Many viewers who tuned in to ABC News’ election night coverage on Tuesday were surprised to find the usually impeccable Diane Sawyer acting, well, a little loopy.
Throughout the evening’s broadcast, the anchor frequently slurred her speech, stumbling multiple times over President Obama’s name and, at one point, calling him “President Barack.” She also seemed distracted and easily excited, asking off-topic questions about the Obama campaign’s use of exclamation points while leaning heavily on her desk as if for support. (See video evidence above).
So, it’s fair to say Sawyer had an off night. Big deal, right? Not quite: As Sawyer learned Tuesday night, all it takes to turn a few giddy moments into a full-blown controversy is the unforgiving glare of the Twitterverse. Her behavior quickly became a trending topic on the microblogging site, where viewers speculated she was either drunk, had popped a few too many pills, or both. The inevitable “DrnkDianeSawyer” account quickly followed.
Though ABC has not commented specifically on the speculation, there is at least one possible, non-chemical explanation for Sawyer’s odd behavior. According to a source in the New York Daily News, the veteran anchor was not inebriated but was simply tired after days of election prep with little sleep. This certainly makes sense, although a “SleepyDianeSawyer” account probably wouldn’t go viral, would it?
Sawyer was at least with it enough to deal handily with some unforeseen circumstances. According to the New York Times, the power in ABC News’ Times Square studio went out a few minutes before 11 p.m. EST, just as polls on the West Coast were about to close. As a result of the outage, Sawyer and her co-anchor George Stephanopoulos had to relocate to another corner of the studio.
She later took to Twitter to thank the team of technicians who kept ABC on the air throughout the mishap. Sawyer also acknowledged the rumors rather obliquely, saying that she’d read viewer tweets -- “the good, bad and funny.”
Not everyone found Sawyer’s demeanor quite so problematic. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Tom Shales heaped praise on ABC’s election night coverage, which, he said, was the envy of other network news organizations. He described Sawyer as “indefatigable, if sometimes overly thrilled” and called her energy “awe-inspiring.”
For the record, this isn’t the first time that Sawyer’s on-air demeanor has raised eyebrows. In 2009, she slurred her speech during ABC’s coverage of the Obama inauguration. Gawker assumed she was intoxicated, but the official explanation was more mundane: She’d been up for 24 hours straight.
Let’s just hope Sawyer gets some sleep before Jan. 20.