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Hong Kong International Airport Shuts Down Because of Protesters; China Accuses Protesters as "Signs of Terrorism"; Hong Kong Protesters Calls to U.S. for Support; Joshua Wong, Pro-democracy Activist, is Interviewed About Protests in Hong Kong; Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), is Interviewed About Democracy and Human Rights; 66-Year-Old Jeffrey Epstein Found Dead in His Cell; Democracy Under Threat From Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Misinformation; McKay Coppins, Staff Writer, The Atlantic, is Interviewed About Conspiracy Theories. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 12, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSHUA WONG, PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST: Democracy means that Hong Kong people have to the majority consensus. We need to elect our own government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Hong Kong protests ramp up. One of the world's busiest airports closes down. China steps up its threatening rhetoric and I talked to a
young protest leader, Joshua Wong. Also, to Congressman Tom Malinowski. He was President Obama's top man on democracy and human rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No other girls will be victimized ever again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Billionaire sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, kills himself in jail and conspiracy theories come to life. We dive into the toxic spread of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASEY GERALD, AUTHOR, "THE BLACK ART OF ESCAPE": So much of our time right now has been focused on resistance. I have no interest in that. What I
want us to focus on is renewal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: 400 years after African slaves arrived on U.S. shores, Author Casey Gerald on where black Americans should go from here.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
In Hong Kong, protests are reaching boiling point. Demonstrators packed into the airport, which is one of the world's busiest travel hubs, forcing
authorities to cancel hundreds of flights and ultimately to shut it down. Meanwhile, Chinese officials are getting angry, accusing them of "signs of
Fears of an intervention by Beijing were bolstered by this video allegedly showing mass police exercises in the neighboring City of Shenzhen. The
Hong Kong protests which began two months ago against an extradition bill have now morphed into demands for more freedom and democracy. And now,
protesters are calling on the United States to support their human rights and stop exporting the tear gas and rubber bullets that police are using on
I have been speaking to one of Hong Kong's main protest leaders, Joshua Wong, about how far they're willing to take this.
Joshua Wong, welcome to the program.
AMANPOUR: Listen, you have been at these quite raucous demonstrations at the airport, right? You have joined the airport protests?
WONG: Thousands of Hong Kong citizens joined the peaceful assembly at Hong Kong International Airport to let the international communities to know
that our cause for democracy and free election will never stop. Especially, we strongly condemn on police brutality.
Successfully, with thousands of activists gather, we successfully shut down the airport and urge government to cancel all the flights. It show how
Hong Kong people determine and continue our fight and put pressure on Beijing and also Hong Kong government officials.
AMANPOUR: Let me play you what the Chinese government spokesman for Hong Kong affairs has said about your protest now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUAN GUANG, CHINESE GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN FOR HONG KONG (through translator): For days the radical protesters in Hong Kong have frequently
used extremely dangerous tools to assault the police officers. Their deeds have constituted severe violent crimes and show the tendency of turning to
terrorism. It is a blatant violation of Hong Kong's rule of law and social order, a severe threat to the safety of Hong Kong residents and a
formidable challenge to Hong Kong's stability and prosperity. We must firmly tackle such violent crimes with a tough stance and no mercy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How do you respond to that, tough stance, no mercy? He is accusing you now of taking on terrorists, you know, tactics, violence,
unacceptable, all those words and threats are being used. What's your reaction to that?
WONG: Thrilling (ph) effect was generated by the Chinese government official. But in the battle of David versus Goliath, we never give up and
never step backward. Just like how people gather today at the Hong Kong International Airport with the slogan to support Hong Kong human rights and
democracy acts in the U.S., we hope to continue our fight and seek our allies around the world to support us. And we will not be threatened by
AMANPOUR: So, you're sounding very tough. And I mean, I know that you put yourself on the line before. You were one of the leaders of the Umbrella
Movement way back in 2014. You spent time in jail. But are you not worried now?
I mean, this is a nation that has shown what it can do. We all remember Tiananmen Square. Nobody is saying that that's what's going to happen in
Hong Kong, but are you not worried with the escalation that your protests are taking matched by rhetorical escalation from Beijing?
WONG: Hong Kong people is just asking for the basic human rights, we hope to vote in the election, elect our own government. That's the rights that
are enjoyed by U.S. citizens and lots of people live in Western countries since last century.
Of course, it's really a long-term [13:05:00] and difficult battle, but we will never step backward. We are not sure whether they will send the
People Liberation Army to Hong Kong to suppress on protest or not. But it's really have the clear evidence to prove that Hong Kong as the global
financial center and the international financial hub.
We are strongly aware that if they sent out PLA, it will just result in the crackdown of the economic development of Hong Kong, even rare capital
(INAUDIBLE) strongly urge Beijing not to send PLA. That's why riot police continue to upgrade their weapons, even use live threatening way to
suppress on Hong Kong people.
From what I experienced yesterday I could say that now Hong Kong already transformed it to be a police state. And Hong Kong police attempt to
murder ordinary citizens.
AMANPOUR: You talked about the economy and that if China sends in the PLA, the People's Liberation Army, it would just harm Hong Kong's economy as
well as potentially threatening your lives. But this is what Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong said. She basically blames you all, the
protesters, for the economic kind of slowdown and risk that she says is happening right now. Just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE LAM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF HONG KONG: A small minority of people, as you have said, they did not mind destroying Hong Kong's economy. They have
no stake in the society which so many people have helped to build and that's why they resort to all of this violence and obstructions, causing
huge damage to the economy and to the daily life of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Joshua, she says a small group of people and then she says no stake in the economy, that the people have struggled to build. But I
understand your protest is about as much about economic rights for your generation as it is about, you know, the controversial extradition bill
that started all this.
WONG: Not only urging (INAUDIBLE) to terminate it and withdraw the extradition bill, we also have the cause for free election. We believe
democracy could protect our political and economic freedom. If Carrie Lam or President Xi decide to send PLA to Hong Kong, they are the one who
destroy Hong Kong economy.
AMANPOUR: As you very well know, there is a picture circulating of you speaking with an American diplomat and Beijing has taken this as evidence
that the United States is behind the protest, that they call it the black hand of the U.S. Why were you talking to this American diplomat?
WONG: Sharing our point of view to the diplomat from U.S. and different countries around the world is really common and reasonable at all. If we
need to let people around the world know about what's the next step and how we or Hong Kong people passionate and determine to continue our protest.
When Hong Kong people were fired by the tear gas and rubber bullets purchased and produces from the United States, it's really reasonable to
have a meeting with those U.S. diplomats and to explain the concern of Hong Kong people. We urge U.S. government to take the reference from what have
been announced by U.K., stop the export license of crowd control equipment to Hong Kong, never should the U.S. show any kind of bullet or tear gas to
Hong Kong riot police and they should not be part of the supporters of the police brutality in Hong Kong.
AMANPOUR: Are you asking the United States for any help in your protest and democracy movement?
WONG: As we know that under the current leadership of President Trump, business interests or daily life of Americans might be more important than
human rights. But I believe the U.S. government should still keep their eyes and pay attention to the recent protests. Now, the summer of
discontent might continue until the national day of China at the 1st of October. And it's a must for them to protect Hong Kong's people political
and economic freedom.
Because if economic freedom of Hong Kong might be eroded and damaged by Beijing, it will not only threaten the daily life of Hong Kong people but
also affect the business interests of America's companies in Hong Kong. That's why I hope the U.S. politicians, they should take a more active role
to support Hong Kong democratization to ensure the interest of U.S. citizen in Hong Kong might be protected and the political and economic freedom in
Hong Kong can still be guaranteed in the future.
AMANPOUR: I just want to know what you feel when you see these pictures now and a whole other batch of pictures [13:10:00] are circulating on
Chinese media, claiming to be police in Shenzhen Province bordering Hong Kong getting ready for big exercises. What do you make of those kinds of
pictures and that tactic?
WONG: Propaganda from armed police in Shenzhen of mainland China is just a tactic for Beijing authorities to threaten Hong Kong people and it's just
their way to generate wide terror and thrilling effect. Hong Kong people surely understand we are in a really difficult time. It's a long-term
battle and it's a difficult time. But Hong Kong people will still continue our fight. I would say support Hong Kong democracy is not a matter of
right or left, it's just a matter of right or wrong.
AMANPOUR: And let me just ask you if you can fill us in, you know, there have been four suicides, apparently by young protesters. And, you know,
quite a lot is being made of this and people don't understand why or what does it mean and -- what are your thoughts on these four suicides of young
WONG: I hope people are aware that when the youngest activists are being arrested it's at the age of 13 and the oldest activist being arrested at
the age of 63 years old. It just show that no matter youngster and elderly we have solidarity and unity.
AMANPOUR: But why do you think people are committing suicide?
WONG: We are strongly aware how generation were down hard (ph) and depress in the recent protests. That's why few of our teammates suicide because
they see no hope under Beijing authoritarian rule. When 25 percent of people join our strike, it just show that how Hong Kong people strongly
aware, one country two system were eroded to be one country one-and-a-half system.
We are strongly aware that we are facing the largest authoritarian regime, which means communist of China in the world but we will never give up.
Especially, we are the ones standing in the forefront, hope the world to know that the uprising China model is the model that no human rights and
universal value and we hope to get allies around the world to support us.
AMANPOUR: All right, Joshua Wong, thank you so much indeed for joining me.
WONG: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now a senior U.S. official today urged all sides to refrain from violence, reiterating that protesters are looking for democracy. And that
is a sharper response than President Trump's earlier this month. He used Beijing's language, using riots to describe the demonstrations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, something is probably happening with Hong Kong because when you look at, you know, what's going on, they have
had riots for a long period of time and I don't know what China's attitude is. Somebody said that at some point they're going to want to stop that,
but that's between Hong Kong and that's between China because Hong Kong is a part of China. They'll have to deal with that themselves. They don't
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, Tom Malinowski is a freshman Congressman, but he carries a lot of heft when it comes to foreign policy. He is a former human rights
campaigner and he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights under President Barack Obama. And he is joining me now from
Welcome back to the program, Congressman.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Can I just first ask you to react to what appears to be a clarified statement from the United States, coming out publicly and saying
what the protesters are saying, that they actually want democracy and as I've said, changing from the language that President Trump used to describe
what they were doing as riots. What's your reaction?
MALINOWSKI: Well, it's a good statement that they're constantly having to clean up after the president's remarks. And I do worry that -- you know,
the president is the president and he runs the U.S. government, and I worry that the Chinese Communist Party may get the signal that he's willing to
throw anything under the bus to get a trade deal with their country.
We saw that with the stance on Huawei. The Trump administration rightly, for months, told our allies around the world, don't do business with
Huawei, it's a threat to your national security and to ours and then President Trump seemed to change his mind when he thought he might be able
to use it as a bargaining chip for trade.
So, this is something that I'm very concerned about with the troops massing on the borders of Hong Kong, this ominous use of the terrorism language and
at the same time, the potential that the Chinese government might miscalculate because they think they have a leader of the United States
[13:15:00] who's willing to look the other way.
AMANPOUR: So, you -- Congressman --
MALINOWSKI: But I can tell you, Congress will not look the other way.
AMANPOUR: All right. Congress won't look the other way. What exactly does that mean? And do you think -- I mean, we sort of kind of got into
it, but this new statement from the administration goes a significant way to correct the impression perhaps that the administration is not watching
and doesn't care and is leaving it as an internal matter.
MALINOWSKI: I hope so. You know, some of my former colleagues at the State Department say that they are living under the tweet of Damocles, you
know, the constant threat that they're carefully laid diplomacy and public statements will be undermined by something that the president says at 5:00
in the morning after watching something on Fox News, on twitter. So, you know, we can't count on the stability of the policy that the administration
But look, Congress -- I think we do very, very much need to look at the sale of riot -- of crowd control equipment like tear gas to the security
forces in Hong Kong. And more broadly, we need to look at disentangling ourselves, our economy, our companies, our research universities from this
apparatus of repression that China is perfecting not just in Hong Kong, but in Tibet, in Shenzhen and trying to export to the rest of the world.
AMANPOUR: So, you just mentioned what Joshua Wong, the young activist, was demanding. I mean, he basically said -- and I mean, I can quote it, "When
Hong Kong people were met with rubber bullets purchased from the U.S., it's reasonable to have a meeting with the U.S. Never should the U.S. send any
bullets or tear gas to riot police." And he was responding to the accusations by Beijing that the protesters are meeting with the U.S.
diplomat and the "black hand of the United States" is fomenting these demonstrations. But he was saying, "No, not at all. This is all on us.
But we want to tell the U.S. to quit sending lethal riot gear."
MALINOWSKI: He's totally right. First, this is a Hong Kong movement. This has nothing to do with any other country, the U.S. or the U.K. This
is a movement of Hong Kong people asking for freedom and for the rule of law.
But we do have a stake in the United States. China -- the Chinese Communist Party made a promise years ago that it would respect the unique
political and legal system in Hong Kong. They called it one country, two systems. They are breaking that promise today. And that promise was made
not just to the people of Hong Kong, it was made to the United States, it was made to the United Kingdom, it was made to the international community.
This is a test of whether the Chinese Communist Party can keep its commitments, whether on this, on trade, on national security or anything
else. So, we absolutely have a right and an obligation to speak out on behalf of what the people of Hong Kong are rightly demanding.
AMANPOUR: So, just because everybody is always worried that something will tip China into some kind of maximalist intervention, I don't know whether
you ever think there could be, all these years later, another Tiananmen episode. But the Chinese government is getting, you know, more and more
sharp with its rhetoric. We heard them talk about this moving into terrorism, accusing the protest, threatens those who play with fire will
perish by it.
Do you seriously believe that this is a government or a party that all these years later could even contemplate anything like a military
MALINOWSKI: Yes. Of course, they would contemplate it. They place their -- the survival of their regime ahead of everything else, the interest of
their people, the interest of their economy. But we have to make sure that they understand that the costs of that kind of action would be very, very
high. Obviously, it would be a catastrophe for the economy of Hong Kong, which is intertwined with the economy of China.
We would certainly have to look at other consequences that we impose in our policies and I would very much expect that Republicans and Democrats in the
U.S. Congress would come together to ensure those in the Chinese Communist Party responsible for that kind of crackdown are held accountable. There
would be costs in terms of their long-term goal of bringing Taiwan closer to China. So, we have to emphasize that very, very clearly before the
Chinese make a bad decision.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you can see this sort of rise of, I don't know, nationalism. I mean, if the [13:20:00] Chinese are making all of these,
you know, noises towards Hong Kong, which just wants a bit of, you know, the right to elect their leaders. I mean, they're not asking to be a
breakaway province, they want to elect their leaders rather than have them appointed by Beijing. And you've said what the U.S. Congress could do to
make your point clear.
Likewise, in Kashmir, I mean, you have this clearly, you know, Hindu nationalism of the prime minister. He has revoked the autonomous status of
Kashmir. And there's, still, seven days later, a massive lockdown, all the sort of communication links are cut, nobody really knows what's going in
there. What is the U.S. position on Kashmir, given that, you know, India and Pakistan are your allies?
MALINOWSKI: Yes. It's always disturbing when people are cut off from the outside world. You know, I tend to assume that the government doing that
has something to hide, and I hope that's not the case here. Obviously, India is a very close partner of the United States. India is a democracy
that stands for something in this world. And I -- and it's very important that this Indian government stick to those principles.
You know, look, there's a larger battle of ideas under way in the world today. We see it in Hong Kong, we see it in the protests in Moscow that
are happening as we speak. People all over the world are rebelling against this rise of xenophobic nationalistic authoritarianism. America needs to
be on the right side of that battle because it's a battle for the heart and soul of what we stand for, what we believe in.
Most Americans are on the right side. Unfortunately, I think our president sympathizes with the wrong team. He'd like to be closer to Putin than to
Kim Jong-un and to Xi Jinping than to these brave democracy protesters on the streets of Hong Kong and Moscow. And that's why the role of the U.S.
Congress is so, so important right now because we have consensus in the Congress between Republicans and Democrats that the United States of
America needs to stay and on the right side of this global battle between democracy and authoritarianism.
AMANPOUR: Well, to that point, and you mentioned the brave freedom fighters on the streets, I mean, they're not using weapons but they're --
you know, they're really sort of, you know, putting their lives on the line. Joshua Wong, I mean, I was really shocked, he said, you know, "This
administration seems to care more about its business and trade and, you know, it's trade war with China than about our human rights." Is that a
MALINOWSKI: I'm afraid it's a fair assessment of President Trump. I think there are others in the administration who have been trying to do the right
thing. And again, they live in this constant fear, as I mentioned, the tweet of Damocles that the president will say something at any hour of the
day to undermine what they're trying to do.
So, we all have to be very vigilant. And we have to understand that it's so important for the United States to stand consistently on the side of
democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world. One wrongheaded statement by the president can lead to catastrophe. And again,
not just for these poor people, these brave people demonstrating thousands of miles away but for the system of rules and values that has kept
Americans safe for all of these years. It's what we believe in, what we stand for that is at stake in this contest.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you to put your human rights hat on and look at home. You have seen the ICE raids that have been ordered by the
administration of migrants and you also know that some of them happened right around the time that those massacres happened in El Paso and Dayton.
And in fact, the head of the -- or the acting head of the Homeland Security admitted the timing of the raids was unfortunate.
You know, you also tweeted quite a provocative statement having just come back from Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial in Israel. And it was a
letter from Senator Taft saying, "I just --" you said, "I just visited the Yad Vashem holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem and saw this 1939
letter from Senator Robert Taft on why he was voting against admitting Jewish refugees to the United States. Please read it and think about how
life has changed." And apparently, you know, Taft, at the time, you say suggested sending Jewish refugees to colonies in Asia or Africa [13:25:00].
What do you say? What was your message?
MALINOWSKI: In 1939, the United States turned away Jewish refugees seeking asylum in our country. And, of course, we didn't know what was going to
happen, the concentration camps -- well, the gas chambers had not been set up. There was not yet mass killing in Europe. There was just persecution.
And we know the consequence of that decision. Almost all of them perished.
And so, after the Second World War, we promised ourselves we would not do that again. We would provide shelter for people who are fleeing death, who
are fleeing the worst kinds of persecution around the world. And my point was, we have now an administration that is making the same arguments as the
isolationist in the 1930s who wanted to turn their backs on human suffering around the world and we know where that led.
I will do everything in my power as a member of Congress to make sure we do not go back to that cruel, heartless and ultimately self-defeating approach
to the problems of the world.
AMANPOUR: Congressman Malinowski, thank you. It was quite shock, actually, to become acquainted with the exert of that letter that you
tweeted about. Thank you for joining us.
Now, democracy is under increasing threat from conspiracy theories, from fake news, a war of misinformation online and it's coming right from the
top in many occasions. This weekend, President Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory blaming the Clintons for the death of the
multimillionaire sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
The 66-year-old was found dead in his cell on Saturday. He was not being monitored overnight despite a reported suicide attempt just weeks before.
Epstein was facing 45 years in prison on federal sex trafficking charges.
Now, McKay Coppins is a staff writer at "The Atlantic." His latest piece is called "Why Conspiracy Theorists Will Never Believe the 'Official'
Epstein Story." And he is joining me now from Washington.
McKay Coppins, welcome to the program.
MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you to explain the title of your article? Because it's clear that we are right in the midst of these runaway
conspiracies and it's not just Epstein and we'll get into another of the -- others of dramatic ones that are abroad as well.
COPPINS: Yes. So, over the weekend when the reported suicide of Epstein came -- became public, what I found fascinating was that the initial
reaction across social media, especially, but also on other kind of high- profile media platforms was to rush to speculate and theorize about what was really behind this story, what was really behind his death.
Now, of course it was natural to raise serious questions about what went on here and obviously, there are investigations now into that death. But it
wasn't just the online fringes which typically latch on to news stories like this and kind of spread conspiracy theories. It was people who had
prominent perches in mainstream media, it was political figures and it was even, as you mentioned earlier, the president himself retweeting or
engaging in kind of reckless or irresponsible conspiracy theories about what had really happened.
And to me, I think that every element of this Epstein story, even before his death, just the allegations against him, the known facts of the case
kind of illuminate the reason that conspiracy theorists are able to thrive in this American media ecosystem, and part of it is because, frankly, we
have a culture of elite impunity and corruption and institutional failure that has lost the trust and the authority and American institutions once
AMANPOUR: I wanted to get deeper down into that. Because you wrote, basically, "You don't have to believe in lizard people or baby eating
politicians to understand why so many are looking at our leaders and letting their imaginations run wild." And that sort of -- we also heard of
an official who said these conspiracy theories in America remind him of what you see in the developing world. I mean, you know, in third world
countries where authoritarians or for whatever reason, you know, the whole place often exists on conspiracy theories and they become, you know, de
But why is that happening in the United States?
COPPINS: Well, I think you have to look back at America's history. We enjoyed a good amount of time where the official gatekeepers and
institutions in America enjoyed wide trust from American people.
And that included mainstream media outlets, political leaders, police officers; basically all the big pillars of American society were broadly
trusted. There were always people on the fringes who didn't trust them but they enjoyed a lot of credibility.
Over the past couple of decades and certainly in the past few years, you've seen a kind of a very deliberant war being waged against those
institutions. And let's be clear, those institutions have had some pretty high profile failures that have led to their loss of credibility.
But you put all these things together, all these factors together and what's happened is that Americans simply do not trust a lot of the old
gatekeepers that used to be the ones who would say this is the official story, this is what happened.
Now in the case of Epstein, there is an investigation. We'll find more out about him. But one thing I was convinced of just watching the reaction
this weekend is that no matter what official story comes out, no matter how much evidence comes out, there will be a large segment of American society
that will simply never believe it.
And will choose to believe conspiracy theories that either implicate their political or ideological enemies or even kind of kookier (ph) conspiracy
theories that just kind of validate their broad distrust of the American ruling class.
AMANPOUR: You know it's not just this one. As you say there are other -- I mean the latest ones were the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, which we can
get into. Pizzagate before that during the election. And just to remind the Seth Rich one, he was found murdered.
He was a Democratic National Committee staffer and immediately, you know they started blaming the Clintons, as they do for everything. But what was
really, really fundamentally different in this one compared to Epstein was it looked like the Russians were quite happy to use Julian Assange to -- to
-- to implicate without actually saying it, Seth Rich as the person who leaked all the stuff in their -- in the hack of the democratic machine
That -- that is a really different level of conspiracy, hostile, foreign power is doing that. And then using Julian Assange, who poses as a
journalist in the purveyor of the truth. You know talk about that for a little bit.
COPPINS: Well, and even beyond that you -- we've -- we've seen a wide array of reports about the way the Russians tried to wreak havoc and cause
chaos during the 2016 election. Part of what they did is they identified the areas of American society where there was this lack of trust.
So they tried to target black voters who have a natural distrust of a lot of American authority and created fake news stories and created conspiracy
theories and amplified them on social media. There were entire troll farms, people who were literally charged with trying to whip up divisive
conspiracy theories and spread them and more than -- more than once they were successful.
Like you said, the Seth Rich story is -- is just, I think, one example of this broader area of concern, frankly, that American adversaries are seeing
the rise of conspiratorial thinking in America. The rise of distrust in our institutions.
And they're using it. They're weaponizing it against us. And I don't think that we've seen the end of that. If anything, I think this upcoming
presidential election we'll see a lot more of it.
AMANPOUR: And how should one react to Julian Assange who gave an interview and essentially implied without out and out (ph) saying it in black and
white that Seth Rich was his source for the democratic hack.
COPPINS: I think that we should -- we should react with skepticism to anyone who is -- has been kind of known to have their own political agenda
and to not kind of conform to the normal conventions of advancing that political agenda.
Look, I -- I think with a lot of these conspiracy theories, as I wrote in this piece, that you know there's a reason for the distrust. And I -- I'm
not dismissive of people who -- who kind of suspect corrupt (inaudible) at the highest levels of society or government. At the same time, I also
recognize that there are a lot of bad faith actors who are going to latch on to this -- that distrust.
And I think that, if anything, we need to be more skeptical and more careful about what we choose to believe.
AMANPOUR: And of course he was protecting the Russians in this case. But can I ask you -- I'm going to play a sound byte from the attorney general,
William Barr, who has basically talked about getting to the bottom of the Epstein death and for justice for his victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability. But let me assure you that this
case will continue on against anyone who was complicit wit Epstein.
Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So we've only got 20 seconds. Everybody thought the victim's plight would go by the wayside in this conspiracy. That seems to have
corrected that -- that situation, right?
COPPINS: That's right and I think that that, frankly, is where a lot of our focus and energy should be, is making sure that these investigations
continue at pace so that victims can get whatever accountability they can. Obviously this death it puts a hamper on that, but I hope that we're still
able to move forward and learn more about what happened here.
AMANPOUR: McKay Coppins, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
Now, this year commemorates the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival of African slaves to the American shores. Important to remember as
2020 Democratic hopefuls continue to accuse President Trump of stoking racism.
Black American author Casey Gerald reflects on this grim anniversary with an article for "New York Magazine." It's called the "Black Art of Escape:
A New Vision for Black Americans. A Yale and Harvard graduate who grew up poor in Texas, he says being respectable has little to do with being
respected, especially for the black community and he's been telling our Michelle Martin about the importance of remembering and his hope to go from
resistance to renewal.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CORRESPONDENT: Casey Gerald, welcome back to the program. Thank you for joining us once again.
CASEY GERALD, AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: The 400th anniversary of the arrival of people of African decent in the United States is this year and there are commemorations,
particularly in Virginia, but also elsewhere and this occasion has brought up a lot of things for you, to the point where you've written a very
extensive 8,000 word piece for it for "New York Magazine." So, I'm going to ask you to tell us like what this brings up for you.
GERALD: My father's mother was born called in a town called Pelham, Texas, which was one of the first communities founded by freed formerly enslaved
Texans. It was first called Twin Forks of the Creek. And she passed last year and she's been so heavy on and with me, we'd go down every year for
the family reunion and she'd make us pick cotton and do all this kind of stuff. And there was a little museum and she'd say, and we'd get so
annoyed by, she said, you have to know your history.
And long before I even started writing this piece, I knew that I and so many of my friends who are obviously loosing those people in our lives who
had direct connection to formerly enslaved people, we had to remember. But I also wanted to go beyond remembering and honoring those people. I wanted
to try to figure out where we go from here and that was where the essay was birthed.
MARTIN: One of the things that you say in the piece is that you have a lot of friends who have no interest in remembering. And so, I wondered if I
could ask you to read a section of the essay where you acknowledged that, where you talk about that an dhow you talk about how you've grappled with
GERALD: I'd love to.
I've come across more than a few of us who have no interest in remembering 1619 and marking our 400 years at all. Why, one asks, would we celebrate
becoming slaves? We're not, I told her. We are making the birth of a new race of people, our people and enslaved and all.
We take a backward glance at them to enact a future vision for ourselves to learn how to access that gift Miss Fanny Moore's mother embodies. To stand
inside one's self in another dimension, on another plain that might help us endure if not transcend this plain we cannot fully escape. I do not
believe that we are our ancestor's wildest dreams. I do believe they are our greatest hope.
MARTIN: There are -- have been a few public figures in recent years who take great umbrage at the idea that anyone might now welcome their arrival
in the United States, no matter how they got here. In fact, some have even gone so far as to say that black people should be grateful for slavery,
because it brought them to the United States. So, that's kind of one point of view.
And then there's the other point of view that you describe here, which is that the sense of -- there has been so much pain, so much degradation that
why would you acknowledge that. I wanted know how you kind of threaded that needle for yourself, how your started thinking about that?
GERALD: First off is this very strange moment we're in of sort of reimagining the historical record. You think about "Black Panther" was a
great movie. I love Ryan Coogler.
But you read Zora Neale Hurston's "Barracoon" and one thing that Cujo (ph) makes clear, he says everybody's talking about kings and queens in Africa
(inaudible) one king and one queen.
I didn't have -- what do you say, I didn't have the ivory on the door. So I think the reality of this moment, why it's so important for us to
remember is the kind of shame, I think, at the reality of where we've been and where we come from.
The reality that over 90 percent of Africans who were sold into slavery were sold by other Africans, right. The -- the truth of our people is much
more complex and I think there's a sort of resistance to acknowledge in that we're humans. Just because we're black doesn't mean we're saints,
The other piece and this goes to that deal that I'm sure you probably heard growing up and I heard growing up, you've got to unlearn that slave
mentality. You know so many people have said that.
And -- and I thought I listened to that for a long time and then I thought, I said wow, what a curious thing to unlearn. Think about our people, my
grandmother's grandfather was born a slave. You think about how did these people survive. OK.
So the artist Ja'Tovia Gary totally changed my life. She had a video instillation that was a reinterpretation of a deal that Ruby Dee recited in
the 60s of the Federal Writer's Project, went around talking to formally enslaved people.
And one of the folks they talked to was Ms. Fannie Moore, this was down in Georgia, and she told the story of her mother who one day on the plantation
started getting happy. She was sort of shouting and praising and all this kind of stuff.
And the master comes down and he says .
RUBY DEE, ACTRESS: What's all this going on out in the field. You think I sent you out here just to hoop and yell. No soiree (ph), I sent you out
here to work and you better work or I'll put this (inaudible) across your black back.
GERALD: And Ms. Fannie Moore's mother, she stops and she says the Lord is showing me the way. And one day, no matter how you all treat me and my
children, we ain't never going to be slaves no more. And then master starts whipping on Ms. Fannie Moore's mother.
MARTIN: Because he did not want to hear that.
GERALD: Didn't want to hear it at all. And .
MARTIN: Didn't want anybody else to hear that.
GERALD: You see. And you would think that that shut her up and all of the sudden, Ms. Fannie Moore says her mother, this big smile came across her
face. And she started shouting I'm free. I'm free. I'm free.
So what I'm trying to say in this essay, the black art of escape is that we've been given sort of a strategies to make it in this country, to endure
this land. And I sort of very simply might say one of those strategies might be the John Henry (ph) strategy. If you work hard enough, you can
We know that is simply limited. Another strategy might be the Nat Turner strategy, you know give them hell; kill them all, you know burn it down.
MARTIN: That hasn't worked.
GERALD: OK. But there is a third, I think, very important tradition that each of us has the right and the opportunity and perhaps at this very
urgent moment, the responsibility to reclaim and that's the strategy of flight, of escape, of Ms. Fannie Moore's mother who in the face of such
brutality of such the logic of despair says I'm free.
MARTIN: Where we going? Where we going? Where we flying to? Where we going?
GERALD: Well, you know, I try to offer some -- some -- what I call it a buffet of options. Now some people might physically leave, right, but that
perhaps is not practicable for everyone.
But it's less about a physical (inaudible) it's an inner resource. I talk about how so much of our time right now has been focused on resistance. I
have no interest in that. What I want us to focus on is renewal. How do we build that inner resource.
Some of it might look like what Ms. Fannie Moore's mother did. Some of it might look like what Lauren Hill did when she went on stage and said she's
renouncing her fame, she's disappearing. And she said -- and everybody said well, she's mad. She's crazy. And she said ever sense people thought
I was deranged, I've had total peace.
MARTIN: One of the reasons that people are always so interested in what you have to say is that so much of your -- your story tells what a lot of
people think of as the American dream. I mean you've raised in precarious circumstance. You know your mom struggled with mental illness; your dad
struggled with addiction.
You, you know, were raised by your sister and your grandmother. And you know somehow you get to two Ivy League institutions.
You start a business (inaudible) non profit and so forth, and yet as some point you stepped back, you stepped back and said, we need to rethink this,
we need to revisit all of this and I think a lot of people are still kind of confused by you, right, and your story and what it is that you're really
telling us. So, why don't you tell us what you want to tell us, not just about yourself, but also about how you think we should think about this 400
years of history.
GERALD: Yes, absolutely. Well, first off we should think about the 400 years of history by thinking about it. I remember that great story Oprah
would tell when she called Maya Angelou once, she was weeping, and weeping, and weeping, and weeping about something that happened and Maya says, stop
it, stop it now, stop it and say thank you. So, the most important thing each of us as black people in this country have to do this year and every
day is stop and say thank you.
There was an enormous price that our people have paid to live here, to make it possible for us to live here, and until we say thank you for that and
carry them with us as we sit on stage with another black person trying to live free and know the enormous price that so many people have paid on our
behalf, that's the most important thing as it relates to the year 1619 today for me, and then we have to think very seriously, not in a dismissive
way, about the strategy of -- strategies we've employed, but very earnestly about what it is that we've learned from those strategies.
So, take respectability politics, and I write very critically about respectability politics while also acknowledging that have respectability
in me, as you do too Harvard graduate, OK, a masters in theology --
MARTIN: You're calling me out. Focus (ph) -- stop telling my business.
GERALD: We wouldn't be ere if we had not. You see what I'm saying. So, I'm not trying to dismiss it, but all I'm trying to say, as I write in the
piece is, being respectable has very little, if anything, to do with being respected.
We have spent too much time investing in this delineation between respectful black people and not respectful people and it hasn't gotten us
anywhere. It's limited. So, that's the first piece.
The second piece is protest. Now listen, I was on a panel with Casey Lehman (ph) in Los Angeles a few months ago and one thing we said after, we
said listen man, we have to be very humble as we talk about this, because nobody in 400 years has figured the exact way to be free. So, all we're
doing is shining little lights in the darkness saying, hey y'all, this is what I found, this might be useful.
Protest is clearly important, the whole linage of the Fannie Lou Hamers and Ella Bics (ph), all of these people have done extraordinary work, but at
the same time when I think about my dear friends and the Black Lives Matter Movement, what matters to me is that they are alive.
You think about the great U.S. Army Military General George Patton, he said no man every won a war by dying for his country. The point is to make the
other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
So, I have no interest in another black person dying for America. None. That is not at all to dismiss the extraordinarily important work that my
friends and comrades are doing in terms of protests, but it is to say that while we consider that a real option to be part of the resistance, another
real option is what I'm advocating, not replacing anything we've done, but add into the menu of options, which is renewal, which goes everything from
every black person in America ought to be in therapy. You talk about Marianne Williamson's great $200 and $500 million -- billion repartitions
package. There ought to be free first-class --
MARTIN: You said a lot of us should go to therapy. Why do you -- why do you say that?
GERALD: Well listen, to have lived in this country as a black person is to have ingested a great deal of toxicity, not just your toxicity, your
parent's toxicity, their parents, right, intergenerational trauma.
Now we want to talk about, and this goes again to protest, we want to talk about, oh, let's get the right policies, but those are topical solutions.
Healing is from the inside out. Now, that's not Casey Gerald's idea, that's multi-thousand year -- those are -- people have always said this, so
we know that to be true.
MARTIN: What about white people? What do you want them to do, or think, or say, or think about?
GERALD: I find teaching and edifying and prescribing things for white people to be extraordinarily boring and have no interest in it.
I'm also a queer person and I feel similarly about a straight person. So this is not just a anti-white thing. It is a sense that folks with power
have the responsibility to educate themselves and use their power responsibly. And I have no sympathy for you if you don't do that.
MARTIN: So your 8,000 word essay for New York Magazine, you're talking to yourself and other folks can listen if they want or what's the point of
writing if you don't want to communicate.
GERALD: The point of -- the point of writing is to write to black people. I told the editor, I said listen, I -- I was going to put this on Tumblr.
You OK with it (ph). I didn't write this to be a published author. I wrote this. Nobody commissioned it.
I didn't care who was paying for it. I wrote it because I wanted to talk to my people about something that I have been thinking about for a long
time and -- and I told them, I said hey, my only goal is to get as many black people to read this thing -- if anybody else reads it that's fine.
But I think it was Stanley Crouch who said all you get from the negro is an intensification of the central ethos of the country. Here we are at this
moment where folks think there has been pop up shop of white nationalist terrorism that just came out of the blue.
The reality is that white nationalist terrorism is the central ethos of the society from the time that people first get here; otherwise we don't have a
country. So I think if people take seriously the things that I'm trying to articulate and trying to engage and understand in this piece, whether
they're black or -- or not black, I think they'll get something from it.
But I wrote it for black people and my sole intent is to try to bring about that day when to be a black person in this country is to be at peace.
MARTIN: There's a persistent mythology that people of African descent came here with the ability to fly. And that at some point that people could,
particularly the enslaved, could reclaim that ability and fly and disappear. Why was that so important to you to write about that?
GERALD: In part because, you know, I grew up with people in the church and I'll never forget when we -- my grandfather died in 1998 and we went out to
Lincoln Memorial Cemetery to put him in the ground. It was an all black cemetery because it used to be you couldn't bury black and white people
together, of course.
And -- and it was still pretty much an all black cemetery in 1998. And we went out there and -- and he was a pastor and the -- and our choir showed
up. The community first Baptist Missionary, Baptist choir. And they had already lined up around the big hole and they were singing in this very
hushed tone some glad morning when this life is over, I'll fly away. I'll fly away.
So all my life this sort of notion of flight had been in there. And then you get to somebody like Toni Morrison, the "Song of Solomon." You get
somebody like Virginia Hamilton and "The People Could Fly." You get to this great scene, I think, in -- in "Revelations" by Alvin Ailey and
Cinnaman (ph) and those three male dancers are dancing.
And then the stage clears and that one dancer, he comes and he leaps. There is something about transcendence, about ecstasy, about escape, about
the embodied illogical freedom that I think is core to our survival as a people, not just over these 400 years but in the time to come.
I did a podcast when my book came out and we titled it "How to Make Free People." Because I had gone back to Yale and I was talking to a group that
I founded when I was there -- co-founded -- the all black men's union (ph) and I said, you know, we got really good at making great men, great people.
What we've got to learn how to do is make free people.
And then I thought about it for some months. I thought about it for some months and I realized you don't make free people; you stand and believe
that we are free people. And if everything we do every day starts from that perspective, no matter what the data is telling us, if we move through
the world -- if I teach my 14-year-old niece to move through the world as if she were a free person and we learn what it takes to do that, that I
think is the greatest challenge.
And the greatest adventure that black people can take for the next 400 years in this country, which by the way, I'm not sure the country will
exist for another 400 years. But however long we're going to be here, I think that ought to be our goal.
MARTIN: Casey Gerald, thank you for talking to us.
GERALD: Thank you.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
[13:55:00] AMANPOUR: Feeling free then is perhaps the first step to that renewal. And that's it for now. Remember you can always listen to our
podcast. See us online at amanpour.com and you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.