Blagojevich, who President Trump granted clemency to on Tuesday, said during an interview on Friday, “I am a political prisoner. I was put into prison for practicing politics.”
Cooper scoffed at the notion while telling Blagojevich he shouldn’t put himself in the company of former political prisoners like the South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
“Wait a minute, you’re a political prisoner?” Cooper asked. “Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner. Political prisoners have no due process and are unjustly jailed. You had a jury convict you, you had appeals courts look at your sentencing, and you even appealed to the Supreme Court twice and they refused to hear you. You’re hardly a political prisoner.”
Cooper added, “The idea that you are comparing yourself to somebody who has actually been railroaded by an apartheid system is just nuts, and frankly offensive.”
"I am a political prisoner," former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich tells @AndersonCooper, adding "if you were to ask Nelson Mandela whether he thought the process was fair back in the early '60's in South Africa, he would say what I'm saying today." https://t.co/bTlyAqZmL6 pic.twitter.com/Z5ypvNiHAO
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 22, 2020
Following that exchange, Cooper again got heated when Blagojevich asked the host to join him in his efforts to reform the criminal justice system. The host said that he found the former governor’s remarks to be “ironic,” “a little sad” and “pathetic and hypocritical.”
“What’s sad is that you hadn’t actually learned that when it mattered. When you actually were the governor. You talk about working on criminal justice reform, 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.”
Then Blagojevich made some attempts at contrition, saying, “I didn’t know how corrupt the criminal justice system was until it did it to me.” But Cooper wasn’t having any of it.
“You got out, you do have an obligation to at least admit what you did wrong, and you refuse to do that,” Cooper continued. “You’re creating a whole new alternate universe of facts, and that may be big in politics today, but it’s still, frankly, just bullshit”
— PoliticsVideo23 (@politicsvideo23) February 22, 2020