Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Obama picks up BET founder's endorsement"

NEW YORK --Democrat Barack Obama has picked up the endorsement of Sheila C. Johnson, the ex-wife of media pioneer Robert Johnson, who is backing rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid.

"Barack Obama's campaign of change brings hope to America," Sheila Johnson said in a statement Tuesday, praising, among other things, the Illinois senator's opposition to the Iraq war. She also announced she will co-host a luncheon fundraiser for Obama in Washington April 19.

Robert and Sheila Johnson co-founded Black Entertainment Television in 1980 and sold it to Viacom for $3 billion in 2000, making them among the few black billionaires in the United States. The couple divorced in 2002.

Sheila Johnson now runs Salamander Hospitality, a resort and retail chain, and is president of the Washington Mystics basketball team.

Her spokeswoman, Martine Charles, said Johnson has supported both Hillary Clinton and former President Clinton in the past but shifted her allegiance to Obama after meeting with him to discuss issues facing the next president.

"She was really taken with him and thinks he has a fresh perspective on how to bring change to the country," Charles said.

Asked whether her former husband's decision to back Clinton had any bearing on Sheila Johnson's decision, Charles demurred.

"She's a woman who thinks for herself," Charles said.



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