Will the real Roland Burris please stand up?

In a speech on Wednesday, the embattled senator proclaimed his innocence and blamed the media for his current predicament.

By Ben Travers

Published February 18, 2009 10:30PM (EST)

Illinois Sen. Roland Burris has a list of accomplishments etched into the crypt that's waiting for him in Chicago's Oak Woods cemetery, but with the way he's going lately, it's clear he won't be adding "Amateur Magician" anytime soon.

Burris tried employing a number of sleights of hand in a speech he gave in Chicago Wednesday, attempting to distract from the controversy that's rained down upon him this week over his rapidly shifting explanations of his relationship with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his aides.

Falling back on a familiar strategy, Burris emphasized national unity, and stressed his service on behalf of ordinary Americans struggling to cope during the financial crisis. Speaking about the stimulus that President Obama signed Tuesday, Burris said, "we need to make sure it works in the ways in which we intended it... in ways that will have the most impact on our economy and the people that need it most. That is the measure by which I hope I am judged in the Senate, whether I am able to make a difference for the people of Illinois, whether I can through my actions improve their quality of life."

And, naturally, Illinois' junior senator directed some of his barbs at the media, alleging "spin and sensationalism" and saying that while he "welcomes the scrutiny" and "will continue to be transparent," he doesn't plan to do much talking: “What I will not do after today, now [that] there is an ongoing investigation, is engage the media and have facts drip out in selective sound bites.”

Though he had previously asserted in affidavits and testimony before an Illinois House panel that he had no financial connection to Blagojevich, Burris admitted Monday night that he sought to raise money for the former governor during the time he was seeking appointment to Obama's Senate seat. Because of the changes in his story, he's under investigation by both the Senate Ethics Committee and a local prosecutor. But during his 15-minute talk, Burris stood fast and proclaimed his innocence. "You know the real Roland Burris," he said. "You know I've done nothing wrong, and you know I have nothing to hide."

Ben Travers

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