Defiant in the face of charges that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich insisted he was not guilty of "any criminal wrongdoing" and vowed to stay on in his job and fight to clear his name.
Amid mounting calls for him to quit, the two-term Democratic Governor gave a public address for the first time since his arrest on December 9 on federal corruption charges.
"I am here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," Blagojevich said. "I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take
my last breath. I have done nothing wrong."
He portrayed himself as a "lonely" victim of "powerful forces" and "political enemies" seeking to dislodge him from his post, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"I'm not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob," Blagojevich said.
Federal prosecutors accused the Democratic Governor of engaging in "a political corruption crime spree", including a bid to trade off Obama's vacant Senate seat. The President-elect defended his staff, saying he is certain they were not involved in any inappropriate behaviour.
Blagojevich's stance may mean the continuance of the leadership logjam in the state of Illinois amid an impeachment inquiry against him.
Republicans were quick to call for a special election to fill Obama's seat. "We heard 'fight, fight, fight' instead of 'resign, resign, resign,'" said Republican Senator Matt Murphy. "This governor has lost his ability to lead."