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Middle East Crisis; Interview With Fmr. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL); Interview With Russian Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov; Interview with Jamal Simmons. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 13, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is that we will see this coming to conclusion sooner than later.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The U.S. works to bring Israelis and Palestinians back from the brink amid fears of an internal civil war between Israel's
Arabs and Jews.
Plus: Russia also urges restraint. E.U. Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov joins me, as the U.S. warns Moscow will face consequences for destabilizing
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.
AMANPOUR: Liz Cheney vows to fight the Trumpists damaging democracy at home. I speak to former Republican Congressman Francis Rooney.
JAMAL SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "THE 4 PERCENT PROBLEM": Too often, in mainstream institutions, black people are overpoliced, overpunished, under-rewarded
AMANPOUR: "The 4 Percent Problem." Journalist Jamal Simmons tells Michel Martin why corporate America needs to rethink black inclusion and
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
U.S. President Biden, Russian President Putin and the U.N. secretary- general are all calling for an urgent end to the violence between Israelis and Palestinians. But the Israeli Foreign Ministry says it's not the right
time for a cease-fire yet.
This comes as violence explodes also between mixed Arab-Jewish communities across Israel itself. Even as he's directing the war against Hamas, here is
a warning about an internal war from the Israeli defense minister, Benny Gantz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The IDF and our security forces are strong, and we will beat the Hamas terrorists. We
will bring the quiet back to our country. But, tonight, more than ever, the internal schism is what threatens us. It is no less dangerous than Hamas'
As minister of defense, I say clearly we cannot win the battle in Gaza and lose the one at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In Gaza, dozens more rockets are fired by Palestinian militants and Israeli airstrikes continue to hit targets and topple buildings.
At least 87 Palestinians are dead there. Seven Israelis have been killed.
Joining me now is human rights attorney, Professor and author Noura Erakat. She's been highly critical of Israel's actions in Gaza.
And thank you for joining us.
I want to ask you first, before we turn to Gaza, what you make of the internal explosion of violence, neighbor vs. neighbor. And we're hearing
from many inside Israel -- you just heard from Benny Gantz, but also the Israeli journalist Nadav Eyal saying: "We're seeing dissolution. We're
seeing the fracturing of our social compact."
Did you expect to see this internal violence out of out of what's going on right now?
NOURA ERAKAT, HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Thank you for having me.
As any Palestinian can tell you, this is not new, nor is it surprising that it's happened. Palestinian citizens within Israel do not enjoy equality,
but are, in fact, second-class citizens. The state has placed them under martial law. That was only lifted in 1966. And they remain under emergency
They remain legally subjugated by bifurcating Jewish nationality and Israeli citizenship, so that Israeli citizens don't have as much right as
Jewish nationals. Palestinians, any time that they rise up even within Israel have been met with excessive force, most recently in October 2000,
when 13 Palestinians were killed; 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed for protesting against the incursion in the West Bank.
And, in 1976, when they rose up on Land Day, six Palestinians were killed. So, what we're seeing today is not surprising and makes evident for the
world to see that, within Israel, Jewish supremacy is a central organizing principle of government, so that to say that there are clashes actually
obscures the power dynamic that subjugates Palestinians as a matter of law and policy.
And so you won't see any Israeli police protecting or attacking the Jewish Zionist mobs that are attacking Palestinians in the way that, for example,
they have sent military border units into Lid. They have deployed them from the West Bank into a city with Israel in order to attack the Palestinians
So, there is no parity. And we need to maintain -- we need to mourn all life, while maintaining a context and an analysis of power that is at the
root of these -- what we would call unrest.
AMANPOUR: So, you talk about Lid. The Israelis call it Lod.
And we're hearing from people there who have lived in the same buildings, who are Arab and Jewish neighbors, who are just convulsed now by what's
happening. We hear the U.N. special envoy for the region saying that this is heading, or potentially, towards full-scale civil war within Israel.
You heard Benny Gantz. I was really surprised to hear him make that intervention on television. The Israeli president himself has been on
television trying to tamp that down.
What will it take? Because this is -- I mean, I know you say, and you're correct, that this has been going on for a long time. But this is a pretty
-- I mean, we haven't seen this internal conflict for quite a few years.
Absolutely. This is definitely the most widespread protests in recent years. But it's also in response to the fact that Palestinians, citizens of
the state, which Israel doesn't even regard as Palestinians -- they name them Arabs as an effort to negate their Palestinian national identity.
This is a divide-and-rule -- excuse me -- divide-and-conquer strategy that tries to separate those Palestinians from the rest of the Palestinian
nation, whether they be in the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip, or throughout the diaspora.
When Palestinians began to protest on the inside, in solidarity against the mass removal of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, that is what sparked the
antagonism towards them that has actually been fueled by a settler- dominated Knesset.
So, you're right to say -- to be surprised by Benny Gantz's calls, by other leaders' calls. But they're changing their tune, because, even just
recently, they have been saying that they would remove these Palestinians too and support the transfer of Palestinian citizens outside of Israel.
In 2018, Israel passed a nation state law that made clear that Israel is not a state of its citizens. Israel is a Jewish state. What does that do to
the Palestinian citizens themselves?
In Lid, which we are talking about as a mixed city, it's not mixed because of neighbor vs. neighbor. Lid has been the site of settlement, of Jewish
Zionist settlement, for the past 15 years that has moved Palestinians outside of their home, and one that is backed by the state, one that's
backed by the police, one that's backed by the judiciary.
So, again, I do think that this is unprecedented, but is also the manifestation of explicit, unjust domination that is centralizing and
upholding Jewish supremacy within Israel.
So, some in Israel have reacted with horror to what's going on. For instance, a former national security adviser, he basically told "The New
York Times": "We were not careful in Jerusalem at a very delicate Time, i.e., during the month of Ramadan. They gave Hamas and the militants in
Gaza the motivation to do what they did," sealing off the plaza, going into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the whole idea, as you have mentioned, of the evictions
are, which have been put on hold, and rerouting -- or, rather, there was going to be a settler march to celebrate what the settlers wanted to
celebrate, which is the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967.
All of that had to be changed because of the because of the violence that it imposed.
But I want you to react to what the Israeli ambassador here told me when I spoke to her yesterday about their view of the context in which this is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TZIPI HOTOVELY, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: We need to understand the background. The background is the fact the Palestinian
Authority has decided to cancel the Palestinian election.
On the other side, Hamas wanted to take control on the Palestinian leadership. And because they were disappointed from this Palestinian
decision, the radicals, Hamas, a terror organization recognized by United States and by United Kingdom, made a political, cynical decision to hurt
Israeli citizens, to use Jerusalem as an excuse, and actually to target children, women and men in Israel in order to achieve political aims.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What would your response to that be, Noura Erakat?
ERAKAT: I want to tell the audience that's listening that Israel's propaganda has been so thorough and so deep that the mere mention of Hamas
obscures the entire context of the Palestinian struggle for freedom now ongoing for over 100 years.
Hamas has become a boogeyman Israel's rhetoric. If Hamas were to disappear, they would still, Palestinians would still remain under subjugation and
We saw just this morning that the Israeli leadership has affirmed that the reason they want to de-escalate their attack on the Gaza Strip is because
they don't want to oust Hamas, because they fear that a power vacuum there would lead to chaos.
This is a holding position, and one that's quite violent, that the Palestinians themselves are suffering from the most. For the past 15 years,
there has been a debilitating siege on the Gaza Strip, a 365-square- kilometer piece of land that borders the Mediterranean Sea and Israel, as well as Egypt. They have been put on a subsistence diet of how much they
They have -- their electric generators have been shot. They are kept in an open air prison. Even if everything today were to stop and there would be
an end to escalation, Palestinians would still be enduring violence. Children would still not be able to live freely. They would not be able to
travel. They would not be able to dream of studying abroad, of marrying who they want, of building homes, because they have been subject to this
structural domination of siege, of war, of dehumanization.
So I urge people to listen who do care, but to understand that the root of this -- and if you care about violence, and you care about actually having
peace, then the first thing we have to do in the Gaza Strip is lift the siege and the naval blockade. Allow Palestinians to live even a little bit.
AMANPOUR: Noura, I want to ask you about this, because, clearly, the U.S. administration have reiterated their support for Israel, its right for
But, also, Antony Blinken said that Israel needed to be very careful about the toll on civilians in Gaza. But I want to get to the heart of what's
happening inside again, because you talk about the separate rights of Israeli Arabs and how they have been called Arabs, et cetera, vs. Israeli
And yet, the coalition talks that are under way right now could potentially see for the first time Arab parties being part of a very wide coalition, if
the opposition leader, Yair Lapid, manages. I mean, it's on hold for the moment because of what's going on.
But would that fundamentally, do you think, change the political dynamic?
ERAKAT: I don't think that it would fundamentally change the political dynamic.
We are in a holding position where what is enshrined at the center of all politics is the idea of Jewish supremacy. There is nothing that has knocked
that out of the center and even hinted at equality. Even -- Israel doesn't have a constitution. And even in its basic law it doesn't guarantee
So what you're seeing here is negotiations for minorities to be able to enter into government, to cede some sort of control, but never, ever to
fully come into some sort of power, of dignity, of being able to end the siege.
Even in the past recent years, there have been four rounds of Israeli elections. The question of Palestine and Palestinians has not even come up
in any kind of presidential debates within Israel. Palestinians are out of sight, out of mind.
So what we're seeing here today is this amnesia manifesting. It's a place of privilege that now turns the sky upside-down, where the Palestinians are
the invaders, even though they are an indigenous people who have been subject to a regime of settler colonization that seeks to remove them from
their homes and to replace them with Jewish Zionists, whether it be in Lid, whether it be in Nazareth, whether it be in Sheikh Jarrah or elsewhere.
So, no, I don't think that this is about to fundamentally change government...
ERAKAT: ... although I'm very hopeful that support from the international community to place pressure on Israel will help us create a new future, a
new pathway to just futures.
AMANPOUR: As you know, that's not actually happening. The United States is fully backing Israel's right to defend itself.
But I am going to, with my next guest, talk about the bigger picture of bringing some kind of political resolution to this terrible crisis.
So, Noura Erakat, thank you very much.
And we turn now to Russia, where the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has called for an urgent meeting of the four international mediators to help
resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is Russia, the U.S., the U.N. and the E.U., known as the Quartet.
And of course, the U.S. and Russia also have a lot of other things to discuss, from cyberattacks, to election interference, Ukraine, the
treatment of Alexei Navalny, all on the agenda at a possible summit between President Biden and Putin.
So, let's get to it with Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the E.U., who's joining me now from Brussels.
Ambassador Chizhov, welcome -- welcome to the program.
You just heard the Palestinian perspective on what it will take not just to end this cycle of conflict, but to actually get a resolution that is just
to all sides. You and your country has called for an immediate, urgent discussion to try to resolve this.
What can you say, sitting in the E.U., which is intimately linked to what's going on and trying to resolve it, that might cause de-escalation now and,
beyond that, try to put a moribund peace process back on track?
VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Well, thank you, Christiane. It's been a while since we last spoke.
Let me start by saying that Russian has been calling for a more robust and direct involvement of the international Quartet, which is, by the way, the
only internationally recognized mechanism of facilitation of the peace process in the Middle East.
We were urging that even before the latest flare-up, particularly now. Well, the last statement came from my minister, Sergei Lavrov, only
yesterday, when he met the U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, in Moscow.
We decisively condemn all attacks against civilians and attacks against civilian targets. and, of course, against civilian citizens, regardless of
their ethnicity or religion.
We believe that it is high time the international community, in the form of the Quartet, and the Security Council that has been meeting almost on a 24-
hour basis, to play a more decisive role in this.
As far as the European Union is concerned, the European Union, may I remind you, is a part of that Quartet, one of the four participants. And I will
tell you, this is an issue where our position, the Russian position, and that of the European Union are practically identical.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, then, just to pull back a little bit, because, at the beginning of this conflict, we heard quite a lot of
political analysis that a lot may be due to the fact that the acting prime minister, Netanyahu, of Israel is trying to send signal to the U.S.
This is before it turned into the shooting war that we are seeing right now. Didn't want the deal between Iran and the United States, the nuclear
deal and Russia, obviously, to obviously carry on.
Russia is a close ally of Israel's. President Putin has met with Bibi Netanyahu many times. And I want you to comment on what we hear the Iranian
foreign minister saying about your country's view of the Iran nuclear deal.
As you know, in these leaked documents and recordings, Javad Zarif reportedly said that Russia did not want the Iran deal to succeed, so it --
quote -- "put all its weight into creating obstacles because it was not in Moscow's interests for Iran to normalize relations with the West."
Do you recognize that position? Is that accurate?
CHIZHOV: Well, let me say that we proceed from the assumption of the official position of Iran as far as the nuclear deal is concerned.
And the official position of Iran is to recognize a decisive role of the Russian Federation in promoting that deal from the outset, and actually
saving it from total collapse, after the U.S. withdrawal back in 2018.
So, of course, we should keep in mind the domestic political situation in Iran as well in Israel and a number of other countries. They all are
approaching their elections. And the Iranian presidential elections are due next month, as you are well aware.
So, this may have an impact on certain utterings from certain political figures. And, actually, the Iranian -- current Iranian foreign minister is
running for presidential office, among others.
AMANPOUR: He's denied that.
But, in any event, let's just move on, because, clearly you mentioned the U.S. and Russia and the rest of the participants have an interest in seeing
this deal get back together again.
So, do you think that President Biden, who would like to have a summit, and has proposed such, with your president, Vladimir Putin, will mind matters
to discuss in common?
In other words, to use a horrible word from the past, is there a possibility of some kind of a reset? And I am being provocative because I
know what that created when it was mentioned back in the Obama administration.
But do you see any avenues of some kind of cooperation on certain issues between Putin and Biden, between Moscow and Washington?
CHIZHOV: Well, I wouldn't describe the current situation as in need of reset or reload, much less an overload, as it turned out last time around.
I would say that the Russian Federation and the United States, as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and influential countries on the
world scene, they have a responsibility, I would even say joint responsibility, for maintaining international peace and security.
There are core divisions that might be discussed on the agenda of our bilateral dialogue. And let's see when and where the -- or the expected
summit meeting will take place.
Well, let me talk first, because President Biden has come out and addressed this idea of what happened with the Colonial Pipeline that was hacked,
which brings a majority of the fuel needs up to the Northeast of the United States.
Moments ago, he addressed this. This is what he said. And then I will ask you for your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We do not believe -- I emphasize, we do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack.
But we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK. So that's a really interesting distinction that he makes. The U.S. does not believe it's your government, but it is cyber-criminals
living in Russia. The FBI have named them as DarkSide.
Biden has said there needs to be an international law, so that whether it's is the U.S., Russia, or whoever it is, is committed to rooting out
criminals who are conducting this kind of warfare on their territory. Would Russia agree to that?
CHIZHOV: Well, Colonial Pipeline, you said, I would say it is a strange- sounding name in the United States, with all its history.
Anyway, certainly, the Russian government has -- is not behind this attack that hackers have undertaken. Actually, even the hackers themselves admit
Anyway, but there should be international legal framework, yes. And the best place here to work out this international legal framework that would
be a global one is the United Nations, of course. So, we should look towards joint efforts on the basis of international law, and not some kind
of rules-based international orders or closed-circuit organizations.
And if there is political will on all sides, I would look with certain optimism towards achieving that goal.
AMANPOUR: Of course, the U.S. does believe that it's your main intelligence service that was responsible for the other major hack, you
know, in the last few years, which was SolarWinds.
But I want to ask you now about democracy as a final question. The U.S. is also very concerned about the treatment of the main opposition leader in
your country, Alexei Navalny, who is in jail. And we know all that he has been going medically and now he has been sentenced.
Now it appears prosecutors in Russia want Navalny's movement to be declared an extremist organization.
I mean, is that what you think is beneficial to Russia? And does that mean that President Putin is afraid of Navalny and his movement, and he's really
got under his skin?
CHIZHOV: Well, certainly not.
I would say I am surprised to hear that Mr. Navalny has been promoted to the high rank of being the main opposition figure, which he's certainly
not. I think it's an insult to the real opposition figures in Russia.
So, the fact that he has been dealt with in the course of legal proceedings in a court of law, I think, reflects the adherence of my country to the
principles of rules of law.
We know that many other countries have been engaged in arbitrary detentions and politically motivated trials. This is certainly not such a case.
OK, Ambassador Chizhov, thank you very much.
Of course, the world does consider him the main opposition leader in Russia. And, certainly, the street does as well.
So, Ambassador Chizhov, thank you very much for joining us.
Now to the state of American democracy and the turmoil within the GOP.
Liz Cheney, the congresswoman, was kicked out of the House Republican leadership team for refusing to accept former President Trump's so-called
big lie that the election was stolen. But she also says it goes much deeper than a party squabble, right to the very heart of American democracy
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I am absolutely committed, as I said last night, and as I said just now to my colleagues, that we must go forward based on truth. We
cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, indeed, a recent poll says that more than 70 percent of Republicans believe that big lie of Donald Trump's that there was
widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Now, Francis Rooney served as a Republican congressman until earlier this year. And he's joining me now from Naples in Florida.
Welcome back to the program, Francis Rooney.
I just want to ask you whether you agree with the conclusion that Liz Cheney came to. You cannot both embrace the big lie and the U.S.
Constitution. Do you accept that?
FMR. REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): Yes, I do.
I think that what's happened now, with the shift from the Republican Party of conservative principles, and limited government to a cult of
personality, is a very destructive situation. I mean, you probably know better than I do how many times in history cults of personality have
resulted in very difficult regimes.
And we're going that way now with Trump.
AMANPOUR: You know, it's so interesting you use that, because I fixated on that when I read it in a column by "The F.T." here.
It also added that the United States is dividing into irreconcilable tribes. The GOP is moving from not a party, but to a cult of personality,
as you say.
So, the question they ask and we're asking is, what should, then, principled conservatives do right now? How does a principled conservative
ROONEY: Well, I'm encouraging Liz to run for president. I want to see her get her ideas out there.
I think all of us need to speak up about what made the Republican Party what it was, of the contributions that the party has made over the years,
from Theodore Roosevelt through Richard Nixon in China, right to -- and Ronald Reagan and the Bushes. So there's a lot of things that we have done
right, and we're not doing them right, right now.
And we need to refocus on those fundamental principles. At the end of the day, it's principles and values which are enduring, not personalities.
AMANPOUR: OK, Congressman, you say that. And others would say, what do you mean?
I just read -- I just read a statistic of a poll that says 70 percent of Republicans believe that this election was illegitimate and that there was
widespread fraud, despite all the Republican-appointed state workers and courts and all the rest of it saying there wasn't.
And many are saying that they're going to be primaried if they don't stick to Trump and the Trump line. Do you think that Liz Cheney or whoever tries
to stand for conservative, traditional Republican principles can actually run and win if they're on the wrong side of Trump, whether it's 2022, 2024?
ROONEY: Well, what we have now is a gross deficit of leadership.
Leadership is moving forward the ideas that are important and convincing people to follow them, not reacting to the masses' views that are formed by
sometimes improper or lack nonfactual information, like the election that you mentioned.
We need leadership, we need to lead these people and show them where this country needs to go if we want to have Republican success. You know, I
personally believe that our view of limited government, private sector solutions versus the government is a better way to go. But we are not going
to have the opportunity if they stay focused on Trump and on saving their own skin.
AMANPOUR: And it goes really deep, this, because, you know, it is the House Republican leader, the minority leader, rather, Kevin McCarthy, to
engineered Liz Cheney's ouster having, at first, agreed that, you know, Trump was responsible for the January 6th, and he was very critical of the
January 6th insurrection. But then decided, for whatever political reasons, to go and align himself much closer and throw his lot in with that.
So, you know, you talk about leadership. Where do you see the breakout possibility? Because people are saying even somebody like Adam Kinzinger
who is in the House right now, he's potentially threatened by being primaried. So, how do you see them breaking out?
ROONEY: All we can do is have people who believe that the cult of personality is wrong and that to sacrifice all principles to save your skin
is wrong, to speak out as aggressively as possible and find some candidates to get out there and run and be willing to, as Liz did, you know, debunk
the big lie and call for a Republican Party that can solve problems. And we don't have that right now.
You know, Kevin's original instincts were great. He's a good guy. But then I think the whole politics of Trump and the power of Trump overwhelmed him.
And I think that's highly unfortunate.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you why that is? Because Trump didn't win the election? I know obviously lots of down ballot elections were won by
Republicans but not the presidential. What is it they actually think they are going to gain by sticking with a losing candidate?
ROONEY: Well, they are terrified by his hold over a large part of the traditional Republican base. A lot of the Republican base that elected the
Bushes has left because -- like people in the suburbs, a lot of women, et cetera. But the rural alienated people that have formed the Trump base seem
to be dominating our party right now.
And at the ends of the day, you know how it is with Congress, it's keeping your job is paramount. And no one wants to get primaried and lose their
job, which is unfortunate because the people that founded our country didn't care about losing their job. They were even willing to lose their
life. That doesn't seem to be that way right now.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about your own personal, you know, future. When you retired and you decided not run again, you said, I accomplished
the things that I had told the people in my district that I wanted to do and I had no interest in being a career politician.
In the full light what have we are seeing right now and big threat to American democracy and particularly your party as a party rather than a
cult of personality, as you say, would you reconsider? Do you feel you that might have something to say in terms of rebuilding different kinds of
leadership in the Republican Party?
ROONEY: Well, I will do what I can to help people like Liz and Adam and Mitt Romney, my good friend, who I was involved with his campaign deeply,
to try to drive our Republican Party back towards what it used to. I'll do everything I can do. I don't know that that means actually running for
anything or just working behind the scenes. But we definitely have to take the people that are willing to step up and amplify their voices and see if
we can get through this Trump thing, this kind of like a boundary layer turbulence that we need to work through and get to the other side.
AMANPOUR: So, one of the ways Republicans seem to be trying to work through and get to the other side is by restricting voter access and by
putting in new laws that will, most people fear, have a negative impact on minorities and others. So, let's just talk about this for a minute. They
are trying to pass restrictive election laws based on this, you know, baseless claim of fraud by Donald Trump. Here's a quote from Dave Weigel of
the "The Washington Post" who study some of these laws. He said, in several states, the number of votes cast by methods since eliminated or banned by
legislators was comparable to the final margin between Biden and Trump. In other words, if these laws have been in effect in 2020, Congressman, Donald
Trump would have won re-election.
So, from where I sit, it looks like the party is trying to reengineer laws in order that they can win. What does it look like to you?
ROONEY: Well, I think there are some elements of these laws that are probably overly restrictive and unnecessary. And then I think there are
some questions about -- like these ballot deposit boxes, if they are going to have them, they need to make sure they are secure. I don't know that
they always are secure.
I personally think Florida is one of the leading lights in voting. Everybody gets the opportunity to get an absentee ballot whether you are --
for whatever reason you want. Most people vote by mail in Florida. It works very well. I don't have any problem with it. And so, I don't think
restricting that is a particularly good idea. But I do think the monitoring of polls and dealing with this remote ballot drop-off box is something that
could be ripe for abuse.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you personally, you voted against impeaching President Trump in 2019, the first -- for the first time. At the time
Democrats argued that if that abuse of power that they alleged went unchecked it would just continue. And then we saw what happened when it
culminated on January 6th. Would you reconsider that vote?
ROONEY: Well, remember, we talked about this one other time. I spent a lot of time with the speaker urging her to slow down and make a more thorough
inquiry and get more evidence so that there would be more than just the one phone call with -- I think the name was Zelensky. I think the phone call
was abusive and it wasn't right. But at the end of the day, he got his money. And I talked to two former White House counsels extensively about it
and they gave me all of their legal reasoning and that's why I decided not to vote for the impeachment. But I was very concern with the testimony of
the state department officials that I heard and how they were bullied and mistreated by the president and his staff.
AMANPOUR: OK, Congressman Francis Rooney, thank you so much indeed for joining us from Florida.
ROONEY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now George Floyd's murder and the Black Lives Matter movement saw corporate American commit to more diversity in their ranks. Less than 4
percent of executives at major companies like Facebook or Apple and Google are black. And this figure holds true across nearly every sector. Political
analyst, Jamal Simmons, talks to Michel Martin about the 4 percent problem and how corporate America needs a radical rethink if it really is committed
to reckoning with systemic racism.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Jamal Simmons, thank you so much for talking with us.
JAMAL SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "THE 4 PERCENT PROBLEM": It is good to be here. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So, let's go through some of the numbers in your piece. Amazon, second largest private employer in the United States, one black senior
executive out of 25 people, which is 4 percent. Apple is the world's most valuable publicly traded company, 3 percent of its executives are black. At
Facebook, 3 percent. At Google, 2.6 percent. 4 percent of all publishing executives are black.
Oh, let's go to the army, shall we? The U.S. military is commonly held up as the most successfully integrated institution in the United States.
African-Americans are about 17 percent of the military but there are only two black commanders of the 41 most senior officers across all four
branches who could even be considered for Joint Chiefs share. That is 4.9 percent of the military's most senior leaders. 4 percent.
One of the points in your piece is that institutions across the board have a problem. It is not just one company. It's not just one sector. What is
the problem here?
SIMMONS: There are a lot of things are happening. One of them is a friend of mine, Al Tori (ph) at Northwestern University, talks about this. White
people oversee black people, right. So, they see one black person there, they think there are a lot more black people that must be somewhere around.
But what happens inside the companies from some of the business school professors I talk to is there's this idea of prototypicality threat where
people think their experience is the prototypical experience. So, anybody else that's going to fill their role must have a similar experience that
they did. So, they went to the same schools, they've had the same jobs. But what we know is, African-Americans don't have all of those same
experiences, so you end up cutting out a lot of people were being able to participate.
The other thing that happens is this idea of threshold diversity. Some great professors from University of Pennsylvania and NYU did a study where
they looked at women on boards. And what they found is that for a long time there was one woman on a corporate board. And then people started
complaining about there being one woman on the board. So, then they found that people with a 45 percent chance that there would be two women on a
board. Because what happens is people look around, they look at their peers, they imitate their peers and do just enough work to escape negative
So, their perspective was -- so they went from tokenism, to two-cannism, and at some point, there will be three-cannism because people will decide
that two women isn't enough either, there should be three women on boards. The same thing was happening in racial diversity, and that was creating an
incredible homogenous amount of percentages across these many sectors.
MARTIN: Why is it that -- let's just go back to the military as an example. Why didn't a Colin Powell beget more Colin Powells? Because
African-Americans -- because people are always talking about a pipeline problem. But as you pointed out in your piece, African-Americans are over
indexed in the military. African-Americans are like, what, 13 percent of the population.
MARTIN: They are 17 percent of the population in the military. So, why doesn't a Colin Powell beget more Colin Powells?
SIMMONS: Well, it's hard to know what's happening inside the military, but I think this idea of people assuming they are doing better than they are
matters. But leadership also matter. Colin Powell, again, is a great story. The reason Colin Powell got to be a general is -- you may know the story,
Cliff Alexander, who was the -- a secretary of the army under Jimmy Carter got presented a list of generals when he was secretary of the army and
said, how come there are no black people on this list. Go back and find me somebody. They went back, found Colin Powell and that's how he got his
first star in the army.
Leadership matters. We need people to care about this because it we are going to, again, have a country where we can tackle these big questions,
we're going to need everybody on the field to be able to do it.
MARTIN: So, you talk about a 4 percent black participation rate and America's leadership cohort is just not diverse enough to successfully
tackle systemic racism. Here's why I use that term is that in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police last year, a number of major
companies like, you know, Apple, Facebook, Google, all made commitments to diversify their work force and recruitment process. Like last June,
Microsoft and Apple committed to focusing on the hiring and retention of black employees. Apple pledging $100 million to support that effort.
Twitter committed to having at least a quarter of its executives to be under representative minorities and women by 2025. Amazon, saying -- I
mean, I understand that most of your data comes from 2019, which is the first year a lot of these companies, you know, started reporting these
issues, right, under pressure.
SIMMONS: I used 2019 for a reason too. Because 2020 was such a crazy year. So, I kind of look at it as the last normal year, the closest normal year
before the world went haywire with COVID. So, the trends were already in place.
MARTIN: But you're saying that a 4 percent -- you're saying that 4 percent black registration in leadership, you're not just talking about in sort of
line. In leadership is just not enough to dismantle the system. Tell me why.
SIMMONS: Here's an example. Amazon says that they have 26 percent of their team is African-American, of their company employees are African-American.
But, again, only 4 percent of the leadership team. So, the question is, of course, yes. 26 percent is probably right because, you know, you look
around, the warehouses and all the other things that Amazon does and they have got a lot of African-Americans that way.
The telecom companies do the same thing. There are a lot of African- Americans who work on, you know, telephone poles and cable companies, right, that aren't necessarily in the leadership suite. So, that's the
place where you got to look because I have been doing this for a long time. You know this. I've been in politics. I've advised corporate leaders. And I
know that rules are important. Rule makers are critical, right? If you don't have the right people at the top who are helping to make decisions,
it's not going to work.
Here's one example. In Hollywood they tend to have a -- their numbers -- it's hard to tell because they don't break them down exactly by race. UCLA
(ph) report they do. They do minorities. But one thing they do point out is that the place where they are doing better is when they have African-
American directors and producers, they tend to have an over sample of African-Americans behind the camera.
So, Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, those folks are hiring a lot of black people. That doesn't mean necessarily that a Martin Scorsese, let's say, is
hiring a lot of black person, right? So, what you have are places where African-Americans are in charge of the production, they tend to hire more
African-Americans and people of color. So, that is the thing I am saying ought to happen inside a lot of these other institutions.
We should be looking at how we stage integration, how do we laterally transition leaders into -- people into leadership positions so that they
can make the pipeline work better. There will be -- people -- their workers can emulate, there will be people there who give them opportunities.
And important, I think in the opportunity to succeed is people need the opportunity to make a mistake and not have it be fatal, right? You need the
opportunity to make a mistake and then get a chance to try again and get it right. And too often in mainstream institutions, black people are
overpoliced, over punished, under rewarded and overlooked. And so, we've got to find a way to get more people to leadership structure to help those
people in the pipeline be able to succeed.
MARTIN: So, how did you get to data that got to you the 4 percent analysis? Is this publicly available?
SIMMONS: Yes. This was all publicly available data. It came from the companies. It came from news organizations that had done background
research on the company. Some of it was academic and people had examined what was happening inside of some of these industries. The publishing data
came from their association. So, it is interesting. Some of the people have questions about it but it's their data, right? I didn't have to make this
The educational data required a little bit more effort because there is a data set National Center for Economic Statistics and you have to go in
there and kind of play with it. But the organizations, the universities are required to submit data about race and diversity. You know, that's another
place where we have to really take a look at these numbers.
You know, I went to HBCU. I went Morehouse College. And people often ask whether or not these schools are still worthwhile. But I have got to tell
you, there is no way for us to get to parity with African-American professionals that doesn't involve HBCUs. The numbers just don't bear it
out. In 2019, there were 50 black men that graduated from Harvard University. In 2019, there were 387 black men that graduated from
Morehouse. There were 68 black women who graduated from Harvard. There were 450 black women who graduated from (INAUDIBLE). That's part of what got me
to this question of staged integration and talking to black-led organizations, black leaders, and talking to them about who they are
nurturing and using some of that cohort to go into mainstream organizations.
MARTIN: Why is this 4 percent sort of ceiling a problem? I mean, some people might say, well, you know, so what? I mean, the NFL is, you know, 75
percent of the players are black. Is anybody complaining about that? So, what would you say to that?
SIMMONS: I would say the 4 percent is problem because there are not enough people at the table to argue the diversity of experiences. I interview a
woman who advises boards and she said, she hears from some of the white chairs of boards that the African-Americans who center her boards don't
speak out enough. Well, one of the things that happen is many of those African-Americans are on 6 or 7 boards, right. So, they are actually
stretched really thin. They also maybe only -- the only African-American or one or two on the board. So, you're asking a lot of somebody to constantly
be your diversity police, constantly be the person telling everybody they are making -- you know, they're doing the wrong thing, they're making the
If you have a multitude -- not multitude. Give a few people -- let's just go with three or four people around the table, then you have the
opportunity for people to exert their discretion around issues that they actually know something about without having to feel like they always have
to be the skunk at the garden party. There is Korn Ferry report where they talk to a lot of executives who moved up the line. And they say, they're --
they give -- they are giving harder things to do. They are judged based on performance, not just based on promise, right, like their white colleagues.
And so, sometimes what happens is because they are being over punished and under rewarded, they may become more cautious. And so, by the time they
make to it the C suite, the idea of speaking up and saying something just is -- it seems like a high price to pay in order to continue to keep your
seat at the table and be able to do the things that have to get done.
MARTIN: Do you think that was true of Obama?
SIMMONS: I think that Barack Obama did very well on the policy front. He - - there were people like Melody Barnes and Eric Holder and there were a lot of people who came through the organization on the policy front which are
very helpful. I think that Obama's political organization was too white, right? And I think the people who were in charge of his political
organization, the communications team, the people who did his politics, I think they had a level of -- they weren't willing to step up and be more
adventurous. And perhaps the president was too focused on solving an international crisis or dealing with health care to be worried about this
sort of more functional jobs.
But I would say, it was always a concern the me that the first black president did not give us the first black White House press secretary or
the first black White House chief of staff, or, you know, somebody who would have come through a more political part of his organization and had a
bigger broader portfolio than the African-Americans who were there.
MARTIN: And do you think that that might be because of some of the factors you have cited here, which is a certain -- I don't want to call the former
president timid, but I don't know what other word to use right now, a certain timidity that arises around getting burned a lot around issues of
race and therefore -- I don't know. What do you think?
SIMMONS: Yes. He wrote about it in his book about the -- you know, the event with Skip Gates, and how he lost white voters, you know, around the
Bere (ph) Summit question. You know, one thing that I did find in the research is that people -- there's an assimilation expectation, right?
White people feel like they would be happier if there is an African- American they think will assimilate into the organization and the culture. And then they are more open to that person coming.
But if that person shows up and they are not really assimilating, they are pushing questions that folks aren't comfortable with, there's a pushback
against them that's even more severe. There is another question around scarcity. That if people feel like they have a limited number of resources,
they become -- race becomes much more of a factor in how they distribute those resources.
And so, as we start to see people talk about the fact that America is becoming majority/minority, and there will be more majority group over the
next 30 years, that is actually triggering more nativist or racist behavior from whites because they begin to feel a loss before they even experience
it. The very fact that they think the loss coming is causing them to react negatively.
MARTIN: Let's just talk about kind of some of the icky sticky aspects of this. First of all, let's just talk about other so-called minority groups,
right? Latinos who may or may not identify as white or black are as -- you know, the leadership will tell you, this country's largest minority group.
OK. Asian-Americans, people of Asian descent are vastly overrepresented in some of the elite institutions that are pipelined to these elite jobs, as
they will tell you, and yet, are also not represented in many of these leadership positions.
I think the leadership and activists within these groups will say, OK, well, why should we focus on black folks when you have got other groups
here who have reasons to want a seat at the leadership table? And what would you say?
SIMMONS: Well, here's why. Because America's fundamental social fault line is the black/white fault line. It's the fault line that's existed from the
very inception. Before the country existed, we had black/white social conflict, right, and economic conflict.
So, when we try to address that black/white fault line, we actually do things that help other people. You think about the 14th Amendment had the
equal protection clause in it, that has helped women, it's helped LGBTQ. In the 1960s, when we passed civil rights laws, that also helped immigrants.
When we passed affirmative action rule, that also helped women, right?
So, when you address the black/white fault line, you tend to do things that are going to help everybody. But if you try to help everybody, you don't
always fix the black/white problem. And so, we got to be really specific about dealing with the black problem because that's the one that is at the
heart of the American social conflict. And after George Floyd, we see how dangerous that can be not just to the people who are on the other end of
the night stick or the gun, it is also dangerous to the entire community when we are not including everybody and being focused on our positive
aspects and not having these assumptions about negative behavior.
MARTIN: Is it also partly true that there's a, how can I put this, sort of pariah aspect of blackness that just simply doesn't attach to other groups?
I mean, could it be that, that other groups simply don't evoke the same hostility among white decisionmakers? Could it be that?
SIMMONS: Well, yes. Yes. It absolute could be that. In the report I was telling you about that talked about scarcity, there was a biochemical
reaction they found in participants in the study that when white people were told they had only limited resources to distribute, they saw black
people as being darker and "more menacing," right. And that was -- they were able to do this by showing them different pictures of faces.
So, somebody who, you know, may have been a fair skinned, you know, thin featured face, they would be perceived as being darker skinned with fuller
features. So, there is something that happens inside the psyche that social psychologists will tell is hurting us. The problem here is -- the reason
why this is important is because it is not just -- you know, it's tempting for us to focus on the anecdote to psyche, we're going on witch-hunts, but
there are witches everywhere, right?
And so, we have a systemic problem. We need systemic solutions. And while it is important to have accountability for individuals, it is also
important for the system and for our society to have some accountability and deal with this in a broader way.
MARTIN: As we pointed out in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a lot of huge companies committed to diversifying their work force and their
recruitment process. Are you seeing any evidence that it's making a difference?
SIMMONS: I think that it is making a difference and that people have an expectation. You know, one of the things that this report -- the threshold
diversity report about the two-cannism and three-cannism, one of the things they recommend is that you to police, give a set clear diversity goals, and
then you have to police those goals. Because people will not do more than they are made to do.
So, we have all got to pay attention to the standards that these companies have made and then make sure that they are living up to the standards that
they claim. And that means some people are going to have be made uncomfortable.
For me, the first part of this was being real and telling the story of what the 4 percent really was, right? It is not the broad diversity that we all
think is happening. It's a pretty narrow slice of African-Americans who are at those tables, and we need to broaden that slice out.
MARTIN: Jamal Simmons, thank you so much for talking to us.
SIMMONS: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
AMANPOUR: And tune in tomorrow night when we'll be talking to the Oscar winning actor and producer, Matthew McConaughey. The star of films like
"The Wolf of Wall Street," "Magic Mike," and "Dallas Buyers Club." We'll be discussing his memoir, "Greenlight," which he calls a love letter to life.
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.