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Blagojevich takes his case to TV circuit

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Governor says taking "snippets of conversations out of full context is unfair"
  • Blagojevich says he channeled MLK, Gandhi, Mandela during arrest
  • Governor says he considered Oprah Winfrey to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat
  • Blagojevich says resigning would be "worst thing I could do"
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(CNN) -- As Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment trial proceedings got under way Monday, the embattled Illinois governor hit the media circuit, answering questions about Oprah, foul language and why he isn't resigning.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he considered selecting Oprah Winfrey to fill Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Gov. Blagojevich appeared on CNN's Larry King Live Monday night.

Blagojevich appeared Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America" and "The View," and gave his first live prime-time interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I'm not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to sell President Obama's former Senate seat, told King. "I'm entitled to a presumption of innocence."

Blagojevich also further explained comments that he channeled major political figures who overcame adversity as he was being arrested.

"I've been criticized for this, but I'm not comparing myself to Dr. King or Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi, but I tried to reach in to history and imagine some inspiring figures that would have gone through something like I was going through for sustenance and inspiration."

Blagojevich also said that he looks forward to the day when he can tell his story in full, rather than people judging him by snippets of conversation released to the media. Video Watch Blagojevich tell Larry King he's done nothing wrong »

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The governor said he is the victim of political enemies who want to raise taxes in Illinois.

"Snippets of conversations out of full context is unfair," Blagojevich told CNN. "If the full context, all of the tapes are heard, you hear the story of someone trying to make decisions and maneuver for the best intentions of the people of Illinois."

However, Blagojevich said he has not listened to the tapes in their entirety.

He addressed the news that his lead attorney, Ed Jenson, is leaving his defense team. "Look, I think lawyers like that want you to simply say nothing, and I'm champing at the bit, dying to show my innocence."

Blagojevich said his legal fees will be paid through campaign funds.

Blagojevich did say he looked forward to calling witnesses -- including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois; and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- who had conversations with him about who should replace Barack Obama as the junior senator from Illinois. Blagojevich maintained the goal of the conversations was to get the best senator for the people of Illinois.

"There was a lot of exchanging of ideas, asking questions, exploring options -- including Oprah Winfrey -- but never, not ever did I have any intention of violating any criminal law," Blagojevich said. "Never was this about selling any Senate seat for any kind of personal gain."

On both of his ABC appearances and on CNN, Blagojevich explained why talk-show host Oprah Winfrey was a contender to fill Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

"I was trying to think outside of the box. The idea came to me from a friend who suggested Oprah -- it wasn't my idea," Blagojevich told CNN. "I threw it around in conversation with senior staff and political advisers, who were all involved in this whole adventure we're on.

"And among the things we talked about was the, you know, the unlikelihood she would be interested in it, because she has a bully pulpit that's worldwide and more influence that U.S. senators combined -- all 100 of them."

Winfrey said that she had no idea she was under consideration. She said she found out from best friend Gayle King, who called to tell her on Monday morning. Video Watch Oprah's reaction »

Winfrey said she was "amused by the whole thing" but would have turned down the proposal had it been made.

Blagojevich also said he was worried about how to present the offer to Winfrey without it looking like a gimmick.

The governor said the talks never got to that point "partly because I was interrupted on December 9."

Blagojevich and his chief of staff were arrested then on federal corruption charges, including allegations that the governor tried to trade or sell the Senate seat that became vacant after Obama was elected president.

Blagojevich ended up picking former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to replace Obama. Share your questions for Blagojevich

The governor's impeachment trial began Monday in the Illinois Senate. The Illinois House of Representatives impeached him earlier this month.

Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing.

A 76-page criminal complaint against Blagojevich includes snippets of intercepted phone calls involving the governor's alleged efforts to benefit from the Senate vacancy. Those conversations are laced with expletives.

Asked on "Larry King Live" about his foul mouth, Blagojevich said, "Had I known someone was listening, I wouldn't have used language like that. For those who might have been offended, I apologize. Again, I didn't know you were listening."

He also defended his wife, Patti, saying he takes responsibility for any recordings of her using foul language because he may have rubbed off on her.

"I was raised in a big city in a tough neighborhood, and when you're a kid growing up in a neighborhood like that, you would never say words like that in front of your mother. But when you're out there at the schoolyard ... it's just sort of the thing you do," he said.

"Unfortunately, you try to get rid of some of those habits; you may have left the neighborhood, but part of that neighborhood never left you."

In each of his media appearances Monday, Blagojevich maintained his innocence. He said the impeachment proceedings are unfair because he is unable to call witnesses.

The governor said he is the victim of political enemies who want to raise taxes in Illinois.

Asked by "The View's" Barbara Walters why he doesn't step down for the sake of his state and his dignity, Blagojevich said resigning would be "the worst thing I could do."

"I'm an innocent man who has not done anything wrong. And when you're wrongfully accused and you're not given the chance to properly defend yourself ... for me to resign would be to admit that I did something wrong, which I did not do."


Blagojevich said resigning also would be a way for him to "disgrace" his children. iReport: Your questions for the governor

"So I'm going to fight to the finish because there's a bigger principle here and it's this: Can a legislature take out a governor elected by the people two times without giving that governor a chance to confront witnesses, bring witnesses in and prove his innocence? That's what they are doing in Illinois, and that's why I'm here in New York -- because this is much bigger than me or Illinois."

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