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. AMW

    Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and she should be the Democratic nominee. The electoral college, and the way delegates are distributed has proven to be unfair more than once. The DNC helped screw this up this time.
    It is a fact that Hillary was not shown much respect by the media. So many pundants and talking heads have that permanent Repugnant smile made famous by Chaney, Rove, Bush, Limbaugh. Too many neanderthal pundants and Stepford wives being yes girls to the neanderthals. We know who they all are on fox, msnbc, and cnn.
    We need some more Cronkites and Brokaws to bring dignity back to the newroom. We have great anchors in Katie Couric, Kyra Phillips, and very few others.

    June 4, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  2. jane

    Bob Johnson doesn't speak for the Black Community. He needs to go and sit down stop trying to ruin people lives. He has done anything for the Black Community. Who listen to him or takes him serious.

    June 4, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  3. Bulldog

    NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. The Clintons bring mor CONS than PROS. The Clintons will fuel attacks left and right from the GOP and even the liberal media. They have tons of baggage. While Hillary's message may be good, her and Bill's past and current controversies are not worth it. She can hold a high position in the next administration, just not the VP!!

    June 4, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  4. susan

    Now Now Obama supporters, if you read previous messages you have all said that the Hillary supporters should not be stubborn and vote for McCain. Whats up with that Brina. ?

    June 4, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  5. Pam

    Mr. Johnson, how dare you insult Senator Obama's judgement, good sense and ability to select his running mate. You and Senator Clinton are pressuring this man, the democratic nominee to do something that he is SO HARD trying to change, the typical pressure tactics of the old regime that we as Americans are tired of. Senator Obama will make the decision of his running mate. He needs someone that he can TRUST and it is not Hillary and Bill, some one that has his back (loyalty like you have for Hillary) this is not Hillary, and someone he feels comfortable with, this could or could not be Hillary.
    There are others that could offer just as much or more than Senator Clinton.

    Leave this alone. Senator Obama can and will make this decision without anyone's interference. There very well could be a place for Senator Clinton in the OBAMA administration, however, it may not be as V.P.

    June 4, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  6. Irishspacemonk

    This is from the guy who tried to make a joke about Obama's drug use in his younger days. As a person, he's pathetic and deserves no note as to who should be VP or not.

    June 4, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  7. Marcus Moody

    Get a life tired old Bob Johnson!!! We've heard your mouth before and sick of it. We know you probably have vested money in Hillary's campaign and need your money back. Too bad you can't promote a Bootylicious concert on BET anymore to rake in any more money.

    Blacks HAD affected for the Clintons. They blew it themselves. Now go tell your master Hillary she should apologize for the amount of racial and gender division she has injected in this race or at least speak on both issues which she has yet to formally do other than crying foul!!!

    June 4, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  8. Which Way, Chief?

    BHO would do well to consider HRC comments on Senator Robert Kennedy, and the circumstances surrounding Vince Foster before he selects a VP. Hillary and Bill don't want her to be anybody's Cheney.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  9. betti

    Senator Obama should select a vice presidential candidate with whom he can work well so that his plans and dreams for the future of our country can come to fruition.

    Senator Clinton is not a person who will work well in second-place position – it would be best for her to find her niche either as leader in the Senate or as governor.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  10. Time to Learn

    Unfortunately, Obama would then have two running mates – Hillary AND Bill. Does anyone really believe they will stand in the background and let him be President? Plus, their styles are so different – Obama wants to change government to eliminate the huge influence of special interests. The Clintons were king and queen of favors (look at the pardons...) I think if it were just Hillary, it could work, maybe...but not this way. I'm an independent who has always voted Repulbican. I'm so frustrated with politics that I was planning to vote Obama, more for the change than the policy. Having Clinton on the ticket negates that change.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  11. Coleman R. Brice, Asbury Park, NJ

    Too bad she ran a dishonest campaign. Who cares what this billionaire said or what she promised him. We don't need or want anymore Clinton lies.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  12. ariel

    "You know the affection that millions of African Americans hold for the Clintons".This would explain why Obama won 90% of Black voters.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  13. stewie

    why do some people now question Obama's ability to make it on his own after he just clinched the nomination. Must be nice to sit back and have your bully friends do for you what you're to proud to do, admit you lost and move on.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  14. Republican for obama

    That uncle tom needs to shut up and go back to pushing 'booty videos'. what qualifications does he have to make that decision.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  15. Beth from Virginia

    I resent billionaire lobbyists pushing things like this. Obama needs to make this decision completely independent of pressure from special interests. I trust him to pick the best candidate. Now everyone leave him alone and let him work on it.

    June 4, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  16. Anon

    Why would he do this?! She has not even acknowledged him as the winner of the Democratic party. This is a bad decision and one that should not include having her on the ballot. Im sure Senator Obama and his staff will go with their better judgement and not fall for this. He does not need her.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  17. Rick

    Hilary as VP certainly negates the whole "Change" campaign.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  18. independent in GA

    If this isn't pressure then I don't think I want to know what pressure is. I think it's so distasteful and unflattering for Hiliary's supporters to jump in and start this very public campaign for her to be VP. In my opinion she doesn't deserve it b/c the methodology used to even start the VP discussions are reminiscent of "Old Washington" ways and this is what Obama speaks against. It's sad that Hiliary sent a message last night stating it's about her and that her speech spoke so much about "I" (her). It makes it seem like she has her own interest and ego to feed, not the American people. I hope she resolves this conflict in herself and just works to join the party. As of now she looks like she'll going to hold the party "hostage" until she gets the VP spot or she'll go to the credentials committee?
    This is a sad moment in history and she is the sorest of losers/terrible sportsmanship.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  19. Justme WV

    Hilllary Clinton's total and absolute disrespect for Sen Obama and HIS million of supporters was a national shame. What about us Ms Clinton? There is no way she should be on anyone's ticket as a leader.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  20. Jamaal Kansas

    As an Obama supporters since the Beginning I just recently said he should not pick her because of the evil she has done in this campaign but as the Nomination is Obamas i say who care if he pick her that is fine because that is his decision to make and if he don't that is also his decison to make but as democrats we should respect his decision even if it is Hillary We should still be as energized as we can be for Barack's Ticket in November. Obama 08

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  21. MannyG

    BHO should step aside and let Hillary take charge, Hillary for President BHO for VP. Now thats a ticket. BHO could run in the next election.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  22. Sabrina

    He needs to bring her in as V.P, or he will lose. Her supporters are hurt and angry over how she was treated during the past 18 mos. and don,t thing we will forget it in the next few mos. If she is not on the ticket I for one will vote McCain. MICHELLE OBAMA SAID SHE WAS NOT SURE SHE WOULD VOTE FOR HILLARY IF HER HUSBAND DID NOT WIN. so please don,t start calling me horrible names.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  23. DMS-AKA


    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  24. Ali

    This BET guy is just doing another bully job for the Clintons. I DO NOT think Hillary should be on the ticket. She would undermine and undercut him in every way she could. He has been gracious towards her all along and she is such a sore looser, she vows to stay in and continue to damage.
    She should be the be the VP for BET and that's it!

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  25. Elizabeth

    This is Obama's moment. He is the nominee and will elect his own running mate, not Clinton, not Clinton's supports, not White women who don't want to see a black man become a president.

    June 4, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
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