By Constantine S. Sirigos
TNH Staff Writer
NEW YORK – When Diane Sawyer ends her tenure as the anchor of ABC’s evening newscast in August, her duties will be shared by David Muir and George Stephanopoulos, ABC’s chief political correspondent, co-host of “Good Morning America” and the host of “This Week,” on Sunday mornings.
The everyday anchor will be Muir, but for breaking news and special events such as election night coverage, Stephanopoulos will be Chief Anchor.
“We are all very proud of him and happy for him,” his mother, Presbytera Nikki Stephanopoulos told TNH. “Many people have been calling us the past few days.”
His father, Rev. Dr. Robert (Haralambos) Stephanopoulos, Dean Emeritus of New York’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, told TNH “He was well-regarded by the leadership at ABC and he worked his way up….based on his high performance,” and better things were constantly expected of him.
“He’s been moving right along and has been doing well. We are proud of him, as we are of all our children,” Presbytera Stephanopoulos said.
Stephanopoulos’ family and friends were primed to expect big things based on his energy, focus, character and academic achievements. He was salutatorian and Columbia University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.
But the foundation was laid by his parents, whom he observed interacting with all kinds of people right from the cradle.
“He was always very comfortable with people and always aware of what was going on around him…and he was a very good student,” his mother said, “like his other siblings, who took different paths…They all are very aware of what is happening in the world and always will be,” and she noted they enjoyed their trips to Greece.
Stephanopoulos’ interest in current events and commitment to public service led him from college into politics. Asked if there were childhood activities that hinted at a future in the media, Presbytera Stephanopoulos said “he was often on the Academic Challenge,” the high school quiz show on WEWS-TV in Cleveland.
By the time he got to ABC “It was a natural climb – there were difficulties, it wasn’t easy – but he pursued his goals…It’s a credit to him and his hard work and determination through the years,” she said.
IF YOU CAN’T SPELL IT, FORGET IT
Presbytera told TNH that “At one point during the Clinton campaign some of the reporters got after him to change his name. George said ‘if you can’t spell it or pronounce it, don’t use it. Forget about it.”
But it was not in the cards for Stephanopoulos to be forgotten. Although the evening news has lost some cachet, Fr. Stephanopoulos acknowledged that George is now the face of ABC News.
“The new alignment breaks several precedents,” the Times reported, “chiefly the longstanding hierarchy in television news where the evening news anchor — from Walter Cronkite at CBS to Peter Jennings at ABC — was always the chief anchor for each network. Mr. Stephanopoulos is adding the title of “chief anchor” and will be elevated above Mr. Muir in every instance of live coverage of breaking news…At the same time, the moves underscore the predominance of morning news television over anything else produced by a network news division,” adding that GMA is “by far the biggest profit center for the news division.”
There is an element of charisma those jobs require. Fr. Stephanopoulos said that when his son was growing up “certainly he was not outgoing, but he was not shy either. In some respects he was average,” his high academic achievements notwithstanding.
Fr. Stephanopoulos also emphasized the importance of George’s experience in government, “seeing it from the inside. He used that a lot both in terms of his contacts and his perspective on events.”
In his biography Stephanopoulos shared his father’s as she rose within the Clinton administration. The son was told to remember the story of Icarus and not to fly too close to the sun.
Told his son took the advice to heart. Fr. Stephanopoulos said “he is very modest, very anchored.”
Stephanopoulos’ wife Alexandra “Ali,” also has media and public service roots. She is an actress, comedian, author and producer. Her mother Mabel was Nancy Reagan’s White House Social Secretary and her father, Eric Wentworth, was a reporter for The Washington Post.
FOX 5 anchor Ernie Anastos knows what it takes. He told TNH “As a journalist, I am proud of his accomplishments and commitment to excellence. George has brought a new style and level of professional reporting to television news. He will do well in his new and added responsibilities and I personally wish him well. We are very proud of George.”
John Catsimatidis, who coordinates TV coverage of the Greek parade, said “George Stephanopoulos has always excelled, whether sitting in the office in the White House next to the President or The TOP Spot in the World for ABC NEWS. He is a role model for our youth to aspire to.”
“What makes George Stephanopoulos such a perfect person for his new post at ABC is that he is a journalist for everyone,” said Nick Katsoris, General Counsel for the Red Apple Group who has worked closely with the media through the years.
Katsoris also too emphasized his ability to fly high while remaining down to earth. “He can interview the most powerful leaders in the world and then at the end of the week cook his pasta and Sunday Sauce with his daughters…the Greek community couldn’t be prouder!”
Andy Manatos, President of the National Coordinate Effort of Hellenes, said “The extraordinary success that George has experienced in every aspect of his life is a testament to the abundance of talent he was blessed with and to his ability to do the most with it.”
Manatos told TNH that Stephanopoulos “has been instrumental to American policy toward Hellenic and Orthodox issues…under President Bill Clinton the American government switched the positions of France and Germany so that Cyprus could join the EU, persuaded Turkish troops to leave the Greek islet of Imia…and Clinton profoundly communicated to Turkey the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by personally visiting it.”
He concluded that “as in his past, today George always responds positively to matters of importance to our community.”