If you're an aide to that "mild mannered ophthalmologist" Bashar al-Assad, who's ruling that bloody murderous mess that is Syria, your best bet getting out of the country and into a cushy Ivy League grad program is apparently Barbara Walters. (If you're someone who believes in squeaky clean journalism, please stop reading now, because this story will probably crush your naive little heart.)
It turns out that Walters, who's been honored by many a journalism school (full disclosure: she received a lifetime achievement award from this writer's journalism school), actually tried to get one of al-Assad's aides an internship at CNN's Piers Morgan show and a spot in Columbia's Graduate School as a favor for helping Walters get that exclusive (odd, and soft) interview with al-Assad last year. Here are two e-mails, which were obtained by Syrian opposition forces and picked up by The Telegraph:
January 26 - Barbara Walters to Professor Richard Wald of Columbia University
On Jan 26, 2012, at 12:37 PM, "Walters, Barbara" <XXXXXXXXX> wrote:
Hi there. This young woman, whose resume is attached, is the dtr of the Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. She helped arrange my interview with Assad. She is only 21 but had his ear and his confidence. I have recommended her as an intern to your son for Piers Morgan. She is applying to Columbia School of Journalism. She is brilliant, beautiful, speaks five languages. Anything you can do to help? And how are you anyway?
January 27 - Professor Richard Wald in reply to Barbara Walters
From: Richard Wald [XXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 10:30 PM
To: Walters, Barbara
Subject: Re: Updates
The degree she is applying for is not in the Journalism school but in International Affairs. However, through the Admissions Office network, I will get them to give her special attention. I am sure they will take her.
All else goes well and after I get a haircut, I will be beautiful again.
You, on the other hand, have been busier than ever. This is your idea of cutting down?
Since when is being beautiful a qualifier for admission? And we have to kind of laugh that she didn't get the school right. But, for those of us who had to get into school without a Walters reference, this kind of burns, and it goes double for journalists who don't believe in checkbook journalism. Yeah, this isn't technically the checkbook journalism that ABC News (who employs Walters) said they'd abolish, but it's still so scummy on so many levels. (C'mon, she's chummy with Bashar al-Assad!). Walters has apologized, but it isn't exactly making us (and probably Columbia's Grad program) feel better this morning. And neither should she.