'Frankly it's bulls***': CNN anchor boils over in interview with corrupt politician pardoned by Trump

Oliver O'Connell
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper confronted an unrepentant Rod Blagojevich on the 21 February, 2020, edition of his show AC360 in a heated exchange described by viewers as 'masterful': CNN

In a fiery CNN segment, host Anderson Cooper called out an unrepentant Rod Blagojevich, on his third day out of prison following the commutation of his sentence by Donald Trump.

Mr Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois, imprisoned in late 2011 following convictions in 17 out of 20 corruption charges, claimed that he was a “political prisoner” not dissimilar to Nelson Mandela and made excuses as to why he should not have been in prison.

Responding to his protestations and refusal to acknowledge established facts, Mr Cooper said: "You got out. You do have an obligation to at least admit what you did wrong.

“And you refused to do that, and you’re creating a whole new alternate universe of facts.”

He added: “And that may be big in politics today, but it’s still, frankly, just bulls***.”

“It’s not bulls***, I lived it myself,” Mr Blagojevic protested. “It’s not bulls*** at all.”

As governor, Mr Blagojevich was charged with corruption and impeached by the state legislature. He was accused of wire fraud, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes. Most famously his charges included trying to solicit money for an appointment to former President Barack Obama's US Senate seat after he won the presidency.

After his first trial ended in a hung jury, a retrial was ordered and he was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He claimed his conviction was the result of lies the prosecutors told to the jury in the trial.

Said Cooper: “The very argument you are making right now ... it was heard in the courtroom and no one bought it.”

The anchor was unamused by the lack of remorse from Mr Blagojevich for the crimes for which he was convicted, and his portrayal of himself as a victim or persecution by prosecutors. Cooper was especially taken aback by the claim that the former governor was a political prisoner comparable to Mandela, which he described as “offensive” and “just nuts”.

Now out of prison, Mr Blagojevich has said he will advocate for criminal justice reform. As governor he took little action on clemency petitions, acting on only a quarter of them. Cooper said his new found interest in criminal justice is therefore “ironic, and, frankly, a little sad and pathetic and hypocritical”.

“That’s among my biggest regrets,” said Mr Blagojevich before claiming he didn’t know how corrupt the criminal justice system was until he experienced it himself.

Cooper’s refusal to let Mr Blagojevich's claims go unchallenged has drawn praise across social media, being called “masterful” and cited as an example of “real journalism”.

Mr Blagojevich now describes himself as a “Trumpocrat”. He has known the president for some years, having appeared on Celebrity Apprentice in 2010.

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