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BET founder raps Obama in feud over Clinton remarks

Bob Johnson said the Obama campaign acted dishonestly. Bob Johnson said the Obama campaign acted dishonestly.
Email|Print| Text size + By Philip Elliott
Associated Press / January 14, 2008

COLUMBIA, S.C. - One of Senator Hillary Clinton's most prominent black supporters said yesterday he was insulted by the characterization by rival Barack Obama's presidential campaign of her remarks about the civil rights movement.

Bob Johnson, the nation's first black billionaire and founder of the BET cable television network, said Obama's campaign had acted dishonestly and had distorted Clinton's remarks about Martin Luther King Jr.

Clinton was quoted before the New Hampshire primary as saying King's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some black leaders have criticized that remark, saying that it suggested Johnson deserved more credit than the slain civil rights leader for the passage and enactment of major civil rights legislation.

While introducing Clinton at Columbia College yesterday, Johnson criticized Obama's camp.

"That kind of campaign behavior would not be reasonable with me for a guy who says 'I want to be a reasonable, likable Sidney Poitier,' " said Johnson, owner of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. He commented after Clinton said in a televised interview yesterday that she hoped the campaign would not be about race.

Johnson also seemed to hint at Obama's acknowledged youthful drug use. He later denied that was his intent.

"To me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted 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 - when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book - when they have been involved," Johnson said.

Obama wrote about his teenage drug use - marijuana, alcohol, and sometimes cocaine - in his memoir, "Dreams From My Father."

Johnson later said his comments referred to Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago "and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect," he said in a statement released by Clinton's campaign.

Last month, top Clinton adviser Bill Shaheen resigned from the campaign after suggesting Democrats should be wary of nominating Obama because his past drug use could be used against him in the campaign.

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