Last December, Barbara Walters managed to land an exclusive interview with Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Now, months later (and after the U.S. kicked out the Syrian envoy), it turns out that Walters tried to help Assad's 22-year-old aide—nicknamed "Syria's Kim Kardashian"—get a job at CNN as well as get into Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Syrian opposition hacked into Sheherazad Jaafari's email and found correspondence between her and the newswoman: "Thank you so much Barbara! your help means the world. I hope Piers Morgan allows me to part of his team. I did apply to Columbia and I think everything is ok so far. I will def let you know if i needed any help."
Jaafari, daughter of Syria's ambassador to the U.N., was close with Assad and had told him that the "American psyche can be easily manipulated." However, Assad felt blindsided during Walters's interview (Walters: tougher than Vogue) and fired Jaafari, who then needed a job. She had lunch with Walters last year, asking for a position at ABC News. Later, she asked Walters for help with getting a job at CNN—and Walters offered to help her with her Columbia application:
January 19, 2012 - Barbara Walters to Sheherazad Jaafari [After the two met in New York]
from: Walters, Barbara
to: Sheherazad Jaafari
date: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 5:32 PM
subject: RE: RE:
Dear Sherry: I wrote to Piers Morgan and his producer to say how terrific you are and attached your resume. I am not sure if they have an opening. Are you still planning to apply to Columbia School of Journalism? Do you want me to do anything on that? Do let me know your plans when you return from Syria. Be safe. Hugs. Barbara
January 19, 2012 - Sheherazad Jaafari in reply to Barbara Walters [In reply to Barbara Walters]
From: Sheherazad Jaafari [mailto:XXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:58 PM
To: Walters, Barbara
Thank you so much Barbara! your help means the world. I hope Piers Morgan allows me to part of his team. I did apply to Columbia and I think everything is ok so far. I will def let you know if i needed any help.
Thank you so much.
You can never be a better mom to your adopted child (me).
I love you so much and thanks again. I hope to hear some good news from him.
Have a wonderful night!
Another email from Jaafari says, "I will buy you some jewelry from Syria. Let me know if you need anything else from there!"
Walters contacted Columbia Journalism School Professor Richard Wald at Columbia (Wald is a former ABC News executive, his son is Piers Morgan's producer at CNN) about Jaafari—"She is brilliant, beautiful, speaks five languages. Anything you can do to help?"—and Wald wrote back, "Through the Admissions Office network, I will get them to give her special attention. I am sure they will take her."
Walters apologized for her actions, "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. In retrospect, I realize that this created a conflict and I regret that." And Professor Wald said yesterday, "I would forward any such request from a prominent journalist."