BET founder: "I will take the devil I know over the devil I don’t know any time of the week”

Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and a Democrat, was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box Wednesday. He is now a contributor to the cable channel. The topic of the presidential debate was discussed and during that time, he was asked twice about his preference of the candidates.

The host asked Johnson not once but twice for whom he supports in the presidential race after he said, “Where I come out as a businessman, I will take the devil I know over the devil I don’t know any time of the week.” It is fairly easy to assume that the devil he supports is the current president, right? Given some past remarks that Johnson has made publicly about President Trump’s handling of the national economy, pre-pandemic, Johnson’s meaning is clear. The host asked twice if he is endorsing Trump. He said it isn’t about endorsements but as a businessman, he doesn’t know how Biden would “run the country.”

Johnson, when pressed, refused to outright endorse Trump, instead saying as a longtime corporate executive he knows how the president will react to important issues of the day such as coronavirus and he does not have a handle on Biden would run the country.

“I know what President Trump has done and what he’s said he will do. I don’t know what Vice President Biden has said he will do other than masks, listen to the scientists,” the 74-year-old Johnson said. He suggested the coronavirus response should weigh the tradeoffs of “pandemic safety” versus “economy growth.”

That is a devastating rebuke to the Biden candidacy by a very successful, savvy, black businessman. He’s a Democrat megadonor and he supported Hillary in 2016. This is an admission by a Democrat that Biden’s 47 years in elected office do not inspire confidence in his ability to govern the country and handle the economy. Johnson specifically pointed to the fact that voters “haven’t been given clear and concise direction on why we should change horses in the middle of the river.” He said he had no idea on the regulatory decisions, fiscal policy decisions, and monetary policy decisions that will be made in a different administration. Given that Biden boasts about his job creation record during the Obama administration and how he was involved in all major policy decisions of the Obama administration, this is a slap in the face to Biden.

Johnson’s criticism of Biden is richly deserved. Biden side-steps difficult questions about policy and is trying to stay in the good graces of moderate Democrats, the far-left, and Independent voters, too. He is failing because that is an impossible task. The real problem with a career politician like Biden is that he has no core principled beliefs. He goes with ideas that poll well. He appeases the far-left because it was the only way to win the Democrat primary. He had to agree to a manifesto from Bernie Sanders and his wing of the party, something Biden now denies. He denies saying he’ll end fracking and supports the Green New Deal though he did both of those things while trying to win the primary. He doesn’t want to alarm middle America now with the extent to which he has allowed the far-left to push him.

Joe Biden is a follower, not a leader. Successful businessmen and women want a candidate who can show leadership ability. In 2016 President Trump offered Johnson a seat in his cabinet but Johnson declined. He didn’t do so over Trump’s politics but over the fact that he knew he couldn’t deal with all the government’s red tape. Who can blame him for that? Trump has done well in de-regulating business restrictions and streamlining government bureaucracy.

As far as the debate went, Johnson said that the American people were the losers. He went on to say it was a free-for-all and a wasted 90 minutes. That is a common reaction from the rest of the general public, as it turns out. Chris Wallace lost control after Biden began interrupting Trump, which he did after the first five minutes of the debate. Biden began the bad behavior, not Trump. This doesn’t matter to most voters, though, as they just tuned in to hear from the candidates and frankly, to see if Biden would survive throughout the entire 90 minutes. So, Johnson says it’s best to stick with who you know.

“What I had hoped he would do would be a reasonable, relaxed balance, if you will, in a debate where he would talk about specific policies, particularly as it impacts Black Americans,” said Johnson, founder and chairman of investment firm The RLJ Cos.

From a business standpoint only, not from a racial injustice standpoint, Johnson reiterated that it’s better for corporate executives to know what they’re getting in a president rather trying to guess.

“I would rather know who I’m going to deal with in the White House. I’m going to know what regulatory decisions they’re going to make. What fiscal policy decisions, what monetary policies they’re going to make than to be taking a chance, particularly when you have the turbulence of a pandemic,” said Johnson, who in the past has been complimentary of Trump’s business-centric policies.

Asked specifically Wednesday about Trump not explicitly condemning White supremacist groups during the debate, Johnson pivoted his answer to the coronavirus pandemic and said he’s not confident either Biden or Trump could have taken different steps to significantly reduce the Covid-19 death total.

On the coronavirus, Biden has offered absolutely nothing different than what Trump has already done so it’s no wonder that Johnson doesn’t think either man would act differently. Biden’s past performance with pandemics, however, is a different story. He handled both the Eboli pandemic and the H1N1 pandemic badly. His own chief of staff said they just got lucky that more people didn’t die. It wasn’t due to the Obama-Biden administration’s handling of the pandemics, just luck.

In 2019 Johnson was very complimentary about Trump’s handling of the economy. He specifically mentioned the favorable atmosphere for African-Americans in Trump’s economy. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the economy was at record levels across the board. Employment levels of all demographics were at record levels. Unemployment was at a historic low. Small businesses were thriving and entrepreneurship was booming. This record is no doubt why Johnson is sticking with Trump. He has confidence that Trump will bring back the economy from the effects of the pandemic lockdowns. There is no such confidence deserved for Biden. He promises to raise taxes, do away with Trump’s tax cuts, devastate the already hurting energy sector, and put back regulations taken away by Trump. It’s a recipe for economic stagnation and decline, not expansion.

Johnson is on the record as saying the Democrat Party has gone too far left. He also has encouraged African-Americans to not be locked into just one party. He may not want to go on the record with a formal endorsement of President Trump – wink, wink – but his words speak loudly.