Letterman grills Blagojevich, who insists he'll be vindicated

by Maureen Ryan and Rick Pearson

Chicago Tribune (MCT)

4 February 2009


From the time he walked through the curtain on “The Late Show” Tuesday, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was a walking punch line, drawing big laughs when he maintained he’ll be vindicated and fidgeting under a folksy-yet-savvy grilling from David Letterman.

“I’ve been wanting to be on your show in the worst way for the longest time,” Blagojevich said.

“Well, you’re on in the worst way, believe me,” responded a well-prepared Letterman, who went on to ask the famously coiffed politician if he uses “shampoo and conditioner.”

The barbed, lengthy guest spot highlighted another national media tour by Blagojevich, whom the Illinois Senate removed from office Thursday, the first governor in the state’s history to meet that fate.

Letterman, as he often is with disgraced celebrities and politicians, was friendly yet utterly relentless. The host repeatedly quizzed Blagojevich about his assertion the impeachment trial didn’t provide him with “due process.”

He also referred to the 13 impeachment counts, saying to Blagojevich, “You’re telling me each one of those was a misunderstanding?” Blagojevich returned to his consistent theme - that when the entire contents of FBI wiretaps were heard, he’d be vindicated. The audience simply laughed at him.

Letterman, who said the more he hears Blagojevich on TV, the more he thinks “Oh, this guy is guilty,” asked if Blagojevich believed he’d be found not guilty in court and that voters would come to think ” ‘he really should still be our governor.’ “

“Yes, I do believe that, and I believe it will be a historic result,” Blagojevich replied. Unmentioned was the fact the Senate conviction also banned Blagojevich from holding state office again.

The former governor also said he is rebuilding after last week’s historic events.

“My wife and I will come together, we’ll put our lives back together,” he said. “I will say I never lost an election in Illinois, and so the irony is, I’ve been thrown out of office by lawmakers who didn’t give me a chance to prove my innocence, and I’m not writing myself off as a voice for those same people I fought for.”

Blagojevich also mentioned that federal authorities have “been scrutinizing” Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a shout-out undoubtedly unwelcome at City Hall.

Hours earlier, Blagojevich said on NBC’s “Today” show that he had been offered, but rejected, a “ghost payroller” deal to stay on as “an incapacitated governor” if he agreed not to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. He said he was given the opportunity to “keep my pay for two years, keep my security detail for two years,” but provided no other details.

But a spokesman for new Gov. Pat Quinn said no such deal ever was offered. Senate President John Cullerton said he doesn’t “know what (Blagojevich) was talking about.” And a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said Blagojevich “has no connection to reality and hasn’t for years.”

Shortly after Blagojevich’s arrest, then-Lt. Gov. Quinn backed Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s unsuccessful argument to the Illinois Supreme Court to have Blagojevich declared “unable to serve” and allow Quinn to assume some of the governor’s duties without removing Blagojevich. There was the potential for Blagojevich to stay on the payroll even if temporarily dislodged as governor.

//Mixed media