Sam Donaldson

ByABC News
December 10, 2008, 6:03 PM

— -- Sam Donaldson, now retired from full-time work at ABC News, is a 42-year ABC News veteran who served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News from 1977 to 1989 and again from January 1998 to August 1999, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Donaldson also co-anchored "PrimeTime Live" with Diane Sawyer from August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. He co-anchored the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts" from December 1996 to September 2002.

From October 2001 to May 2004, Donaldson hosted "The Sam Donaldson Show -- Live in America," a daily news/talk radio program broadcast on ABC News Radio affiliates across the country. the show tackled the day's top stories and important issues -- getting comments from newsmakers, engaging listener calls and of course inserting his own experiences and opinions.

Donaldson's most recent assignment at ABC News was as anchor of "Politics Live" on ABC News Now, the network's 24-hour digital outlet. The daily half-hour show is an unscripted dialogue with numerous guests and commentators analyzing the top political news stories of the day. Donaldson was also a frequent contributor to, taping video essays exclusively for the Web site and writing biweekly political commentaries.

While Donaldson has retired from full-time work at the network, he will continue to appear frequently as a contributor on the "This Week" roundtable and contribute to ABC News Radio.

Joining ABC News in 1967 as a Capitol Hill correspondent, Donaldson covered such major events as the Vietnam War, Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee impeachment investigation in 1974 and the Gulf War in 1991. The ABC News veteran reported on every national political convention since 1964 with the exception of the 1992 Republican Convention in Houston. He reported on the presidential campaigns of Barry Goldwater, Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Michael Dukakis.

Donaldson also reported as an eyewitness on Spiro Agnew's no contest plea in a Baltimore courtroom that forced Agnew to resign from the vice presidency. And as an eyewitness to the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life in 1981, Donaldson delivered the first report of the event on any broadcast medium of that event on the ABC radio network.

Donaldson anchored "World News Sunday" for 10 years from 1979 to 1989. During this time, the ABC News veteran was also a regular interviewer on "This Week With David Brinkley," in addition to filing on other platforms.

Donaldson co-anchored "PrimeTime Live" with Diane Sawyer from its inception in August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. As a PrimeTime Live co-anchor, Donaldson exposed the multitude of problems on the Russian space station Mir; tracked down Richard A. Williams, a nurse accused of murdering a number of his patients; and interviewed media mogul Ted Turner and his then-Oscar-winning wife, Jane Fonda.

During the 1997-98 season, Donaldson co-anchored a special edition of "PrimeTime Live" with Judd Rose in which the two men shared their personal experiences with cancer; conducted an exclusive interview with Dick Morris, President Clinton's former political adviser; and interviewed Sgt. Maj. Brenda L. Hoster, who accused the U.S. Army's highest-ranking enlisted soldier of sexual assault. Donaldson also updated his report on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., posing the theory that the killing was a conspiracy possibly involving the U.S. government.

In June 1997, Donaldson, along with Diane Sawyer, co-anchored an episode of "PrimeTime Live" dedicated to the mystery of TWA Flight 800. In the episode, Donaldson interviewed James Kallstrom, head of the FBI in New York; Secretary of the Navy John Dalton; and Bernard Loeb, the NTSB chief investigator, who told "PrimeTime" he believed the crash could have been prevented and could happen again.

During the 1995-96 season, Donaldson investigated a neo-Nazi subculture in the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division; investigated a so-called herbal stimulant called herbal ecstasy; examined organizations that have tax-exempt status even though they make millions of dollars in profits; investigated steroid use by Chinese Olympic swimmers; interviewed Colin Powell about the GOP race for the 1996 presidential nomination; investigated the rape of a teenage girl in Okinawa by three U.S. servicemen; interviewed Capt. Scott O'Grady; and was the first to interview Clayton Lonetree, the first U.S. Marine to be convicted of espionage after Lonetree fell in love with a Soviet woman.

In the 1994-95 season, he reported on one of the worst friendly fire accidents in U.S. history, which occurred over northern Iraq, killing 26 people. Donaldson investigated just what happened when two U.S. Air Force fighter planes shot down two U.S. Army helicopters, and in an exclusive interview, spoke to the only man accused of making a mistake, Air Force Captain Jim Wang. Wang has since been acquitted of all charges. Also, Donaldson profiled Sen. Bob Dole and traveled to northern Italy, where Dole was injured during World War II. In addition, Donaldson talked to the senator about his run for the presidency in 1996. Throughout the year, Donaldson conducted numerous investigations into mismanagement, fraud and waste by our federal government, revealing staggering sums of squandered U.S. taxpayer funds.

During the 1993 and '94, Donaldson tracked down Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke in Bariloche, Argentina. Priebke was extradited to Italy and tried for his crimes. Donaldson investigated the criminal history of Richard Allen Davis, alleged kidnapper and murderer of Polly Klaas, and how the Davis case fell through the cracks of the California criminal justice system.

In 1992 and '93, Donaldson investigated a U.S. naval air station in Bermuda that appeared to remain open as a vacation playground for military brass at the expense of taxpayers. He investigated how, for 40 years, the six U.S. tobacco companies waged campaigns to obscure the truth about smoking hazards and fend off regulation; investigated a controversial entrepreneur who oversaw a high-volume cataract clinic and allegedly performed unnecessary surgeries costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars; and took an inside look at the hunt for billionaire fugitive cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar.

In 1989, with co-anchor Diane Sawyer, Donaldson joined President and Mrs. Bush at the White House for a live tour of the first family's living quarters. They also co-anchored an unprecedented broadcast from inside the Kremlin in 1990, where they toured its magnificent palaces and provided a rarely seen look at Lenin's private apartments. Donaldson also reported from Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1989, as part of an hour-long, award-winning investigation of the Pan Am 103 bombing.

In December 1996, Donaldson took the anchor chair next to Cokie Roberts to co-host the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast "This Week with Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts" until September 2002.

From 1999 to 2001, Donaldson hosted, the first regularly scheduled Internet webcast produced by a television network. On the webcast he interviewed presidents Carter, Ford and George Bush, along with such diverse personalities as actor Sean Connery, comedian Janeane Garofalo, founder Jeff Bezos and baseball legend Willie Mays.

Donaldson received the AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Award, as well as the RTNDA Paul White Award in 2008. He also received the Broadcaster of the Year award from the National Press Foundation in 1998. The Washington Journalism Review named him the Best Television White House Correspondent in the Business in 1985. He has also won numerous other awards, among them four Emmy Awards, four Paul White and Edward R. Murrow Awards and three George Foster Peabody Awards.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Donaldson began his career in broadcasting as a college student at the age of 17, working for local radio stations in his hometown and has enjoyed reporting on the radio ever since. He received his bachelor's degree from Texas Western College and did graduate work at the University of Southern California.

Donaldson served on active duty with the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1959, rising to the rank of Captain, USAR. After resuming his broadcasting career at KRLD-TV in Dallas in 1959, he joined WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C. in 1961, where, along with local and regional news, he covered such national stories as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy's funeral in 1963, passage of the Senate passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and the 1965 Senate hearings on the Vietnam. He also anchored the station's weekend news broadcasts and produced and moderated a weekly interview program.

His 1987 autobiography, "Hold On, Mr. President," was an international best-seller.

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