Charlie Gibson says he was not forced out at ABC and ABC's David Westin insists that's the truth. I hope so because no one was more deserving of the anchor chair than Gibson. Westin would have had little reason to replace him now.
For years, Gibson has been one of the most solid, trustworthy, intelligent and prepared news people on television. A long time Washington correspondent who paid his dues, Gibson moved on to Good Morning America and played his role there well, but he belonged in the anchor chair, if not at ABC then at one of the other networks. It was not easy to see Charlie squirm when, on GMA, he was forced to do light segments (like talking to Kermit the Frog) or promote Disney movies. You could tell he hated it. Even the cooking segments were tough for him, though he had an obvious affection for Julia Child when she was a regular.
Gibson could easily have taken over for Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw when they departed. In fact, Gibson was easily the best of both of those legends. He has the necessary gravitas. He's studied, he's quick on his feet and, most of all, he relishes the role. Like Walter Cronkite and those of an earlier age, Charles Gibson is a news man who loves being part of historical events and wears his patriotism securely but not ostentatiously.
Will Diane Sawyer be a worthy successor? Yes. Sawyer has many of the requisite strengths. She knows her stuff. She's smart and she works as hard as anyone. Her only fault is that she likes the spotlight. Sawyer sometimes allows herself to become part of a piece. There's a little too much "I" when she's on camera.
The ratings will probably hold their own at ABC and Brian Williams at NBC will once again be in a horse race. But, it won't be the same. I, for one, will miss Charles Gibson during major events.
And, by the way, look for George Stephanopoulos to be waiting in the wings. He is the obvious (and worthy) successor to the 64-year-old Sawyer. Believe me it won't be long until there's a World News Tonight with George S.....