Bidding Koppel Adieu (For Now)

Last night’s ABC News farewell to Ted Koppel was a star-studded affair at the Kennedy Center’s terrace restaurant. In a city filled with politicos, it was a night for the media elite to bid adieu to a man who has spent 42 years with ABC and a quarter century as the host of the only late night network news show. There was nary a public figure in the crowd, although every other face was recognizable from television.

The night brought together all the networks: From CBS’s Dan Rather and Bob Scheiffer to NBC’s Tim Russert to CNN’s David Bohrman. Many of Koppel’s ABC colleagues turned out too, including Nightline co-host Cynthia McFadden, John McWethy, Sam Donaldson, and new White House reporter Martha Raddatz. Although Elizabeth Vargas came down from New York for the night, new Nightline hosts Terry Moran and Martin Bashir were out shooting, incoming EP James Goldston reported.

The Post’s Godfather Ben Bradlee, Jeff Greenfield, John McCethy, NPR’s Michele Norris, and Kathleen Matthews also mingled around the crowd. In one corner, just past the receiving line, media scribes Howard Kurtz, Jacques Steinberg, and David Folkenflik gossiped about the day’s big media news (See Woodward, Bob).

Barbara Walters, who spoke along with ABC News President David Westin, teased Koppel that he had been on TV for a quarter century and never made it to primetime. He teased her back that he remembered going to her retirement in New York earlier this year and wondered what she was still doing around.

During one of the evening’s more emotion-packed moments, Koppel called up the four former executive producers of the show, thanking them for their dedication and hard work. Looking back at the towering former executive producers Rick Kaplan and Leroy Sievers, Koppel quipped that it appeared at one point ABC had hired producers by the pound. The bear-sized Kaplan turned to the smaller Koppel and noted that ABC had never hired its anchors by the inch.

Koppel also read from a scathing review of Nightline’s first shows by Tom Shales, who ten months later revisited the show and found it one of the smartest things on television. Koppel promised the show’s new team and trio of hosts that he would give it plenty of time before passing judgment.

> The Post’s Reliable Source duo collected from guests some things you didn’t know about Koppel.