Robert Johnson of BET Fame Still Got Love for Donald Trump While Saying of Democrats: Y’all Moving Too Far, Too Fast [Corrected]

In this November 2016 photo, Donald Trump greets Robert Johnson (right), the founder of BET, and NFL executive Traci Otey Blunt as they arrive for a meeting with Trump at his Bedminster Township, N.J., golf club following Trump’s presidential election win.
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty)

The nation’s first black billionaire, BET founder Robert Johnson, says Democrats are moving too far to the left for his taste, and that when it comes to Donald Trump, ya gotta give credit where credit is due.

“Overall, if you look at the U.S. economy…you got to give the president an A+ for that,” Johnson told CNBC, the network reported Tuesday.


“I think the economy is doing great, and it’s reaching populations that heretofore had very bad problems in terms of jobs and employments and the opportunities that come with employment…so African-American unemployment is at its lowest level,” Johnson told the network.

Thus, when it comes to the 2020 presidential race, Johnson, who described himself as a centrist Democrat, said he had no particular favorites among the current Democratic crop of presidential hopefuls.


“The party in my opinion, for me personally, has moved too far to the left,” Johnson, the founder of cable network BET and RLJ Companies business network, told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble Tuesday.

“And for that reason, I don’t have a particular candidate (I’m supporting) in the party at this time,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, if a Democrat is going to beat Trump, then that person, he or she, will have to move to the center and you can’t wait too long to do that.”


Johnson’s line about black unemployment being at its “lowest level” echoes a frequent Trump talking point when the current occupant of the Oval Office attempts to make some connection with “the blacks.”


But the commentary never seems to take into account the fact that black unemployment remains the highest in the nation among racial groups, and almost twice that of the national rate overall and the rate for white people alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Johnson’s ability to become a billionaire by selling the cable channel he founded, BET, aka Black Entertainment Television, in 2000, notwithstanding, the average black American simply doesn’t have the same opportunity—and they likely never will unless there is systemic change. Perhaps the kind of change espoused by Democratic presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and Julián Castro.


As LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told the Washington Post’s The Fix columnist Eugene Scott:

“Bob Johnson is not working class. He does not reflect the issue, nor does he even seem like he has the ability to speak to the issues of the working class,” Brown told The Fix. “For him, to make a statement that [the Trump] tax break has been helpful for black people — where has he been? Under a rock? There’s all kind of reports that have come out that this tax benefit disproportionately benefited the wealthy and not the working class. In and of itself, to make that statement says to me that he’s simply out of touch.”


Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of the Black Pac, echoed Brown’s sentiments, telling the Post:

“[W]hile Mr. Johnson may share the interests of millionaires and billionaires, he’s out of step with black voters.”


Correction: Wednesday, July 10, 2019, 11 a.m. ET: An earlier version of the photo caption accompanying this story incorrectly identified Traci Otey Blunt as Lauren Wooden. The caption has been updated to reflect the change.

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