TPMMuckraker points out that yesterday in a debate, primary challenger Vic Vickers asked Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) about the federal indictment he is facing on seven criminal counts. Stevens angrily responded that his Alaskan constituents don’t care about the investigation:
However, earlier this week, Alaskans calling into Alaska Talk Radio repeatedly asked Stevens about the corruption charges. He angrily refused to say whether he would accept a presidential pardon or why he won’t disclose the source of his legal fees, and at one point, seemed to challenge a caller to come and fight him. Listen here to highlights:
HOST: Ok, let’s try some calls from Alaskans, if you’re ready, senator. Let’s go to Bill, who joins the program from Wasilla. Hello? Hello, Bill, you’re on Talk of Alaska with Ted Stevens.
BILL: Hi, thanks for taking my call. I understand that you can’t answer any specific questions about the nature of your current case in court, but I do have a question about how you’re paying your legal bills. I think, you know, in the context of a corruption case, it’s very important to know — that the voters here, your constituents, know who is footing the bill for your legal expenses. […]
STEVENS: I’m not hiding it at all. I’m not paying it from my campaign. There are rules that apply to the legal defense fund. We will abide by those rules. They do not call for disclosure until a specific time, and when that specific time arrives, it will be disclosed.
BILL: Do the rules say that you can’t disclose it right now? And if not, why not let people know right now?
STEVENS: I don’t know myself. But besides that, my answer is, you’re just trying to make it a political question. It’s not a political question. It is a legal question and it’s in court, and I am not going to take it into my campaign. […]
HOST: Ted Stevens is our guest on Talk of Alaska and Charles joins the program from Anchorage. Welcome to Talk of Alaska, Charles.
CHARLES: Hi, thanks for taking my call. Senator, my question is — and I know you’ve said you can’t discuss the specifics of your case and you feel you’re innocent — but if you are convicted, would you take a presidential pardon, or would you live with the court verdict?
STEVENS: Why would I cross a bridge I haven’t seen? I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question.
CHARLES: Well sir, I just think it’s something that the Alaskan public should know. If you —
STEVENS: Why? Why? You tell me why. They’re not — I’ve been around the state — I — You —
This morning, I have had more questions about the case and what I would do if I lost it than I have had in the last month. So —
CHARLES: Well, sir, I believe this is only the second question about the case, and I think it’s a fair one.
STEVENS: That’s the second question I’ve had state-wide. […]
CALLER: Can you see how the appearance of impropriety is there for sweetheart deals, like these?
STEVENS: What’s sweetheart about it? …. There’s nothing sweetheart about it at all.
CALLER: I certainly can’t get that kind of return on my money. I wish I could —
STEVENS: I can’t either. I can’t either. Mine is in a bank now, and I get bank returns. Ok? […]
HOST: Ok, let’s go to Dan who joins the program from Fairbanks. Welcome to Talk of Alaska, Dan.
DAN: Hello, gentlemen. Senator, regarding the criminal indictments, I understand —
HOST: Oh, no, not again!
DAN: Yeah, well, you have to be accountable to your constituents. You don’t have to refuse to talk about these actions. You choose to, to protect yourself. Don’t you think you should be accountable to the people who elected you, regardless of your legal predicament? Either you took expensive gifts from Allen and VECO, or you didn’t. Who would know you took a cabinet full of tools, a gas grill, or traded a 35-year old car for a $44,000 one. So did you, or didn’t you?
HOST: I’m not sure we can get an answer on that.
DAN: Well, how about letting the senator answer?
STEVENS: Well go talk to the FBI. Ask them that question, will you please? Thanks again. Good-bye. Good-bye.
DAN: Well, I think —
HOST: You know, you’ve made the point, as you wished to make it. It is the subject of a trial and I think it’s only legitimate that he not speak about it, and it’s also a rule I agreed to before the program. And that’s just the way it is, Dan.
STEVENS: Also, see, remember now, if I made a comment on this program that could be interpreted as influencing a potential juror, I could be accused of —
STEVENS: — influencing the jurors.
HOST: Absolutely, absolutely.
DAN: Excuse me, Steve, but the senator is a big boy and can take care of himself. He’s been in the game a long time.
STEVENS: You’re damned right I can take care of myself. Any time you want to come, friend.