Skip to main content

The Palin Interview: Critics Weigh In on ABC's Charles Gibson

Charles Gibson, of ABC News, got the first interview with Gov. Sarah Palin since she was announced as John McCain’s running mate. Portions of the interview aired Thursday on World News and Good Morning America . The remainder is to air Friday on a one-hour 20/20 special. (See ratings for Thursday’s World News.)

“In choosing Mr. Gibson as Ms. Palin’s interlocutor, the campaign was going with a journalist known for having a mild manner but the gravitas to be taken seriously,” said Jim Rutenberg in a New York Times article, “But the interview was hardly gentle, as Mr. Gibson pressed Ms. Palin for direct answers to some of the complicated foreign policy and national security issues facing the next administration.” Rutenberg was one of three observors who compared Gibson to a professor or university official.

“What the ABC newsman conducted yesterday was a serious, professional interview that went right at the heart of what we want and need to know about the governor,” said Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post.

Others were not as supportive of Gibson, including the Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik, who described the first part of the interview as“[coming] across as a stern, no-nonsense senior professor putting a graduate student through a tough exam.” Zurawik said Gibson was “firm and authoritative without being hectoring,” but also said “he was far from perfect, and he clearly received a lot of help from the way the interview was edited.”

Zurawik was highly critical of the first question in which Gibson asked Palin if she felt she was qualified to be president, pointing out, “What would she say, ‘No, I am not qualified’?”

A few minutes later, Gibson asked Palin if she would support the “Bush Doctrine.”


“When Ms. Palin seemed not to know exactly what the Bush doctrine is, Mr.Gibson made a point of explaining it — pre-emptive self-defense — and demanded that she tell him whether she agreed with it,” according to The Times‘Alessandra Stanley, “Mr. Gibson, who sat back in his chair, impatiently wriggling his foot, had the skeptical, annoyed tone of a university president who agrees to interview the daughter of a trustee but doesn’t believe she merits admission.”


Later, he questioned her on her evolving position on global warming and environmental policy. “When he said he might be cynical but suspected she was tailoring her position to match McCain’s, Palin said he was a cynic. He was certainly aggressive on that point,” said Kurtz.


Slate’s Jack Shafer best described the overall interview when he said, “Without being smarmy about it or unfurling gotcha questions, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson demonstrated that he knows volumes more about national security and foreign policy than does Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.”

By Richard Bellamy