CiF editor questions Anna Wintour’s fitness to be US Ambassador but avoids thorniest issue

‘Comment is Free’ editor Natalie Hanman asked a question today: Should Anna Wintour be the next US Ambassador to the UK?, CiF, Dec. 5.

Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour

Hanman begins her piece on speculation that Wintour, the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, may be nominated as Ambassador to the UK, thus:

“The rumour – and it is far from being confirmed – that Barack Obama is considering nominating Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, as his next ambassador to either the UK or France has been met with gasps of outrage.”

Hanman quotes Nile Gardiner, in the Telegraph, questioning Wintour’s qualifications for such a prestigious diplomatic position, but then cites Carla Hall of the LA Times suggesting that criticism of Wintour’s background is unfair.

Hanman concludes by asking:

“What qualities and experience do you think qualifies someone for a job as a diplomat?”

While the question is a fair one, it seems that Hanman must have been at pains to avoid the diplomatic elephant in room: Wintour’s involvement with a notorious decision at Vogue back in 2011 to publish a glowing piece, for Vogue’s 11 million readers, about the Assads.


Here’s a passage from the Vogue story, which went to print while uprisings against the despotic regime were already under way.

“Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.”

But, the Vogue spread didn’t merely glamorize Mrs. Assad, but the Baathist butcher as well.  Here’s a photo from the Vogue feature of the casually dressed Bashar playing with his children.


Note Assad’s fashionable jeans!

The puff piece on the Assads was met with a wave of criticism, and Vogue’s editor was accused of taking part in a PR campaign on behalf of the regime.

Indeed, according to the NYT, “the article was part of a public relations offensive launched by the Assad regime, which included paying a US public relations firm $5,000 a month for acting as a point of liaison between Vogue and Mrs Assad.”

Within a month or so, the article was removed from Vogue’s website.

However, at the site ‘’ you can find the full article, which includes this passage from the original:

Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”

But, it get’s better.

The Vogue profile on the Assads ends thusly:

Two nights later it’s the annual Christmas concert by the children of Al-Farah Choir, run by the Syrian Catholic Father Elias Zahlawi. Just before it begins, Bashar and Asma al-Assad slip down the aisle and take the two empty seats in the front row. People clap, and some call out his nickname:

“Docteur! Docteur!”

Two hundred children dressed variously as elves, reindeers, or candy canes share the stage with members of the national orchestra, who are done up as elves. The show becomes a full-on songfest, with the elves and reindeer and candy canes giving their all to “Hallelujah” and “Joy to the World.” The carols slide into a more serpentine rhythm, an Arabic rap group takes over, and then it’s back to Broadway mode. The president whispers, “All of these styles belong to our culture. This is how you fight extremism—through art.”

 Brass bells are handed out. Now we’re all singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” 1,331 audience members shaking their bells, singing, crying, and laughing.

This is the diversity you want to see in the Middle East,” says the president, ringing his bell. “This is how you can have peace!” [emphasis added]

A. Jay Adler, who posted about the Vogue spread shortly after it was published, described the piece as “the creepiest, most morally repugnant journalism of the year”, explaining further:

“Might Anna Wintour and the other editors of that glossy dross, reeking of ancien regime parfum feel more chastened now to think it, worse, in bad taste? For there were only decades to know of the barbarous tyranny of Syria’s Ba’athistregime, no different from any other party in the Middle East under that banner, with one decade of Syrian interference in Lebanon sufficient to know the nature of Assad junior.”

By June of 2012, after tens of thousands of Syrians had been murdered by Assad, Wintour was finally ready to break with the fashionable couple, explaining:

“We were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society” but “as the terrible events of the past year and a half unfolded in Syria, it became clear that its priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue.

It took over a year for Wintour to acknowledge that her optimism about the progressive credentials of the Assads may have been misplaced!

If Wintour is appointed US Ambassador to the UK, I simply can’t wait for the moment she has an audience with the Queen, and gets to formally present her diplomatic credentials to Her Majesty. 

42 replies »

  1. Syria isn’t going to develop a pluralistic democracy anytime soon. I’m not sure how the so-called opposition (in reality Jihadists) are better than the Ba’aths? While Assad is a murdering despot he’s not as bad as the alternative who will just be murdering despots on a larger scale.

  2. Reblogged this on Neoconservativism and the West and commented:
    One wonders if Obama could seriously be thinking of appointing Anna Wintour to be the ambassador to the UK or France.
    This suggestion is frankly an insult to either nation. There are reasons for the diplomatic diplomatic corps, not least confidential data and negotiations. This suggestion smacks of a casual, even a dilettante attitude towards affairs of state.
    Finally, it is worth noting that the pro-Assad attitude of this woman fits with the attitudes of the senior members of the Democratic Party. Here, one thinks of Clinton, Reid, Pelossi etc who tried to rehabilitate Syria under Assad and paint it as progressive.

  3. It’s notable that one government in the region has been somewhat quiet in terms of calling for Assad to go. Can you guess which one?

      • When I said in the region, I didn’t think Chad would qualify.

        But since you ask, the country in question actually borders Syria. Israel funnily enough hasn’t made any calls for Assad to step down. In fact, the Assads and Israel have been best of enemies for some time.

          • Just picking up on the moral self-righteousness of the people here. Criticise Vogue by all means, but you may also want to criticise Bibi for his refusal to criticise the Assads.

          • That is typical for Anti-Semites. Sanity proves it.
            If the Jews do something, it is condemnable, if they don`t, it is also condemnable.
            They will never cease to be discontent about the very existence of Jews, that is.

          • Fritzl, when you accuse people of antisemitism for simply pointing out the actions (or non-actions) of the Likud-led coalition you make yourself look like an idiot. Probaby because you are one.

        • I’ve written about Israel’s so called silence on Syria. Actually, Israeli leaders have not been silent and have called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria. The problem is that Israel is in a unique position to ruin it for the Syrian opposition: If Israel sides publicly and too loudly against Assad, it would actually be helping Assad to prove that the opposition is being helped by the Arab world’s “mortal enemy”. For decades, Arab dictators throughout the region have used Israel as an excuse for deflecting criticism from their own regimes. Israel and Israelis are quite horrified at what’s happening in Syria, but there is nothing Israel can do about it without making things worse.

        • Avigdor Liberman voiced his concern for the brutality in Syria long before it became a full on civil war.
          That was an official statement.
          Israel has no place in telling other leaders what to do.
          Unless of course you believe it should be a world police man…

        • And one more thing mr sanity, None of the Israeli Arab MK’s mentioned the trouble in Syria.
          Of course they shoulted as soon as the Gaza operation started.
          But for you, this is not important.
          That indicates a level of disrespect towards a certain ethnicity.

  4. OK. You’re crushed by Obama’s reelection.

    What does this have to do with antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy???

    • Actually, this is the second post I’ve published about Ms. Wintour’s Vogue piece about Assad. The first one was last year, well before the election. And both have nothing to do with Obama. It’s simply fun to pick such low hanging fruit. A Zionist blogger is allowed to have fun sometimes.

      • I repeat: What does this have to do with antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy???

        Nothing – and you know it. You are making a farce of your own website.

        • I’ll tell you what Pretz, I’ll create a CW mission statement committee and you can chair it, and issue reports on how each post adheres to our founding principles. #humorless

        • Oh dear, pretzelberg
          There you go again with the overblown rhetoric.
          CiF Watch is scarcely a farce because it doesn’t do exactly what you envisage it should do.
          Perhaps you are at a disadvantage by being so rigid in your requirements of it? That’s not exactly farcical but it is faintly ridiculous.

          • “because it doesn’t do exactly what you envisage it should do.”

            It’s about doing what it claims to do – and this article has zero to do with that..
            And do you really think CiFW would ever have go at a Repuoblican president?

          • “And do you really think CiFW would ever have go at a Repuoblican president?”

            With all due respect, I don’t think CW is as simplistic as your question suggests.

  5. Adam, you of course know Wintour is Jewish and the daughter of Charles Wintour, a famous former editor of the London ‘Evening Standard’? But do you also know about this piece – which begins: “Upon iconic “Vogue” magazine’s 120th anniversary coming up in 2012, legendary editor in chief, Anna Wintour, has recently talked in an interview to CBS news about stand out covers, including the one of her very first issue, which featured none other than Israeli supermodel Michaela Bercu, back in 1988 ….” The woman may not be very nice but she’s certainly extremely powerful. Be careful, do!

      • Also, I can’t find any reference to Charles Vere Wintour being Jewish. I don’t think he was. His name sounds Norman and Huguenot.

      • Steve, I don’t like the disagreeable mutual mud-slinging that often pervades this site, but on this occasion I must put you right. Re your remark above: Vogue magazine is about the sublime art of fashion not the niceties of religious culture. Second, I commend you to read this piece from Jewish – “Portrait of a Fashion Diva as Human Being” by Naomi Pfefferman – which describes Wintour’s tribal background and shows she is but one of an extended and most brilliant family ( I don’t know where you’re based, but it’s almost a quarter past midnight here b’Aretz, so I’ll bid you all leila tov. N. xxx

        • Er, reading that, I don’t see any reference to Wintour being Jewish. The guy who directed “The September Issue” is Jewish, and he thinks her story is ‘very Jewish’, but…Anna Wintour herself isn’t a Jew as far as I know.

  6. Wintour, if nominated would even outdo the possibility of having Suzan Rice as Secretary of State.

    She probably donated so much money to Obama that she effectively bought an ambassadorship. If I was president I would order her to Syria … but I am not president ….

  7. While Assad’s forces load and lock their chemical weapons the UN is busy with Israel’s nuclear plant and building plans.
    If the high ranking diplomats working there have the professional, moral and intellectual capabilities of this kind of brain-dead high-society ass-kissers for mass murderers then this fact becomes perfectly logical.

  8. A point worth reiterating here is that amongst the thousands of victims of Assad’s security forces are an untold number of Palestinians. The refugee camps at Yarmouk and Deraa have been repeatedly shelled, and at least 400 Palestinians are reported to have been killed. The ‘Economist’ has also reported that whilst Syrian refugees are receiving shelter in Jordan, the Palestinians are being deported back across the border if caught.

    Does anyone remember the protest marches and the letters to the Graun about this?
    I sure as hell don’t.

  9. Hi,

    As a Lebanese, seeing the end of Bashar Al Assad is a dream comes true.
    At least, there will be no more death in Lebanon.

    Do you believe that the deaths toll is the ones through the revolutions. What about first the Lebanese imprisonned in Syria during their occupation period and millions who disappeared of syrians throughout the 40 decades of Baathist regime. Trust me it could not get any worth

    • Recently Syrian rebels started firing at Lebanese forces stationed in the Baqaa.
      This becomes very slipery road.

      As for your question, I don’t think people will ever know the true scale of the death toll in Syria in the last year.

      They still don’t know the exact number of dead in 1967 war…