From NBC's Abigail Williams and Domenico Montanaro
In his first significant press conference since the allegations of corruption made last week Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich not only ignored requests for his resignation, but declared his innocence on all accounts.
"I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way," Blagojevich said. "I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath.
He continued: "I have done nothing wrong, and I'm not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob. Now, that's what I'm going to do. Let me tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing, and that is talk about this case in 30-second sound bites on 'Meet the Press' or on the TV news."
Blagojevich reiterated that he's "dying to answer these charges" -- as he did yesterday before his run. "I am dying to show you how innocent I am."
He almost dared, taunted the prosecution to present its evidence and show the goods, so to speak.
"I want to assure everyone who's here, and everyone who's listening, that I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way," he said.
Blagojevich went on to ask the public to withhold further judgment until he had been given his day in court and vowed he would be "vindicated." He then launched into a reading of the first several lines of the poem "If," Rudyard Kipling's advice emphasizing dignity and virtue.
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you; if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you and make allowance for their doubting, too; if you can wait and not be tired by waiting; or being lied about, don't deal in lies; or being hated, don't give way to hating."
Blagojevich then went on to lament the "powerful forces arrayed against me. It's kind of lonely right now. But I have on my side the most powerful ally there is, and it's the truth."
Truth, otherwise defined as… "And besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong."
He continued, "To the people of Illinois, I ask that they wait and be patient, sit back and take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment. Afford me the same rights that you and your children have. The presumption of innocence. The right to defend yourself. The right to your day in court. The same rights that you would expect for yourselves. And one last thing: To all of those -- to those of you who have expressed your support to Patti and me during this difficult time, I'd like to thank you for your thoughts; I'd like to thank you for your prayers; and I'd like to thank you for your good wishes. Patti and I cannot express to you how grateful we are for your kindness."
And he left the press corps and viewers with: "Merry Christmas. Happy holidays."
Merry Christmas, indeed.