Barbara Walters’ interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his first American television interview, proves that at 82, her name still carries major weight outside The View. “I can’t tell you why he requested me,” Walters told the Associated Press. “I can only tell you that I have met him twice before.” According to the AP, Walters had an off-the-record meeting with Assad and his wife, who’d reached out to Walters, in the Middle East several years ago. Three years ago, she went to Syria expecting an interview, but it didn’t happen. After they finally spoke on camera, he was satisfied with the results, even if, as Walters pointed out, there’s a disconnect between what we hear and see is happening in Syria — the UN estimates 4,000 protestors have been killed — and what Assad says is happening. “He was very happy with the interview,” she says. “He likes the confrontation. He likes the tough questions. When it was over, he smiled and thanked me and he was happy. I don’t know if it did him any good.” Read the transcript here. Watch video of the ABC News exclusive, and Walters’ tough, persistent questioning on the killings, here.
While Walters was not afraid of Assad, she admitted the trip itself made her nervous. The U.S. government had suggested she not leave her hotel room, and the last leg of her flight was delayed because the Jordanian airline she was flying didn’t want its pilot to stay overnight in Syria, she said.