After a batch of emails showing a close relationship between ABC television reporter Barbara Walters and a former aide to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad were leaked to the media, Walters issued an apology expressing her “regret” over her actions.
The emails, obtained by a Syrian activist group, show that Walters offered assistance to the former aid, looking to assist the woman with entrance into an Ivy League school and a job with CNN.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Walters said, “In retrospect, I realize that this created a conflict and I regret that.”
According to the Daily Mail, the journalist exchanged emails with Sheherazad Jafaari, acting as an “adoptive mother” and “career adviser” to the girl. Jafaari, whose father is Syria’s ambassador to the United States, was a close aide to Assad and worked with him as Syrian troops continued to kill citizens, The Daily Telegraph reported. Jafaari was also one of three women who sent “lovestruck emails” to Assad.
Walters and “Sherry,” as she was known to the journalist, first met when ABC wanted to arrange an interview with the dictator. The pair grew especially close, with Walters signing emails to Jafaari with “hugs” and “love.”
After Walters’ interview with Assad aired, Jafaari reached out to Walters saying she was “in so much trouble” because the interview ended up being more harsh on Assad than expected.
Jafaari then decided to move to the United States, with Walters offering to help her land a spot at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs and a job with “Piers Morgan Tonight.” A job with ABC would be a violation of journalistic ethics, Walters said.
“She is brilliant, beautiful, speaks five languages. Anything you can do to help?” Walters wrote to Richard Wald, a professor at the Columbia Journalism School. Jonathan Wald, Richard’s son and the executive producer of the CNN show, also received the email singing Jafaari’s praises.
Jafaari was not accepted into Columbia and was not given the job with Piers Morgan’s show.