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Kristol: ABC's Latest Conservative Casualty

ABC News President David Westin Pays for Gore Dinner, Promotes Stephanopoulos, and Fires Kristol

ABC News President David Westin is once again showing TV news junkies that he has no interest in keeping up appearances of objectivity. This summer, he fiercely objected to ABC hiring "unreliable" Matt Drudge as a radio host (this, from a man who defended the accuracy of ABC's Food Lion faking fiasco).

Now, just weeks after paying for a "working dinner" with Al Gore at White House reporter John Cochran's house that never produced a news story, Westin has dumped the contract of conservative This Week pundit William Kristol.

No Boy George. Just as Westin's decision to fire long-time ABC reporter Bob Zelnick over his Gore biography contrasted with ABC's Gore dinner party at Casa Cochran, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz noted in 1997, "Kristol was added at the same time as George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton White House aide whose contract was recently renewed."

Not only has Boy George been renewed, he has been promoted by Westin to a substitute host on Good Morning America and the network's most regular political analyst. In August, Westin hailed the ex-Clinton aide's "increasing strength and maturity."

Dumping Dorrance. Kurtz reported former This Week Executive Producer Dorrance Smith was also dumped by Westin: "Several sources confirmed that contrary to the public announcement at the time, Smith was forced out by ABC News President David Westin, who has had an increasingly strong hand in the program...Smith, a friend of Linda Tripp from their days in the Bush White House, has told friends that he believes ABC management was displeased with some of the reporting he helped provide during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "[See box.]

He added: "Westin said yesterday that 'over time we have an obligation to our viewers to make sure we present both sides of any issue.' While no one's previous employment should be held against him, he said, 'we shouldn't have executive producers who have identifiable alliances either way.'"

Identifiable Alliances. This quote is incredibly strange, given the history of ABC News, with executives like Vice President David Burke (former Ted Kennedy chief of staff), Executive Producers like Jeff Gralnick (McGovern aide) and Rick Kaplan (Clinton golfing buddy and media fixer), and veteran reporters Pierre Salinger (JFK press secretary) and Jeff Greenfield (RFK speechwriter).

Westin recently replaced Smith at This Week with senior producer Virginia Moseley, who has a few identifiable alliances of her own. Her husband, Thomas Nides, worked for Speaker Tom Foley and then as Chief of Staff to Trade Representative Mickey Kantor. That could be why spin-controller Stephanopoulos called her to try and get conservative author Gary Aldrich removed from the show in 1996.

When he was promoting Stephanopoulos, Westin gave Associated Press a different theory about identifiable alliances: "Are his past and his connections likely to affect his reporting, or likely to be perceived as affecting his reporting? You have to take it case by case." In the case of liberal connections, you get promoted. In the case of conservative connections, you get purged. - Tim Graham