicans" and "Hillicans" to either stand down or vote for McCain.

    It would be an interesting move for Obama and Hillary to decide on her heading up the VP and Cabinet search committees.

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  25. slkwly

    First, as an African-American myself, I could not disagree with Bob Johnson more. Consider his own "low" approval within the African-American comunity, I would sugget he work on repairing his own image first-the do-anything-as-long-as-it-makes-me-money mentality that he shown is his guiding force, no matter if it involves contributng to destructive images and portrays negative stereotypes of minorities. I guess that's why he's a friend of the do-or- say-anything -to-win couple,–aka the Clintons.

    Second, whatever reputation the Clintons might have had in the minority community, in my opinion, is strained and tainted forever. As many have pointed out, we saw the 'real' Bill and Hillary, and that will not be easily forgiven, if at all.

    Third, just to throw my opinion for who i think Obama should pick as VP, I would go with retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel, a republican from Nebraska. He is the true "maverick" in the Senate, contrary to John McCain. Sen. Hagel's selection would significantly enhance Obama's chances in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and in Nebraksa and Oklahoma. He has alreaduy shown he can work with Sen. Tom Coburn as well. It would truly symbolize Obama's ability to bring people together for the common good and blunt any draw Mccain still might have with independents and the so-called 'Reagan' democrats.

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
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