George Stephanopoulos Tells Oprah: 'Impossible' Not to be Excited by Obama Win
Former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Friday's edition of the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and agreed with the host that it was "impossible" not to feel exuberant when Barack Obama was declared the winner on election night. Stephanopoulos also repeatedly admitted that he fervently believed all along the Democratic candidate would defeat Senator John McCain. Stephanopoulos' wife, actress Ali Wentworth, also appeared as part of the show's weekly "Oprah Fridays Live" series and asserted that in the spring she asked her reporter husband, "Is Obama going to win? Is Obama going to win? He said, 'Yes. He's going to win.'"
Wentworth elaborated, "And I was texting him during the election. Like, 'Really? Absolutely?' He would say, 'Easily. It's done. Yes.' Which was so- [Stops herself.]" Fellow panelist Mark Consuelos (an actor and husband of Kelly Ripa) also recounted the supposedly neutral journalist assuring him that Obama would be victorious. He explained, "We had dinner together over the summer and I sat next to you....I said, I'm a supporter but I just don't- I - feel nervous that America is not ready to elect, you know, Obama." Consuelos repeated the confident reply: "And he [Stephanopoulos] said, 'November 4, Obama will be elected president. Please pass the rigatoni,' is exactly what he said."
This is the same George Stephanopoulos who repeatedly fawned over the Democrat's campaign performance. The MRC's Brent Baker noted on October 16 that in coverage of the debates, Stephanopoulos declared Obama and his vice presidential running mate Joe Biden the winner each and every time.
So, "Oprah" viewers might have been forgiven for laughing when Winfrey, herself a strong supporter of Obama, seriously declared, "...I think even all the journalists and you have handled yourself, you know, with such, you know, measured restraint through all this, even if you knew last spring that Barack Obama was going to win. But didn't you even on Tuesday night feel a sense of exuberance, George?"
With no hesitation, Stephanopoulos concurred, "It was impossible not to." He then went on to cite the historic nature of Obama being the first African American president. Certainly, it was historic. But, exuberance? Few conservatives felt exuberant over the tax increases that they expect to come or the liberal Supreme Court judges that they believe will be nominated.
Speaking of the apparent lack of any hesitation for Americans to vote for a African American candidate, Stephanopoulos hinted, "The economy for so many people is in such tough shape. You saw these numbers this morning. Another 240,000 jobs lost. That they were able to look beyond so many other issues that might have held them back in the past." He was citing a column by New York Times writer Tom Friedman at this point. But it still sounds like saying that Americans could look past racism because of a poor economy.
Stephanopoulos has a bit of a history in this area. On the May 13, 2007 edition of "This Week," he predicted racists don't vote for Democrats anyway: "I guess I think that anyone who's not going to vote for Barack Obama because he is black isn't going to vote for a Democrat anyway."
A partial transcript of Stephanopoulos' appearance over three segments on Friday's "Oprah Winfrey Show" can be found below.
ALI WENTWORTH (Actress, wife of Stephanopoulos): So, honey, we were not together. You were covering the election when Barack Obama won. I was with our children, feeding them nutritiously. But you called it so long ago. I think last spring. I kept saying to him, what do you think? Is Obama going to win? Is Obama going to win? He said, yes. He's going to win. And I was- Last spring. And I was texting him during the election. Like, Really? Absolutely? He would say, "Easily. It's done. Yes." Which was so- [Stops herself.]
GAYLE KING: How did you know? How did you know, George? How did you know that?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It was more- the condition of the country. It's just very, very hard for the incumbent party to hold the White House when the president is so unpopular, when the economy is in such bad shape, and when you're trying for essentially a third term for the same party. So, I thought once Barack got the nomination, I thought unless he really made a huge mistake, over the course of the summer, the fall, he would almost certainly win. And basically from June on he didn't make any mistakes.
MARK CONSUELOS (Actor): Hey, George. We had dinner together over the summer and I sat next to you and I said, okay, forgive me for asking you this question. I was nervous. I said, I'm a supporter but I just don't- I - feel nervous that America is not ready to elect, you know, Obama. He said, November 4-
KING: Elect Obama or elect a black man?
CONSUELOS: Both. And he said, "November 4, Obama will be elected president. Please pass the rigatoni" is exactly what he said.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the rigatoni was terrific by the way.
CONSUELOS: The rigatoni was great.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you get at something- One of the most surprising things to me in this entire election was how little of it was about race. I mean, it's really shocking when you think about it. The first African American who is a serious candidate, who has a real serious chance of being president and most people looked way beyond race. Like, we asked about this in our polls, 80 percent of the country said it didn't matter at all in their vote. Only about 20 percent did. And they kind of split.
OPRAH WINFREY: You know, I thought it was interesting too, because when the press started talking about the Bradley Effect, what had happened in California many years ago, I thought, well, I think we are so far beyond that in this country that bringing up the Bradley Effect now makes people, you know, gives it an energy and power it might not have had.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's right. It turned out the Bradley effect might not even have been the Bradley effect. But, the best line I heard about that in this election is the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Thomas Friedman who said in this election the Bradley Effect may have been overwhelmed by the Buffet Effect. And what he was talking about is Warren Buffet. And what he means is the economy. The economy for so many people is in such tough shape. You saw these numbers this morning. Another 240,000 jobs lost. That they were able to look beyond so many other issues that might have held them back in the past.
[Coming back from break]
WINFREY: Everybody talked about that they're praying for him. Do you know for the past 30 days in the makeup room every morning, makeup artists, hair stylists, Louise, all of us we would stop at 8:00 in the morning and pray for Barack Obama? A lot of people are doing that.
WENTWORTH: But, we felt early on that when the McCain- when they announced Sarah Palin as the VP, it felt, I think, as a very desperate thing even back then.
CONSUELOS: It felt gimmicky.
WINFREY: Okay. Let George answer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think so much of this is actually just personal because you're right. What everything you have to say makes sense. It doesn't make any sense for them to make themselves look like liars, now all of a sudden saying she really wasn't ready to be president. But I think what happened here is that over the course of the couple of months, the people from the McCain camp who worked very closely with Governor Palin, a lot of them, at least, got kind of fed up. They felt that she wasn't always doing her homework, some of them. They also felt that one of the McCain staffers was getting blamed for this clothing purchase which they said, look, it wasn't true. She had nothing to do with it. So, they were fighting back. And I think their feelings were rubbed so raw and they were so emotional about it they didn't care how about it would look later.
WINFREY: But even as a journalist, I mean, I think even all the journalists and you have handled yourself, you know, with such, you know, measured restraint through all this, even if you knew last spring that Barack Obama was going to win. But didn't you even on Tuesday night feel a sense of exuberance, George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It- It was impossible not to. The moment, again, whenever your politics, Democrat, Republican, independent, this was a major moment, signature moment in American history. This was a country that, you know, we had slaves not too long ago. Only 45 years ago, the Civil Rights act was signed into law. And at the very moment when the election was officially called at 11:00, I was there with Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer and I. And Charlie announced it and we all just went silent and let the moment happen.
WINFREY: It was a very sobering moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that was the best way to honor the moment.