In an exclusive interview with the L.A.Sentinel, Magic explains why he chose Clinton over Obama
Only hours before hosting a fundraiser at his Beverly Hills home, basketball great and Laker Champion Earvin “Magic” Johnson joined hands with Democratic Presidential contender Senator Hillary Clinton and formally endorsed her candidacy before a standing-room-only crowd at an economic development townhall meeting at Charles Drew Magnet School in South Los Angeles.
“She’s the only candidate who can turn this country around,” Earvin “Magic” Johnson told the very receptive audience which included LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, newly-elected Congresswomen Laura Richardson, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally and a host of community leaders.
“We need an experienced person and the Senator is the only person who can do just that,” proclaimed Johnson who sounded more like a fiery Pentecostal preacher speaking to his amen congregants. “She’s a woman who had 30 years of experience. A woman who has been in every community, in every neighborhood and cares about our children and the education of our children. She cares about jobs for our children when they graduate and also making sure they have a chance to go to college.”
A beaming Hillary Clinton stood side by side with the former basketball star turned successful entrepreneur in a gathering that felt more like Sunday church service than a political rally. At times, Johnson embraced the Senator seemingly emphasizing his support as she talked about housing, healthcare, improving education and reinstating voting rights to felons. Later in the town hall community meeting, one questioner openly stated to the Senator, “you’re extremely attractive’ and then proceeded to inquire about mortgage rates.
“I am so honored and privileged to have his (Magic Johnson’s) endorsement,” Senator Clinton said. Later in an exclusive interview with the L.A. Sentinel, Mrs. Clinton talked about what difference she hoped Johnson’s endorsement would make for the campaign. “He’s an all-star player and I’m proud to have him on my team because he’ll raise the level of play for us here in California and across the country.”
In politics, timing is everything and Johnson’s endorsement comes only one week after TV powerhouse Oprah Winfrey hosted a fundraiser endorsing fellow Chicagoan Senator Barack Obama at her California estate.
While Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls, Obama leads the pack when it comes to raising money. And at this point, there’s still many more miles to cover in what will be a long journey before voters go to the polls.
Mayor Villaraigosa captured Hillary’s Magic moment more eloquently stating, “On a championship team, we need experience, we need a veteran. We need someone who’s been through a championship game, played at a championship level.”
After the rally, Johnson and Senator Clinton spoke exclusively with the Los Angeles Sentinel. During their public remarks neither mentioned Obama by name, but one-on-one with us Johnson freely spoke about why he signed on to Team Clinton vs. going with Team Obama.
Below are Magic Johnson’s comments in his own words:
Sentinel: How much soul searching went into your decision to support Senator Hillary Clinton?
Magic Johnson: “It really wasn’t any (soul searching). It was an easy decision. When you think about 30 years and what she’s already done as a Senator and even before that. We need someone who has great foreign relationships and there’s only one candidate that has that—and that’s her. When you think about education, healthcare for our children, our families, it was really an easy decision. I was telling her to run a long time ago. I was hoping she was going to run now. This wasn’t a sudden decision. I wanted her to run and I’m glad she’s running and I think she’s going to do the country very very well.
Sentinel: What do you say to those African Americans who are critical of you supporting Senator Clinton instead of Senator Obama?
Magic Johnson: “It’s not about Black or White, it’s about the best candidate and for me he doesn’t have the experience. He doesn’t have the relationship. The worst thing we can do is get somebody in there who’s Black and then they don’t do a good job then what does that do for us? I don’t think he’s ready to be the president of the United States that’s just plain and simple. I love him, I wrote him a check and I told him I talked to him on the phone and I like him. I think he’s very articulate, smart, but he doesn’t have the experience. I don’t wanna get him in there and it’s all over his head and he will be way over his head right now.”
Sentinel: Tell me about that telephone conversation you had with Senator Obama. Did you say here’s a $2300 check, but I can’t support you.
Magic Johnson: Well, I’ll just say you have to be honest. I like him and really think that sometimes—it’s just not your turn. You’re not ready. He’s not ready. It’s almost like I picture him as a rookie coming into the NBA. He’s not ready. So he’s not the one. She IS the one. There’s only one person who can turn this whole thing around. The relationships she has already and the experience it will take him 8 years to gain that and then it’s too late. This is not about Black or White. It’s about who’s the best candidate.
Sentinel: As far as Hillary Clinton’s campaign, what will your role be in supporting her and if elected, is there an appointment waiting for you?
Magic Johnson: No. I don’t want a job. I got enough jobs. All I want to do is to make sure minorities get their due.I will continue to work in the inner cities. I want the Senator to make sure that minorities and our communities get what we’re supposed to get—better schools, job opportunities for people who live in urban America, better healthcare. So, I’m here to get the best candidate elected and I’ll be working side by side with her. I’ll be traveling around with her. After that, I’m here to make sure the Democrats are in power that’s what it’s all about.
Sentinel: Can you tell us what other African Americans are on your team—Team Clinton.
Magic Johnson: We have a bunch of them Attorney Willie Gary, Bob Johnson, Berry Gordy, Clarence Avant, and Quincy Jones. We’ll be here a long time if you want me to go through the whole list. A number of pastor and also community leaders like Sweet Alice. Celebrities are one thing, but you really need grassroots people and those are the people who get other people to go out and vote.