George Stephanopoulos: Asking the Tough Questions

George Stephanopoulos is currently the Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News and anchor of ABC’s Sunday morning political affairs program, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” This past year, Stephanopoulos has interviewed every major Republican and Democratic candidate, and moderated debates for the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

George Stephanopoulos has a rare insight into presidential campaigns, unlike the majority of mainstream television journalists, since he used to work on the other side of politics, as a senior advisor to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

Although Stephanopoulos received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Columbia University, a career in politics seemed unlikely after receiving his Master’s degree in theology from Balliol College at Oxford University in England, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

While Stephanopoulos’s father and grandfather were priests in the Greek Orthodox church, Stephanopoulos made a decision early on not to follow the same path. His father urged him to become a lawyer, but after graduating from Oxford, Stephanopoulos decided to go work for Ohio Congressman Ed Feighan in 1982 as a legislative assistant.

The first presidential campaign Stephanopoulos worked on was in 1988 for Michael Dukakis, who he felt an affinity for since they were both liberal Greek-Americans from Massachusetts. After the campaign, Stephanopoulos worked for House Majority Leader, Dick Gephardt, until joining the Clinton campaign.

Stephanopoulos was a leading member of the Clinton campaign along with James Carville and David Wilhelm. After the 1992 election, he became Clinton’s Communications Director and then Senior Advisor to President Clinton during his first administration.

However, all did not end well between Stephanopoulos and the Clintons. Stephanopoulos resigned from the administration shortly after the 1996 election and wrote a tell-all book called “All Too Human: A Political Education” published in 1999, which became a New York Times #1 bestseller. The book discussed Stephanopoulos’s struggles and clashes with President Clinton and First Lady Hilary during Clinton’s first term and the 1992 and 1996 Clinton/Gore campaigns.

Stephanopoulos made his transition into journalism when he joined ABC News in 1997 as a news analyst for “This Week.” In 2002, he began anchoring “This Week” replacing long-time host, the late David Brinkley, who went into retirement. The program’s title was changed to “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” to reflect this change. Stephanopoulos was named Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News in December 2005.

Since making the switch from politician to journalist, Stephanopoulos has been criticized for being biased due to his liberal background. In response, Stephanopoulos told Greek Circle Magazine: “I ask people to judge me by my work. The longer I work in journalism, of course, the fewer questions there are.”

However, after the Democratic debate that he moderated with ABC News’ Charles Gibson in April 2008, he received criticism for being too aggressive and asking unfair questions to the Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.

“The questions we asked were tough and fair and appropriate and relevant and what you would expect to be asked in a presidential debate at this point,” Stephanopoulos told the L.A. Times. “The questions we asked…are being debated around the political world every day.”

Stephanopoulos, as influenced by his father, believes his role in life is to make a difference in the world. In his commencement address at St. John’s University in 2007, he explained that “…trying to change people’s lives for the better; it’s what we’re called to do. Not to create a perfect world in a world of imperfect people, it’s just not possible. But a better world.”

As evident in his interviews with the most important world leaders and political candidates, Stephanopoulos will continue to play a role in future presidential elections by asking questions that inform and educate the public about those politicians who have the power to change the world.