ABC’s Odd Man Out

Philly guy Jake Tapper was considered a shoo-in to replace George Stephanopolous. So why didn't he get the gig?

Poor Jake Tapper.

ABC’s White House ace — a homeboy and graduate of Akiba Hebrew Academy — was considered a slam dunk to take over as anchor of “This Week” when George Stephanopoulos headed to “Good Morning America” in December.

When CNN’s Christiane Amanpour entered the picture, however, it was game over for Tapper, as well as for everyone on ABC’s short list. She has enormous talent and impeccable credentials. She is also a genuine star in a profession that includes few real celebrities. Tapper is not. Not yet. [SIGNUP]

The “it boy” of the White House TV press corps, Tapper, 41, has won kudos for skillfully walking the line between aggressiveness and belligerence. When he’s recognized at press briefings, he stays on point, standing fast against the tide of presidential spin.

Think Sam Donaldson, but less bellicose and more polite.

In the tradition begun by the late, great Roone Arledge, ABC News likes big, brassy stars. Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel, the late Peter Jennings — Amanpour fits comfortably into that pantheon. And on the star-less Sunday-morning circuit, Amanapour will be luminous.

She officially joined the network last week, to begin in August. Until then, Tapper — who else? — has the odious task of keeping the seat warm for her at “This Week.” There is an up side: The added face time will only bolster his stock when his contract is up in 2012.

“He’s the best White House correspondent out there,” says an ABC executive, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He’s young, hungry, a pit bull. He will get his turn, but you have to feel for the guy.”

Tapper, as usual, isn’t talking. Don’t expect him to in the future, either. When you’re as savvy as the President you cover, you know that nobody likes a whiner.

GAIL SHISTER, TV columnist for the Inquirer for 25 years, teaches writing at Penn and is a columnist for She writes for The Philly Post on Tuesdays.