Barbara Walters apologizes for trying to help Bashar al-Assad's media aide


A Syrian performer hangs from hooks while holding his national flag in front of a giant picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a show of endurance during a pro-regime rally in Damascus on December 2, 2011. Europe and the United States tightened economic sanctions on Syria, ramping up international pressure as the UN said more than 4,000 people had died in a crackdown on dissidents.



Last December, journalist Barbara Walters landed an exclusive interview with controversial Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. At that time, the death toll of anti-Assad protesters in Syria had reached 5,000, Reuters reported. During the interview, Walters put Assad on the spot, asking if he was responsible for those deaths and the brutal crackdown against Syrian opposition activists. But behind the scenes, the relationship may not have been so tense: after the interview, Walters became a mentor of sorts to Assad's young media aide, the Daily Telegraph reported

Walters has now apologized for trying to help Sheherazad Jaafari, the 22-year-old woman who was Assad's media aide at the time. “In retrospect, I realize that this created a conflict and I regret that,” Walters said in a statement, according to the New York Post.

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Emails obtained by Syrian opposition activists and first published by the Telegraph show that Walters formed a close relationship with Jaafari after the interview. She tried to help the young woman get an internship on Piers Morgan's CNN show, along with getting into Colombia University. "I wrote to Piers Morgan and his producer to say how terrific you are and attached your resume," Walters wrote to Jaafari. She signed off the email, "Be safe. Hugs. Barbara." 

Jaafari didn't ended up getting the internship or the Colombia acceptance. CNN producers never even considered granting Jaafari an interview, the New York Times reported

CNN appeared to make the right choice. According the the Telegraph, Jaafari had at one point advised Assad that the "American psyche can be easily manipulated."