That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.
The arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges includes allegations that he tried to shake down the Chicago Tribune, suggesting that members of their editorial board be fired in exchange for help with the Tribune Co.’s deal to sell the Chicago Cubs.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Blagojevich’s chief of staff John Harris, who also is under indictment, told the governor that the Tribune “owner” was “sensitive to the issue.”
From the Sun-Times: “Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s going after that section.”
“Blagojevich allegedly responded: “Oh. That’s fantastic.””
Chicago TV stations are reporting that Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel may have blown the whistle.
Did he know something? Obama on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, talking about the possibility of Caroline Kennedy taking Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.
“Well, let me tell you this. Caroline Kennedy has become one of my dearest friends and is just a, a wonderful American, a wonderful person. But the last thing I want to do is get involved in New York politics. I’ve got enough trouble in terms of Illinois politics. “
Tribune Co. Statement: “The actions of the company, its executives and advisors working on the disposition of Wrigley Field have been appropriate at all times. No one working for the company or on its behalf has ever attempted to influence staffing decisions at the Chicago Tribune or any aspect of the newspaper’s editorial coverage as a result of conversations with officials in the governor’s administration.
“No one within Tribune Company has ever complained to me about the positions taken by our editorial board, or attempted to influence our coverage of the governor in any way,” said Gerould Kern, editor of the Chicago Tribune. “It should be clear to anyone reading our recent coverage of the governor and his administration that it is fair, balanced and factual.”
“The staffing decisions of the Chicago Tribune are completely unrelated to the editorial positions expressed within its pages. In fact, the current leadership of the Chicago Tribune editorial board has been in place since 2000. The most recent change to the composition of the board occurred in November 2007, when a board member voluntarily left the company for other employment and was not replaced. Tribune Company and its executives will fully cooperate with the government during its
investigation of the governor.”
The Chicago Tribune addressed the wiretapped conversations.
Tribune editor Gerould Kern told reporters, “There was never an instance where I was contacted or called where any influence at all was placed against me. There were no instances of that.”
Tribune Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold said he never had a “whiff” of pressure from the company over his staff’s editorials.
“This whole thing comes as a complete surprise to me today,” said Dold. “Sam Zell said when he took over the company that he didn’t want to interfere with editorial decisions. He has been absolutely good to that.”
Tribune columnist Eric Zorn writes that the charges are not only “staggering,” but are beyond reason.
“These charges say that even as his predecessor sat in prison after a corruption conviction, even as his associates and fundraisers were going down, even as it was widely reported that he was at the center of a federal corruption probe … even then, Blagojevich was selling out his office and otherwise abusing his power.”
Zorn reminds that the media had long sounded alarm bells, including a Chicago magazine piece in which associates described the governor as a “sociopath.”
Oprah’s Anxiety: Oprah Winfrey says in the latest issue of her magazine that she is struggling with weight gain. She tells the AP, “I had a dress on the vision board, but I’m not sure that’s gonna fit. So I have to work on something else.” Her show has stopped taking ticket requests for her shows from Washington during inaugural week.
Equality Appointments: Wanda Sykes, Dolores Huerta and former Assemblyman Lloyd Levine have been apppointed to the board of Equality California, the group seeking same-sex marriage in the state.