In newly revealed recordings made almost 10 years ago, J.B. Pritzker and Gov. Rod Blagojevich rattled off a list of African-Americans — weighing the pros and cons, and cracking jokes — who Blagojevich could appoint as a potential successor to Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
State Senate President Emil Jones was “too crass.” Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. would be a “nightmare.” And Secretary of State Jesse White would be “the least offensive.”
Blagojevich went on to say that a nomination of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright could be “f—— funny.”
“Hilarious. Oh my God,” Pritzker replied.
The audio recordings were obtained by the Chicago Tribune and published Monday night.
Pritzker suggested that the appointment of White to Obama’s Senate seat would be “the one that’s least offensive and maybe gets you the most.”
“It opens up the Secretary of State spot, which is the key spot . . . that controls the jobs, etc.,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker went on to say that the appointment of an African-American would “be a lot less pressure on you” because then “you don’t have to put an African-American in that spot.”
Pritzker conceded that White and Blagojevich were not “bosom buddies or anything” and “he’s not your best friend,” but said the appointment of White would “cover” Blagojevich.
“And it doesn’t get you Jesse Jackson Jr., which, oh God please,” Pritzker said.
His recorded conversations with Blagojevich — which occurred as the imprisoned former governor was under federal investigation — have dogged Pritzker in his bid for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has used other recordings in attack ads against Pritzker, in which he and Blagojevich discussed the appointment of outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan to Obama’s Senate seat.
Pritzker’s campaign blasted the Tribune’s story, suggesting the newspaper published the audio clips after choosing “to sit on them for nine months.”
“JB has always made clear how much he admires Jesse White and believes he would have made a great Senator for Illinois,” Pritzker’s communications director Galia Slayen said in a statement.
Slayen also outright accused the newspaper of working in concert with Rauner.
“Bruce Rauner should spend less time colluding with a newspaper on how to play politics in another party’s primary and more time figuring out how to be in charge and stop failing this state,” she said.
A representative from tronc, the Tribune’s parent company, and Bruce Dold, the editor and publisher of the Tribune, did not respond to requests for comment Monday night.
In response to Slayen’s statement that Rauner and the Tribune were “colluding,” Will Allison, a spokesman for the Rauner campaign said: “The Pritzker campaign must be panicking because now they’re just making things up.”