BARBARA WALTERS' ILL-GOTTEN INTERVIEW WITH AL-ASSAD WAS BAD ENOUGH; COLUMBIA PLACEMENT FOR AIDE ADDS INSULT TO INJURY
Today I called on ABC News to suspend Barbara Walters for her unethical behavior in paying back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s aide for her assistance in securing an interview with the dictator.
I have followed the recent revelation of Walters’ ill-gotten interview with al-Assad with what I can only describe as profound disgust. That the Fourth Estate has devolved into entertainment and sensationalism is nothing new, but the fact that ABC—whose legacy includes such stalwart and respectable TV journalists as David Brinkley, Hugh Downs, Ted Koppel, Howard K. Smith, and Harry Reasoner—could allow Walters to get away with the most loathsome, unethical behavior is the very saddest of statements on the current state of TV journalism. How does one negotiate with the devil?
Walters scored her interview with al-Assad—a man responsible for the murder of over 5,000 civilians and protesters—as a result of assistance from al-Assad’s aide Sheherazad Jaafari, the daughter of the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations. Her subsequent softball interview with this mass-murderer allowed al-Assad to shrug off in front of Walters’ audience any responsibility for the slaughter of thousands.
The U.S. State Department described al-Assad’s denial of responsibility for the murder of thousands of innocents as "ludicrous". But adding insult to insult, Walters then used her considerable influence as an ABC power-wielder to recommend Jaafari for a position at CNN and attempted to get the young woman placed into a Columbia University program.
When these actions were discovered, Walters issued an apology. But Walters isn’t sorry for her sordid display of ethical bankruptcy. What Walters is sorry for is that she was caught.
The questions that remain unanswered are what else is Walters sorry for? What else has she promised—and to whom?
In a letter today to ABC News President Ben Sherwood, I explained that I understand that TV journalism must be entertaining to maintain its market share and provocative to maintain its appeal, but it should also be honest in both its gathering and presentation.
This repugnant incident of Walters’ should not be so easily swept under the rug. ABC should take responsibility for their employee. Barbara Walters should be suspended.