Robert L. Johnson, America’s first black billionaire and founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), has made an extraordinary appearance on CNBC, where he espoused positivity toward the economic situation in America, despite being grilled about his amicable attitude towards the Trump administration.
“Something is going right,” said Johnson of the economic situation under President Trump. “I believe the economy is on a strong growth path.” The owner and chairman of Bethesda-based asset management firm RLJ Companies has a current net worth of around $600 million and has been a longtime champion of African American’s and their financial wellbeing.
“The unemployment for African Americans is the lowest it has ever been in history,” said Johnson, who became America’s first black billionaire.
According to the Washington Post, Black unemployment fell to 6.8 percent in December, before rising and dipping again to 6.9 percent in March.
While the economic situation is good, Johnson lamented the desperate political situation, urging parties to join forces for the socio-economic advancement of the black population.
“Everything is so toxic,” Johnson declared. “Even if you do something good, the opposition party and interest, we are so divisive. No matter what the President would do, or what the Democrats will do, it’s negative.”
He continued, “a lot of it is fuelled by just this constant need to go back and be a part of a small community – forget the idea that we are all part of one country. I’ve never seen the country more in a zero-sum game.”
Johnson was even offered a cabinet position by President Trump during a meeting that was held before his inauguration. He declined, saying he “did not want to work for the government.” Despite this, Trump asked Johnson’s advise on policy matters relating to the economic well-being of African Americans — advice that Johnson was more than happy to give.
“In that meeting, he asked me to come up with some proposals that would address economic concerns of African Americans,” Johnson explained. “Since that time, I’ve had access to anyone in the Trump administration I’ve wanted to meet.”
When pushed over his opinion of Trump, Johnson added that he would “do business” with the President.
“Yeah, I would do business with him if it is focused on improving the economic climate and opportunity for African Americans – putting more money into the pockets of African Americans,” he said.
Johnson said that he “proposed several agenda items” to Trump for furthering the economic interests of African Americans, and that he is encouraged by the state of economic affairs in the US right now.
“You have to take encouragement from what’s happening in the labor force and the job market,” he explained. “When you look at African American unemployment, in over 50 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping the numbers, you’ve never had two things: African American unemployment this low and the spread between unemployment among whites and African Americans narrowing.”
“That absolutely means the jobs market is soliciting employees who have been out of the labor force, some of it just based on discrimination, some of it based on changes in education, access and technology changes,” he continued. “And so when you look at that, you have to say something is going right.”
“If you can make it work, keep emotions out of it,” Johnson said of the current political and economic situation. “As an entrepreneur, I look for opportunities,” he added, as one of the CNBC host’s told him it would be easier just to “go with the flow.”
“Yeah, I’ve never done that,” Johnson quipped. “That’s why I come on your show.”