Produced by HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit
The initial reaction to the news of Rod Blagojevich giving a speech on ethics in politics to Northwestern University students was shock. Him? Really? The tone did not change much at Tuesday night's event, where the indicted ex governor of Illinois was met with both laughter and boos.
The irony of inviting Rod Blagojevich to speak on ethics in politics did not escape Amanda Litman, sophomore at Blago's alma mater, Northwestern University. "I'll try to fact check what he says as he talks," she said, her lap top perched on her knee.
About 1,000 people packed the Northwestern auditorium to hear Blago speak. He was stunningly entertaining, and kept the audience laughing - both with him and at his antics.
Blagojevich told the crowd that the FBI subpoenaed his grades and student information from when he attended 30 years ago and joked about his mediocre academic record:
"If they look at those grades they'll see -- I obviously never cheated on an exam," he said.
The audience did not let the former governor get away with much. Gasps and laughter erupted when he claimed President Obama made a deal with Hillary Clinton while they were campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"In exchange for her getting out of the race, he agrees to make her secretary of state," he claimed. "Now Hillary Clinton is qualified, but she's not exactly Henry Kissinger."
When pressed about his appointment of Roland Burris, he said "my fellow Democrat and your senator Dick Durbin - and Harry Reid - are keeping [Burris] out of the US Senate like they were some segregationist governors from Mississippi," drawing the conclusion that he appointed the African-American senator as a matter of conscience. The accusation drew loud boos from the audience and one man shouted "Shame!"
"You don't like Burris?" Blagojevich asked.
The governor repeated his plea for prosecutors in his case to "play all the tapes," referring to the wiretapped conversations that led to his arrest and indictment--and maintained his innocence.
"I am the Anti-Nixon!" Blago proclaimed. "Nixon did everything he could to block those tapes from being heard. I'm the opposite - play the tapes they will prove me innocent."
When asked by one student why he has gone on a media "circus" tour, including his stint on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," Blago gave one of the most sincere responses of the night.
He told the crowd isn't happy about having to portray an idiot on any program that will have him, but it's the only way he can pay the bills.
"It's just a horrible, horrible thing," he said. "But this is a life lesson for our children."
Students left the event with mixed feelings and organizers felt the event was a successful.
"Obviously Rod Blagojevich has a reputation as sort of a disgraced figure," said Dan Rockoff, Vice President of Programming for the College Democrats. "But from our point of view we didn't need to bring a white knight to campus to have a discussion about this topic. This [discussion] was not a judge trial and jury."
Blagojevich is scheduled to go to trial on corruption charges in June.
Watch NBC Chicago's video of the speech here:
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