We had the pleasure of speaking with the most recently eliminated Celebrity Apprentice contestant, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. He spoke with us about the Harry Potter challenge, his upcoming trial, and what he plans to do next.
So obviously in the boardroom Donald Trump said that he thought you weren’t being as competitive as you could have been, that maybe you were taking it easy. Did you agree with that assessment?
Rod Blagojevich: I didn’t. No. You know, I think – here’s what I’ve learned about reality television having done the Celebrity Apprentice and then my wife being involved in the program down in Costa Rica. I think when the reality TV shows like that that are really real is you generally will see the real person.
And, you know, the days are long 14 hour days – 12, 14, 16 hour days, they’re one after another, you’re dealing with the same people day in and day out in a kind of cramped environment and so I think the true you for better or for worse is what you see on those shows. And so, you know, I appreciate what he was saying, but the reality is, you know, I was given the choice to call Bret Michaels back into the boardroom.
I had decided – because a lot of that challenge that we had had to do with conveying to your team from a far away place instructions on what the contest required and what the mission was. And I had chosen, I believe rightfully, that Bret Michaels because of his background as a rock star, I knew he had experience in producing shows and was the most creative of our team. And so I thought I picked the right guy to kind of run the creative end of it while I was down in Orlando and then, you know, I’d be in the air for awhile basically unable to mostly, you know, do stuff and I wouldn’t be on the ground anyway. And so I think I made the right call with Bret.
And when I saw his work products and saw what he actually created regarding the Wizardry – Wizarding World, I still mix that up, Wizarding World of I thought he did a very good job. And for me then to sell him out because, you know, it was eminent that I was going to be the guy getting fired because I was the project manager and we lost although it was close, we were told it was close, it would have been just wrong. And, you know, I don’t think it’s good leadership. I think it’s bad leadership. You’re supposed to protect the people that work for you and who do a good job. Now if Bret did a bad job that would be a different story but Bret did a good job and I wasn’t going to sell him out knowing that I was likely to be the guy that would get fired if I didn’t.
I find it very interesting though that – I mean essentially Darryl took a bullet for Michael and it could be said that you took a bullet for Bret. This show is, you know, very much known for contestants being very cutthroat but your team seems to betaking a different approach. Your team seems to be very willing to stick up for the individual members. What do you think your actions and even Darryl Strawberry’s actions to some extent, what does that sort of say about your team that you guys are sort of willing to sort of bite the bullet for someone else?
Rod Blagojevich: Well I think – I don’t think it says so much about the team as it says about, you know, Darryl Strawberry and me. I mean it’s – these were individual decisions we both made. I think Darryl, you know, had Darryl not volunteered to leave I think Michael was likely to get fired. I mean he was the project manager and we lost and it seemed like we lost that contest by a lot.
And just like in my situation I was the project manager and we lost. And, you know, it’s like a manager of a baseball team, you know, if you don’t have a winning season sooner or later they’re going to move the manager out and get someone else in who can win. So I’m not so sure Michael or Curtis for example or Bret even are going to, you know, take a bullet for each other. And I think if people stay tuned and I think the show’s going to just get – without divulging anything I think the show’s just going to get a lot more competitive as it unfolds. And I think you’ll probably see less of what you just talked about and probably more of the good old fashion back stabbing and cut throat stuff that, you know, has made Celebrity Apprentice a show that people like to watch.
How did you end up on Celebrity Apprentice to begin with?
Rod Blagojevich: I’m still trying to figure that out. You know, I don’t, you know, everything dramatically changed when I was hijacked from office and falsely accused of things I didn’t do. And I’m living in this sort of Kafkaesque wilderness right now. And I’ve been fortunate and blessed and so has my wife in that we’ve been given opportunities, you know, most people who have lost their jobs have not been given and that is a chance to be on, you know, successful TV shows like Celebrity Apprentice. And I don’t know where the idea came from but when it was offered to me, you know, I was quick to say yes.
And a lot of it had to do with the fact that, you know, I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s and a big admirer of his from his success in the business world, the fact that he’s been a maverick, a guy who’s willing to stand up and buck the trends. I saw myself as that kind of a governor. And so I kind of always admired Donald Trump as a, you know, real estate mogul who kind of did his own thing and was willing to try new things and be creative and challenge the status quo. And a guy who also knew what it was like to be on top and then come tumbling down which was the case with him in the early ‘90’s when he was $900 million in debt. But not quit, not go run away but fight back as he did and take adversity and turn it into acatalyst for even bigger success in his case.
And so because of my personal admiration for him and understanding his background and his story when the offer came to be on his show it didn’t take me long at all to decide to do it. And then you get the advantage, you can fight for a charity and, you know, I hate to lose at anything and I certainly didn’t like losing, you know, the Harry Potter challenge and I didn’t like getting fired. But my biggest regret is when you don’t win a project you can’t actually raise money for the charity that you’re fighting for. And one of the opportunities that Donald gives to the contestants on Celebrity Apprentice is you can go out there and raise money for charities you believe in. And children’s healthcare was the biggest thing I did as governor and being able to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida is something that, you know, Celebrity Apprentice gave me a chance to do. Unfortunately we got beat and so I didn’t get a chance to actually raise money for them. But I did get a chance to mention their name a little bit and maybe that’ll help them.
Well did you really want to be project manager on the Harry Potter task? Because it seems like right away Michael Johnson said, “All right let’s give it to the Governor.”
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah. You know what, you’re right. Your question is well taken. When he throws it at you that way I think you got to take the challenge. At that time I didn’t know what the task was. We were then told the task after the project manager’s were chosen.
And it was interesting the irony and what was a bit – of significant concern to me was that we were told we weren’t going to know what the task was until the morning that Selita and I were supposed to meet at the Teterboro Airport. And then when we got on the plane is when we were told what this task was. And it was very apparent to me much to my dismay that I happened to stumble into a project where I’m the project manager. And a integral part of that project is the need of the two project managers to be able to communicate with cell phones and BlackBerry’s and the new technology – e-mailing and text messaging that I completely wasn’t skilled at. And here the irony was this was going to be a big part of, you know, what the challenge was.
And, you know, had I known that was the case I might have been, you know, I might have made an argument for my team that we maybe we’d have been better off with someone who was a little bit more proficient on cell phones and BlackBerry’s. But I didn’t know that at the time and so I took up the challenge. Had I known what the project was for the good of the team I would have said maybe we’re better off having someone who’s good at this technology do that part of the job and, you know, I’ll do some other role that might be better for the good of our team.
But, you know, you’ve got to deal with the cards you’re dealt with. And not withstanding my deficiencies with cell phones and text messaging, you know, I still think, you know, at the end of the day if you look at our project and there’s it was really close. And I’m not so sure that the inability to text message, you know, was at all the difference. I think that was a convenient excuse for Michael and for Curtis and others who, you know, let’s face it the team concept only goes so far. When there’s the possibility your team’s going to lose human nature kicks in and survival instinct steps up.
And these guys were all about, you know, making sure they pointed fingers in another place to protect their position. And, you know, the convenient thing to point to the, you know, to my lack of knowing how to properly text message as a cause for us losing. I don’t think we lost because of that. I think we lost because the women just did a little bit better than we did.
And if I take any response – if I had any regrets about what I did there was I forgot to really focus on that darn dragon. You know, when I was down at Orlando and I saw that Dragon in the Harry Potter World, you know, that mouth of that dragon should have been part of our project. I should have really conveyed that to Bret that he makes that a part of the project. But I didn’t do that. And I regret that. Because when I saw the women did it right away I realized, you know, I missed an opportunity. And that was probably something I should have thought about doing and I forgot to do it.
Did you say that because you didn’t finish you didn’t get any money for the charity? They don’t get a portion or anything?
Rod Blagojevich: That’s my understanding. I tried to mention it as often as I can so it’s acknowledged and people realize it exists and hopefully they’ll donate to it. But the way it works on Celebrity Apprentice is if your team wins you raise money for the cause, if your team loses you don’t. Because we didn’t win. Unlike the show my wife Patti was on, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, where you can just encourage people to call in and send donations. It’s got a different dynamic. So I’m not so sure that it directly received any money. But my hope is because it was mentioned on television a couple of times that maybe some people were reminded of the fact that the Children’s Cancer Center is in Tampa, Florida, it helps kids with pediatric cancer. And hopefully they decided to increase their donations if they’re previous donors. Or if they hadn’t donated before maybe some people decided to call in and make a contribution.
Do you think being on the show people who may not have known you except from what they had read or do you think that they came away with kind of a different impression if they watched Celebrity Apprentice depending on how they might have thought about you from the, you know, if they didn’t know you and just saw media coverage prior to that? Do you think it helped you?
Rod Blagojevich: Well, you know, I don’t know. I’d let other people make that decision for themselves, I can’t speak for other people. All I can tell you is, you know, even before Celebrity Apprentice, you know, I’m received very warmly by most people. And a heck of a lot more so than before I was governor – than while I was governor. It’s really interesting. And of course it’s wider now because, you know, in LA people kind of know who you are. You know, I’m in LA today and I was in New York yesterday and people know who you are. And we were down in Sanibel for spring break for our kids in Florida and people know who you are. And when I was governor of Illinois they knew me in Illinois but they didn’t know me in these other places. So – I mean I will say that for better or for worse I’m a heck of a lot better known. But I wouldn’t exactly say that, you know, I would choose these circumstances to get known this way.
Would any of the decision to make this appearance on the show was that partly to possibly, you know, get yourself known by potential jurors in a positive way?
Rod Blagojevich: No. Had nothing to do with it. It was an opportunity to do two things: One, to try to earn a living. The false accusations have created an environment where different people that, you know, were eager to talk to me the day before all this happened are afraid to talk to me now because of the circumstances surrounding me. And so it’s hard to earn a living and support your family. And like most Americans we’re like everybody else we have a mortgage on our home, we have, you know, we have bills to pay, we have credit card debt, we have kids in school. And so Patti and I, you know, are doing the best we can to try to work through this and earn a living.
Unlike most people who’ve lost their jobs we’ve been fortunate and blessed in that we’ve been given these unique opportunities by Donald Trump and Celebrity Apprentice and by NBC before that for I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to be able to earn a living doing things that most Americans who’ve lost their jobs don’t get. So in so many ways we’ve been very, very lucky.
The other component is in both of the programs Patti and I have been able to actually do things that we wanted – we were able to do when I was governor and before that when I was a congressman, and that is kind of push for causes that you believe in. So the beautiful thing about what we’ve been able to do with these shows is you can earn a little bit of a living but you can also go out and raise money for charities you believe in. And children’s healthcare has been a, you know, has been the most important thing that I did as governor. And being able to raise money for kids who are suffering from pediatric cancer is a significant, appealing part of being able to do a show like Celebrity Apprentice because you have a chance to try to help that charity.
Would you do something like this again? You or even your wife would you do a reality show of any kind?
Rod Blagojevich: You know, Maureen we’ve been out for – the answer is under the right, you know, certain types of shows the answer is yes, of course. We’ve turned down a lot of shows. And, you know, in the immediate wake of all of this when our world was kind of falling in on us and our jobs were taken away from us we were offered, you know, some – by – from several production companies the possibility of doing some shows that would be sort of like the Gosselin family and Meet the Kardashians where the reality show was about your real life.
You’ve been governor, now you’re down and out and how are you fighting back? And they film you everyday, you know, with your family doing, you know, the day to day stuff as you’re trying to dig yourself out of the hole that you’ve been kind of put in. And, you know, it’s turned out to be those kind of programs have been kind of lucrative for the Kardashians and for the Gosselins. And by the way, while I was governor the irony is I was oblivious to all of these programs. I didn’t know – I didn’t watch any of them, you know, I was aware of the Celebrity Apprentice but, you know, Meet the Kardashians and the Gosselins I didn’t know who they were and then, you know, these offers came to us.
So we – in spite of the fact that this would have been a way to be able to probably potentially earn a very good living Patti and I both felt it was the wrong thing to do for our kids. It was bad enough the dramatic changes that they were being compelled to have to face – our daughters who are 13 and now 7, they were 12 and 6, 12 and 5 when all this happened. We just felt that this would be an incredible invasion, you know, and dramatic change in their lives and so we did not do that. We turned those things down. But some of these other ones like the ones we’ve done were, you know, we’ve done them and we’d likely do them again.
In lieu of reality TV, have you approached HBO or Showtime about being a like a Jim Lampley type boxing commentator? Considering your boxing background…
Rod Blagojevich: Thank you. You know what, I’m doing to do that as soon as we get off of this call. It’s a great idea. No, I think that would be a great idea. Yeah. I boxed golden gloves. The first time I ever got my name in the paper was the Chicago Tribune in 1975 when I won my first fight in the golden gloves.
You know, it would be a good fit. You know, and the political arena is not unlike in many ways, you know, the fight game in some respects. In fact there are more rules in boxing than there are in politics. I can paint for you a metaphor or analogy about my circumstances now. I mean it’s like a – it’s a 12 round boxing match and, you know, the bell rang and before I got a chance to even like plant my feet I got sucker punched. Hit below the belt, you know, purposefully. And, you know, I had to survive those early rounds but we’ve been fighting back. And I feel like, you know, ultimately when I get my chance in court to prove my innocence, this is going to be an epic kind of fight. And I’m going to come back from that sucker punch.
Who do you think is going to win for the women? Who do you think has it that’s going to win?
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah, you know, that’s a good question. You know, I have no idea how it unfolds but I’m a student of history so I’m going to look at history and the year before Joan Rivers won. And if I’m looking at the women’s team the most like Joan Rivers on that team seems to be Sharon Osbourne. And if you’re going to look at the one who won the year before and the qualities she has it seems like Sharon Osbourne is the – of the women’s team she’s the most closely reminiscent to me of Joan Rivers. So just based on that I would say she’s in a very competitive position so she could win.
I don’t think you can – this is what’s interesting about this program and I strongly suggest people keep tuning in. You know, every event, every new challenge creates a set of circumstances that are unpredictable and so much of it is how the individuals respond on a given challenge. And that’ll dictate who wins and who doesn’t. And so that’s why these are hard to predict. But I think it’s going to be – I think my prediction is that’s it’s going to get nastier as it unfolds because I saw signs of that, you know, developing already. I believe next weeks show – and I don’t know this but I’m just speculating is going to be the beginning of the end of the era of good feelings and the beginning of the night of the long knives. And I mean you’re going to start seeing a lot of the back and forth back stabbing positioning and the kind of cutthroat thing that kicks in when people want to survive and they want to win at all costs. And I think you’ll see a lot of that as the show unfolds. That’s the kind of entertaining stuff people like to watch.
Since you’ve talked about your intentions as far as doing reality TV as the trial looms, are you hopeful for a positive outcome?
Rod Blagojevich: I’m certain of a confident outcome. I know that I’m going to be vindicated because I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. The government secretly taped my telephone for six weeks. And how upside down is it when they then take snippets of conversations and they take it out of context and then they falsely accuse you of things like you’re selling the President’s senate seat for money? Which is one of the biggest lies ever told. And the tapes are there and I’m the one who’s been accused – I’m the one who’s advocating that every tape be heard and it’s the opposite of Watergate and Richard Nixon. When Nixon knew he did something wrong and his whole struggle was to try to keep those White House tapes from being released publicly. I from the very beginning have said play every tape. The tape will show what the truth is. The tape will show that I have been lied about. The tapes will show that.
And the irony is that my accusers have gone to court and prevented me from telling you exactly what’s on those tapes. And so finally we’ll have a chance in court and the judge has said that when I testify he’ll allow those tapes to be heard. And the tapes will show what the truth is. And there’s nothing like, you know, taped conversations.
It’s pretty frightening to think that the government can tape your telephones in your home. On the other hand if you’re an honest person and you’ve done things honestly and you never intended to break the law and you’ve been talking to your lawyers all the time to make sure you do things right then, you know, the tapes are going to be the sorts of things that will show what the truth is. And the tapes will be among the reasons why I’ll be vindicated.
And I think what you’ll really have here is going to be an epic story about how things have gone the way they have and how a governor elected by the people twice was stolen from the people based upon false accusations and a big, big lie. And, you know, Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to put it’s pants on.” Well the truth is on those tapes and when I have a chance finally to go before my fellow citizens, 12 of them, they’ll have a chance to hear what those tapes say and those tapes will give what the truth is.
And I, you know, look forward to my opportunity to be vindicated and get on with hopefully what I would like is a chance to be able get back in there and do what I’ve done my whole adult life and that is do things for people. And I’m not writing myself off as someone who’s going to run for public office again someday.
Based on the goodwill you mentioned you were receiving people who come up to you do you think after these incidents if you ran again you would be able to win another election?
Rod Blagojevich: Well, you know, I’ve never lost an election. And I think among the reasons why I never lost an election was I never, you know, two things I never took the people for granted, never assumed I was going to win. I just worked real hard to try to get elected. And then, you know, put forth positions and principals and policies and viewpoints that I believe in and believe deeply in. And so that recipe’s always worked, I’ve never lost an election.
You know, if I were to run for office again someday I wouldn’t predict the outcome. I would just do what I’ve done in the past. And I do think when this is all said and done and the truth comes out, you know, I think it’s going to be startling and very historic in so many ways.
And I think, you know, having to go through something like this as difficult as it’s been from a personal standpoint, I think there’s a purpose. I think God has a purpose for all of us in different ways and I think this is going to serve some sort of a good public purpose too. And I think part of it has to do with the fact that there are no checks and balances anymore on some of these prosecutors who believe in grandstanding and are determined to go out and try to get somebody. And where is that check and balance?
And hopefully my case will be the beginning of trying to set that right. And the media with all due respect to your profession whatever happened to a probing, inquisitive media that might have some, you know, reasonable skepticism?
You know, the (Fourth Estate) is supposed to safeguard our democracy but where have they been in terms of asking questions like, “Is it really possible that a governor in a state like Illinois would be so ridiculously out to lunch to think to come out selling the President’s senate seat for money? Is that really possible?” And this governor has been saying all along that what he was doing was working with the president’s top staffers, his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to try to put a political deal together to appoint his political nemesis’ daughter in exchange for the creation of 500,000 jobs, healthcare for 300,000 people and protecting taxpayers from higher taxes. Someone is not telling the truth. Is it possible that maybe the governor’s telling the truth and that the guy who says you ought to play all the tapes may be actually telling the truth? And the ones who’ve gone to say, “Don’t hear the tapes,” might be the ones who are lying? And where’s the media to really press and ask those questions?
And so – and the fact that a governor who was elected by the people was taken out of office based on these false accusations where is the media to start asking maybe there’s something to what he’s saying?
And I think when ultimately 12 people sit in a courtroom and see what the truth is and the outcome comes out and the truth prevails then I think maybe I think this case will sort of change what’s happened to the media today. And it’s a combination of, you know, they trip all over each other to follow a storyline and I guess they’re understaffed, it’s become more of a business. And the days of Woodward and Bernstein are long gone. And I sure wish we had Woodward and Bernstein today because there’s an epic story here and if any you guys got a few extra hours you may want to make a name for yourself and get on this. Because this is a story that’s completely upside down.
Your teammate Darryl Strawberry suggested that maybe you were trying to hard to talk about your innocence. Do you have a response to that?
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah. Darryl’s a real good guy and he’s tremendously big hearted. Got to know Darryl. I really liked him. And Darryl’s, you know, known what it’s like to go through some difficult times himself personally and it’s, you know, it’s gotten him reconnected with his faith. We talked about that and his own personal redemption and him working through some of those problems. And he’s a very sensitive, genuine guy and you wouldn’t expect that, you know, big, strong athlete like Darryl Strawberry.
You know, I would only say that the answer is when you haven’t done anything wrong and you’ve been falsely accused as I’ve been, slandered as I was and you’re an honest person and your integrity means everything to you it’s about what your kids see and the values your kids are learning and making sure that they can be proud of their father and not believe the lies. And it’s about your hardworking parents who sacrificed and suffered. And they taught you and brought you up in Sunday school with a set of values to be honest and to do your response – meet your responsibilities.
There’s so much at stake here from a personal level that I can’t help but keep saying to everybody and anybody who’s – might be willing to listen, “It simply is not true, what they said about me and I want you to know it’s not true and I’ll prove it to you.”
And so I get what Darryl’s saying but the reality is I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m fighting back. And I don’t know what am I supposed to do? You know, say I did these things when I didn’t? I didn’t.And, you know, if – and I think it would be wrong for me to be anything but to be as forceful as I possibly can. Ultimately I don’t care how powerful the forces are that are right against me as Abraham Lincoln said in his speech in 1860, “Right makes might.” And the truth is I didn’t do anything wrong. I was trying to pick a senator who I don’t even like because I could do the most good for the most people in my state. And we were doing the kind of politics that Abraham Lincoln would respect and would probably strongly approve of. And for the government to lie about me the way they did it’s just upside down. And again ultimately the tapes are going to show what the truth is and in the meantime, you know, I’m going to do everything I can to keep pointing it out myself.
So what’s next? What’s the next TV show you’re going to do?
Rod Blagojevich: Well, you know, we’re working on – I can’t really say at this time some of the stuff that we’re actually working on but, you know, there are some potential things in the works that we’re exploring. And I sure hope it happens because it’s really – some of it’s very, would be very exciting and I’m really interested in doing something. But right now I’m not at liberty to say. But…I could say it’s reality television.
Now that Donald Trump has taught you all about business what could you teach Donald Trump about politics that would help him?
Rod Blagojevich: Let me be clear here let me say can I – and I’m going to give you an answer because there is something that I think I might be able to kind of impart to him. And there’s not a lot you can tell a guy like Donald Trump who’s been so successful in the things that he does. You know, he’s a – it’s obvious who he is. He’s a successful mega-real estate mogul who’s known great success, has known adversity, has fought back from adversity with great courage. He’s a maverick, a guy who’s challenged the status quo.
So much of how I see myself in so many ways. So in many ways he’s a guy I have nothing but the greatest admiration for. I also want to say this about him that I did not know but I picked up on the show. And we didn’t really spend a lot of time with him. I mean the only time you spent with Donald Trump on that show is in the boardroom but you get a sense of people, you know, after you’re with them on occasions like that. And particularly occasions where there’s some stress and there’s competition and there’s something on the line.
Donald Trump is a guy who’s got a big heart. It’s – underneath that tough exterior and the brashness and the maverick and the self-made man with so much money that he could tell the world to go eff themselves, you know what I’m saying? Underneath all of that is a real good hearted person. I really believe Donald Trump is a good hearted man who really has compassion for people on an individual basis. He’s also a guy with a set of values. And I think his values are the sorts of things that would make for the kind of political leadership that we need in America. And, you know, a strong leader who’s got convictions and hopefully they’re right but, you know, a strong leader who believes in his convictions and is prepared to fight for that and can take the heat pushing them forward. I think he’s got those qualities.
Where I think I might be able to help him politically is he might need more of the common touch. You know what I’m saying? He’s been so big for so long that maybe he needs to work in that diner in that kitchen a little bit waiting on tables to get a sense of what the average, ordinary person has to face everyday. And for me having grown up and started out doing those kinds of jobs and then getting knocked down as I was after, you know, going all the way to Governor of Illinois and then getting knocked down as I have in that diner episode it reconnected me to some of the jobs I did when I was coming up. And it reminded me again on how hard that work is and how we take for granted these women and men who wait on our tables and serve us at restaurants. And the pressures that they’re under to keep every table happy because who knows Joan Rivers might come into their restaurant one day and she’ll complain that her hamburger is cold. And the kind of pressures they get when they’re also going to make money on tips and they’ve got customers who are talking to them and they want to be extra nice to the customer because they’d like that tip because most of the money they make is on their tips not on their wages. And so I guess if there’s anything that I might be able to do – and I hope you put down all those good qualities I said about Trump.
You know, and I think he’d be a great leader. And maybe Trump ought to think about running for president because he’s a strong guy with a world view on economics and the economy who has been able to not just do the – he can not just do the talk, this guys done the walk.
How are you and your wife making a living other than through these reality shows?
Rod Blagojevich: Well we – I have a radio show in Chicago. And Patti has now gotten herself another license, she’s a licensed real estate appraiser, licensed real estate broker, she has a series 7 license for investments, a series 66. Incidentally she taught herself these things and got high grades because she’s very smart. She’s now gotten herself some other insurance licenses. So she’s kind of building a business in insurance and investments. And, you know, she’s just starting out so, you know, that’s part of it.
And then there is a documentary that we’re working on. I can say this, in addition to the potential reality show that we talked about there is a documentary that I’m involved in. And there’s – that’s helping – that’s another way to earn a living. So we’ve got a variety of different things going. And then I wrote my book and there’s some income that comes in from the book.
One of the key things of getting a new job is doing sort of a image makeover or transformation. Have you ever thought of changing your image? Maybe cutting the hair, doing something like that?
Rob Blagojevich: That’s a real good question. People have suggested that. No. You know, you are what you are and you are who you are. And I think again what’s so interesting about Celebrity Apprentice is what you see on TV and what you see in these shows those are the real people. That’s who we are for better or for worse. And the longer you stay on that show the better you’ll get a sense of who some of these celebrities are. And I think that’s why these shows are so successful. The cameras are on you all the time. The days are long. And the circumstances are such that, you know, and the creativity on how these shows are done are done in such a way where, you know, you’re going to basically show who you really are in these programs.
And in my particular case, you know, I don’t care what the critics say I am who I am and I’m comfortable with who I am. And I’m not looking to change anything except to try to get better on text messaging and maybe one day do a blog and learn how to do Twitter.
What was the biggest factor in your team’s loss last night?
Rod Blagojevich: I’m going to say three things, okay? Number one, the women were better than we were evidently. I think their – I think our presentation was better, I think the kids had more fun with our presentation. But I think their – the build out of their, you know, Wizarding World of Harry Potter was just a little bit nicer than ours. And I take responsibility for some of that in that I’m kicking myself because I forgot to bring that dragon and insist to Bret that we make that dragon mouth a part of the castle. You see what I’m saying?
And then when we got back and we were in Brooklyn at the fabricating place where we were – where I saw, you know, the progress that was being made and I was relieved to see that we were actually – what Bret was working on putting together was what I thought was very good. Then I saw the women had that dragon thing I tried to make an adjustment to see if we could put it in but under the rules we were out of time. I was worried that that might be the difference. And so, you know, I feel like that was one reason that we lost. They had that and we didn’t. And I messed up by not passing that along to my team and insisting that we do that.
And then I would say – so that’s the second factor. The first factor is they were a little better than we were. The women were better than we were. And then I would say a component of that is, you know, there are more moms on their team than we had. Right? I mean we had no moms on our team. They had moms on their team.
And the Harry Potter world for young children is magical and it’s extremely popular. And I’m aware of it because of my two young kids and when I was governor I would take them to see those movies. But instead of focusing and watching those movies because I never foresaw the possibility that I’d one day be on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice and that I would be in a competition to create a Wizarding World of Harry Potter I didn’t spend enough time concentrating on the movie. Instead I’d sit in the darkness war gaming, you know, my job as governor on how to try get free rides for senior citizens, free public transportation for senior citizens around the legislature. You know what I’m saying? I should have paid more attention to the movies.
And so I think that women had an advantage in that they understood that Harry Potter world better than we did just by nature of the fact that they probably, you know, are more likely to take their kids to see the movies, they probably read some of the books and the stories with their kids. And more so than the dads did. You know, it’s a generalization but I think that they had a bit of an advantage just knowing that. Then I feel like – and I don’t want this to be sexist but I think when it comes to creative things like that – and it’s no accident that Rowling’s is a woman and women are better just inherently than men, you know, at that sort of stuff.
I think just the nature of that competition gave them just a little bit of an advantage, you know, so we probably could have used a handicap a little bit. And then I would say, you know, those two factors plus the one with me not giving them the dragon and putting that in the front. Selita very wisely saw that and I didn’t properly and so they had the better – I think they had the better build out.
And then, you know, there could have been – and again I didn’t see any of this going on, but in retrospect based upon how the show shook out there could have been a little bit of Michael and Curtis basically, you know, spending a too much time trying to prepare themselves to shift the blame onto Bret or me to preserve their positions on the show in the event that we lost that project. So maybe there was a little of that. They were laying a foundation to pretty much cover their asses in the event that we ended up losing. And maybe that, you know, instead of spending time doing that if they were a little bit more helpful to Bret and, you know, and Goldberg on the stuff that they were doing, you know, maybe we could have done – we could have been a little bit better off. And then maybe because it was close maybe that could have gotten us to a place where we could have won.
Did your wife give you any tips that about being on a reality show that you took to heart?
Rod Blagojevich: She said don’t forget the cameras are on you all the time and you’ll have a microphone – you’ll probably have a microphone on you all the time. Right? She gave me that tip. And of course we have experience in this now. And I forgot that sometimes. And I think there was an episode where they actually show me – I was learning something about my case and I was talking to somebody on the other line and, you know, I think I was using profanity about the liar – the lies. And I had forgotten that I was miked up. So she gave me that tip and I forgot it. And then once I realized I did that then, you know, then I was better at remembering that, you know, you’re always on camera because mikes are always on you. She – what else? She told me don’t eat any tarantulas they taste musty. Try to avoid that if you can.
But no there were – that’d pretty much be it. They were two different kinds of shows. But I’ll tell you this, she – now that I was, you know, fired on the fourth episode and she was the fourth one in her show – she was in the final four. You know, she’s reminding me that she did a lot better on her show than I did on mine.
During the time that you did have on the plane understandably that you had issues with the computer and texting and all that but the coverage that was shown seemed to indicate that you didn’t really read the materials too closely and of course communicating names and as you said the dragon. Do you feel like you should have spent more time researching the material that you had on hand?
Rod Blagojevich: On the flight down there the whole time that’s all I did. And that was the key time because that’s when you had to get a grasp and a handle on what you – the contest was, how they were going to judge us, how they were going to, you know, how they score it. A lot of this is you’ve got to really have a firm understanding of how you’re going to be judged before you set out to assign responsibilities and then execute whatever plan you put forth. I think with Sinbad in the Kodak challenge the lesson from Sinbad was he didn’t quite grasp how they graded us. And so we didn’t – some of the aimlessness was because you didn’t really know how the competition was going to be graded. I had a firm grasp of that and I guess they didn’t depict that and show that. But, you know, I read it over several times and then I believe clearly over the telephone was able to tell Bret and Curtis, you know, a lot of what the rules were.
So for example how they grade us. The – my recollection something like a third of the score comes from the presentation. And, you know, and I felt like we should learn from the previous show where Michael put this kind of boring presentation on, you know, and it was among the reasons why we lost that project. That maybe – and Michael, you know, Michael is a disciplined athlete and so he does, you know, very – he’s very linear in thinking and he’s very focused on, you know, making sure there’s order in everything. And that kind of was reflected in our presentation but what we didn’t have was any pizzazz or any kind of fun.
What I took from the instructions was the kids were going to have a say in how they liked our presentation. And so, you know, I made a decision, an executive decision that instead of like making it too planned out we ought to just like run with it and ad lib it. And just kind of make it fun and kind of – just kind of do it organically like you would in sort of an improvisation program. So – and my understanding is – and I didn’t see the show because I was flying to New York that night so I don’t know what they showed and didn’t show. But my understanding is that they actually said the kids liked our presentation better. So I called that one right. That was because I understood the instructions.
So no I feel like I – they probably didn’t show that because maybe they liked the storyline of sort of miscommunication and stuff. But no I feel like I spent all that time on the – I mean I know I did on the flight down really grasping those issues. I think we lost again as I said because the women were a little better than we were, I screwed up, I didn’t give them that dragon mouth. I think that was so visually a part of what the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando is and that was a mistake by me and I take responsibility for that.
But at that point my felling was you’ve assigned everything to people you’ve got to ultimately trust them to get it done. And when I land on the ground I’ll call and get a sense of where it was. And I guess if I knew how to text message on the flight back I could have been more on top of things. I suspect that’s probably where I could have done better.
Actually, on the show they seemed to indicate you were more interested in what was being served on the flight and then taking a nap on the way back. What do you say to that?
Rod Blagojevich: They said that? Selita ate the lunch man. So when I got up from my little nap I saw she was eating and I figured okay maybe I’ll eat something too. And I generally don’t eat on days like that, but I figured this was going to be a long day. But I know they pointed that out. But that’s okay. I mean, you know, I’m sorry. The sandwiches looked good and they were good.
What is the current status actually on your trial? Is there a date set yet?
Rod Blagojevich: Yeah. The trial starts June 3.
And with regards to one way or the other how the trial turns out what do you think your legacy is going to be? And this is a question actually from one of your former constituents.
Rod Blagojevich: When I’m vindicated – when I’m vindicated my legacy will be I was a governor who kept my promises to the people. I was a governor who fought and successfully got things done for people, ordinary people.
I was the first governor in American history to get every single child access to comprehensive affordable healthcare through the All Kids program. I was the only governor in American history to give every senior citizen free public transportation and the men and woman serving in the armed services in Iraq and Afghanistan free public transportation. We gave all of our three and four years olds access to preschool. I raised the minimum wage twice for low wage workers. I put a record amount of money into public education but I protected tax payers and did not raise the income taxes or taxes on the people. That in order to get things done like insuring every uninsured woman – and we’re the only state in American where all 261,000 women who don’t have health insurance before the Obama bill just passed I gave them free mammograms and pap smears for early detection of breast cancer and cervical cancer that saved lives. The only state in America to do it.
That I was prepared and did from time to time go around the legislature, used the executive power of the governor in a very active and aggressive way and pissed off the legislature all the time to do it. But to get real results for people.
We changed our tolling system to open road tolling which eases congestion and makes commuting for families a lot easier. And in order to do these sorts of things for average, ordinary people I didn’t get along and go along but I fought almost everybody at different times including my own party.
And that, you know, I was prepared to get bloodied up for the people and that ultimately it all came apart when I was falsely accused of things. But instead of running away and hiding or running away and accepting, you know, the false accusations I took it on and fought it.
So – and I think when ultimately the truth comes out and I’m vindicated I think all of this, you know, will be part of my legacy. And in the final analysis, you know, ask yourself how many people can actually – if you really think about this how many people can actually associate anything in their day to day ordinary lives that any governor ever did for them? And yet there are people all over Illinois who come up to me all the time and say, “Thank you for the health care you gave to my child. Thank you for the breast cancer screenings I get. Thank you for my grandmother, she rides the bus for free and gets out of the house more.”
I mean I did real things for real people. Most governors they just balance budgets, that’s all they do and they basically ask the people for higher taxes to do it. But we under me didn’t do those things and got results for people by reordering the priorities of the state. But that meant I was going to make political enemies and I made a lot of them. But I really believe ultimately when the truth comes out my legacy is going to be a governor who got a lot of real meaningful things done for people, fought the powerful forces to do it.
And by the way the day before my arrest I should point out I was the only governor to take on the Bank of America after the taxpayer’s bailed out big banks and then said they were going to provide lines of credit to businesses to keep people working and they lied and didn’t do it. And the day before I was arrested by a curious coincidence I took on the Bank of America and I suspended $2 billion of business with them unless they provided a line of credit to a company that 45 workers were about to lose their jobs. All of that worked out. They provided the line of credit. That leverage with the Bank of America helped those workers. And then the next morning I’m arrested.
So, you know, I think all of these things are part of a legacy. Now if it goes south that’s the sad reality. You know, you can’t take away my accomplishments they’ll always be there for ordinary people but then it’s a different legacy. But it won’t because I didn’t do these things and I can’t wait to prove my innocence.
But do you accept any responsibility for the current economical crisis the state is in with regards to being close to bankruptcy on a level of California and your successors proposal of increasing taxes by 33%? Do you think that perhaps some of the things you did ended up costing the state more than it had and got us into this predicament that we’re in now?
Rod Blagojevich: No. Absolutely not. And I’d remind you that when I left office we had a balanced budget. And we had a balanced budget for all six years I was governor because the constitution requires it. And for six years I kept my promise and never raised taxes on the people, didn’t raise the income taxes on the people.
And low and behold now after I’m out of office my successor’s got a $12 billion deficit. There was no deficit, there was a zero deficit when I left office. In fact I – right before left I made a lot of people angry because I had to cut $2 billion out of the budget because the legislature passed $2.2 billion in spending they didn’t have the money to pay for. So I had to be the guy to be the bad guy to make all those cuts and I did.
So no I take absolutely none of the blame for that. That’s my successor who’s a panderer and a guy, you know, who wants to raise taxes on people. Part of the subtext of Illinois politics in the Democratic party, my own party has been from the moment I was governor was to raise taxes on the people and I would not do it.
And they got me out of the way in part so they can get that successor of mine in there. And he’s become an emasculated governor who’s caved into the pressure and now he wants to burden people with a 33% income tax increase. He actually proposed a 50% increase originally at a time when people don’t have any money.
And government’s supposed to help people. People aren’t supposed to work for government. So it’s upside down. And I know how he can get out of that deficit right now without raising taxes just as I did for six consecutive years but you got to be willing to take on the special interests and fight them.
Let me – look – but you want me to like take some responsibility I’d be happy to say I have misjudged certain people that I trusted that I thought were not what they became to be. And in one particular case one person is the same guy President Obama, you know, misjudged as well.
So yeah, did I make some mistakes? Of course. And I certainly misjudged some people I thought were honest who turned out not to be. But did I ever break any law? No way. Did I ever intend to break any law? Absolutely not. In fact just the opposite is true. I went out of my way to make sure we did things right and ultimately that will be what my legacy’s going to be.
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