In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich evoked Nelson Mandela and said he had been a “political prisoner” and unfairly targeted.
Cooper allowed Blagojevich to make his point before calling “bullshit.”
In a fiery rebuke, the CNN host rejected Blagojevich’s claim that so-called “corrupt prosecutors” were responsible for his conviction on 18 felony corruption charges for campaign finance violations and bribery.
“You do have an obligation to at least admit what you did wrong, and you refuse to do that,” Cooper told the former governor, who was granted clemency by President Donald Trump this week.
“And you’re creating a whole new alternate universe of facts, and that may be big in politics today, but it’s still frankly just bullshit.”
Blagojevich was the Democratic governor of Illinois from 2003 to 2009, when he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption. He attempted to sell the former U.S. Senate seat of newly elected President Barack Obama through his power as governor to appoint someone.
When Blagojevich’s corruption came to light, the Illinois House of Representatives voted to impeach him and in 2009 voted to ban him from holding any political office in the state.
Blagojevich attempted to use his interview with Cooper to defend his reputation and redirect the attention to corruption in the criminal justice system.
“If you were to ask Nelson Mandela whether he thought the process was fair back in the early ’60s in South Africa, he would say what I’m saying today,” Blagojevich told Cooper.
Later, he urged Cooper to take action: “I hope one day maybe you’ll join me in the fight to reform our criminal justice system and actually do something about the problem of over-sentencing Blacks and Latinos. I learned that when I was there [in prison].”
Cooper quickly shot him down: “What’s sad is that you hadn’t actually learned that when you mattered ― when you actually were the governor.”
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