LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich said on Friday he was disappointed at being barred from taking part in a TV reality show that drops celebrities in a jungle but still hoped to help promote it.
Blagojevich, who was kicked out of office and indicted for corruption, was invited to participate in “I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!” — a reality show in which 10 C-list celebrities are taken to a Costa Rican jungle and told to survive. It begins airing on the NBC network in June.
But last week a federal judge denied Blagojevich’s request to travel out of the country, citing the seriousness of the charges and the possibility of flight risk.
“Of course I am disappointed, but I am going to abide by the judge’s decision,” the former governor said at a Los Angeles news conference to publicize the show.
“At least, if I can’t participate, I can help promote it. At this point I am looking for a new line of work. This is a chance to make a living and support my little girls,” he said.
NBC said the contestants now include former “American Idol” singer Sanjaya Malakar, supermodel Janice Dickinson, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt from MTV show “The Hills,” actor Stephen Baldwin, professional wrestler and beauty queen Torrie Wilson and basketball player-turned-TV announcer John Salley.
The celebrities live in the jungle for about a month and face challenges. In each episode, viewers decide who will stay or go. The winner at the end gets a cash prize for their favorite charity.
Producers defended their invitation to Blagojevich and said they were working on ways in which he might be involved without going to the Central American country.
Blagojevich denied that he would have been a flight risk by going to Costa Rica.
“Why would I run away when I know I am innocent? I have every reason to fight this.
“The idea of trying to survive in the jungle somewhere would not have been my first choice. I really don’t like heights or being away from my kids ... . Meeting the celebrities would have been the most interesting part,” he said.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Xavier Briand