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Sawyer, Rove, Trump: An election night to remember

ABC News made do with a loopy Diane Sawyer. Photos: Ed Bark

Diane Sawyer. Karl Rove. Donald Trump.

And in other news, voters re-elected President Obama to a second term Tuesday.

Every election night has its moments, but this one was notable for the oddities contributed by ABC, Fox News Channel and NBC anchor Brian Williams with a searing critique of his network's billionaire embarrassment.

Let's begin with Sawyer, whose overall discombobulation lit up the Twitter-verse with jokes and speculation about whether she was liquored up, off her meds, on some meds or just plain dead on her feet.

Her speech patterns were sometimes slurry, making Sawyer sound a little like Tom Brokaw does all the time. She also giggled at odd moments, mispronounced words on occasion and generally seemed "off her game" throughout the night.

The 66-year-old Sawyer's mushy, halting closing valedictory, just after Obama finished his victory speech shortly before 1 a.m. (central), had the feel of a badly dehydrated marathoner staggering to the tape. She seemed to have a hard time getting the words out, let alone stringing them together. "It is a reminder," Sawyer said in part, "what an extraordinary, exceptional and inspiring country this is on a night like this when we have all come together to vote."

Positively Paula Abdul-ish. Sawyer also "scored" by indecorously telling Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace, "You've been there for losing candidates so many times."

Sawyer and her colleagues weren't helped by a nearly 20-minute power failure that hit ABC studios just before 10 p.m central. Most affiliate stations throughout the country were cutting away to their local late night newscasts, giving the network time to vamp and troubleshoot while its election coverage was off the air in the majority of markets.

Later Tuesday night, political analyst Matt Dowd seemed to contract Sawyer-itis when he twice declared, "This may be the last presidential election in which two white men run for president."

It sent the entire ABC News team into a prolonged giggle fit before correspondent Jake Tapper, stationed at the Obama celebration in Chicago, reminded one and all that the president isn't a white guy.

On Wednesday morning, the ABC News publicity department sent out two of Sawyer's tweets, including, "During 25 minute power outage. Read your tweets the good, bad, and the funny."

ABC also attached an election night media story by Brian Stelter of The New York Times. It had further details on the power outage while also noting the Twitter chatter about Sawyer, who "repeatedly slurred her words."

"Some people at ABC had an explanation," Stelter wrote. "Ms. Sawyer was simply exhausted. The network had no official comment about the Twitter chatter, except to say that her successful anchoring during a prolonged blackout of her studio spoke for itself."

FNC anchor Megyn Kelly interviews members of "Decision Desk."

And then there was Karl Rove, best known as the orchestrator of President George W. Bush's two winning campaigns.

Rove's final electoral map projections had Romney winning by a 285 to 253 margin, with Ohio's 18 electoral votes the keys to the kingdom. He went into a severe state of denial when Fox News Channel projected Ohio for Obama and then almost immediately declared him the election winner at 10:17 p.m.

Rove first argued with Chris Wallace, saying that Ohio remained way too close to call with many votes left to be counted. He was insistent to the point of absurdity, prompting co-anchor Megyn Kelly to leave her desk for a rather long and winding trip to the network's "Decision Desk," from where the Ohio call originated. (NBC earlier had given both Ohio and the election to Obama with the first game-over call of the night at 10:12 p.m.)

Cameras followed Kelly on her route. "They're w-a-a-y down the hall," she told viewers. ""So we'll do a little interrogation and see if they stand by their call, notwithstanding the doubts that Karl Rove has attempted to place."

At last reaching her final destination, Kelly was told that "there just aren't enough Republican votes for Mitt Romney to get there" in the Ohio areas remaining to be counted.

"Percentage of certainty?" Kelly asked.

"95.95 percent," she was told.

Rove still wasn't buying it, stealing the night's comedy achievement award trophy from Sawyer when she seemed to have a lock on it. Veteran FNC politico Brit Hume meanwhile praised Obama for pulling off a victory in the face of a still very troubled economy.

"I think it is a major political achievement," he said, "because it wasn't easy."

Dan Rather toiled in relative obscurity on Mark Cuban's AXS channel.

Before turning to the sorry spectacle of Donald Trump, let the record show that Dan Rather was still in there anchoring on election night.

The 81-year-old warhorse did his level best for Mark Cuban's AXS TV, which until recently was HDNet until the Dallas Mavericks' owner threw in with a group of new partners that includes American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. The above picture documents Rather's presence for the millions of viewers who had no idea how or where to find him on election night.

Trump, the braying, bellicose host of NBC's The Celebrity Apprentice, took the news of Obama's re-election with his usual grace. He began bombarding his followers with base level tweets. They included:

"We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!"

"This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!"

"Let's fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! the world is laughing at us."

"Phoney (sic) electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!"

"Votes equals a loss...revolution!"

Trump subsequently deleted the last two tweets. But NBC anchor Brian Williams had both seen and heard enough. He told viewers that Trump has "driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible."

An "All-Star" edition of Trump's Celebrity Apprentice is set to premiere March 3rd on NBC, occupying two hours of the network's prime-time Sunday real estate for four weeks before downsizing to one-hour episodes on March 31st.

Isn't it about time that NBC stepped up and fired Trump rather than keeping him on its payroll? When Hank Williams Jr. equated Obama to Hitler, ESPN stepped up and discontinued his longstanding opening serenade to Monday Night Football.

Trump would be tougher to dump because Celebrity Apprentice helps to keep the Sunday night lights on after football goes away in January. Still, it's the right thing to do at this point. And Williams for one wouldn't mind in the least.

A few other observations on election night coverage.

***CNN's John King and his "Magic Wall" are easily ridiculed. But he does a terrific job of zeroing in on where votes are left to be counted in closely contested states. Viewers benefit from his knowledge of which candidate might hold the upper hand. King's breakdowns of the Florida and Ohio contests were particularly instructive.

*** CBS' election night coverage looked like a stripped down economy car compared to the looks and gadgets of principal broadcast network rivals ABC and NBC. And the onetime network of Rather and Walter Cronkite pretty much got lost in the shuffle, running a distant third in the national prime-time Nielsens with an average of 8.42 million viewers to NBC's 12.56 million and ABC's 11.15 million.

***MSNBC's partisanship is far more overt than Fox News Channel's, although Rove almost singlehandedly made it seem otherwise Tuesday night. Principal anchor Rachel Maddow is tolerable, but prolonged exposure to desk mates Chris Matthews, Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz is toxic at best.

We'll close with a picture of NBC's "Democracy Plaza," which again stole the election night show with its sheer visual grandeur.