BET anchor Jeff Johnson bizarrely likened the popularity of President Barack Obama to the reaction many Christians have to the name of Jesus during a segment on Tuesday’s Larry King Live on CNN: “There’s a joke sometimes -- when you can be in a church, and if you just say Jesus, the people will shout. I mean, now, if you just say Obama, people will shout.”
Johnson, who was the main correspondent for BET during the network’s coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, participated in a panel discussion during the second half-hour of the CNN program with Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former McCain campaign advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer. King’s program aired immediately after President Obama’s press conference on Tuesday evening, and the three participants gave their reactions to the reporters’ questions and the executive’s answers and main issues.
King brought up the issue of race, since President Obama had touched on the issue during the press conference. He asked the BET anchor, “Jeff, has the race issue been severely diminished?” Johnson actually denied that race had been a serious issue during the campaign, and proceeded to make his odd comparison:
JOHNSON: Well, I don’t know if the race issue was ever really an issue. I think that there were points in the campaign where it was talked about as a result of Reverend Wright and Obama’s, quote unquote, race speech, that really wasn’t as much about race as people said it was about race. But America never really talked about it. I think what I like about this comment is that, you know, there’s this energy around the African-American community. There’s a joke sometimes -- when you can be in a church, and if you just say Jesus, the people will shout. I mean, now, if you just say Obama, people will shout.
Well, at least you can credit Johnson for not going the Chris Matthews route in his Obama/Messiah analogy.