Barbara Walters: Apologizes for helping Assad aide

Leaked emails exposed favors

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NEW YORK — Television journalist Barbara Walters has apologized for trying to help a former aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad land a job or get into college in the United States.

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 Mr. Assad. Ms. Jaafari helped Ms. Walters land an interview with the Syrian ruler that aired in December.

Ms. Walters said in a statement issued Tuesday she rejected Ms. Jaafari’s later request for a job at ABC News, saying it was a conflict of interest. But she said she contacted people on Ms. Jaafari’s behalf, and “I regret that.”

The interview with Mr. Assad in the midst of the Syrian uprising was considered tough. Mr. Assad told Ms. Walters that no government kills its own people unless it is led by “a crazy person.”

But earlier this week, the London newspaper the Telegraph printed a series of chummy emails between Ms. Jaafari and Ms. Walters that it said were obtained through Syrian opposition leaders.

In January, Ms. Walters wrote to Ms. Jaafari saying she contacted CNN’s Piers Morgan and his producer “to say how terrific you are and attached your resume,” the Telegraph reported. Ms. Walters also contacted Richard Wald, a former ABC News executive now a professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism, on the woman’s behalf.

A grateful Ms. Jaafari wrote that “you can never be a better mom to your adopted child (me)” and promising to buy Ms. Walters some jewelry from Syria.

Ms. Walters noted that despite her help, Ms. Jaafari did not get a job or admission to college.

ABC News President Ben Sherwood had no comment, a network spokesman said Wednesday.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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