November 3rd, 2008
05:01 PM ET

Discovering Senator Stevens in a church lobby

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/03/art.stevens.jpg caption="Sen. Ted Stevens campaigning in Alaska."]
Senator Ted Stevens has never been known as a big fan of the news media. So we knew getting him to talk to us on camera following seven felony guilty verdicts against him would be a bit challenging. He hadn't done a TV interview since the verdicts. Ultimately, he did do an interview with us. But making that happen took us on an unusual journey.

On Sunday, we went to interview his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. The mayor was at a candidate forum in the entry way of a large Baptist church that was full of candidate posters, pamphlets, and balloons. As we were getting ready to greet Begich, we saw to our surprise that Senator Stevens was also shaking hands about 30 feet away from his opponent.

I came up to the 40-year Senate veteran, introduced myself, and asked him on camera if he was angry about the guilty verdicts. He told me "not that angry. I'm angry at you guys 'cause I'm trying to visit with friends; I just see them once or twice a year." I then mentioned because he was campaigning we wanted to see if he would talk, and he objected since we were doing this in a church. I mentioned to him that there was some lively campaigning going on in this entry way, but that didn't seem to matter to him.

Gary Tuchman approaching Sen. Ted Stevens in the Baptist church.

An hour later, he held a rally an hour a way in the city of Wasilla. (Yes, the same city where Sarah Palin used to be the mayor.) After talking to hundreds of enthusiastic supporters about faith, he not-so-surprisingly gestured toward us and said we "should not have come into the church to ask me questions."

Well, after the rally was over we told the Senator and his aide that with all due respect, the church service was over and it had morphed into a campaign forum. Ultimately, Stevens made the decision to talk to me and it was an interesting discussion.

In a nutshell, Ted Stevens says he is not scared about the possibility of prison time because only "someone who is guilty can go to prison. I am innocent."

I asked him how he felt about John McCain and fellow Alaskan Sarah Palin both wanting him to step down, and he inferred he doesn't believe they truly feel that way. "They just said that to get you off their tail."

Ted Stevens has always been a fighter. At the age of 84, that aspect of his personality doesn't seem to be mellowing.

Editor's note: We're not the only ones talking about Gary's journey to get an interview with Sen. Ted Stevens. Read more about it here.

Filed under: Gary Tuchman • Raw Politics • Ted Stevens
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Brenda L.

    Campaigning in a church following services? That is the most offensive part of this story. This is an example of why some people think churches should lose their non-profit status. Politics like this have no place in a church. I am an evangelical christian who was brought up Baptist. At church, Jesus is supposed to be the center of attention.

    November 4, 2008 at 9:01 am |
  2. Rich

    I find it difficult to understand why someone like this cannot be contrite. Not only is he not sorry about what he did, but he's angry that he's been caught and the media are reporting it. Perhaps only a prison term might teach him a lesson. Unfortunately, he'd likely receive a pardon by some other, dimwitted but more powerful crook.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:32 am |
  3. Dave E, Alpharetta, Ga 30004

    Gary, I think he'll get re-elected then resign and palin will name a replacement. My question to you and your producers: is an accounting fraud on a senator's tax return that has been in the news (yawn for weeks) as big of a story as Obama's illegal aunt living in publicly funded housing (how did she qualify? and how local housing authority might have been influenced?) a day out in a presidential race? Or in Fl where Foley's replacement Mahoney in congress is still on ballet for alleged bribes and work place intimidation? Just wondering if I am the only person that thought more juicy story was in Boston and the trail to confront Obama? CNN has yet to have a live person to that scene of pre-election presidential candidate family fraud or to purchance ask him like Stevens? This story had it all, we got the front runner candidate's aunt donating illegally, $ never returned, facing possibly deportation, she was in his book, and that's not Gary or even CNN worthy?

    November 4, 2008 at 1:32 am |
  4. Rod

    Appoint Joe Wilson as Attorney General of the United States and I'll bet a lot of the cronyism will move out of the country. Go Joe Wilson. Not to be confused with a confused plumber Joe. Joe Wilson and Valarie Plame felt the brunt of cronyism. Time for restitution.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:24 am |
  5. Matt From Ohio

    First, Stevens has been convicted on seven felony counts. Plain and simple. No amount of political spin can change that fact.

    Second, Stevens will not go to jail but it will be not because he is innocent. He will not go to jail because Bush will pardon him before he leaves office. So much for the justice system.

    November 4, 2008 at 1:21 am |
  6. Terry from Vegas

    Everybody knows what is coming. The Judge will give him probation and no jail time. If this Judge gives him any jail time I will belive in GOD.

    November 3, 2008 at 10:58 pm |
  7. Phil: Charleston, SC

    How's this for a scenario: Ted Stevens manages to pull it off, then has to resign. Sarah Palin gets to name herself to the Senate... Say it ain't SO...

    November 3, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  8. pati mc., camp hill, pa

    Oh Gary, not another "person" being mean to you? What a shame. I hate to see that. Maybe we need to start a write-in campaign to the assignment desk begging that they give you a nice friendly person to interview? Enough with the polygmaists and criminal congressmen!

    Surely these "bad guys" are more of a challenge, and I commend you for trying to get the "get". But my gosh, you deserve better.

    Just a loyal viewer.

    November 3, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  9. Don

    A jury convicted you Senator. You are guilty. Go to jail.

    November 3, 2008 at 8:15 pm |
  10. Tina

    It is unfathomable not only that Ted Stevens would remain on the ballot in Alaska, but that people are vowing to re-elect him! What are they smoking up there? Do they not understand that convicted felons cannot serve in the Senate? Do they not know that they will be using taxpayer dollars for a special election to occur after Ted is removed? This is the height of insanity. But, I guess now that we've gotten to know Sarah Palin, we shouldn't be all that surprised.

    November 3, 2008 at 7:26 pm |
  11. Craig Love

    The only true words spoken by convicted felon and Senator Stevens:

    “[McCain-Palin] just said that to get you off their tail.”

    True, because for all the "maverickiness" of the GOP ticket, for all of the "transparency" they claim to bring, they're just as guilty of deception and swindling their constituents as Sen. Stevens.

    November 3, 2008 at 6:19 pm |
  12. Danny G. Boca Raton, FL

    Forget Jail, take away his federal pension; he got a sweet home and plenty of money from his lobbyst friends... the American public should not have to support this man, even if his hometown still wants him in the senate...

    November 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  13. Moe NY

    These Republicans think they can go on and on with their criminal activities, which I must admit they have gotten away with many many times before. They all think they are above the law of the land. Come on America...make things right in this country once again...get out and vote Obama/Biden tomorrow. Let's get all of these Republican criminals out of office, their arrogance is beyond the definition of the word!

    November 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  14. gweneth

    Accosting someone at a Church is crossing the line; guilty or not.

    November 3, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  15. tony

    it goes to show that no matter how well liked, how respected, or how good your senate run is, in the end you are a thief who couldn't get happier than stealing from America.

    Just another pathetic Alaskan politician in the headlines. That state needs to really look at how they judge their politicians. First a PTA MOM! And now this. Sheesh

    November 3, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  16. Annie Kate


    I bet Senator Stevens holds that church thing up to you for a long time to come or as long as he is in the public eye. At 84 he ought to retire anyway – convicted or not. Besides being the king of earmarks he sounds like a scrooge.....if he goes to prison I bet you he doesn't make the top ten favorites of the guards!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 3, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  17. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    Ted Stevens is no different than many politicians. He has spent 40 yrs in the Senate and his time there is done. He is basically being forced out. He should of stepped aside earlier and maybe they never would of sent the wolves after him. That's what happened and we all know it. I'm an Independent, and that's the way I see it.

    November 3, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  18. Barb, Des Plaines

    Way to go. Next time I take some quid pro quo I'm blamming the media, too.

    You must admit though, this beats the heck out of a chance encounter with a politician in the rest room.

    November 3, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  19. Mark

    The fact that he has enthusiastic supporters after being found guilty tells me that Alaska obviously doesn't care about corruption or illegal activity on the part of it's elected officials.

    In that case, what does that say about Gov. Palin?

    Stevens should resign.

    November 3, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  20. Julia

    He's a typical politician, in denial and having a seared conscience. Same as most the rest of 'em.

    November 3, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  21. Brenda

    It's hard for the old politicians to realize that things have changed!

    November 3, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  22. Mike from NJ

    "In a nutshell, Ted Stevens says he is not scared about the possibility of prison time because only 'someone who is guilty can go to prison. I am innocent.' "

    WOW. Is it just me, or is this the height of hubris and privelege? Must be nice living in a perfect world.

    Sir, I have to inform you, innocent people go to jail ALL THE TIME. Even if you have not done this crime, people far more innocent than you over the course of their lives have gone to jail for no reason. I would hope that you would have learned this by now.

    I wish you no harm, but wrong was done here, and you benefitted from it. So you are NOT innocent. Whether or not you are guilty, well, that will be decided by a jury.

    November 3, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  23. Kim

    Is there something in the water up there in Alaska that makes politicians think they are above the law and it's okay to lie, deny, cheat and steal from the taxpayers? And what's with all the grumpy old republican men...

    Time for change!

    Obama '08

    November 3, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  24. Vegas

    He won't do time... and most likley get re-elected... America is just weird sometimes...

    November 3, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  25. Leslie

    84 and he's as senile thieft. Time to go to jail directly to jail, do not pass go and PLEASE DON'T collect anymore money!

    November 3, 2008 at 5:08 pm |