Sam Donaldson was twice chief White House correspondent for ABC News

In his prime, Sam Donaldson was the national journalist to watch. The ABC News veteran and former correspondent barked questions at presidents and held court in the press briefing room.

On March 11, Donaldson celebrates his 87th birthday.

Donaldson served with ABC News from 1967 to 2013. He is best known as the network’s White House Correspondent (1977–1989 and 1998–99) and as a panelist and later co-anchor of the network’s Sunday program, This Week.

Donaldson was twice chief White House correspondent for ABC News, covering Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He also co-hosted “PrimeTime Live” with Diane Sawyer and the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast “This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.
On August 2, 2006, during the last White House Press conference in the briefing room before undergoing major renovations, Donaldson shouted, “Mr. President, should Mel Gibson be forgiven?”, referencing reports of the actor/producer’s alleged anti-Semitic remarks. President George W. Bush laughed and looked up to see who had asked the question. Bush joked, “Is that Sam Donaldson? Forget it … you’re a ‘has-been’! We don’t have to answer has-beens’ questions.” Donaldson replied, “Better to have been a has-been than a never-was.”

With the exception of the Republican convention in August 1992, Donaldson covered every major political party convention from 1964-2012, until he retired from ABC in 2013.

Donaldson was voted Best White House Correspondent in 1985 by readers of the Washington Journalism Review and Best Television Correspondent in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989 by readers of the same magazine. Among his other awards are four Emmys, three Peabodys, the Edward R. Murrow award 1997 (WSU), the Paul White award (RTNDA 1998), and he and his wife Jan were among those named as “Washingtonians of the Year” by Washingtonian Magazine in 2002.

Donaldson had his faults. He was embroiled in Federal Aid scandals. On December 1, 2012, Donaldson was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Lewes, Del. Charges were dropped on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, by a Delaware judge, citing lack of probable cause for the arrest.

Image Sources

  • Sam Donaldson: C-SPAN