Famed U.S. television host Larry King’s new chat show on Russian television will debut with an exclusive interview with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
King’s one-hour interview with Assad will broadcast this month on Politics with Larry King, his new show on Russia Today (RT), a Kremlin-funded news network.
“Larry King is in top form as he interviews Mr. Assad,” RT said in a statement. “The two discuss everything from religion and Mr. Assad’s family to the Syrian Civil War, which we obviously have no opinion on.”
The 79-year-old King, with his trademark suspenders and large glasses, is best known for hosting Larry King Live on CNN, where he interviewed thousands of people ranging from world leaders and entrepreneurs to actors, musicians, athletes and newsmakers of the day.
King’s non-confrontational style, as well as his noted lack of pre-interview preparation, made his show a popular choice for many guests hoping to avoid contentious topics.
The Daily Currant has obtained an advanced copy of King’s interview with Assad. Below are some of the highlights.
Larry King: What was your reaction when President George W. Bush invaded your country in search of Weapons of Mass Destruction?
Bashar al-Assad: Umm, President Bush did not invade Syria. I think you mean Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
LK: Well, yes, but did you have Weapons of Mass Destruction?
BA: If I had WMDs – and I’m not saying I do, for what it’s worth – then I would have used them by now.
LK: Is it difficult to lead a country when you have a civil war on your doorstep?
BA: Yes, I suppose it is. I was planning to take a vacation to the countryside this spring but that’s been put on hold since the rebels took it over. I’ve offered peace to the rebels many times, but they keep jumping in front of our tanks and our bullets. I do not understand it.
LK: I hear your brother is Bill Maher, the comedian. Do you two discuss politics with each other?
BA: No, no, my brother is Maher al-Assad, not Bill Maher. It’s funny they get confused with each other all the time. But trust me: there are no Jews in this family. I’ve made sure of that.
My brother is my top general and military adviser, so he keeps me updated on the war. I trust him completely. Unless I find out he’s plotting against me. You can’t be too careful when you’re in my position, even with family.
LK: Your country seems to have developed a close diplomatic relationship with Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Russia has consistently opposed intervention in the Syrian Civil War. Can the Russians be trusted?
BA: Mr. Putin has been a dear friend and ally for many years. I’m happy to do this interview with Russia Today at his request. Most important, President Putin didn’t desert me when everyone else started doing it, like the Arab League or the United Nations or that f*****g Vogue magazine. My wife is still angry about that.
LK: There are reports that the Russians are arming the Syrian military and giving them surface-to-air missiles. Can we expect a surprise missile attack from you?
BA: Larry, you’re being inappropriate for asking such questions. You cannot trust everything you read in the newspapers or see on television. The media is heavily biased and slanted toward certain viewpoints. I should know because I control this country’s news media.
LK: Can you recommend a good Jewish restaurant in Damascus? I noticed it’s difficult to find good kosher food in the Middle East outside of Israel.
BA: Excuse me? Are you a Jew? Oh dear.
LK: Your father, Hafez al-Assad, was the leader of Syria for 30 years and had a reputation as a brutal autocrat. Is it difficult to follow in his footsteps?
BA: My father? Yes, my father was a very strong man and a great and powerful leader. Al-Assad means lion. He was like a lion, brave and powerful and respected.
Of course, my father wasn’t around much for me or my brothers and sisters, but he did the best he could. He missed my soccer games, my cello recitals, my graduation … Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.
LK: I understand your government also has a very close relationship with Iran Drescher. How often do you speak to one another?
BA: Are you referring to the country of Iran, or to the actress Fran Drescher? The answer is often to one, never to the other.