George Stephanopoulos Talks New Book, Trump Lawsuit, Debates

Following that wunderkind tenure on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and ensuing roles within the Clinton White House, George Stephanopoulos has been a mainstay of American political media. But he hasn’t, in the 25 years since memoir All Too Human: A Political Education, revisited the beltway — or anything — in a book.

“I’ve turned down many book [ideas],” says the Good Morning America co-anchor and host of ABC News’ This Week. “I actually started another and just didn’t finish it. I didn’t think it was new or that I could do it well enough.”

Stephanopoulos’ interest, however, was finally piqued by a subject a few years back that — one he initially mistook for low-hanging fruit. But it turns out that the Situation Room, the West Wing’s intelligence operations center and ground zero for so many dramatic (told and untold) moments in U.S. history, had never gotten a proper nonfiction treatment. Stephanopoulos quickly signed on. The fruits of his labor, a presidency-by-presidency look at the room’s most fraught hours, arrives Tuesday with the publication of The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis. It chronicles the hub from its creation under President Kennedy to President Biden’s waning first term, with a harrowing account of the Jan. 6 insurrection thrown in for good measure.

Chatting about the book over the phone in late April, Stephanopoulos teased the most unusual revelation from his research, opined on taking Donald Trump supporters to task on This Week and went through the conundrum of Trump and Biden’s “Will They or Won’t They?” debate dance ahead of the coming election. Here are the highlights.

Biggest Research Surprise? Jimmy Carter’s Psychic Sit-Down
“We scoured all of the presidential memoirs, all of the presidential diaries, and I saw this line about parapsychology,” he says. “We tracked down Jake Stewart, who was Jimmy Carter’s Naval Aide, and he told us about how he briefed Carter in the Situation Room on the use of psychics to help locate the hostages trapped in Iran. That just blew me away.”

The Impact of Grilling Trump Supporters
“Well, it’s prompted a lawsuit from Donald Trump,” Stephanopoulos says, referencing the former president’s recent defamation suit against himself and ABC News. It’s [the guest’s] choice whether to come on or not, but I think it’s my responsibility to ask those questions. I’ve been doing this now for several months. If someone is coming on who’s endorsed Donald Trump for president, I do believe they should have to account for it. My job is to hold politicians and policymakers accountable. They should have to account for their defense of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his indictments for classified documents, his indictments for sexual abuse and defamation. If you’re going to endorse someone who’s been indicted for those kinds of activities — and, in civil cases, been adjudicated against for those kinds of activities — you should have explain why you think someone with that kind of record should be president.”

The Situation Room Audiobook Is More Like a Podcast
“We did over 120 interviews, almost all of them on Zoom — which actually made for what I think will be a special audiobook,” he says. “It will feel more like a podcast than a book. I’m the narrator, but we were able to weave in all the interviews so the people being quoted are speaking in their own voice.”

The Presidential Debate Dilemma
“President Biden said he wanted to debate, and Donald Trump said he wants to, so let’s see what happens,” he says. “It’s going to be interesting after the last experience. It’s going to be difficult to figure out how to keep the candidates focused and to ensure that the debate is conducted in a way that’s based on facts. … But [a moderator] has to be in control. It’s just been shown as one of the difficulties of doing a lot of interview with former President Trump. If he’s going to flood the zone with falsehoods, it’s almost impossible to fact-check all that in real time, which I think does raise real challenges for how to conduct a debate.”


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