Blagojevich, Trump Show Politics and Reality TV Don't Mix

Blagojevich's conviction on corruption charges deals another blow to bad-behavior-as-celebrity.

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In a world where entertainment and politics are becoming too intimately aligned, there have been some hopeful signs of sense and justice besting the powerful strength of reality TV.

Donald Trump’s departure from the presidential race (if he was ever seriously considering a candidacy) was the first sign that Trump’s "brand," while profitable in bad TV, doesn’t translate to political power or popularity. And the conviction of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges deals another blow to bad-behavior-as-celebrity.

[Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP primary.]

Blagojevich, who technically faces up to 300 years in prison for, among other things, attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by then president elect Barack Obama, tried to brazen it out as prosecutors built a case against him. His wife traveled to the jungle to appear on I’m a Celebrity—Get Me Out Of Here!—a real show; not, as it sounds, some made up reality TV show in a story in the Onion. And in an ironic twist, Blagojevich himself appeared on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. Trump fired him.

Politicians have long used popular media outlets to appear more palatable to the public. Long before Bill Clinton played his saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show—a move that seemed newsworthy and somewhat audacious at the time—Richard Nixon went on Laugh In and uttered the show’s famous phrase, "sock it to me." And there’s a reason presidents and other politicians go on shows like The View and morning shows; they want to reach an audience not accustomed to watching the Sunday news shows. But there’s a line between being accessible and undermining the dignity of holding public office by appearing on so-called celebrity reality TV shows. There’s nothing to celebrate about breaking the law. Perhaps Blagojevich will have some undisturbed time—perhaps 10 years, according to some legal experts—to figure that out.

  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.
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