Why didn’t the U.S. Media air the full interview between Barbara Walters and Bashar al-Assad?


by Siegfried Woldhek

It’s been a few weeks since the interview between Barbara Walters and Bashar al-Assad was aired on national television, but the question of why the U.S. media didn’t air the full interview still remains in my head today.

It boggles my mind that the version aired on American cable was only a segment of the entire interview, not to mention that it was chopped up to bits. Some of what I thought were the most important parts of the interview were left out.

If the U.S. government is confident that it has taken the right position on Syria, why can’t all the footage of such an important interview be shown to the American public? Is it possible that the entire interview might give viewers a different perspective on the Syrian president and the events unfolding in his country?

I can’t be so sure, but there is no reason to fully dismiss the possibility.

Regardless, it is very unusual that ABC would air only a small portion of the interview. The version shown on national television was only 10-15 minutes long; the one I saw was about an hour.

Sounds like a lot of editing to me.

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Part II: Barbara Walters & Bashar al-Assad


As Part II of my segment on the Full Barbara Walters interview with Bashar Al-Assad, which was, to our intellectual misfortune, not aired on national television in its full length, I will provide the highlights of the interview, summarizing key points and, more specifically, those that have been largely overlooked by analysts, the media, and the international community.

When Barbara Walters asked Bashar al-Assad why he believed the United Nations was not a credible institution, he responded with the following:

“They never implemented any of the resolutions that are related to the Arab World, to the Palestinians, the Syrian land. If they talk about human rights, what about the Palestinians suffering in the occupied territory. What about my land and my people that left their land because it is occupied by Israel?”

Barbara Walters then asked Assad about Turkey and the Arab League’s more aggressive approach to Syria, more specifically, the recent sanctions they slapped against Syria.

“Turkey and the Arab League have a hidden agenda. They don’t care about the demonstrations, the Syrian people, democracy,” Bashar responded.

“We still have good relations with neighboring countries.”

“Does the Arab League want to destroy you?” Walters replied.

“You have to ask them. I don’t know their will to be frank.”

“Will you allow outside monitors to come into your country, and to allow them to go to cities like Homs?”

“Yes”

“Under what circumstances?”

“To be in line with our sovereignty.”

“What does that mean?”

“To do everything in cooperation with the Syrian government: how to move, how to prepare, how to protect them. We asked for monitors before they (the Arab League) did. They didn’t want to discuss with us. If they don’t want to discuss, then no.”

“Can outside foreign reporters come? They have not been allowed.”

“No – they were allowed, and you are here.”

“I am here and I have a correspondent here with me.”

“But you’ve been here for two days now. Did anybody tell you where to go and where not to go? Nobody. You are free to go wherever you want.”

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Author’s Note: This is the end of Part II. Part III will be coming shortly and will be comprised mainly of the segment of the interview during which Bashar speaks about his wife, his father, his brother, and his children.

Part I: Barbara Walters & Bashar al-Assad


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was recently interviewed by American journalist Barbara Walters in the first official interview by a western journalist since Syria became the center of international attention last February.

Walters asked Assad if he believed he still had the support of his people after having commanded what the international community has referred to as a brutal crackdown on “peaceful protesters”.

“I believe the majority of the people are in the middle,” he responded.

Walters then referred to specific incidents within Syria. She mentioned pictures and videos released on the internet showing people being shot and killed, and rumors of children being kidnapped and mutilated.

“How do you know this is true?” he responded. “Have you verified these pictures? I visited the family of the boy [who you said was kidnapped and tortured] and his father told me his child was not tortured.”

Walters told Assad that the United Nations had evidence of the Syrian government committing crimes against humanity.

“Who said the United Nations is a credible institution?” he responded defiantly.

Al-Assad suggested that outside forces were responsible for inciting the uprising in Syria.

Even ordinary people inside and outside of Syria have questioned the validity of the videos and pictures on the internet.

They often ask questions like:

“Why aren’t we seeing videos of pro-Assad demonstrations? Why don’t we hear about the number of pro-Assad Syrians being killed? How do we know these uprisings are not incited by extremists and neighboring interest groups?”

Later on in the interview, Walters asked the president why Syria had an ambassador to the United Nations if it were indeed an illegitimate institution.

Al-Assad chuckled.

“It is a game we have to play,” he replied.

When the interview concluded, Walters described her overall outlook on the president.

“He is soft spoken. He is calm. He answered every question…”

“He is not as grim as Mubarak, and he is not crazy like Gaddafi.”

Before going to Damascus, Walters was told not to leave her residence. She was cautioned that it was a very dangerous atmosphere and that her life could be threatened.

But based on her direct personal experience, Walters said that she faced no such danger. Things seemed to be carrying on as usual in Damascus.

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Author’s Note: The original interview between Barbara Walters and Bashar al-Assad was much longer than what was made available to viewers. I found to this be unfair, biased, and completely unprofessional on the side of ABC and Walters herself. Although I believe she did a great job, I do think that the entire interview should be made available for viewers in order for them to form their own perspectives and opinions.