TONY POTTS: Diane Sawyer Drunk On The Air? Here’s My Take ‘Cuz I’ve Been There…

I wanted to wait roughly 24-hours before I commented on Diane Sawyer’s Election Night “performance.” Why? Two reasons: I’ve been there. A bit “lit” while live on television. Second, I wanted to watch her tonight on ABC’s World News, her regular gig, to make sure last night wasn’t a mirage and to have a vivid comparison while last night was fresh.

To my first point, I’ve probably done more than 4,000 shows during my career. Out of all those shows, I’ve imbibed twice. One was by accident, I wasn’t supposed to be on-air that night. The second time came after a long day at a charity golf event followed by a fantastic charity dinner where we toasted (often) how much money we raised for the kids. The first time, I was fine. Luckily, I was on for only five minutes. The second time, I was a little buzzed and I slurred a few words here and there…pulled out some slightly left-field references (all accurate by the way, but certainly not essential to the broadcast) and mercifully got off the air without incident. I would tell you more, but it was more of a nice, warm blur than a vivid memory.

So back to Diane. One of the most effective broadcasters in history. She doesn’t yell at you. Doesn’t change into “anchor voice”. She chats with you. She’s also been part of a very smart, savvy pivot of World News. Better content as it relates to today’s audience.

Last night during Election Night, Diane was an incredibly effective communicator to those who were at the end of the bar. Various somewhat nonsensical outbursts followed by giggles or slurred words — which have been well-chronicled in the past 24-hours. But nonsensical outbursts are what usually happen at the end of the bar followed by head nods and another throwback of alcohol from all the patrons sitting on barstools. They’re on the same chemical-fueled universe where nonsense makes sense.

But Diane wasn’t at the bar and George Stephanopoulos wasn’t a patron throwing back shots. I felt for him a bit. In fact, having co-hosted a number of times with someone who was obviously under the influence, I know exactly how George was feeling. There was one time Diane went off on some sort of tangent which abruptly ended and George didn’t move, didn’t look at Diane (couldn’t look at her) and didn’t let his lips even part in an attempt to say anything to fill-in the deafening silence. It was at that point that I knew it wasn’t fun for George anymore. When you host with someone for so long, sometimes you know when to just keep your mouth shut. Even when you’re live on the air. There’s only so much you can do and we’re all adults here.

Is it a big deal? I don’t know. She didn’t go ‘off-the-rails’. Diane did fire off a fabulous shot at one of her panelists…Nicole Wallace, saying something to the affect “You’re always with the losers”. It was so hilarious that the usually unflappable Donna Brazile, current Vice Chairman of the DNC, could not contain her laughter, covered her mouth and tried to hide.

Someday the live feed from the commercial breaks will make it to YouTube. THAT is where you see the real stuff. Trust me. Altho, I might imagine at some point ABC execs probably realized they needed to take down the studio feed during the commercial breaks.

All in all, Diane looked and sounded like the old Diane tonight on World News — a definitive 180 from Election Night. Maybe Washington and Colorado sent her some pre-election ‘promotional paraphernalia’. I grew up in Washington and it’s very neighborly to send over a fresh plate of brownies.

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