Patti Blagojevich: I'm Doing Reality Show For The Money (WATCH FAMILY INTERVIEW, OUTTAKES)
CHICAGO (AP) -- Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's wife - best known for a foul-mouthed tirade federal investigators say they caught on tape before her husband's arrest - said Thursday that she'll help support her family by battling it out on a reality TV show with other quasi-celebrities.
Patti Blagojevich plans to become one of what NBC calls "10 pampered celebrities dumped into the jungle to see if they survive" on the reality show "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here." The offer originally came to her husband, but the judge in his federal corruption case would not let him travel to Costa Rica for the show.
If she's the last one standing after the others are voted off, the former first lady of Illinois will be dubbed Queen of the Jungle.
"In these terrible economic times, I feel it's necessary to go to work to support my family so, yes, that's the primary reason for doing the show," Patti Blagojevich said in a joint interview with her impeached husband on NBC's "Today" show.
She joins a roster of often seen TV faces ranging from actor Stephen Baldwin ("The Usual Suspects") to former NBA star John Salley.
Legal experts said her stint on the show, airing June 1, might not be the best news for Blagojevich's federal fraud case. The former governor already has been criticized for making the rounds of New York talk shows when state lawmakers were holding an impeachment trial and for later filming a promotional spot - suspended from a harness in midair - for the NBC show.
"It just looks tawdry," Northwestern University law Professor Albert W. Alschuler said. "There's been too much showmanship already on the part of the Blagojevich family."
Patti Blagojevich was caught on tapes made secretly by the FBI using profanity in connection with Blagojevich's newspaper critics and urging that they be fired. She allegedly received real estate commissions from convicted influence peddler and Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko, but she has not been charged with wrongdoing.
In the "Today" interview, Patti Blagojevich dismissed her image as what interviewer Meredith Viera termed "a sort of foul-mouthed Lady Macbeth."
"People who know me know the truth behind those comments," she said. "I do look forward to this show as being an opportunity for people to get to know me."
Blagojevich said his wife has been wrongly described because of "just one word" that she used when she was angry at his critics.
"I just want to say Patti is a loving wife and a wonderful mother," he said.
Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he schemed to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and use the political muscle of the governor's office to squeeze companies and individuals for campaign contributions.
Patti Blagojevich is the daughter of Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, one of the last of the old-style Democratic ward committeemen whose precinct captains would get out the vote on Election Day and crush any would-be challengers to the once mighty Chicago Machine. She met her future husband when he attended one of her father's fundraisers.
Until now, she has stayed mostly out of the spotlight, fiercely protective of the privacy of the couple's two young daughters. When a TV crew caught up with the family at a Florida hotel in early April after the ex-governor's indictment, he grinned and bantered while she stood in front of the camera and asked a reporter to leave.
Blagojevich almost upstaged his wife on "Today," telling Viera he didn't like the way he has been portrayed since the indictment.
"I prefer to be compared to Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and others in history - not some of these (other) comparisons," Blagojevich said.
He praised his wife for being willing to help support the family, while she brushed off questions about damaging his case.
"I'm not worried about that because my husband and I haven't done anything wrong," she said. "My husband is an honest man. I truly believe that he will be vindicated. But in the meantime, we have to earn a living."
The family has assets - an apartment in Washington and a home in Chicago. But his attorneys say they have to tap his $2.3 million campaign fund to put on a defense and expect to deplete it. Blagojevich has been writing a book to bring in money since lawmakers threw him out of office in January.
Illinois lawmakers are trying to keep Blagojevich from profiting if he's convicted. They approved legislation Thursday that would let the state seize any money that a convicted public official makes from selling his story.
"This is patently unconstitutional. There are legions of First Amendment attorneys all over America who can't wait to jump on this," said Blagojevich publicist Glenn Selig.
David Yellen, dean of Chicago's Loyola University law school, said nothing specific that Patti Blagojevich says is likely to hurt her husband's case.
"I can't imagine that while swinging from vine to vine she'll blurt out anything incriminating," Yellen said.
Besides Baldwin and Salley, participants on the show include actor Lou Diamond Phillips, supermodel and reality TV star Janice Dickinson, 2007 "American Idol" contestant Sanjaya Malakar, MTV stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt and professional wrestler Torrie Wilson.
Viewers will decide which participants stay from week to week.
The bill is HB4078.
On the Net: http://www.ilga.gov