‘No pressure on me,’ says Trib editorialist
He is the sole individual named in the affidavit charging that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich bluntly demanded the firing of certain editorial writers in return for the governor’s support of a plan to finance Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. The plan never went forward.
“Fire those fuckers,” Gov. Rob Blagojevich is quoted as saying in an affidavit filed after he and his chief of staff were arrested on corruption charges in co-ordinated raids at 6:15 a.m. today at their respective homes.
John (left) was the only editorial writer identified by name in the statement laying out the charges against the governor, who also is accused of trying to shake down individuals hoping to be appointed to fill the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Despite suggestions in the affidavit that a “financial representative” of the Tribune Co. would carry the governor’s demands back to management, John said in an email today that no one at Tribune Co. ever sought to influence the tough stance taken by him and his colleagues against Blagojevich.
“No,” said John in response to a question about feeling any heat from management. “No one in any capacity at the Tribune, its parent company, its financiers, nobody” tried to influence him.
John said he had no inkling of the pending arrest of the governor or that his name would emerge in the affidavit. “I knew nothing about any of this until this morning, when, en route to work, I heard a radio bulletin that the FBI had taken the governor of Illinois into custody,” he said, adding:
“None of us yet knows all the details of what is alleged to have occurred in this squeeze play. What I do know is that no pressure reached me, or my boss Bruce Dold, or his boss, Tribune editor Gerry Kern. The feds say somebody wielding power and money tried to muscle Tribune Co. at a difficult time for our industry – and didn't get away with it. The Tribune Co. was the object of a huge extortion attempt and didn't budge. ”
John’s account was echoed by Gerry. “No one within Tribune Co. 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,” he said in a press release. “It should be clear to anyone reading our recent coverage of the governor and his administration that it is fair, balanced and factual.”
As for John, he says, “I hope I'll still be able to report and write about public corruption.”
From his seemingly safe perch at Tribune Tower, it looks as though he’ll have an ample opportunity to do so as the trial of the foul-mouthed governor unfolds.