Rod Blagojevich apologized Monday for saying he’s “blacker than Barack Obama,” but the disgraced former Illinois governor said he probably won’t try to make amends directly to the president.
“I’d be happy to but, you know, I don’t have the phone number,” he told reporters outside his Chicago home.
In the February issue of Esquire magazine, the ousted governor, semi-professional Elvis impersonator and reality TV contestant refers to Obama as “this guy” who was elected based simply on hope, implying that the president isn’t genuine.
“What the (expletive)? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter,” Blagojevich told the magazine. The story hits newsstands on Jan. 19.
“I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived,” Blagojevich said. “I saw it all growing up.”
On Monday, Blagojevich said the comment was “stupid, stupid, stupid.”
He said it was meant as a metaphor for his disappointment with Obama, whom he accused of doing more to help Wall Street than Main Street.
The White House declined to comment.
The response — or lack of response — is in contrast to the reaction Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has received after it was disclosed that he once discussed Obama’s presidential prospects in terms of his skin color and whether he had a “Negro dialect.” Reid immediately apologized and Obama accepted, though some Republicans are calling for him to step down.
There was no way Obama could avoid acknowledging the statements from Reid, an important Democratic leader and legislative ally, but the president has far more leeway to ignore Blagojevich’s latest strange behavior.
The twice-elected Democrat was impeached and removed from office last year after federal prosecutors arrested him on corruption charges that included trying to sell Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ahead of his trial, which is expected to start in June, Blagojevich is appearing on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”
He also continues to accuse prosecutors of persecuting him for routine political deals.
One of those deals, he said, was the possibility of naming Attorney General Lisa Madigan to Obama’s Senate seat in exchange for cooperation on important programs from her powerful father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
He used an infamously coarse word to refer to the attorney general.
“If I can get this, how much do I love the people of Illinois to make that (expletive) senator?'” Blagojevich said in the interview.
But on Monday, Blagojevich said, “I don’t think I said that.”