CNN’s Anderson Cooper got into a heated exchange with Rod Blagojevich on Friday’s edition of his show, calling “bulls—” on the former Illinois governor’s assertion that he was unfairly treated by the justice system.
The interview first became tense after Blagojevich said he was railroaded by “corrupt” prosecutors and described himself as a “political prisoner.” The statement was met by an immediately skeptical response from Cooper.
“Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner,” Cooper said. “Political prisoners have no due process and are unjustly jailed. You had a jury convict you, you had appeals courts look at your sentencing. You even appealed to the Supreme Court twice, and they refused to hear you. You’re hardly a political prisoner.”
“The idea that you are comparing yourself to somebody who has actually been railroaded by an apartheid system is just nuts, and frankly offensive,” he continued.
Blagojevich was impeached in 2008 and received a 14-year prison sentence for soliciting bribes in exchange for political appointments, including attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected president. Blagojevich served nearly eight years in federal prison until his sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump earlier this week.
In Friday’s interview, Blagojevich said he was a victim of an unfair justice system, comparing his imprisonment to the mass incarceration of black and Latino Americans. “What I’m saying is that I was thrown in prison and spent nearly eight years in prison for practicing politics, for seeking campaign contributions, for no quid pro quo,” he said.
He called on Cooper to join the effort to reform the justice system, an idea the host found laughable. Cooper called Blagojevich’s statements “ironic and, frankly, a little sad and pathetic and hypocritical.”
“There’s a lot of people in Chicago, there’s a lot of people in Illinois that actually spit up when you say that,” Cooper said. “Because when you were actually in power, and when you were actually governor and you could’ve actually helped thousands of people with clemency cases, you blew it off.”
Blagojevich called his failure to do more in the area of criminal justice reform one of his “biggest regrets” from his time as governor. “I didn’t know how corrupt the criminal justice system was until it did it to me,” he said.
Cooper closed the interview with one final dig at Blagojevich’s attempt to paint himself as a victim.
“You got out, you do have an obligation to at least admit what you did wrong, and you refuse to do that,” Cooper said. “You’re creating a whole new alternate universe of facts, and that may be big in politics today, but it’s still, frankly, just bulls—.”