In 17 Minutes of Blago Coverage, ABC Skips the Fact that Gov is a Dem

January 26th, 2009 1:06 PM

On Monday's "Good Morning America," the ABC morning show featured four segments on scandal-ridden Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. And over the course of 17 minutes and 38 seconds, not one host or reporter mentioned his party affiliation. Co-host Diane Sawyer interviewed Blagojevich for two segments and simply referred to him as the governor or Governor Blagojevich.

The Illinois politician, who is accused of attempting to sell the former Senate seat of now-President Barack Obama, was identified in an onscreen graphic only. It read "(D) Illinois." (A more effusive graphic, which appeared during the show's opening tease, screamed, "Illinois Governor, Live!") But neither Sawyer, nor reporter Chris Bury (who filed two additional segments on the topic), actually used the word Democrat. In fact, the only time it came up was during the second interview when Blagojevich himself referred to "my fellow Democrats."

Additionally, Sawyer, through almost 14 minutes of interviews with the governor, never asked what one would assume to be a logical question: Did you ever talk to Barack Obama about the Senate seat? And, while she did press Blagojevich on the issues of corruption and selling the seat, she tossed in a few softballs at the end, such as this query: "And your children, Amy, 10, Annie, 4, what have you said to them? How are they doing?"

A transcript of the first Blagojevich interview, which aired at 7:11am, follows:

7am tease

DIANE SAWYER: [ABC graphic: Illinois Governor, Live!]: This morning, the embattled governor of Illinois, his impeachment trial starts today. Did he try to sell the President's Senate seat? He answers on GMA live this morning.


SAWYER: And now, as we said, on this morning when the Illinois senate is convening possibly to vote him out of office, Governor Rod Blagojevich here live. Good morning, governor.

GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D-Illinois): Good morning. Thanks for having me.

ABC GRAPHIC: Illinois Impeachment Trial: Historic Trial Opens Today

SAWYER: I know you have been railing against the process all weekend. I heard that. But, this morning can we just address the charges against you? Specifically, the U.S. attorney has said, and this is a quote from him, that you tried to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat like a sports agent shopping the highest bidder." Did you?

BLAGOJEVICH: Absolutely not. And I'll have a chance in a criminal case to show my innocence and bring witnesses. And this impeachment trial actually gives me an opportunity, if it was fair, if it allowed me to actually bring witnesses, to be able to prove that those allegations are not true. But as the impeachment process exists, they won't allow me to bring witnesses, like Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff, who has said most recently, publicly, that I've done nothing wrong in his relationship with me.

SAWYER: Well, again, I want to talk about the process of that later, but let's address again what is out there in the public record right now. What the people of Illinois have already seen and, specifically, the tapes as they've been quoted by the U.S. attorney who says, by the way, they're not a paraphrase they are specific quotes. Here's this: "I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden And I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing. I'm not going to do it and can always use it. I can parachute me in there." And you go on to say, "Therefore, I can drive a hard bargain. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself. It's a bleeping valuable thing. You just don't give it away for nothing." Did you say this?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I can't get into the specifics of the case, but I could say this: There's a process, a lot of discussions and ideas and there was an underlying effort to end up in a place that did the most for the people of Illinois. The ultimate-

SAWYER: Did the most for the people of Illinois? But the U.S. attorney said this was not about politics as usual. This was not- this was not political horse trading. This was personal gain and he goes on at one point here to talk about an occasion, apparently, when you talk about Mrs. Blagojevich getting appointed to some corporate boards so you could pick up another $150, 000 grand a year, or whatever, to help you as governor.

BLAGOJEVICH: Again, they took snippets of conversations completely out of context. Did not provide all the tapes that tell the whole story and when the whole story comes out you'll see that the effort was to work to have a senator who can best represent Illinois and one that can help us create jobs and provide health care.

SAWYER: Help me with context. Help me with the context that explains "I've got this thing, it's bleeping golden. I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing."

BLAGOJEVICH: Again, I can't go into the details of that case and I wish they would allow me at this impeachment trial to be able to bring the evidence, to show exactly what those conversations were. And the place that I ended up, which was part of a political process to leverage, to be able

pass a public works program, expand health care and get a deal where we don't raise taxes on people, the whole story will come out.

SAWYER: But, again, you say it's a political process. But, the House, the Illinois House voted to impeach you 117-1. I think the one was your sister-in-law. The President has said you should resign and the mayor of Chicago said you're cuckoo. Have you lost your political base? Is it gone?

BLAGOJEVICH: Here's a question I have to you, to Mayor Daley and everyone else, whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? How is it that you can make a couple of allegation, take some conversations completely out of context, the whole story is not told and then force somebody to admit to something he didn't do and then deny that person, who is a sitting governor, a chance to have due process to bring witnesses and to defend himself? This impeachment trial gives me an opportunity to be able to disprove those allegations, show my innocence and I can do it sooner rather than later if the Senate allows me to bring witnesses in to prove my innocence.

SAWYER: Well, but as you know, they have said you passed up all the deadlines to protest against the rules. And in fact, in order to list other witnesses you might bring. But, rather than debate that, you said one of the things that you would introduce in order to establish that you were talking about lots of people to become senator is that you had other names on the list and you were really thinking about somebody else. Who were you thinking about?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, there's a whole series of people we talked about in those conversations and ultimately again there was a political process trying to be able to leverage a result that would pass a public works program, expand health care and hold the line on taxes.

SAWYER: But who were you thinking of?

BLAGOJEVICH: Several people and I'll tell you about that. But I have to emphasize again this impeachment trial is unconstitutional. It denies me the right to call witnesses to defend myself and prove my innocence.

SAWYER: Why aren't you in Illinois saying why aren't you saying this to members of your own legislators instead of here?

BLAGOJEVICH: Because those senators are politicians who make the rules and won't allow us a chance to be able to get them to change the rules. So, I'm here, talking to Americans to let them know what's happening in the land of Lincoln. If they can do this to a sitting governor, deny me the right to bring witnesses in to prove my innocence- And the witness I'd like to call, the President Rahm Emanuel, top staffer Valerie Jarrett, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. And a host of others. They won't allow me to bring them in to show my innocence. And, with that it's a scary thing. If they can do it to a governor, they can do that to you.

SAWYER: Let me ask you a personal question. I want to get back- Who were you thinking of for Senate who wasn't in any of these telephone calls?

BLAGOJEVICH: There were a lot of different candidates that I explored. And, again, the full story will come out at the appropriate time. Do you have any suggestions on who I might have been thinking about? What have heard?

SAWYER: I've heard Oprah.

BLAGOJEVICH: That is true.

SAWYER: Did you call Oprah? Were you talking to her? Was this something you were just thinking?

BLAGOJEVICH: No, the idea came to me from a friend and then among the considerations we discussed, whether or not is it made any sense. She seemed to be someone who had helped Barack Obama in a significant way become president. She was obviously someone with a much broader bully pulpit than other senators. She probably wouldn't take it and then we talked about it, if you offered to her how would you do it in a way it wasn't a gimmick and embarrass her?

SAWYER: These tapes, another way, when you look at them, is there anything in them that I guess horrifies you that the people of Illinois deserve something better than hearing this from their governor on tape?

BLAGOJEVICH: No, I think they should hear the whole story and they will see a governor who was trying to position and maneuver to create jobs, expand create health care and help people to make the right decision. And the decision was a selfless decision. Go ahead. I'm sorry.

SAWYER: If they do vote to impeach-

BLAGOJEVICH: They will. The fix is in.

SAWYER: And they have- If they vote, are you gone?


SAWYER: You will not be governor on Monday?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it depends on what their timetable is. But I'll suspect it'll be relatively soon. The fix is in. They've decided on a process that, again, denies me the opportunity to bring witnesses in like the president's chief of staff, U.S. senators and others who I discussed the senate seat with to prove my innocence.

SAWYER: What about the criminal case? Do you actually fear prison?

BLAGOJEVICH: I know what the truth is and I believe the truth will ultimately prevail here. Unfortunately, it's gotten lost in the frenzy and, unfortunately, in America today the media and everyone else seems to just rush to judgment and have denied me the presumption of innocence and what they've done is denied the people of Illinois that twice elected me governor the opportunity to have their governor make his case and defend himself because they chose me. These lawmakers did not.

SAWYER: As you know, Mrs. Blagojevich is also on these tapes and some people in the columns have said she's like Lady Macbeth in the background urging you on particularly in an instance with the Chicago Tribune to allegedly fire some on the Chicago Tribune in exchange for giving them some assistance for what they want to do with Wrigley Field. I just want to ask in personal terms, how is Mrs. Blagojevich? What is her role in this? How is she this morning?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, she's caring for our children. She is unfortunately depicted, you know, in a light that is obviously not her. You know, there's a phrase from a poem from Rudger Kipling that says, "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools. Or see the things you've given your life to broken and stoop and build them up with worn out tools." Again, you take a private conversation with calls from your home that are being secretly taped and you take something like that out of context, you can twist it and make somebody look like someone you're not and my wife is a loving wife who cares for our children. She's a- the best person I know. A person of great character and integrity.

SAWYER: And your children, Amy, 10, Annie, 4, what have you said to them? How are they doing?

BLAGOJEVICH: Amy 12 and Annie 5.

SAWYER: Sorry.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it's a very difficult time for our family, as you can imagine. Among the many reasons why I won't allow them to run me out without a fight and I won't allow the politicians to take things out of context and accept things that aren't true is because I respect my children.

SAWYER: What do you say to your girls?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, what I say to them is I- is how I act. And that I have done nothing wrong. I've done virtually everything right on behalf of the people and fighting to the very end for something much larger than me and the most important part is they should know their father is not the person that they're trying to say that he is. And among the reasons why I won't bow to these politicians who want me to quit for their own purposes and I must tell you when this all happened the pressure was immense to get out and leave the office so that some of those others can make a decision on who the next senator is.

SAWYER: I want you to know we'll get cut off by a computer. But we have standing by in Chicago in our bureau there we have Matt Murphy standing by. He's one of the state senators who helped draft the rules. Will you stay and respond to him as he responds to you and the charges? Will you stay?