How To Handle Blago’s “Out-of-Context” Comeback

Those words have been “taken out of context” seems to be Gov. Blagojevich’s go-to reply when asked by reporters about some of the things he’s said or stands accused of saying.

For example, on The View moments ago:

BARBARA WALTERS: You’ve compared yourself to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi. Are you really seeing yourself as one of great martyrs of history?

BLAGOJEVICH: No. In fact, that was taken out of context.

When I mentioned Mandela, Gandhi and Dr. King it was in response to a question about how I felt after I was arrested and what my thoughts were. And I talked about, I thought first of my two daughters. I thought of my wife. And then I thought about some historic figures who have experienced similar experiences. Under no circumstances am I comparing myself to Dr. King or Mahatma Gahndhi or Nelson Mandela. I must say all three were great men who have been an inspiration to me and I think about men like that always but certainly during a difficult time like I’m facing now.

The governor provides the missing “context:” he was not comparing himself to these men, just comparing their “similar experiences.”

Another “out of context” moment:

WALTERS: Let’s get to the big question…You’ve denied trying to sell Pres. Obama’s senate seat but you’ve been wiretapped saying, “I’ve got this thing. It’s golden. I’m just not giving it up for nothing” a lot of expletives in the way…If that’s not selling a senate seat, what is?

BLAGOJEVICH: You have to understand these were private conversations taking place over a long period of time…These are snippets of conversation taken out of context…

WALTERS: But did you say these things?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well I think…. if you hear the whole story…under no circumstance was I trying to sell a senate seat…

WALTERS: Let me ask this one question. Did you say —in context, out of context, it’s on a wire tape — did you say those things… Here is your chance. No lawyers. You’re talking to the public. Please answer that part of it. Otherwise why are you wasting time on these programs?


WALTERS: Did you say those things?

BLAGOJEVICH: Whatever the tapes are, they’re going to come out and they’ll speak for themselves. The tapes will show the whole story. They will take all the conversations in the proper context….

WALTERS: I guess what I’m trying to say without pushing you again is that you do not deny, although those sentences may be in context with others, you have not now denied that somewhere along the line you said those things. If that’s the case, I’ll move on.

BLAGOJEVICH: I can’t confirm or deny anything when I haven’t had a chance to hear the tapes…

What might be a better way to handle Blago’s “out of context” comeback (if, that is, you aren’t too busy fixating on getting him to admit to saying things that there are tapes of him, allegedly, saying)? How about, simply, the way ABC News’s Diane Sawyer did on Good Morning America earlier:

BLAGOJEVICH: …again, they took snippets of conversations completely out of context. Didn’t provide all the tapes that tell the whole story and when the whole story comes out you’ll see that the effort was to work to have a senator who can best represent Illinois and one that can help us create jobs and provide health care..

SAWYER: Help me with context. Help me with the context that explains I’ve got this thing, it’s bleeping golden. I’m just not giving it up for bleeping nothing..

BLAGOJEVICH: Again, I can’t go into the details of that case and I wish they would allow me at this impeachment trial to be able to bring the evidence to show exactly what those conversations were….

Isn’t that — what’s “the context” that could explain those “out-of-context” remarks? — the obvious follow-up question here? (Not that Blagojevich answered Sawyer. But at least she asked.)

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.