Like many others do, ABC’s Barbara Walters tried to use her many connections to help out a friend. The difference is that Walters’ friend was Sheherazad Jaafari — daughter of Syria’s UN ambassador and close aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Emails obtained by the UK’s Daily Telegraph show Walters tried to get Jaafari a CNN internship and a spot at Columbia University.
The emails were obtained by a Syrian opposition group. When they came to light, Walters expressed “regret” for her actions, acknowledging a conflict of interest. Said Walters, in a statement:
“In the aftermath [of the Assad interview], Ms Jaafari returned to the US and contacted me looking for a job. I told her that was a serious conflict of interest and that we would not hire her. I did offer to mention her to contacts at another media organisation and in academia, though she didn’t get a job or into school. In retrospect, I realise that this created a conflict and I regret that.”
Some background on Jaafari:
Miss Jaafari, 22, was a close adviser to Mr Assad and was at his side as Syrian troops stepped up their campaign of killing and repression. She would speak to him several times a day, sometimes calling him “the Dude” in her adopted American accent, and was sometimes the only official in the room when he did interviews with Western journalists.
Walters interviewed Assad in December, and the emails show she and Jaafari remained in close contact since then. Jaafari referred to herself as Walters’ “adopted child.” Via Telegraph:
They met for lunch at the Mark Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in late January, where Miss Jaafari apparently asked for a job at ABC News. Walters said she refused but offered to use her contacts to help her in other ways.
Shortly afterwards, Walters emailed the young Syrian saying: “I wrote to Piers Morgan and his producer to say how terrific you are and attached your résumé.” She also asked whether Miss Jaafari was still planning on applying to Columbia University and offered to help.
A week later, Walters emailed Richard Wald — who is a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism and the father of Jonathan Wald, Morgan’s executive producer — asking, regarding Jaafari’s application status, “anything you can do to help?” Wald replied, “I will get them to give her special attention. I am sure they will take her.”
Ultimately, Jaafari snagged neither the internship nor the spot at Columbia.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]