Rod Blagojevich interview, 'Apprentice' behind him, the Gov. pleads his case
By April MacIntyre Apr 7, 2010, 19:15 GMT
Impeached former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich arrives at the US District Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois, EPA/KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI
NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" saw the ex Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, get the chop Sunday night.
At the beginning of the season, Monsters and Critics interviewed Donald Trump, and asked him about Rod Blagojevich's run which elicited a slight snort from The Donald, who said we were in for a surprise with the ex Governor.
During the course of the competition, Blagojevich deferred and deflected, and refused to make any declarative statements. His inability to master simple modern tasks like email and texting was a death knell theme expressed over and again by his Team RockSolid peers. Team Tenacity's Sharon Osbourne always got a zinger in, saying he looked underbaked, "his eyes too close together."
Monsters and Critics first spoke to Mr. Blagojevich in person at last year's NBC summer press day where it was announced he was part of the NBC Costa Rican "I'm a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here" lineup, only to be switched out with his wife Patti.
Patti was an earnest player and did a respectable job on a reality series marred by Speidi, Stephen Baldwin and a sick Janice Dickinson who peed by her bed (fear of snakes) and hocked loogies the entire series until she was sent packing.
Blagojevich is a consummate politician who speaks in their special language. In the following interview he denies any wrongdoing, as any good pol would. The verdict awaits him.
His next reality mountain to climb is a massive trial, where Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, are currently battling over undercover recordings from being aired at their upcoming trial.
In a motion filed Tuesday in federal court, the Chicago Tribune reported that Robert Blagojevich's lawyer argued that authorities had no probable cause to undertake the secret recording in the first place. The brother ran the governor's campaign fund for part of 2008.
According to the Trib, Robert's lawyer, Michael Ettinger, contended the FBI submitted no hard evidence that favors were being traded for campaign cash before agents began tapping the phones of the then-governor and some of his key advisers in 2008.
In the following interview from yesterday, Rod Blagojevich contends there is a bigger story not told, and reiterates his innocence, and shared that if not for the lifeline NBC threw him and his family, their financial situation would have swamped the family.
Monsters and Critics spoke to the ex Governor Rod Blagojevich, along with a few other online journalists:
Niagara Frontier Publications: Obviously in the boardroom Donald Trump said that he thought you werenít I guess being as competitive as you could have been, that maybe you were taking it easy. Did you agree with that assessment?
Rod Blagojevich: I didnít. No. I think - hereís what Iíve learned about reality television having done the Celebrity Apprentice and then my wife being involved in the program down in Costa Rica. I think when the reality TV shows like that that are really real is you generally will see the real person.
The days are long 14 hour days - 12, 14, 16 hour days, theyíre one after another, youíre dealing with the same people day in and day out in a kind of cramped environment and so I think the true you for better or for worse is what you see on those shows. And so, you know, I appreciate what he was saying, but the reality is, you know, I was given the choice to call Bret Michaels back into the boardroom.
I had decided - because a lot of that challenge that we had had to do with conveying to your team from a far away place instructions on what the contest required and what the mission was. And I had chosen, I believe rightfully, that Bret Michaels because of his background as a rock star, I knew he had experience in producing shows and was the most creative of our team.
I thought I picked the right guy to kind of run the creative end of it while I was down in Orlando and then, you know, Iíd be in the air for awhile basically unable to mostly, you know, do stuff and I wouldnít be on the ground anyway. And so I think I made the right call with Bret.
And when I saw his work products and saw what he actually created regarding the Wizardry - Wizarding World, I still mix that up, Wizarding World of Harry Potter I thought he did a very good job. And for me then to sell him out because, you know, it was eminent that I was going to be the guy getting fired because I was the project manager and we lost although it was close, we were told it was close, it would have been just wrong.
I donít think itís good leadership. I think itís bad leadership. Youíre supposed to protect the people that work for you and who do a good job. Now if Bret did a bad job that would be a different story but Bret did a good job and I wasnít going to sell him out knowing that I was likely to be the guy that would get fired if I didnít.
Niagara Frontier Publications: Right. I find it very interesting though that Darryl took a bullet for Michael and it could be said that you took a bullet for Bret. This show is very much known for contestants being very cutthroat but your team seems to be taking a different approach. What do you think your actions and even Darryl Strawberryís actions to some extent, what does that sort of say about your team that you guys are sort of willing to sort of bite the bullet for someone else?
Rod Blagojevich: Well I donít think it says so much about the team as it says about Darryl Strawberry and me. I mean these were individual decisions we both made. I think had Darryl not volunteered to leave I think Michael was likely to get fired. I mean he was the project manager and we lost and it seemed like we lost that contest by a lot.
And just like in my situation I was the project manager and we lost. And, itís like a manager of a baseball team, you know, if you donít have a winning season sooner or later theyíre going to move the manager out and get someone else in who can win.
So Iím not so sure Michael or Curtis for example or Bret even are going to, you know, take a bullet for each other. And I think if people stay tuned and I think the showís going to just get - without divulging anything I think the showís just going to get a lot more competitive as it unfolds.
And I think youíll probably see less of what you just talked about and probably more of the good old fashion back stabbing and cut throat stuff that, you know, has made Celebrity Apprentice a show that people like to watch.
Examiner: Did you really want to be project manager on the Harry Potter task? Because it seems like right away Michael Johnson said, ďAll right letís give it to the Governor.Ē
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah. You know what, youíre right. Youíre question is well taken. When he throws it at you that way I think you got to take the challenge. At that time I didnít know what the task was. We were then told the task after the project managerís were chosen.
And it was interesting the irony and what was a bit - of significant concern to me was that we were told we werenít going to know what the task was until the morning that Selita and I were supposed to meet at the Teterboro Airport. And then when we got on the plane is when we were told what this task was.
And it was very apparent to me much to my dismay that I happened to stumble into a project where Iím the project manager. And a integral part of that project is the need of the two project managers to be able to communicate with cell phones and BlackBerryís and the new technology - e-mailing and text messaging that I completely wasnít skilled at. And here the irony was this was going to be a big part of, you know, what the challenge was.
Had I known that was the case I might have been, I might have made an argument for my team that we maybe weíd have been better off with someone who was a little bit more proficient on cell phones and BlackBerryís. But I didnít know that at the time and so I took up the challenge.
Had I known what the project was for the good of the team I would have said maybe weíre better off having someone whoís good at this technology do that part of the job and, you know, Iíll do some other role that might be better for the good of our team.
But, youíve got to deal with the cards youíre dealt with. And not withstanding my deficiencies with cell phones and text messaging, you know, I still think, you know, at the end of the day if you look at our project and thereís it was really close.
And Iím not so sure that the inability to text message was at all the difference. I think that was a convenient excuse for Michael and for Curtis and others who, you know, letís face it the team concept only goes so far. When thereís the possibility your teamís going to lose human nature kicks in and survival instinct steps up.
And these guys were all about making sure they pointed fingers in another place to protect their position. And, you know, the convenient thing to point to the, you know, to my lack of knowing how to properly text message as a cause for us losing. I donít think we lost because of that. I think we lost because the women just did a little bit better than we did.
And if I take any response - if I had any regrets about what I did there was I forgot to really focus on that darn dragon. You know, when I was down at Orlando and I saw that Dragon in the Harry Potter World, you know, that mouth of that dragon should have been part of our project. I should have really conveyed that to Bret that he makes that a part of the project.
But I didnít do that. And I regret that. Because when I saw the women did it right away I realized, you know, I missed an opportunity. And that was probably something I should have thought about doing and I forgot to do it.
Tampa Tribune: How did you discover the Childrenís Cancer Center in Tampa being in Illinois - Chicago?
Rod Blagojevich: My publicist, Glen Selig is down in Tampa. And when Patti and I were looking for charities and organizations to support when she was first on Iím a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here because of the political dynamics in Illinois with me being the governor and all thatís happened and the political relationships a lot of the organizations that I was extremely helpful to when I was governor, because they had received so much state funding theyíre afraid, you know, to receive our help.
I think theyíre afraid of some of the punitive response they might get form the political powers that are currently there. And so we had to look outside of Illinois. And then Glen suggested the Childrenís Cancer Center which was a perfect fit for me because the best thing I did as governor was to make Illinois the first state in American history to give every child access to affordable comprehensive health care.
And this was an organization in Tampa, the Childrenís Cancer Center that deals with children who are suffering from pediatric cancer. And so it was the perfect kind of cause, you know, that I had a record of fighting for and wanted to support. And the fact that it was in Tampa - we discovered it because of Glen our publicist.
Tampa Tribune: Do you think being on the show people who may not have known you except from what they had read or do you think that they came away with kind of a different impression if they watched Celebrity Apprentice depending on how they might have thought about you from the, you know, if they didnít know you and just saw media coverage prior to that? Do you think it helped you?
Rod Blagojevich: Well, you know, I donít know. Iíd let other people make that decision for themselves, I canít speak for other people. All I can tell you is, you know, even before Celebrity Apprentice, you know, Iím received very warmly by most people. And a heck of a lot more so than before I was governor - than while I was governor. Itís really interesting.
And of course itís wider now because in LA people kind of know who you are. Iím in LA today and I was in New York yesterday and people know who you are. And we were down in Sanibel for spring break for our kids in Florida and people know who you are. And when I was governor of Illinois they knew me in Illinois but they didnít know me in these other places.
So - I mean I will say that for better or for worse Iím a heck of a lot better known. But I wouldnít exactly say that, you know, I would choose these circumstances to get known this way. You know?
Chicago Tribune: I just wanted to sort of follow on from that question and ask, you know, about if you think - you seem to sort of be a little bit back and forth on whether you think it hurt your public image or helped it. And I wondered if...
Rod Blagojevich: Oh no I didnít say that at all. Iím not back and forth on either one of them.
What I said was I donít know Iíll let others make a judgment. Iím simply saying that, you know, Iím known in places outside of Illinois and Chicago since all of this has happened. Significantly more than I was when I was the governor.
Chicago Tribune: Would any of the decision to make this appearance on the show was that partly to possibly, you know, get yourself known by potential jurors in a positive way?
Rod Blagojevich: No. Had nothing to do with it. It was an opportunity to do two things: One, to try to earn a living. The false accusations have created an environment where different people that, you know, were eager to talk to me the day before all this happened are afraid to talk to me now because of the circumstances surrounding me. And so itís hard to earn a living and support your family.
And like most Americans weíre like everybody else we have a mortgage on our home, we have, you know, we have bills to pay, we have credit card debt, we have kids in school. And so Patti and I, you know, are doing the best we can to try to work through this and earn a living.
Unlike most people whoíve lost their jobs weíve been fortunate and blessed in that weíve been given these unique opportunities by Donald Trump and Celebrity Apprentice and by NBC before that for Iím a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to be able to earn a living doing things that most Americans whoíve lost their jobs donít get. So in so many ways weíve been very, very lucky.
The other component is in both of the programs Patti and I have been able to actually do things that we wanted - we were able to do when I was governor and before that when I was a congressman, and that is kind of push for causes that you believe in.
So the beautiful thing about what weíve been able to do with these shows is you can earn a little bit of a living but you can also go out and raise money for charities you believe in. And childrenís healthcare has been a, you know, has been the most important thing that I did as governor. And being able to raise money for kids who are suffering from pediatric cancer is a significant, you know, appealing part of being able to do a show like Celebrity Apprentice because you have a chance to try to help that charity.
Chicago Tribune: Would you do something like this again? You or even your wife would you do a reality show of any kind?
Rod Blagojevich: The answer is under the right (circumstance), certain types of shows the answer is yes, of course. Weíve turned down a lot of shows.
And, in the immediate wake of all of this when, our world was kind of falling in on us and our jobs were taken away from us we were offered some opportunity from several production companies the possibility of doing some shows that would be sort of like the Gosselin family and Meet the Kardashians where the reality show was about your real life.
"Youíve been governor, now youíre down and out and how are you fighting back?" And they film you everyday, you know, with your family doing, you know, the day to day stuff as youíre trying to dig yourself out of the, you know, the hole that youíve been kind of put in. Itís turned out to be those kind of programs have been kind of lucrative for the Kardashians and for the Gosselins. And by the way, while I was governor the irony is I was oblivious to all of these programs. I didnít watch any of them, I was aware of the Celebrity Apprentice but, Meet the Kardashians and the Gosselins I didnít know who they were and then, these offers came to us.
So we - in spite of the fact that this would have been a way to be able to probably potentially earn a very good living Patti and I both felt it was the wrong thing to do for our kids. We didnít want, you know, it was bad enough the dramatic changes that they were being compelled to have to face - our daughters who are 13 and now 7, they were 12 and 6, 12 and 5 when all this happened. We just felt that this would be an incredible invasion, you know, and dramatic change in their lives and so we did not do that. We turned those things down.
But some of these other ones like the ones weíve done were, you know, weíve done them and weíd likely do them again..
Monsters and Critics: I talked to you at the last NBC summer press day and still feel strongly that with your boxing background that youíd be a dynamite commentator - in lieu of reality TV. Have you approached HBO or Showtime about being a boxing commentator?
Rod Blagojevich: Thank you. You know what, Iím doing to do that as soon as we get off of this call. Itís a great idea. No, I think that would be a great idea.
Monsters and Critics: You have a boxing background, correct?
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah. I boxed Golden Gloves. In fact - the first time I ever got my name in the paper was the Chicago Tribune in 1975 when I won my first fight in the golden gloves. You know, it would be a good fit, and the political arena is not unlike in many ways, the fight game in some respects. In fact there are more rules in boxing than there are in politics.
And, I can paint for you a metaphor or analogy about my circumstances now. I mean itís like a - itís a 12 round boxing match and, the bell rang and before I got a chance to even like plant my feet I got sucker punched. Hit below the belt...purposefully. And I had to survive those early rounds but weíve been fighting back. And I feel like ultimately when I get my chance in court to prove my innocence, you know, this is going to be an epic kind of fight.
And Iím going to come back from that sucker punch.
Monsters and Critics: Following up on something that you said earlier about new technology of e-mailing and texting. I mean Governor, e-mailing and texting has been around for like a decade or so, canít your daughters teach you?
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah. As a matter of fact not only can they but they are.
And let me point this out. I donít know if this made the show the other night but I was trying to defend myself on my, you know, my ineptitude with BlackBerryís and, you know, text messaging and typing.
I pointed out that I actually wrote a book, published, people have bought the book. And, you know, I wrote every word of it myself and I did - every chapter except the first one, I did by hand the first chapter. But I realized it was going to take too long doing that and so my daughter, Amy, she was 12 then she let me use her personal computer, a pink laptop that is hers.
And she taught me how to get on it and kind of helped me type - taught me how to type a little bit. And then we bought this thing called Dragon Speak where you can dictate into that personal computer and type at the same time. Thatís how I wrote every chapter except one in my book.
Now it was, you know, the typing was slow and it was not exactly something youíd want to watch on television but I actually did it. And so they didnít put that on - I donít think they actually had that part of my defense in the boardroom.
The text messaging I had no clue and that was an accurate depiction. But since that time my daughter Amy whoís 13 has been teaching me and in fact yesterday she sent me like five texts, I was in New York and LA. Sheís giving me updates on the Cubs opener. And, you know, it went from 8 to 5 they were losing to 12 to 5 they were losing to 15 to 5. Finally they lost 15 to 5.
She was texting me back and forth all kinds of updates and then I would respond to her. And then my last message to her was basically, ďYouíre the coolest kid I know.Ē And then she responded and said, ďYouíre weird.Ē
Monsters and Critics: Of all the players that are left now whose your favorite woman player? Who do you think is going to triumph for the women?
Rod Blagojevich: Okay. Now you ask me who do I like the most or who do I thinkís going to win?
Monsters and Critics: Who do you thinkís going to win for the women? Who do you think has it thatís going to win?
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah, thatís a good question. You know, I have no idea how it unfolds but, Iím a student of history so Iím going to look at history and the year before Joan Rivers won. And if Iím looking at the womenís team the most like Joan Rivers on that team seems to be Sharon Osbourne.
And if youíre going to look at the one who one the year before and the qualities she has it seems like Sharon Osbourne is the - of the womenís team sheís the most closely reminiscent to me of Joan Rivers. So just based on that I would say sheís in a very competitive position so she could win.
But, I donít think you can - this is whatís interesting about this program and I strongly suggest people keep tuning in. You know, every event, every new challenge creates a set of circumstances that are unpredictable and so much of it is, how the individuals respond on a given challenge. And thatíll dictate who wins and who doesnít.
And so thatís why these are hard to predict. But I think my prediction thatís itís going to get nastier as it unfolds because I saw signs of that developing already. I believe next weeks show - and I donít know this but Iím just speculating is going to be the beginning of the end of the era of good feelings and the beginning of the night of the long knives.
And I mean youíre going to start seeing a lot of the back and forth back stabbing positioning and the kind of cutthroat thing that, you know, that kicks in when people want to survive and they want to win at all costs. And I think youíll see a lot of that as the show unfolds. Thatís the kind of entertaining stuff people like to watch.
Monsters and Critics: Absolutely. Well I look forward to seeing you on HBO or Showtime for boxing.
Rod Blagojevich: I love it. And thank you. And if it ever happens Iíll give you all the credit.
Hollywood News: Since youíve talked about your intentions as far as doing reality TV as the trial looms are you hopeful for a positive outcome?
Rod Blagojevich: Iím certain of a confident outcome. I know that Iím going to be vindicated because Iíve done absolutely nothing wrong. The government secretly taped my telephone for six weeks. And how upside down is it when they then take snippets of conversations and they take it out of context and then they falsely accuse you of things like youíre selling the Presidentís senate seat for money? Which is one of the biggest lies ever told
And the tapes are there and Iím the one whoís been accused - Iím the one whoís advocating that every tape be heard and itís the opposite of Watergate and Richard Nixon. When Nixon knew he did something wrong and his whole struggle was to try to keep those White House tapes from being released publicly.
I from the very beginning have said play every tape. The tape will show what the truth is. The tape will show that I have been lied about. The tapes will show that.
And the irony is that my accusers have gone to court and prevented me from telling you exactly whatís on those tapes. And so finally weíll have a chance in court and the judge has said that when I testify heíll allow those tapes to be heard. And the tapes will show what the truth is. And thereís nothing like, you know, taped conversations.
Itís pretty frightening to think that the government can tape your telephones in your home. On the other hand if youíre an honest person and youíve done things honestly and you never intended to break the law and youíve been talking to your lawyers all the time to make sure you do things right then, you know, the tapes are going to be the sorts of things that will show what the truth is. And the tapes will be among the reasons why Iíll be vindicated.
And I think what youíll really have here is going to be an epic story about how things have gone the way they have and how a governor elected by the people twice was stolen from the people based upon false accusations and a big, big lie.
Winston Churchill said, ďA lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to put itís pants on.Ē Well the truth is on those tapes and when I have a chance finally to go before my fellow citizens, 12 of them, theyíll have a chance to hear what those tapes say and those tapes will, you know, give what the truth is.
And I look forward to my opportunity to be vindicated and get on with hopefully what I would like is a chance to be able get back in there and do what Iíve done my whole adult life and that is, you know, do things for people. And Iím not writing myself off as someone whoís going to run for public office again someday.
Hollywood News: Based on the goodwill you mentioned you were receiving people who come up to you do you think after these incidents if you ran again you would be able to win another election?
Rod Blagojevich: Well, Iíve never lost an election. And I think among the reasons why I never lost an election was, you know, I never, you know, two things I never took the people for granted, never assumed I was going to win I just worked real hard to try to get elected. And then, you know, put forth, you know, positions and principals and policies and viewpoints that I believe in and believe deeply in. And so that recipeís always worked, Iíve never lost an election.
If I were to run for office again someday, I wouldnít predict the outcome I would just do what Iíve done in the past. And I do think, I do think when this is all said and done and the truth comes out, I think itís going to be startling and very historic in so many ways.
And I think having to go through something like this as difficult as itís been from a personal standpoint, I think thereís a purpose. I think God has a purpose for all of us in different ways and I think this is going to serve some sort of a good public purpose too. And I think part of it has to do with the fact that there are no checks and balances anymore on some of these prosecutors who believe in grandstanding and are determined to go out and try to get somebody. And where is that check and balance?
And hopefully my case will be the beginning of trying to set that right. And the media with all due respect to your profession whatever happened to a probing, inquisitive media that might have some, you know, reasonable skepticism?
The (Fourth Estate) is supposed to safeguard our democracy but where have they been in terms of asking questions like, ďIs it really possible that a governor in a state like Illinois would be so ridiculously out to lunch to think to come out selling the Presidentís senate seat for money? Is that really possible?Ē
And this governor has been saying all along that what he was doing was working with the presidentís top staffers, his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to try to put a political deal together to appoint his political nemesisí daughter in exchange for the creation of 500,000 jobs, healthcare for 300,000 people and protecting taxpayers from higher taxes.
Someone is not telling the truth. Is it possible that maybe the governorís telling the truth and that the guy who says you ought to play all the tapes may be actually telling the truth? And the ones whoíve gone to say, ďDonít hear the tapes,Ē might be the ones who are lying? And whereís the media to really press and ask those questions?
And the fact that a governor who was elected by the people was taken out of office based on these false accusations where is the media to start asking maybe thereís something to what heís saying?
I think when ultimately 12 people sit in a courtroom and see what the truth is and the outcome comes out and the truth prevails then I think maybe I think this case will sort of change whatís happened to the media today.
And, itís a combination of, they trip all over each other to follow a storyline and I guess theyíre understaffed, itís become more of a business. And the days of Woodward and Bernstein, are long gone.
I sure wish we had Woodward and Bernstein today because thereís an epic story here and if any you guys got a few extra hours you may want to make a name for yourself and get on this. Because this is a story thatís completely upside down.
Hollywood News: Your teammate Darryl Strawberry suggested that maybe you were trying to hard to talk about your innocence. Do you have a response to that?
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah. Darrylís a real good guy and heís tremendously big hearted. Got to know Darryl. I really liked him. And Darrylís, you know, known what itís like to go through some difficult times himself personally and itís, you know, itís gotten him reconnected with his faith.
We talked about that and his own personal redemption and him working through some of those problems. And heís a very sensitive, genuine guy, and you wouldnít expect that from a big, strong athlete like Darryl Strawberry.
I think he says that to me because, I think heíd like, heís just, I donít know. I donít want to speculate on what his thinking is.
I would only say that the answer is when you havenít done anything wrong and youíve been falsely accused as Iíve been, slandered as I was and youíre an honest person and your integrity means everything to you itís about what your kids see and the values your kids are learning and making sure that they can be proud of their father and not believe the lies.
And itís about your hardworking parents who sacrificed and suffered. And they taught you and brought you up, in Sunday school with a set of values to be honest and to do your response - meet your responsibilities.
Thereís so much at stake here from a personal level that, I canít help but keep saying to everybody and anybody who might be willing to listen, ďIt simply is not true, what they said about me and I want you to know itís not true and Iíll prove it to you.Ē
And so I get what Darrylís saying but the reality is I didnít do anything wrong and Iím fighting back. And I donít know what am I supposed to do? You know, say I did these things when I didnít? I didnít.
And, I think it would be wrong for me to be anything but to be as forceful as I possibly can. Ultimately I donít care how powerful the forces are that are right against me as Abraham Lincoln said in his speech in 1860, ďRight makes might.Ē And the truth is I didnít do anything wrong.
I was trying to pick a senator who I donít even like because I could do the most good for the most people in my state. And we were doing the kind of politics that Abraham Lincoln would respect and would probably strongly approve of. And for the government to lie about me the way they did itís just upside down.
And again ultimately the tapes are going to show what the truth is and in the meantime, Iím going to do everything I can to keep pointing it out myself.
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&CRod Blagojevich Biography -
Rod Blagojevich Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sites
COMMENT on Rod Blagojevich interview, 'Apprentice' behind him, the Gov. pleads his casecomments powered by Disqus
Latest Headlines in Smallscreen
- 1. Kelly Rowland, Paulina Rubio join X Factor
- 2. Bradley Cooper, Heidi Klum interviews from Leno (VIDEOS)
- 3. Investigation Discovery Asks 'Where Are They Now' Update Edition week, begins May 27
- 4. National Geographic and Good Clean Fun Present X Games Course Build
- 5. Ice Road Truckers is trucking on, still, back June 9