The television journalist Barbara Walters apologized yesterday after leaked emails showed that she offered to help an aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad land a job in the U.S. after the aide helped Walters secure an interview with the despot.
“The ABC veteran acknowledged the conflict in trying to help Sheherazad Jaafari, daughter of the Syrian ambassador to the United States and a one-time press aide to Assad. Jaafari helped Walters land an interview with the Syrian president that aired in December.
“Walters said in a statement issued Tuesday she rejected Jaafari’s later request for a job at ABC News, saying it was a conflict of interest. But she said she contacted people on Jaafari’s behalf and ‘I regret that.’”
The emails — leaked by the Syrian opposition — were published by British paper The Telegraph. According to the paper, Jaafari refered to Walters as her “adopted mother” and Walters referred to her as “dear girl” and signed off, “Hugs, Barbara.”
The Telegraph reprots that Walters met with Jaafari in New York City. During that meeting in January, Jaafari apparently asked for a job at ABC, but Walters declined saying that would pose a conflict.
“Shortly afterwards, Walters emailed the young Syrian saying: ‘I wrote to [CNN's] 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,” the Telegraph reports.
“I did offer to mention her to contacts at another media organization and in academia, though she didn’t get a job or into school,” Walters said in the statement, according to The New York Times. “In retrospect, I realize that this created a conflict and I regret that.”
The Times talks to a TV executive about the episode:
“One longtime television news executive, who insisted on not being identified commenting on a rival news organization’s employee, said the circumstance was far from unusual in a business where favors are often requested on behalf of contacts.
“‘It’s a little ugly to see how the sausage is made to land these big interviews,’ the executive said, adding that the favors appeared to be the result of an association established by the interview, not a quid pro quo for it.”