Barbara Walters has apologized after newly released emails showed her attempting to get a close aide to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad an internship at CNN and a place at Columbia University.
Assad, whose bloody crackdown on his citizens has made him something of a pariah, granted Walters an exclusive interview in December. On Thursday, the Daily Telegraph reported that Walters stayed in close contact with Sheherazad Jaafari, the daughter of Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations and a close aide to Assad, after the interview was over.
Jaafari was a regular presence in emails obtained by the Guardian in March. “This man is loved by his people,” she said in one email.
Syrian opposition forces — perhaps the same ones who gave the Guardian the earlier documents — passed on a new cache of files to the Telegraph. They showed Walters calling Jaafari “dear girl” and writing to Piers Morgan and his producer about her. “I wrote to Piers Morgan and his producer to say how terrific you are and attached your résumé,” she wrote. On Tuesday, a CNN spokesperson told The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone that the network received the letter, but did not speak with Jaafari or offer her an internship.
Walters also contacted a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism to plug Jaafari’s bona fides. (Jaafari was not admitted, though the professor, who is also the father of Piers Morgan’s producer, assured Walters she would be given “special attention.”)
Contacted by the Telegraph, Walters admitted that, even though she refused to get Jaafari a job at ABC News, her actions “created a conflict and I regret that.”