Illinois's Rod Blagojevich said Winfrey made his short list of replacements

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 26, 2009 09:20 AM
Credit: Dara Kushner/INF; HENRY McGEE/GLOBE

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says that in choosing a successor for Barack Obama’s Senate seat, one of the names on his list was extremely familiar to the public: Oprah Winfrey.

“She seemed to be someone who had helped Barack Obama in a significant way to become president,” the embattled politico – whose impeachment trial started Monday for his allegedly attempting to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder – told Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America.

The governor, 52, was eventually dissuaded, he said, because “she probably wouldn’t take it, [and] if I offered it to her how do you make sure it doesn’t look like a gimmick?” reports ABC News.

Blagojevich ultimately appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris as junior senator from the state.

Compares Self to Gandhi

While Blagojevich has said he refuses to attend his own impeachment trial, he spent his Monday on the interview trail, having also scheduled appearances on ABC’s The View, CNN’s Larry King Live and GMA‘s NBC rival Today – where, just as he did on GMA, he likened himself to movie heroes played by Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper, as well as to real-life martyrs Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Asked by Diane Sawyer if he tried to auction off Obama’s Senate seat, Blagojevich answered, “Absolutely not, and I’ll have a chance in a criminal case to show my innocence and bring witnesses.”

Told that Obama and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (who labeled Blagojevich “cuckoo”) have called for his resignation, the governor responded, “Here’s a question I have to you, to Mayor Daly and everyone else: ‘Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?’ ”