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Blagojevich Stands Firm On Staying Put

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. A defiant defense in Chicago today, Illinois' Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich faced the media for the first time since his arrest last week on corruption charges. He said he's innocent and he said he will fight those charges.

Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democratic, Illinois): And I'm not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.

BLOCK: From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER: After nearly two weeks of quickly ducking in and out of his north side Chicago home and his state-owned SUV, a determined Rod Blagojevich finally went before cameras, microphones and tape recorders to say what he says he's been dying to tell the people of Illinois.

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: Thank you very much. I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. That I intend to stay on the job and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.

SCHAPER: The Federal government takes a different view in announcing sweeping criminal charges against Blagojevich last week. Chicago's U.S. attorney and the head of the FBI here used the words appalling, disgusting and revolting, in talking about the governor's alleged conduct in various pay-to-place schemes in which he's accused of trying to sell the duties he performs for bribes, campaign contributions and jobs. The FBI says Blagojevich is caught on tape calling the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, a bleeping golden thing as he allegedly tried to sell his authority to appoint Obama's successor to the highest bidder. That's conduct U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says, would make Lincoln roll over in his grave. In his three-minute long statement, Blagojevich would not directly address those charges.

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: Now, I'm dying to answer these charges. I am dying to show you how innocent I am. And I want to assure everyone who's here and everyone who's listening that I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way.

SCHAPER: Blagojevich quoted poet Rudyard Kipling to suggest that he was keeping his head while all around him were losing theirs and blaming him and that he is being lied about and hated though he has done nothing wrong.

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: Now, I know there are some powerful forces arrayed against me. It's kind of lonely right now, but I have on my side the most powerful ally there is and it's the truth.

SCHAPER: Governor Blagojevich asked the people of Illinois to wait and be patient, sit back, take a deep breath and reserve judgment. For the time being Blagojevich says he will not resign. His attorney, Sam Adam Jr., though, suggests he might eventually.

Mr. SAM ADAM Jr. (Attorney): If it doesn't work, if it is too hard, if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside.

Professor ALAN GITELSON (Political Science, Loyola University): This is pure political feeder.

SCHAPER: Political scientist Alan Gitelson of Chicago's Loyola University suggests Blagojevich has a narcissistic need for attention and that he may truly believe he has done nothing wrong. But he doubts Illinois voters will buy today's defiant stand.

Mr. GILSON: Blagojevich has one of the lowest popularity ratings, polling ratings of any governor and any state official in the State of Illinois, roughly about 13 percent. I doubt very much whether this presentation is going to improve his standing among the people of Illinois.

SHCAPER: A case in point, after the news conference, a security guard in the State of Illinois' Thompson Center where Blagojevich held his news conference asked what he said. When told he said he would fight, she shook her head and said, and we taxpayers will pay. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.