Media mogul and BET founder Bob Johnson told CNBC Monday that fellow African-Americans should give President-elect Donald Trump “the benefit of the doubt” and that he hoped common ground can be reached with the incoming Republican administration about issues facing the black community.
Johnson met with Trump Sunday at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., a meeting Johnson described as a “great chat” about “business solutions to social problems.”
The Trump transition team said meeting topics included access to capital by small businesses and issues facing the inner cities.
The focus was on the ability of capitalism to create high-paying manufacturing and service industries.
During the campaign, Trump made the case to African-American voters that Democrats let them down, and argued repeatedly “what do you have to lose” by voting for him.
Johnson said he told the real estate mogul that instead of that question, he should be asking and attempting to answer the question of what African-Americans can gain from a Trump presidency.
The BET founder said that led to a discussion about issues that are important to African-Americans, including some ideas Johnson had, such as repatriation and tax credits for companies that invest in urban areas.
While Johnson supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, he appeared to have come out of Sunday’s meeting willing to give the real estate mogul a chance.
“Trump is a business guy, and I think he’s going to tilt towards finding [a] way to use fiscal policy … to move the economy forward,” he said. “Let’s give him a shot. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, see if we can find common ground.”
“That’s what’s best for African-Americans,” Johnson added.
As far as his own business interests are concerned, Johnson, who is currently the head of RLJ Entertainment, said he is a fan of the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to allow consumers to access cable channels through apps rather than set-top boxes.
Johnson, who became a billionaire when he agreed to sell Black Entertainment Television to Viacom in 2000, has said that just as BET would not have existed had cable not “broken the broadcast monopoly,” new “over-the-top” offerings, like his own, will not be able to flourish unless the FCC eliminates cable’s “stranglehold” on set-top boxes.
Trump has been critical of Comcast, the country’s largest cable operator.
With the current political climate being so divisive and many Democrats insisting they will not “normalize” Trump by even speaking to him, the BET founder took a different tact, saying he has known the president-elect and his son-in-law Jared Kushner for many years and doesn’t view them the way some others do.
Johnson said he believed Rep. Bill Clay Sr., a Missouri Democrat and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was right when he said black Americans should have no permanent friends, and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.
In that vein, Johnson said he does not view Trump and the Republicans as enemies or friends.
Johnson said the country needs a leader, “not somebody who’s going to sort of choose sides,” and he is hopeful Trump can be that type of president.
Asked whether the meeting had anything to do with his possibly joining the Trump administration, Johnson dismissed the idea, saying he has “never worked for the government … and never wanted to work for the government.”
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