Blagojevich, 65, told Carlson he grew up on Chicago’s northwest side, which was heavily populated at the time by working-class Polish, Irish and Italian families.
His father, Radislav, had immigrated from Yugoslavia and found work at the Finkl Steel Company mill. Blagojevich remarked that decades later, he held election victory gatherings at the mill in honor of his father’s hard work to give the family the opportunities they had.
“[Radislav Blagojevich] spent four years in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp during the war for fighting on the side of the Allies, and then was in a refugee camp for three years, waiting for the chance to hopefully have the United States Congress– that one day, his youngest son would become a member of– pass a law called the Displaced Persons Act,” he said.
“That permitted my father and millions of others like him, with these long and hard-to-pronounce last names a chance to come to America, to pursue freedom and opportunity.” Blagojevich’s mother, Mila, had roots in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“My mother and father were working people, so they wound up in Chicago, like so many people from Central and Eastern Europe,” he said, going on to explain his father’s work at Finkl, which still produces steel today in a different part of the city.
Blagojevich, a lifelong Democrat, recalled the state of the city following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. He described the rioting that instantaneously ensued across the city, and the response from Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley.
He recalled how Daley drew strong backlash for appearing to endorse confrontations with rioters burning and looting his city.
Daley famously rebuked Chicago Police Superintendent James Conlisk for what he saw as an insufficient response to the criminality, calling for an “order to be issued by [Conlisk] to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand because they are potential murderers.”
“Shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting,” Daley ordered.