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. Scott, Charlotte

    Living here in Charlotte, we see what a HORRIBLE job you do running the Bobcats.
    We see that your political taste is no better.
    Give it up, your politician is a loser.

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  2. tina

    Good idea Bob Johnson especially since the last time you tried to bully Nancy Pelosi and others for your candidate.

    Just when I truly believe that Mrs. Clinton can not get any lower she manages to exceed expectations.

    If Clinton manages to bully her way on the ticket there in NO way I will support it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  3. Kris

    After trashing Barack in South Carolina, are we supposed to believe that you have his best interest in mind? Please Mr. Johnson spare me.

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

    Why doesn't he keep out of it! Is it not Senator Obama's choice for VP? I don't like him and I have never disliked someone that I don't personally know and he is one I don't like.

    What's is your problem Mr. Johnson?

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

    For all your jesse jackson comments to make him look bad, or your fairytale statements, or your efforts to paint him as a muslim, or your deal with pastor wright to destroy obama( I know you did this because guess who came to your aid after bill screwed monica in 1998)yeah, we have the tape, just like your pathetic attempt to gain commander and chief stature by lying about sniper fire.

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  6. mr.g

    HELL TO THE NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  7. Shirley Q

    She will not do that. She is still going to the convention so we have to wait and see what happens there. Obama may be ahead of himself announcing being the nominee. This could still change all the way up to August. I wouldn't get too comfortable if I were him. And he already knows that. That is what all the upset was that he couldn't actually "rejoice" when she didn't give her well wishes last night. And we need her in 2012 also. Thanks to 18 million voters! What a historical moment. Not only is she a woman, but she got more votes than any other candidate ever....GO HILLARY 08/12

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  8. NotFooled

    Let it be known far and wide that
    This man does not speak for anyone
    other than himself.
    Let us all just wish Sen. Hillary Clinton well in her return as Senator

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  9. al

    He needs to put a SICK IN IT. This is the same person who had the WORST to say about Barack.

    He is STUCK in the past and OWES the Clintons alot that is why he is pushing Hillary.

    She is such a divisive person.

    Obama / Hagel 08

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  10. Shaun

    Oh, shut up Bobby! You have been against Obama since day one. You took your billions and ran away from the AA community, now you want to come back and beg? Obama is about bringing ALL Americans together, you only devide us. Go back to your bobcats and sit down!

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  11. Jay

    This is the most crazy thing I have heard, I do not understand why the Clinton camp can not just take Presedent Obamas win and deal with it. When he is ready to choose his running mate he will do so, and do not think that Team Clinton should be that choice. I feel John Edwards is the pick. Some new blood in the White House. Team Clinton has to many ties to people like Bob Johnson, who as his own personal agenda, and t try and use African Americans to do so is sick. If Bob Johnson wanted the best for African Americans he would not have sold out BET, and made it to the trash that it is now. We all heard the speeches last night, when it comes down to it Obama will not need Team Clinton to beat Great Great Grandpa McCain, and if he does not win in Novmber, God Bless Us All!

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  12. truth

    Mr Johnson you need to fall back and get the Bobcats in line with the rest of the NBA teams and leave the politics alone, we never heard from you before are have we cared about your opinion, you are not representing African Americans Mr. Billion dollar man, did you even congratulate Obama before you began your so call not to pressure Obama statements, why cant you pressure the Bobcats to make the playoffs are even have a winning season sir.

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  13. Steve - Philadelphia

    Not in our lifetime.

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  14. parviz morewedge

    we need a rest from Hillary's self-involved world
    ask her to go away with her $52 million dollars
    love to all

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  15. Sharon from Dumfries Virginia

    Please let this VP thing go. Hillary and Bill in the White House with Obama no way. We are asking for trouble and a complete division. If Barack is to become the next President of these United States then he needs to select a VP that he can work with. The Clintons have serious issues and need to Humble themselves, move on and let go of this entitlement thing.

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  16. Lisa

    Someone as honest as Barack Obama doesnt need the dishonesty the Clinton's have shown us. He is smarter than that and anyone with morals would never want the Clinton's any where near them.
    My parents taught me you are judged by the company you keep and it still holds true.
    Mr Obama cares about the United States of America and all the Clintons care about are the Clintons.
    NO WAY should she be even a Senator much less President or Vice President.

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |

    Sorry, but hypocrit BET millionare black founder should have NO SAY in Senator Obama's decision. He can take his money and power and 'shove it'. He has never cared for Senator Obama nor the party; his only motivation is his personal agenda.

    The Clinton candidacy and her strong supporters like Mr. loud mouth BET have done nothing but degrade and undermind Senator Obama from the start. Now that he officially won the primaries, the Clintons cannot accept defeat... why? Isn't this behavior childish? Their lack of respect, morals and their self of entitlement have blinded them to the point that they don't see how low they have scooped.

    What an embarrasement! She is not a leader that can inspire me. Her sense of entitlement given her permision to break the rules and step over anyone that crosses her... just to get what she wants. That is NOT the type of leader I want to raise my girls to be.

    So, Mr. BET can go find another job for Mrs. Clinton. Perhaps he should consider making her his BET VP.

    June 4, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  18. Pro-Democracy

    The fact that Mr. Johnson has made his fortune appealing to and promoting the most offensive African American stereotypes is the cruelest of ironies. You would think that just for a moment he could pull back and appreciate the historical significance of Barack Obama.
    The generation of self-loathing African Americans is over. This truly is a great moment in Unted States history. I love this country!

    June 4, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  19. la

    Hopefully, Obama is smarter than that. He would be foolish to accept all the baggage that comes with her as a running mate, not the least of which is her "husband".

    June 4, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  20. Teri

    Shame on you, Hillary Clinton. Shame on you.

    Obama should NOT pick her for VP. She's already proven how UNtrustworthy she is. How many of those 18million votes were 'Operation Chaos' Republicans with no intention of voting for her? How many were Democrats that are sorry now? He'll make up the difference in the Independents and Republicans that weren't permited to vote in many state primaries. Let her get deeper in debt while she courts the delegates up to the Convention. Obama – do not let that sore loser pressure you to poison the ticket.

    We need to take our country back from the likes of the Clinton's and the Bush's and their failed messages and policies.

    June 4, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  21. Rosario Roose

    Obama should offer the vice-presidency to Hillary Clinton to promote unity between the different Democratic Party’s groups. Hillary has worked arduously for that second position, if not for the Presidency. Obama cannot afford to ignore 18 million+ voters.

    June 4, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  22. Dave

    It IS pressure and Clyburn is too smart to fall for those tactics. Your candidate LOST Johnson. You can't buy her a VP position on Obama's ticket. He earned the right to lead the ticket and he earned the right to pick his own VP. And he will not be intimidated by Hillary or her supporters.

    June 4, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  23. broadstreet buddy

    Kudos to the political team who was there all night and then again at 6 this morning. Way to go for the over time!! Job well done people!

    Now Mr. Johnson is a very successful business man who has done things his way to get to where he is today. He would not like other people forcing him to make decisions that would affect his future, he should not press his opinion upon anyone else.

    June 4, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  24. joe in pa

    JUST SAY NO..to Hilliary..we do not want that sniper fire liar as vp. she cannot be trusted..

    June 4, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  25. Gigi

    At this point and time Mr. Johnson should refrain from giving unsolicited advice to Barack Obama on behalf of Senator Clinton, this is the same man who called the now democratic nominee "someone who was doing his own stuff on the streets of Chicago", implying drug use, Ms. Clinton should not use surrogates to pressure a V.P. candidacy and Mr. Obama should and cannot give in to that pressure, he proved to be far more gracious, and by the way, the lack of concession from her part, only diminishes her, not him, she behaved like a spoiled brat who did not get her way and therefore does not how to be a teammate. There's definitely no place for her on this campaign, the fact that she ignored the history made by an African American means that she has lost forever this constituency.

    June 4, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
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