ABC’s George Stephanopoulos booked a follow-up interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week—only to lose it at the very last minute.
Brian Stelter ran with the scoop in today’s New York Times, reporting that Stephanopoulos had already flown to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with Assad when the Syrian leader changed his mind.
The interview was meant as a response to Obama’s string of interviews last Tuesday, in which the president made the case for striking Syria in response to its deployment of chemical weapons. Assad had already given one interview to Charlie Rose the previous day, threatening retaliation for the strikes.
“Mr. Stephanopoulos’s 11,000-mile journey demonstrated the Syrian government’s sometimes-effective, sometimes-confounding strategy toward communicating with the West through major news media outlets,” Stelter wrote. He described Assad’s media circle as tight knit, with two women, one a former interpreter and one a former Al Jazeera anchor, steering his public relations strategy. The latter arranged the Rose interview.
Stelter said it was crucial to Assad, who had already given interviews to French and Russian media outlets, that the interview be aired in its entirety, which Rose did, after running excerpts on his morning show CBS This Morning.
“Mr. Rose may also have had an advantage over other interviewers because his PBS program, Charlie Rose, is seen all over the Middle East and elsewhere through a distribution arrangement with the Bloomberg cable channel,” Stelter wrote.
Rose added: “It helps to be able to do unedited interviews and to have a reputation for being tough, fair, curious and informed.”
[Editor’s note: this post has been updated.]
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