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George Stephanopoulos: The Spin Doctor

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It’s almost 7 a.m., and the New York City set of ABC’s Good Morning America is buzzing with activity. Joan Lunden rushes onto the stage, carrying a trough of cosmetics. In the green room, GMA’s ”New Year, New You” weight-loss participants anxiously try to avoid the breakfast table. And on the couch, today’s guests include multiple Grammy nominee Babyface and former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, making his debut as an ABC News analyst. ”I love him,” one fitness guinea pig’s mom gushes about Stephanopoulos. ”I’d vote for him for President. He’s a decent man — and adorable. What is he, 14?”

Actually, 35, and happy to be an ABC/Disney employee — ”as long as they don’t make me put on the mouse ears,” he says after finishing his first segment. But, he adds, ”I don’t know what they were trying to say by having me on with Babyface. From one Babyface to another?”

It’s the youthful mug that ABC is banking on to attract younger viewers to GMA and This Week, where Stephanopoulos will be a regular panelist. ”I’m getting long in the tooth myself,” says This Week coanchor Sam Donaldson. ”We need fresh new blood.” And if the hunky Stephanopoulos draws more women, too, all the better. ”I can’t see from a female perspective,” Donaldson offers, ”but I’m told that George is very attractive.”

GMA and This Week are only part of Stephanopoulos’ post- White House plans, however. He’ll also teach a course on the American presidency at Columbia University (his alma mater), and he’s signed a reported $2.75 million book deal for his memoirs. Plus, he just taped a cameo for the ABC sitcom Spin City. ”He’s a great guy,” Stephanopoulos says of star Michael J. Fox, a pal since the 1992 campaign, although he notes, ”I’m taller.”

Fox’s American President character was based on Stephanopoulos, who has become something of a pop-culture archetype with yuppie-adviser clones popping up in The Pelican Brief (Tony Goldwyn) and Broken Arrow (Frank Whaley). ”I wouldn’t mind getting the royalties from them,” he jokes. Stephanopoulos, who’s been too busy to watch much TV for the past few years, confesses: ”I managed to catch the Friends where I was talked about. I guess it was flattering.”

Though Stephanopoulos says he’ll miss helping run the country, he won’t miss the punishing schedule. ”One of the things I’m most amazed by since I left the White House is how long the days seem,” he says. ”I just did my five minutes on Good Morning America, and I’m done with most of my work for the day.” Nice work if you can get it.

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