Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

In time for trial, a celebrity makeover for ex-gov Blagojevich

Illinois' ousted governor is all over the media, boosting his star power. Will that help Blagojevich when his corruption trial starts in June? It might, some analysts now say.

By Staff writer / January 8, 2010

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich jokes with the crowd during a book signing for his book, 'The Governor' at the University of Chicago Bookstore, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, in Chicago.

M. Spencer Green/AP



The continued celebrity makeover of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich may boost his star power, but some say another motive is at play: to influence potential jurors in a federal trial scheduled to start in June.

Skip to next paragraph

Since being charged in December 2008 with 16 counts of corruption, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion, and making false statements to federal agents, Mr. Blagojevich has taken his case directly to the public. His is a bid to generate income for his family and to reshape his image from conniving play-for-pay politico heard on federal wiretaps to working-class populist who told reporters Friday he was “hijacked from office” by statehouse enemies. He is living, he says, “an epic story.”

“I think it really is a strategy to influence a jury pool, and I think it’s become more and more likely [to have an effect] than even in the beginning,” says Elizabeth Brackett, a Chicago PBS anchor and author of “Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption Into a National Sideshow."

The list of talk-show hosts Blagojevich has not talked to has dwindled as he has served couch time with everyone from Howard Stern to Jimmy Kimmel to David Letterman. Along the way he wrote a book and sang Elvis Presley tunes at a block party. He also hosts a weekly radio show on WLS-AM in Chicago.

The latest venture is his pending star turn on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” the Donald Trump vehicle on NBC pitting the former governor against cohorts Sharon Osbourne, the wife of Ozzy, and comedian Sinbad. The show is perfectly timed to end with the opening week of his trial, notes Ms. Brackett.

“He would just have been on a national show … how can you find a juror who has not heard about this?” she asks.