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Bad News Burris

Poor Roland Burris. He never signed on for this.

Sure, he grubbed for his appointment to the U.S. Senate from a governor who had been led away in handcuffs for allegedly trying to sell that appointment.

And, sure, in order to get seated by the U.S. Senate, Burris made statements under oath that he now admits may not have been "complete" and that others now say are outright lies.

And, yes, he knew that some would call for him to resign and demand he be investigated for perjury.

But that is not what stings him. What stings him is that the media no longer are in love with him.

Not that long ago, the media were at his feet. And they were there for the same reason the U.S. Senate gave him a pass when it seated him: Nobody wanted to be accused of racism.

The race card was played and played hard on behalf of Burris from the very beginning. There was no need for Barack Obama’s Senate seat to be filled immediately. (Minnesota still has only one U.S. senator, after all, and the people there seem to be getting along just fine, or at least as fine as anybody is getting along these days.)

But Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who had already been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and soliciting bribes, wanted to get in his last laugh before being impeached and removed from office. He wanted to name somebody to Obama’s seat that the U.S. Senate would not have the nerve to turn down.

At the news conference in Illinois where the Burris appointment was made public, Rep. Bobby Rush, who represents the South Side of Chicago, put it in simple terms. "There are no African-Americans in the Senate," Rush said, "and I don’t think that anyone, any U.S. senator who is sitting right now, would want to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I don’t think they want to go on record doing that."

He was correct. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even dared delay the swearing-in of Burris, Rush went on TV and said: "It reminded me of the dogs being sicced on children in Birmingham, Alabama. That’s what it reminded me of."

Wow. Who was going to stand up to that? Not the U.S. Senate, that’s for sure. (You could almost hear Blagojevich laughing. Especially when Blagojevich went on TV later and said that his first choice for the seat had been Oprah but that he was afraid she would not return his calls.)

All Burris had to do to get seated was return to Illinois and give sworn testimony about all his past dealings with Blagojevich and Blagojevich’s aides and go-betweens. Which Burris did.

But — wouldn’t you know it? — some of Burris’ statements turned out to be not exactly 100 percent correct.

And, oh yeah, Burris now says he did agree to make an effort to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich at the same time Burris was trying to get Blagojevich to appoint him to the Senate.

Whoops. I guess Burris should have mentioned that upfront. But don’t worry. "I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigative bodies … to answer any questions they have," Burris said Tuesday.

And they are bound to have a few. But the media keep asking him questions, too. And their tone is getting downright nasty.

Mark Brown, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, the paper that broke the first revelations about Burris and his testimony, put it succinctly on Monday. "I’ll tell you straight up," Brown wrote, "our new U.S. senator proved himself to be a lying little sneak."

Oh, my. Burris said Monday night after a speech in Peoria that the media were not being fair to him. "So that’s confusing the public," he said. "And the public know me. I mean, I met with some ministers this morning. And they’re saying, what is going on? We know Roland Burris hasn’t done anything wrong. But the media now is almost destroying my character because they’re not accurately reporting what really transpired."

Burris said Tuesday he would cooperate with an ethics investigation by the U.S. Senate if there is one. He says he has "nothing to hide."

But I think this persecution of Burris should stop right now. We cannot let the media push him out of his job.

Unless Oprah is willing to take it.

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Written By

Roger Simon is the Chief Political Columnist of politico.com, an award-winning journalist, and a New York Times best-selling author.

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