The long goodbye: Blago gives TV news a curtain call

Rod Blagojevich, a remorseless and self-pitying clown to the end, put on a show for the cameras in front of his house Wednesday — and Chicago television ate it up.

Straight up at the top of the 5 o’clock news, just as he and his handlers had planned, all five major news stations turned over the next 40 minutes or more of airtime to Blago’s live, unscripted performance, presented without commercial interruption. You couldn’t miss it. They’d all been hyping it relentlessly for hours.

As I flipped from station to station, I watched and listened in disgust. One news anchor after another was treating this spectacle of a disgraced former governor and national laughingstock almost matter-of-factly — as if his delusional farewell address and marathon autographing session were a perfectly sane thing to do. If anyone pointed out how truly surreal and unconscionable his behavior was, I’m sorry I missed it.

I swear I wanted to reach into my TV and shake Allison Rosati every time the NBC 5 senior news anchor opined about how “sincere” and “heartfelt” Blago’s comments were. What qualified her to make that judgment? And more to the point, how could she believe that tripe? Her vapid sentimentality was never more grating.

“They keep talking about how he's sincere,” one astute friend messaged me while it was going on. “He's a fucking nut! A nut can't be sincere!”

All five stations were complicit. To one extent or another, they all allowed a crook who was found guilty of abusing the public trust to obscure the venality of his crimes by exploiting his wife and children for sympathy. In the end, Blago’s pathological need for attention matched up with television’s insatiable demand for performers who can draw a crowd. It was the perfect combination on a perfectly lovely afternoon.

Credit the always ballsy Chuck Goudie of ABC 7 with the line of the day when he asked Blago’s wife, Patti: “Do you plan to stay with him?"

Twitter provided notable lines from other media figures:

  • Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki, who covered both Blago trials: “Blagojevich signing T-shirts, ball caps, CTA card, posters, girl scout cookie box. Kids' school notebooks. . . . Blagojevich is smiling, shaking hands. He's reveling in it. If he wanted to go out a mini-celeb. Mission accomplished.”
  • WGN-TV reporter Ana Belaval: “If Blagojevich is so worried about his family, why make a 12 min statement? Wave @ media, maybe a sound bite. Spend that time with family. . . . Has learned nothing. Those poor kids."
  • Chicago magazine political blogger Carol Felsenthal: “Blago's farewell: Did I miss something or did Blago neglect to thank his lawyers? Sheldon Sorosky in particular has been an incredible friend.”
  • Chicago Tribune editor Gerry Kern: “Blagojevich's speech sounds like he's running in 2028.”


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)