Christiane Amanpour wasn't made for the Beltway world but her year-and-a-half stint on ABC's This Week was a refreshing departure from the typical Sunday humdrum.
The host of ABC's political talk show announced her departure today, noting that she'll be a "roving Global Affairs anchor across all ABC platforms" while hosting a weekday show on CNN International and setting forth on foreign dispatches as well. From the moment she was brought on at This Week her critics cited her Washington inexperience as a liability, which a number of her critics cited vindictively on Twitter following today's news. "Can't see why ABC set Amanpour up for this inevitable fall. She belongs in the field wearing a flak jacket," wrote Townhall's political editor Guy Benson. "@jaketapper belongs @ This Week." Others also jumped on the Jake Tapper bandwagon. "HIRE JAKE TAPPER IMMEDIATELY" tweeted GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak. Bloomberg's Josh Green adde, "Endorse. Even the all-caps."
Of course Tapper, the network's White House correspondent who served as interim anchor at This Week after George Stephanopoulos left, was the obvious choice to take over the show at the time. (Now Stephanopolous will return to This Week, The New York Times reports). But word of Amanpour's hire intrigued a number of foreign affairs buffs longing for a Sunday political show that was distinguishable from the traditional Beltway-driven fare. "Her international perspective on domestic concerns could shed new light on the most pressing issues facing the Obama administration," wrote The Atlantic's Max Fisher. "Maybe a war-weary outsider like Amanpour is exactly what we need."
And in many ways, that international perspective paid off handsomely. Interviewing Michele Bachmann in late October, Amanpour asked, "As President Bachmann, if you had not taken that decision to lead and support the NATO option, there would presumably be tens of thousands, presumably hundreds of thousands, dead in Benghazi and Muammar Qaddafi would still be in power, is that what President Bachmann would've wanted?" Even though Bachmann stuck to her guns, citing then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates's view that Libya wasn't a "vital interest," the gutsy question prompted a more edifying discussion than could be found elsewhere:
When it came to Washington politics, another thing that distinguished Amanpour's coverage was women's issues. Oftentimes she scored high-profile female guests who made buzzworthy comments on political issues from a distinctly feminine perspective. There was Nancy Pelosi criticizing Sen. Scott Brown's attacks on Elizabeth Warren as disrespectful; or Arianna Huffington denouncing attacks on Michele Bachmann's migraine issues as "so sexist"; or Hillary Clinton laughing at Herman Cain's quote about "Beki-beki-beki-bekistan." Amanpour created a casual forum for powerful women to air their views which managed to remain substantive, as The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn pointed out about a "smart, substantive discussion of education reform" in September. "[The show] is sharp, but civil. In both respects, that's a lot better than what you usually see on the Sunday shows."
In other instances, she excelled in ways her future replacement likely will not. Her most often cited achievement was scoring an exclusive interview with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February just days before his resignation. It was no small feat, considering Cairo was engulfed in violent protests with street thugs intimidating journalists. She also brokered it herself, without This Week's bookers, in an impromptu off-camera discussion. As the broadcast clip shows, Amanpour ended up reporting on the off-camera interview to Diane Sawyer in a way fitting a foreign correspondent, not an anchor.
Alas, in the end though, it appears Washington culture was not made for her. The New York Post reported Sunday that Amanpour's departure was imminent, noting she was "miserable" and had "clashed with network executives." In recent weeks, ratings for Amanpour's Sunday show slipped behind NBC's Meet the Press and CBS's Face the Nation. According to the Post. "The DC bureau never warmed up to Amanpour, who was seen as an outsider, commuting to Washington every week to host the show." Regardless, it was fun while it lasted.