What $5,000-a-Month in PR Bought the Assads

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What kind of image overhaul did the Assads get by paying Western PR firms like Brown Lloyd James $5,000 a month?  Apparently that Bashar can speak English and that Asma is like, a total babe.  

"He speaks English, and his wife is hot," Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert told The New York Times' Bill Carter and Amy Chozick about the Assads' appeal to Western media, while Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck showed the sad state of Vogue editorial standards in saying that Asma al-Assad was "extremely thin and very well-dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue."

Sad right?  That being an English-speaking "mild-mannered ophthalmologist" and a thin shopaholic is all it takes to garner glowing attention from ABC News' Barbara Walters and Vogue and several minor stories. (Vogue eventually took the embarrassing profile of Asma down.) But it also makes you wonder about the power, and ethics that PR firms that the Assads (over?)paid, like they did with Brown Lloyd James to convince Vogue that Asma was skinny and well-dressed enough to be in the magazine. That's a pretty simple message for $5,000 per-month, right?

And all that--the ethics of polishing Bashar al-Assad's image, how much they paid to get an idea out there, and the media folks who fell for it-- something to think about, as you consider or read about  BLJ's other clients like the AARP, Andrew Lloyd Webber, IBM, and State Farm, not to mention the other clients of the other experts they consulted. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.