The Untold Truth Of George Stephanopoulos – Nicki Swift
TV viewers have grown accustomed to starting the day with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Good Morning America, part of the on-air team alongside Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan. Yet broadcast journalism isn’t how he started his career. Stephanopoulos first came to national prominence as communications director of Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign, with his efforts filmed for posterity in the acclaimed documentary, The War Room.
In 1997, after several years in the Clinton administration, Stephanopoulos joined ABC News. As his network bio pointed out, he has since become one of America’s best-known TV personalities in his current role as GMA anchor. Interviewing such disparate figures ranging from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Elmo from Sesame Street, through it all Stephanopoulos has managed to maintain an affable approachability that resonates with viewers. There’s no denying Stephanopoulos has contributed to the success of Good Morning America: as Deadline reported, GMA celebrated its “eighth consecutive year” as network television’s top-rated morning show in 2020.
Nevertheless, there’s a lot that viewers may not know about this son of a Greek Orthodox priest, Rhodes Scholar, and respected TV journalist. Let’s discover the untold truth of George Stephanopoulos.
George Stephanopoulos was spoofed on SNL by a comedy superstar
Numerous celebrities and political figures have seen themselves impersonated on Saturday Night Live, and George Stephanopoulos is no exception. What makes the SNL depiction of Stephanopoulos distinctive, however, is that he was portrayed by a future comedy superstar, Mike Myers.
Thanks to NBC’s online SNL archive, viewers can take a walk down Memory Lane and relive those sketches — all three of them. At the time, cast members Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks portrayed then-President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, with Myers playing Stephanopoulos, who was then the White House’s boyish communications director, in two sketches. Myers played Stephanopoulos one other time, after Hooks and Hartman departed the show, with Michael McKean and Janeane Garofalo playing the Clintons.
Interestingly enough, the Canadian comedy star appeared on Good Morning America in 2018 — but was interviewed by Robin Roberts, Michael Strahan, and David Muir, not Stephanopoulos. Thus, denying viewers the opportunity to watch Stephanopoulos and Myers reminisce about how the future Austin Powers star once played the future GMA host. Here’s another fun fact for you: Matthew Broderick also played Stephanopoulos when he hosted SNL, in a 1998 sketch that cast him as a guest on The View.
Why George Stephanopoulos grew a beard during his time in the White House
George Stephanopoulos’ tenure in the White House — first as communications director and then senior advisor for policy and strategy — was no picnic. As he wrote in his 1999 memoir, All Too Human: A Political Education, he once grew a beard to hide a rash brought on by the extreme stress he was under. As Stephanopoulos wrote, “My nerves were shot, and it started to show” when “hives had erupted across my chin.”
It was that stress, Stephanopoulos explained in a 2015 radio interview with Alec Baldwin’s Here’s the Thing, that ultimately led him to quit politics at the age of 35. “White House years are dog years, multiplied,” he explained. “I knew that in order to feel my age again, I had to start a different career.” During that same interview, Stephanopoulos discussed how all those years in politics had shaped him as a journalist. “Most politicians are trying to do the best they can according to what their vision of right and wrong is,” he said. “Having that empathy gives me a better understanding of how things are going to play out.”
Before joining ABC News, George Stephanopoulos taught at Columbia University
In late 1996, following President Bill Clinton’s re-election to a second term in the White House, George Stephanopoulos resigned. HIs next move was revealed in a White House press release: he would teach at his alma mater, Columbia University. It was at this Ivy League school, per his ABC News bio, that Stephanopoulos earned his “Bachelor of Arts degree … and graduated summa cum laude in political science.”
Stephanopoulos was tapped as a visiting professor, teaching political science and hosting two “Town Meetings” for students. “The focus will be on politics, policy and the press as they relate to the modern American presidency,” the release explained. “I think our students will enjoy his teaching enormously,” said Columbia President George Rupp in a statement. “We are proud to welcome him home.”
Stephanopoulos declared he was “very excited” to return and “be part of the great tradition, the intellectual life and campus life that meant so much to me 15 years ago.” In the press release, Stephanopoulos also credited his experience at Columbia for providing “one of the sparks for my career.” He concluded by stating, “I hope sharing my experience with [students] will help do that and I think it is going to be a lot of fun.”
George Stephanopoulos' advice on conducting a successful interview
Before concluding his stint at Columbia, George Stephanopoulos joined ABC News. According to his ABC News bio, he was initially hired as an analyst for This Week, before becoming chief anchor of the network’s news division and, ultimately, anchor of Good Morning America and This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
In the 20-plus years he’s been with ABC News, Stephanopoulos has interviewed a staggering number of newsmakers from across the spectrum, ranging from Russian leader Vladimir Putin to Lady Gaga. When interviewed by Inc. magazine in 2013, Stephanopoulos shared some of the interviewing techniques he’s developed over the years.
Preparation, he explained, is key. “Knowing what you’re talking about breeds respect on both sides,” Stephanopoulos said, but warned about the flip side of knowing one’s subject too well. “I used to try to show off how much work I did,” he added of his interview prep. “But sometimes it was all wind-up and no question.” As a result, the TV journalist recommended asking “direct, open-ended questions.” In addition, Stephanopoulos highlighted the importance of paying attention to nonverbal cues, such as when someone’s eyes light up or glaze over. “You can see it more than you can hear it,” he explained.
Inside George Stephanopoulos and wife Ali Wentworth's quick engagement
In 2001, George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. What could the Greek-American political wonk and the WASPy actress, once a cast member of Fox sketch-comedy hit In Living Color, possibly have in common? A lot, apparently.
As Stephanopoulos told The New York Times at the time of the couple’s 2001 wedding, it didn’t take long during their first date for him to be hit with Cupid’s arrow. “About 15 minutes in, she just leaned in and said something, and we were suddenly in another place, in another universe, immediately,” he said. “We went from strangers to friends to being in love in days.”
Nobody was more surprised by this love connection than Wentworth, who expected all that would result from meeting the former White House adviser would be “a great dinner party story.” As Wentworth admitted in a 2018 interview with Capitol File, her expectations were so low she didn’t even bother to shower. “I thought it’d just be an interesting lunch, but we were married two months later, and have been married over 17 years now,” she marveled.
The 'weird ritual' that George Stephanopoulos' wife finds both 'annoying' and 'lovely'
There are a number of very cool perks associated with being the highly paid anchor of TV’s most popular morning show. The schedule, however, is not one of them.
When George Stephanapoulos was named Good Morning America anchor in 2009, his wife, Ali Wentworth, said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, “I made a very conscious decision that I would go to bed with my husband, because he gets up at 2:30 in the morning. So I’m not getting up at 2:30 — I mean, let’s not be crazy — I get up at 6 with the kids.” As Wentworth explained, “My feeling was if I don’t get to bed with my husband and I don’t wake up with my husband, then he’s just my roommate … And so, we all go to bed as a family around 8:30 or 9.”
Wentworth elaborated during an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan. “I feel to stay married, I go to bed with him at 8:30,” she explained, but added, “George does this one very annoying thing, although it’s lovely: he has to kiss us all before he leaves in the morning. It’s like this weird ritual.”
That time Donald Trump insulted George Stephanopoulos as 'a little wise guy'
As special counsel Robert Mueller investigated alleged Russian ties to the campaign of Donald Trump in 2019, the then-president sat down with George Stephanopoulos for what turned out to be a highly contentious interview.
In a clip from that discussion, shared on the Good Morning America Twitter feed, Stephanopoulos appeared to irk the president by reading a statement declaring that “more than 1,000 former prosecutors have concluded that Trump obstructed justice in the Mueller investigation.” Toward the end of the interview, Stephanapoulos asked Trump why he refused to testify under oath about that alleged obstruction. Trump, clearly becoming annoyed, responded by saying, “They gave me questions, I answered them, in writing.” Replied Stephanopoulos: “Not on obstruction.” Trump then shifted to a personal attack, saying, “Look George, you’re being a little wise guy, OK — which is, you know, typical for you.”
The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple later wrote of this type of tactic, “When you have no arguments, try insults.” As for who came across better in that particular exchange in the Twittersphere, the headline of Wemple’s opinion piece pretty much said it all: “Stephanopoulos is filleting President Trump, clip by clip.”
Does George Stephanopoulos want to be the new Jeopardy! host?
George Stephanopoulos has demonstrated he can make the president of the United States squirm under questioning, but would he consider doing the same thing to contestants on a game show? That was the rumor that emerged in November 2020, following the tragic death of Alex Trebek, when the longtime Jeopardy! host lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at age 80.
According to The Wrap, “A highly placed person with knowledge of the situation” claimed that Stephanopoulos’ agent was “lobbying hard” for the Good Morning America anchor to become the next host of Jeopardy! after Trebek’s passing.
While Stephanopoulos didn’t comment on that particular report, Howard Stern asked him if he’d be interested in the gig during an interview on Stern’s SiriusXM radio show just a few months earlier. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Stern pointed out that hosting Jeopardy! was something that “wouldn’t damage your reputation,” given that the show has “a certain gravitas” and could actually “make you look good.” Stephanopoulos’ response was coy and possibly telling. “I think it would be a lot of fun, but I like what I’m doing too,” he said. “It’s a great show. It’s very flattering. Big shoes to fill.”
George Stephanopoulos earns big bucks on GMA
According to Business Insider, salaries at the White House top out at $400,000 per year, which is what the president earns — staffers earn considerably less. With that in mind, it’s a given that George Stephanopoulos’ bank account, now that he’s an established network news anchor, is far healthier than it was when he worked for the Clinton administration.
In February 2019, Variety reported that Stephanopoulos’ contract with ABC News had been renewed for four more years. His annual salary, the outlet noted, was “believed” to be in the range of “$15 million to $17 million a year.” Given that Stephanopoulos has been employed by the network since the late 1990s, it’s safe to assume he’s managed to sock away a couple of bucks. In fact, as of this writing, Celebrity Net Worth estimates Stephanopoulos’ net worth as $40 million.
Going by other media reports, Stephanopoulos appears to be among the highest-paid morning-news personalities in America. Shortly after Stephanopoulos’ new GMA deal was announced, a Page Six story reported that CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King was seeking a hefty raise during her contract negotiations. For her next contract, per the outlet, King was reportedly asking for “George Stephanopoulos money.”
Ali bragged about their sex life, and George took the ribbing
George Stephanopoulos and wife Ali Wentworth have been married for a long time, but the spark that attracted them in the first place is still sparking. That was apparent in Wentworth’s 2018 book, Go Ask Ali, with Page Six sharing a TMI excerpt. Writing about meeting female friends for lunch, Wentworth described being asked how often she and her husband get it on. “I have lost friends with this question,” she admitted, noting that when she reveals the apparently alarming frequency of their lovemaking, “The women gasp and scream like I’ve confessed that I shot my dog. One of them always slams her fist down on the table; a woman’s wine glass once smashed in her hand. I’m sorry! We’re hot for each other.”
Appearing alongside Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America to promote the book, Wentworth defended her revelation. “By the way, there’s nothing wrong with that. Chris Rock even said to me, ‘You’re a married couple and you have an active physical life, that’s a great thing.’ I am not ashamed of it!” she declared.
However, Wentworth later admitted that Stephanopoulos took some shrapnel, telling Us Weekly, “Of course my husband gets ribbed for it.”
How much did George Stephanopoulos sleep after the 2020 presidential election?
Covering a U.S. presidential election for a network news organization can be an all-encompassing job under normal circumstances, yet there wasn’t a whole lot that was “normal” about the 2020 election. On Nov. 7 — just four days after the election, and prior to the television networks calling the race in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden — George Stephanopoulos appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to discuss ABC News’ election coverage and what it had been like for him personally.
When asked by host Jimmy Kimmel how many hours he’d slept since election day, Stephanapoulos admitted that it hadn’t been a lot. “I kinda had an idea you were gonna ask that,” he responded, “and since Tuesday, I’ve figured it out just now: 14 [hours].” During the interview, Stephanopoulos went on to joke that he was so sleep-deprived while on the air that he could have been cited for “broadcasting under the influence.” In terms of personal hygiene during this period, he revealed that he had been managing by “runn[ing] home” to shower whenever he could.
George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth did not share similar COVID-19 experiences
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, George Stephanopoulos and wife Ali Wentworth were among the first celebrities to reveal they had tested positive. Wentworth was diagnosed first, sharing in an April 1, 2020 Instagram post, “I’ve never been sicker. High fever. Horrific body aches. Heavy chest. I’m quarantined from my family. This is pure misery.”
Less than two weeks later, on April 13, Stephanopoulos revealed he’d also tested positive. However, he displayed no symptoms whatsoever. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel Live! a couple of days after revealing his diagnosis, Stephanopoulos declared, “I’m feeling fine … I never had a fever, never had a cough, never had shortness of breath, no chills.”
Stephanopoulos was also joined by his wife during the interview. “It’s funny, which is very indicative of our lives,” Wentworth quipped to Kimmel. “I get corona and I’m deathly ill for three weeks with a high fever, and sweating, achy, and going crazy like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, and George gets it and he has no symptoms.”
Jerry Seinfeld led George Stephanopoulos to Transcendental Meditation
Viewers learned a surprising fact about George Stephanopoulos when they tuned into a 2012 edition of Good Morning America, when he was joined by comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Bob Roth, executive director of the David Lynch Foundation. As Stephanopoulos told viewers, “We’re all here because we have something in common: we all practice Transcendental Meditation,” which, he revealed, he learned about from Seinfeld.
During the discussion, Stephanopoulos and his guests cleared up some common misconceptions about TM, whose celebrity devotees also include Katy Perry and Howard Stern. Perhaps the biggest of these, he said, is that TM is some kind of religion, which it isn’t. “It’s a technique,” explained Stephanopoulos. “It’s compatible with all kinds of religions. What it really does is try to get the stress out of your life, and now scientists are finding real health benefits.”
Admitting that the benefits of TM can be “hard to explain,” Seinfeld said that meditating is “like having … you know how your phone has a charger? It’s like having a charger for your whole body and mind. That’s what TM is.”
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