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XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX SUNDAY JUNE 09, 2002 13:58:02 ET XXXXX
STEPHANOPOLOUS: I'LL BE READY BY FALL
George Stephanopoulos has assured executives at ABC NEWS that he will be ready by fall to fly solo and take on NBC's Tim Russert in the Sunday morning TV wars.
ABC NEWS President David Westin has set a September launch for Stephanopoulos as anchor of THIS WEEK, replacing Cokie Roberts and a reportedly disgruntled Sam Donaldson.
"It's a done deal," a top network source said with a smile last week. "Mr. Stephanopoulos has a television show!"
"He's a bold new face of ABC NEWS," the source continued. "We are going to go out [and publicize Stephanopoulos] with a major push, in print, billboards, cross-network tie-ins... we want him everywhere. His face will be on the side of busses."
ABC executives hope Stephanopoulos's former boss President Bill Clinton will appear on an early Stephanopoulos broadcast, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
"It just might be a good idea to go out there and face-down any criticism that George has jumped from the White House to the anchor chair in too short a time. Nothing would be better than for George to interview former President Clinton as a journalist. Now, that would be great TV."
Stephanopoulos will spend the summer brushing up his on-air skills.
Early performances as anchor in other dayparts, showing a stumbling, shifty-eyed Stephanopoulos, have, for the most part, eased.
"He's still not completely comfortable with the TelePrompTer," notes an insider. "He'll be working on it. We will, of course, play to his strong suit, which is the interview. Here, George can take on [MEET THE PRESS] Russert directly, out of the gate."
A slight wrinkle in the Stephanopoulos transition appears to be network veteran Sam Donaldson, who is reportedly seeking some form of compensation for the exit.
Donaldson's attorney, Bob Barnett, who, coincidentally, also reps Stephanopoulos and outgoing Cokie Roberts, refused all comment.
Filed By Matt Drudge
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