Entries in Barbara Walters (5)


WATCH: Barbara Walters’ Rare Interview with Hugo Chavez

Donna Svennevik/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In a rare interview, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sat down with ABC News’ Barbara Walters in 2007 to discuss his ire for President George W. Bush, his reputation and his lonely personal life.

The interview was the first time any American journalist interviewed Chavez since he called President Bush “the devil” in a 2006 speech before the U.N. General Assembly.

“He himself is very welcoming.  He had just called George Bush the devil, which he repeated,” Walters recalled on Tuesday, shortly after the news of Chavez’s death was announced.  “Mostly, it was very hard to feel that this man who was so welcoming and warm and friendly was also the man who had just called the president of the United States the devil.  He also reminded us of how much oil Venezuela was supplying to the United States and there was an implied threat that this could stop.”

The controversial leader also revealed glimpses of a more vulnerable side.

“[He] talked about how alone his life was, that he had no relationships and so forth because his whole life was his work and trying to help his country and everything that  he had done,” she said.  “But there was such a divide then in the country and so much danger, just walking the streets.”

Walters said the trip was one of the few where she had to have bodyguards because the network felt the conditions in Caracas, Venezuela, were too dangerous.

“The people who had money, who had property, were living behind great fences and gates,” she said.  “The poor people were happy because he was able to deliver to them running water and toilets."

“He is far more charming when you meet  him than when you hear him talking,” Walters said.  “He had a radio show that was on every night, in which he was very bombastic, but he also told jokes.  His closest friend was Fidel Castro, whom he talked back and forth with on the radio.  They were great buddies.”

When Walters asked Chavez about the name-calling, he did not back down.

“Yes, I call him a devil in the United Nations,” he said.  “That’s true.  Another time, I said that he was a donkey just because I think that he is very ignorant … about the things that are actually happening in Latin America and the world."

“I don’t think he was worried about how he was perceived in this country,” Walters said.  “There was a swagger about him in and a bravado about him at the same time.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Denials of Violence by Syria's Assad Draws Rebukes

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's denial of responsibility for ordering a brutal crackdown against Syrian protesters in recent months drew strong rebukes from international organizations and the State Department on Wednesday.

In an exclusive interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, Assad conceded only that some members of his armed forces went too far in their actions, but not at his command.

"Every 'brute reaction' was by an individual, not by an institution, that's what you have to know," Assad told Walters. "There is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference."

"But you have to give the order," Walters responded in the interview.

"On no one's command," Assad said. "There was no command to kill or be brutal."

Human rights organization Amnesty International on Wednesday disputed the notion that Assad is not responsible for the crackdown by Syrian forces, saying in a statement: "Under Article 103 of the Syrian Constitution [Assad] is supreme commander of the armed forces and should not pretend that he has no responsibility for them and their abuses.  If he was serious about wanting the security forces not to shoot at protesters or otherwise commit abuses and crimes he should have been saying so clearly and publicly on Syrian TV to his people and the security forces themselves -- and then taking steps to investigate what he calls their 'mistakes' -- what others perceive to be crimes against humanity -- and to prosecute the perpetrators."

United Nations Secretary-General spokesperson Martin Nesirky agreed, saying: "The Head of State of any country, including Syria, has ultimate responsibility for the protection of the population.  And I think that that's quite clear."

The U.N. recently estimated that the death toll in Syria has exceeded 4,000 people.

The State Department also reacted strongly on Wednesday to Assad's interview with Walters, saying the Syrian president appeared, "completely disconnected with reality."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US: Assad Appears ‘Utterly Disconnected’ in ABC Exclusive Interview

ABC NEWS/Rob Wallace(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared “utterly disconnected” from reality in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters in which he denied any responsibility for the violent response to the uprising in his country.

“Just from what happened or what took place in the interview, he appeared utterly disconnected with the reality that’s going on in his country and the brutal repression that’s being carried out against the Syrian people. It’s either disconnection, disregard or, as he said, crazy. I don’t know,” deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

In the interview Assad said he had not ordered the bloody crackdown on protesters that the United Nations says has exceeded 4,000 people.

“We don’t kill our people, nobody kill. No government in the world kill its people, unless it’s led by crazy person. For me, as president, I became president because of the public support. It’s impossible for anyone -- in this state, to give order to kill people,” Assad said.

When confronted with the death toll released by the U.N., Assad questioned the world body’s credibility.

Asked if the United States believes Assad gave the orders to fire on protestors, the State Department seemed to say it isn’t sure.

“It either says that he’s completely lost any power that he -- that he had within Syria, that he’s simply a tool or that he’s completely disconnected with reality. It’s hard for us to say but, you know, what we insist is that he has lost all credibility in the eyes of his people and needs to step down,” Toner said.

“He’s at least trying to create an image of himself as someone who’s not pulling the levers here. But what is very clear is that, you know, the Syrian security apparatus is carrying out this -- a clear campaign against peaceful protesters. And, you know, that blame or responsibility or accountability with that ultimately rests on Assad and his cronies,” he added.

The State Department also said Assad’s claims were another reason he should allow international human rights monitors in the country to witness firsthand what is going on.

During the interview, President Assad claimed he would allow an ABC News reporter to go anywhere in the country to see for himself. When ABC’s Alex Marquardt went out, however, he found his movements closely watched and restricted by both uniformed and plainclothes security officers.

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Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Exclusive: Syrian President Denies Ordering Bloody Crackdown

ABC News/Rob Wallace(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defiantly denied any suggestion that he has ordered a bloody crackdown against protesters who are demanding that he resign -- and claims instead that most of the people who died in the unrest were his supporters and troops.

Assad, whose regime has been condemned by the West, the Arab League and former allies, dismissed suggestions that he step down and scoffed at sanctions being imposed on Syria.

His defiant stance was on display while speaking to ABC News' Barbara Walters, who confronted the Syrian dictator in Damascus with stories and evidence of civilians being tortured and killed, some of them children.

"People went from house to house. Children were arrested.  I saw those pictures," Walters said to Assad.

"To be frank with you, Barbara, I don't believe you," Assad said.

Walters asked Assad about the case of Hamza al-Khateeb, a 13-year-old boy detained by Syrian forces after a protest, whose lifeless body was returned to his parents shot, burned and castrated.  The boy's death galvanized protesters, and photos on the Internet inflamed world opinion.

Assad denied the boy had been tortured: "No, no, no.  It's not news," he insisted. "I met with his father, the father of that child and he said that he wasn't tortured as he appeared in the media."

According to a United Nations report released last week, more than 4,000 people have been killed and the country is embroiled in an undeclared civil war, an assessment Assad dismissed with the question, "Who said that the United Nations is a credible institution?"

In his interview with Walters -- his first sit down with an American journalist since the protests began -- Assad denied he ordered a crackdown and blamed the violence on criminals, religious extremists and terrorists sympathetic to al Qaeda he claims are mixed in with peaceful demonstrators.

He said the victims of the street violence were not civilian protesters battling decades of one-party rule.

"Most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not the vice versa," said Assad.  The dead have included 1,100 soldiers and police, he added.

Assad conceded only that some members of his armed forces went too far, but claims they were punished for their actions.

"Every 'brute reaction' was by an individual, not by an institution, that's what you have to know," he said.  "There is a difference between having a policy to crackdown and between having some mistakes committed by some officials.  There is a big difference."

"But you have to give the order," countered Walters.

"We don't kill our people...No government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person," Assad said.

At another point he said, "There was no command to kill or be brutal."



Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


ABC News Exclusive: President Obama Says North Korea Poses a 'Serious and Ongoing Threat'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President Obama Tuesday strongly condemned North Korea's attack on South Korea and, in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, urged China to take a stand against aggression.

"This is a -- just one more provocative incident in a series that we've seen over the last several months, and I'm going to be talking to the president of Korea -- South Korea -- this evening and we'll be consulting closely with them in terms of the appropriate response," the president said. "We've strongly condemned the attack....We are rallying the international community once again to put pressure on North Korea."

Obama wouldn't speculate on military actions the U.S. may take, but reiterated that South Korea is "one of our most important allies" and "a cornerstone of U.S. security in the Pacific region."

"We want to make sure all the parties in the region recognize that this is a serious and ongoing threat that has to be dealt with," the president added.

He specifically called on China to stand firm and "make clear to North Korea that there are a set of international rules that they need to abide by."

Tensions escalated on the Korean peninsula Tuesday morning after North Korea fired artillery shells at South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island. The South Koreans responded with their own artillery fire.

The exchange of fire came days after North Korea revealed its upgraded and strengthened uranium enrichment plant to western scientists.

Siegfried Hecker, the Stanford professor and former head of the Los Alamos lab who was invited to North Korea last week to witness their new uranium program, said Tuesday the country's nuclear capability is much farther along than previously estimated.

He added that the Obama administration should undertake a thorough review of North Korea, since the last one was in 2000.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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