Former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich long has thought that his best chance of beating the sweeping federal corruption charges against him was to take his case directly to the public -- whether through media interviews, writing a book or glad-handing people on the street.
But things haven’t always gone swimmingly. On Monday, Blagojevich moved quickly to apologize for saying in an Esquire magazine interview that he was “blacker than Barack Obama.”
Even before many had heard about the interview, Blagojevich was standing outside his home, pointing out that it was a dumb thing to say.
“What I said was stupid, stupid, stupid,” Blagojevich said, using the word 16 times in a few minutes. “I deeply apologize for the way that was said and having said it. Obviously, I am not blacker than President Obama.”
The former governor was impeached last year after his arrest on charges that included trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat. He has pleaded not guilty. It has been part of the defense strategy to give the public as much of Blagojevich as it can take. And the Esquire interview was not his first gaffe.
Last month, Blagojevich left some wondering what he was thinking when he signed a copy of the U.S. Constitution with an infamous line that was captured on wiretaps. A student at a University of Chicago book signing asked him to sign near the 17th Amendment, which covers the appointment of senators.
But in his remarks to Esquire, Blagojevich may risk alienating a group he hopes to have on his side: African Americans.
The former governor long has gone out of his way to portray himself as a staunch ally of the black community. Just after his arrest in December 2008, he invited a group of black ministers to pray with him. And after his apology Monday, he appeared on a Chicago radio station to apologize again to the mostly black listeners.
His defense team was quick to try to explain what Blagojevich meant in his comments to Esquire. Sam Adam Jr. said his client was just trying to voice frustration that so many politicians had made unfilled promises to the black community.
“He wishes that he could still be working for them,” Adam said. “That’s what he was trying to say. It was a stupid metaphor for a real frustration.”