July 31st, 2012
12:49 PM ET

Tweets mock ex-Vogue writer who wrote puff piece on Asma al-Assad

As speculation goes into overdrive about whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will fall, it’s still unclear where his posh British-born wife is. Is she in England? in Syria? Is she with their three young children somewhere?

Asma al-Assad may be MIA but that didn’t stop her from inspiring, in a way, a taunting Twitter hashtag overnight.

#countriesbyvoguewriters took off after a former Vogue writer, Joan Juliet Buck, published an explainer piece in Newsweek on Monday. Buck is the author of a March 2011 piece about Asma al-Assad titled “A Rose in the Desert.” Many people attacked Buck for glamorizing the Syrian first couple and completely ignoring Syria’s history of human rights abuses.

The profile appeared in the print March 2011 version. Vogue apparently removed the story from its website later though it remains available on a pro-Assad site.

In June, Vogue's editor in chief Anna Wintour released a brief statement saying that the Syrian regime’s “priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue.

Buck, for the most part, didn’t address her critics. The magazine, she said, asked her not to. But, as her Newsweek article explained, Vogue did not renew her contract at the end of 2012 and she is now free to talk.

So she begins her explanation this way, saying she just shouldn’t have gone to a country whose name gave her the willies.

"Syria. The name itself sounded sinister, like syringe, or hiss," Buck wrote.

Cue the Twitter taunts at #countriesbyvoguewriters:

[tweet https://twitter.com/KarlreMarks/status/229921393184235522%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/rachelhinda/status/230311043845480448%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/laclabra/status/230034234952278016%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/KarlreMarks/status/229931624438038529%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/cszabla/status/230004220395388928%5D

The Atlantic jumped into the fun by publishing a mock profile of North Korea’s new first lady, “A Rose in the Baekdu.”

Rather than helping Buck, some critics say she’s used the shovel Vogue gave her to bury herself deeper. The New Republic said Buck's way of doing journalism is an insult to other journalists. Jezebel suggests Buck is lying to make it seem like, as she claims, the Assads "duped" her. New York magazine linked out to the hashtag. .

Despite criticism of Buck, her Newsweek story does reveal a few new and interesting tidbits about the Assads - admittedly facts that would have been interesting to include in her Vogue story.

* Asma al-Assad made children cry by lying to them that a youth center was going to close. Buck said Asma told her it was intended to get the kids “out of their comfort zone."

* The Assads enjoy family fondue. Buck joined them one evening at their glass-walled home, and asked Bashar al-Assad why he chose to study ophthalmology. He said he liked it because “it’s very precise, and there is very little blood.”

* Minders assigned to Buck by the Assads gave the journalist a cell phone when she arrived in Syria. They explained to her that her American cell phone wouldn’t work in Syria. She believed them. It never occurred to her that the phone might be used to eavesdrop on her conversations.

* Buck claims that workers at the London PR agency Brown Lloyd James worked with the Assads and prevented the journalist from reporting on the ruling family.

If those details are accurate, they add to the profile of a couple whose fate is a big question right now. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that it wasn’t a question of whether al-Assad could fall from power, but when.

Some legal scholars have said it’s possible that Bashar al-Assad could face charges of crimes against humanity in an international courtroom. So what could happen to his wife? Could Asma al-Assad face a similar judgment day?

International law experts say that’s highly unlikely. A prosecutor would have to prove the Syrian first lady was involved in a decision-making process in her husband’s government. So far, there’s no known evidence of that.

“There’s a difference between moral responsibility and legal culpability,” said M. Cherif Bassiouni, an international war crimes expert who has worked for decades in international law and serves as a professor emeritus at DePaul University.

“She is a little like the wife of a Mafia don,” he said. “She may be with the man who kills, she can even brag about his crimes, but she won’t be punished for them.”

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Filed under: Syria
soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. rizzo

    Haha that 'pro Assad website' looks like an Angelfire site from the late 90's!

    July 31, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. reason

    Anyone who does not support the radical muslims trying to take over Syria is ridiculed in the media.

    July 31, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      As opposed to the radical muslims torturing and shelling civilians all so the Assad family can hang on to main heirloom passed from generation to generation (Syria).

      July 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Yeah we must support Al-CIAda's takeover of Syria!

      July 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. instantgator

    Sounds like she's trying to be the Katie Couric of print media.

    July 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. badcyclist

    Buck deserves a hard time, but face it, the media (even– gasp– CNN) do puff pieces all the time. It is way easier than having to do background research and fact checking– you know, real journalism and stuff.

    On the CNN.com scroll at the top of the page just know, you had a flattering picture of Asma promoting this story, followed immediately by an equally processed and flattering picture of the Romneys promoting a little puff piece on the two of them.

    And it is a rare day that goes by without yet another puff piece on the British Royal Family.

    This one was just badly timed, and that's all.

    July 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. LoveChicken

    That is funny, because it has an element of truth in it.....all journalist are politically correct phonies, thats why the approval rating for the media is worse than lawyers and used car salesman.

    July 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      What is your truth?



      July 31, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Roscoe Chait

    Isn't this like doing a puff piece on Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend, while he's killing our soldiers?

    July 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      No, actually, it's not. Hitler wasn't at war with radical islamists like Assad is

      July 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ArthurP

    Of course Mrs. Assad duped you. It was easy. You are an American. You have no clue what has been happening in the world out side of the United States.

    July 31, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Desert Coyote

      you know sometimes we don't, and when we don't we rely on posters here to give the other side. You obviously do not wish to elaborate. shame.

      July 31, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • maty

      The China is big!

      July 31, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MedullaPancreas

    We live in a world where bullying happens among adults running multinational news corporations and we expect to preach to our children that a world of bullying is unacceptable? From whom do you believe they learn it? Individual journalists get bullied daily by their peers and editor bosses for refusing to drink of the collective Kool Aid that Assad alone, not NATO and it's proxy Turkey, is behind the current strife in Syria. Who do you think shipped the rebels into Libya and now Syria? Where are the upright citizens of good moral character to challenge and nurture the oppositional narrative?

    July 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ian

    Does anyone else see the mind-boggling stupidity of this author calling out the Vogue writer only to rehash the article in its incredulous observations? Stupid is as stupid does, alright . . . your party pass for the Syrian embassy banquet is ready for pickup, sweetie. Simply come to Aleppo and get it . . .

    Unbelievable, but that's CNN, I guess

    July 31, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. American

    Forget Syria look at Anaheim for a brutal regime!

    July 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. eks1111

    Is it just me or does she have somewhat of a fake "british" or elitist accent?

    July 31, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mizou mizou

    This women is pilloried because she wrote an article favorable to a despotic regime, yet no one criticizes Romney for going hat in hand, and bottom up in the air, to Israel, another despotic regime, one that imprisons thousands, denying them basic civil rights, steals their lands, kills them (and their American supporters), and is so petty that it will deny an Arab who resides in the West Bank a place to park that is nearby their apartment, saving that spot for a Jew.

    Thank You

    mizou mizou

    July 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cyg

    I am not sure why this was written. Assad has a cute wife. She's an idiot for being with him...soon he'll be joining the Big Q (from Libya you know) as brutal head shot shown on the internet...hope she gets away.

    July 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hmmmm

    Has anyone considered that maybe she is the whole mastermind of these atrocities? He strikes me as somewhat meek and I get the impression she is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Maybe she's the one telling HIM what to do. Just throwing it out there...no need to bash me for it!

    July 31, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoldierofFortunes

      yes she is British and they are known to be brutal...so she dies first...either way they both die...and all associates...

      July 31, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John

    These guys didn't even mention Vulgaria, clearly a runner-up for exposure on the runway. Go Vogue!

    July 31, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
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