Feb 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

CNN's Cooper scolds Blagojevich in heated exchange over criminal justice reform

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper grilled Rod Blagojevich, who had his prison sentence commuted by President Trump this week, when the former governor of Illinois said on air Friday evening that he supports criminal justice reform after his time in prison.

Why it matters: These heated interactions have grown more common on cable news "in an era of intense political polarization and in an administration defined in part by its overt hostility to the news media. Rarely does a host of Cooper’s stature use such blunt language to criticize a guest, and interviewees seldom respond in kind," the Washington Post writes.

What they're saying:

Cooper: "You ignored a whole hell of a lot of other people who were hoping you might give them clemency when you actually mattered ... I'd be happy to work with people on criminal justice reform, but I wouldn't work with you."

Blagojevich: "Look, when you've been put where I was and you have all the time that I was given to think and look back at on some of the things you might've done different, that's certainly an area you talked about that I wish I'd done more on ... I didn't know how corrupt the criminal justice system was until it did it to me...When the cases came to me and I was given files about people who were seeking clemency or pardons, I acted appropriately."

Cooper: "Actually, they sat on your desk and that's why you were sued."

Context: Trump announced on Tuesday that he would commute Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption.

  • Blagojevich, who was eight years into his sentence, first asked to be commuted in 2018.

Reality check: Cooper mentions Blagojevich was sued as governor for delaying clemency requests.

  • An NPR report from 2008 shows Blagojevich was sued by a group of convicted felons for not responding to their clemency requests.
  • During his tenure, Blagojevich's office received around 3,000 clemency requests, and granted 89 pardons at the time of the report.

Go deeper: Trump pardons the swamp

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