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Extreme Weather Events; Interview With White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy; Interview with Gary Ginsberg; Revisiting when Amanpour Interviewed Cher. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 15, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Europe is now the very first continent that presents a comprehensive architecture to meet our
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): As the E.U. unveils its most ambitious climate plan yet, I asked President Biden's climate czar, Gina McCarthy, if the
U.S. can afford to be as bold.
And I speak to a climate scientist about drawing the link between this summer's unprecedented heat waves and climate change.
Then: Even presidents need BFFs. Gary Ginsberg joins me to talk about his new book first friends.
CHER, MUSICIAN: Women are great. Women are tough. Don't screw with them.
GOLODRYGA: We look back at Christiane's sit-down with the goddess of pop, Cher.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
It's hard to overstate the severity of weather events recently. In the U.S., record-breaking temperatures continue to hit the Pacific Northwest,
and more than one million acres have burned in 71 large fires across the country. Meanwhile, Western Europe has been hit by record rainfall, which
has killed at least 41 people in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has called it a catastrophe.
This as the E.U. unveiled its most ambitious climate proposals yet and urged Washington to do the same. Fit for 55 aims to cut carbon emissions by
55 percent in 2030, and covers pretty much every sector from farming to transportation.
But it remains unclear whether all 27 member states will actually stick to it, especially poorer countries that rely a lot more on fossil fuels.
I asked the White House national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, about all of this when we spoke just moments ago.
GOLODRYGA: Let me first begin by getting your reaction to this ambitious plan out of the E.U. yesterday, this legislation they're calling Fit for
The name is getting criticized, saying it sounds more like a yoga class. Nonetheless, they are promising to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases
by 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Related to the U.S., the U.S. is promising to do the same by 40 to 43 percent.
So what is your response to this? And did you know it was coming?
GINA MCCARTHY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISER: Actually, we're hoping to go to 40 to 50 percent by 2030.
And we certainly have had conversations with the E.U. We're interested in partnering, of course, with the E.U. and other countries in every way we
can, because, as we all know, what one country does, the others can learn from.
And, also, we know that we have to work together worldwide to address this problem. So, there's no nitpicking. There's no concerns. There's just
opportunities I hope we can cheer to move as fast as we can individually and worldwide.
GOLODRYGA: In terms of how the E.U. is pledging to get there, they are saying that they will be eliminating the sales of new gas- and diesel-
powered cars in just 14 years and raising the price of using fossil fuels, and also imposing tariffs on imports coming from countries that don't have
such strict regulations.
And it appears, at least for now, the U.S. would fall on that list. Are you concerned at all about potential trade wars?
MCCARTHY: No, not at all.
I mean, we're dealing with our neighbors, our friends. We're working together. I mean, clearly, we need to get all of these measures right.
One of the most exciting things that we're working on right here in the U.S. as well as understanding both how electric vehicles are going to be
the car of the future, how they already are showing that signal, how we can both use regulation and a series of incentives like tax credits and other
things to ensure that we don't just totally increase the volume of electric vehicles in an aggressive way, as the E.U. is indicating as well, but also
recapture some of that supply chain and reinvigorate the manufacturing right here.
So we're excited already that we have indications from our largest car manufacturers in the U.S. that they're advancing their manufacturing.
They're looking at battery manufacturing here. We're looking at lithium, which is necessary for these batteries to operate. We're looking at that
right here in the United States in different regions where it can be mined effectively in environmentally sound ways.
So we're all excited about the opportunities ahead, both in the E.U. in the U.S. And I'm sure we will work through these challenges that we have with
tariffs and border adjustments, and much of those discussions are happening as we speak.
GOLODRYGA: Well, the president, President Biden, has said that he would want the U.S. to be the leader in any sort of climate change policy.
And I'm wondering if this ups the ante, especially ahead of the climate summit, the COP 26 summit later this year, in November in Glasgow now.
MCCARTHY: Well, it's meant to up the ante. It's meant to say that the United States is back.Domestically, we're taking strong action.
You could see that with the bipartisan infrastructure framework that was announced and now the Build Back Better strategy, which is filled with
opportunities to actually move and win the future with clean energy.
And so we are all in. We want the world to know it. And when we get to Glasgow, we intend to show that this is not a small commitment, that we
have a large commitment on the table. And the president believes that these investments are actually going to build back better not just the United
States, but the world, as we address the challenge of climate.
This isn't about sacrifice. This is about recognizing the challenges we have, the future that we're moving towards, if we don't act now and we
don't act boldly. And the president's commitment to build back better in the U.S. is doing the bold actions that we need to address climate in the
smartest way, because it's going to grow our economy and good union jobs as we move forward.
And that's the gold standard for everything we're doing.
GOLODRYGA: And he is determined to do this in a bipartisan way as well. As you know, he has vowed to decarbonize the electric sector, the electricity
sector, by 2035.
GOLODRYGA: And you have said that Congress must pass a clean electricity standard forcing utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
Is this law, as it is formed right now, in your opinion, will it be included in the infrastructure bill?
MCCARTHY: Look, what we have been saying is that the clean electricity standard is the smartest and most cost-effective way for us to work with
the utilities to get them started today by showing them where they need to move forward and how are we going to get on the trajectory to clean power
by 2035 in the U.S.?
I believe the utilities understand what the future is, what their obligation is.
And the task is going to be to make sure that we have clean tax -- that we have tax credits that actually advance renewable energy, that we invest in
grid, so that it's resilient and allow the renewable energy to connect in every community, that we actually move also with a clean electricity
standard, which is the smartest way not just to set a course and say where we're going in 2035, but to make sure that the engine is revving now, and
those utilities get on board.
We're hearing great things from my utility sector about how that is the smart way to move forward. And we might argue about how fast, but these are
opportunities we have. But even if the electricity standard isn't in there, the tax credits are big. And we also have a regulatory way of actually
demanding the reductions we need over time.
MCCARTHY: But we're confident that all these issues are on the table and being discussed. And we're excited about the opportunities to deliver each
one of them.
GOLODRYGA: You mentioned a regulatory way to get this passed.
GOLODRYGA: Is this through an executive order? Because, as you know, there are many in your own party who say that this commitment is just not
realistic if they don't see this in this infrastructure bill, that now is the time for this to come to fruition.
MCCARTHY: No, actually, it isn't.
An executive order has already been issued, a number of them, by the president that says where we're going to get to in this country by when. So
the only question on the table is, what is the smartest and most effective way to get there?
Congress is going to speak to this issue. The bipartisan infrastructure framework helped to build a foundation for actions. So, all together, we
are looking at an opportunity to build back better. And part of that means that there's really smart ways in which we can move to that clean energy
future that grows good opportunities for union jobs and good-paying jobs and will also keep people protected from the kind of challenges we're
seeing here in the U.S. and beyond, the heat, the droughts and the wildfires.
So we know action needs to be taken. And I don't have any doubt that it can be done, either in Congress or it can be done through regulations like the
Clean Air Act, which will demand pollution reduction at utilities in a concerted way.
GOLODRYGA: Another big concern, I don't have to tell you -- you are sitting outside -- it is a scorcher of a summer, record temperatures that
we have yet to see. And we're not even through the summer, and, again, in parts of the country that have never seen record temperatures like this.
And a big question is, are our grids able to withstand what we are expecting to see not just in the days and weeks ahead, but perhaps years?
Is our infrastructure up to speed with the change in temperatures many attribute to climate change?
MCCARTHY: Well, that is exactly the reason why the president walked through with a bipartisan group of senators an ability to put $1.2 trillion
on the table that will be invested in the kind of grid that we need to maintain resilience, the kind of resilient infrastructure that we need, and
why this $3.5 trillion proposal that is now being looked at on the Hill is so important.
No, we don't have everything we need now. We have seen the challenges in Texas with the freezing cold. We now know that there's a lot of demand on
power in California and Oregon and other places that they have never seen before. We have to begin to address these challenges.
And part of the challenge is to make sure that our grid is resilient, that we're able to connect renewable energy everywhere we go, and the
investments are in the Build Back Better plan. And let's not forget that it's also about his human investments in people, in our families, keeping
them safe, keeping them educated, helping them get trained, helping them get back to work.
So this is a concerted effort all across the things that are important to people in the United States at their kitchen table on how this president is
working for them and working with Congress in the most bipartisan ways that he can to get this job done.
The time is now, the investments are gathered, and the opportunity is right here.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we are dedicating a lot of time to this issue.
Right after our interview with you, I will be interviewing a scientist who says that the most dangerous aspect and ramification from climate change
are heat waves, that these are, in fact, the most deadly parts of climate change. And we're seeing more and more of this happen not just in the
United States, but throughout the world.
It's interesting, because I read an interview where you said it is time to get our Anthony Fauci of the environment. And I understand what you mean by
that, sticking to facts and data.
GOLODRYGA: But I don't have to tell you how divisive, unfortunately, he has become and polarizing and political of a figure, even though he is not
an elected official.
GOLODRYGA: And I'm wondering, just, given your extensive background, how we came to this point.
I mean, you worked in a bipartisan manner. You worked for a Republican governor on many of these issues, Governor Romney in Massachusetts, on the
environment and on climate.
MCCARTHY: I did.
GOLODRYGA: What needs to be done? What needs to be done to get politics out of this and focus on the data and facts?
MCCARTHY: Well, exactly what's being done today, exactly what President Biden is doing.
Look, we do need to understand that Anthony Fauci is giving us the tough information we need on the science and helping us move forward. This is
exactly what we're doing here.
Look, the one thing we learned over the years of the pandemic is the importance of science. If you look at the proposal that is the bipartisan
infrastructure foundation that we -- framework we moved forward, and this Build Back Better strategy, it is one of the most popular proposals ever in
the United States of America.
The American public are speaking. They want this to happen. We're hearing from governors and mayors all across the country and from individuals who
recognize that the United States hasn't invested in itself. Climate change is real. The time is now to address it.
So, while Washington may have drama about who's partisan and who's on what side, climate change has no such partisanship, nor does the health and
well-being and the education and the jobs that we need to survive. We have to work together. And that's exactly what this is all about. It's getting
the job done for the American people. It's not about pleasing partisan politics.
GOLODRYGA: You have said that you have a three-pronged approach to this job, and that is climate, equity and job growth.
Gina McCarthy, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
MCCARTHY: Thank you very much.
GOLODRYGA: And coming up after the break: After June's heat wave fried the Pacific Northwest, we will get some insight from a top climate
scientist revolutionizing the science of climate change.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back.
We're continuing our focus on the climate crisis and extreme weather.
My next guest has just co-authored a study from the World Weather Attribution Initiative, which found that last month's heat wave in the
Pacific Northwest and Canada would not have happened without human-caused climate change.
Friederike Otto is the associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. And she joins me now for more.
Friederike, thank you so much for joining us.
This is really a groundbreaking study that you have conducted. You did it, and in record time, nine days, and you collaborated with a group of climate
scientists from around the world, trying to find a connection between this extreme weather and science -- and climate change.
What did you find?
FRIEDERIKE OTTO, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: The main finding is that this is still a rare event in the world we live in today with climate change.
But, without climate change, it would have been basically impossible to have happen. Also, going forward, with further warming, this event that in
today's climate is about a one-in-a-1,000 year event, in a two degree world, so only 0.8 degree warmer than we have now, it will be an event that
will happen about every five to 10 years.
GOLODRYGA: And explain that, because, again, as we mentioned, you did this in a record nine-day period.
How were you able to conduct this research, when previously this would take months, if not years?
OTTO: Well, because we have practiced this a lot.
So, in the initiative, World Weather Attribution, that you have mentioned that I lead together with my colleague Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, we have
spent the last five years developing methodologies to do these so-called attribution studies.
And we have developed the methodologies and written slow, normal science studies, published them in peer-reviewed journals. But, at the same time,
we have also developed a network of scientists around the world that we can -- that we work with on occasions, and that have worked with us before.
So we have a protocol, if you like, a bit like an operational weather service, where, when we start doing a study, everyone knows exactly what
they need to do, and there's a very clear procedure to follow.
And so we can work with such a large team of scientists under -- in a very short amount of time.
GOLODRYGA: And, obviously, there are many ramifications from climate change.
We have seen flooding, as we see now happening in Europe and in Germany. We see massive storms, record storms, once-in-a-century-type storms.
But your focus and takeaway really is on heat waves, because you have said that these heat waves are happening in magnitudes of order more than any
other extreme events. Can you give us more in terms of why we should be alarmed about this and why heat waves are so deadly?
OTTO: Yes, so, heat waves are -- so, of course, climate change is affecting other extreme events as well, but heat waves are across the world
becoming 10 to 100 times more likely because of climate change.
So that means it really changes -- climate change has already really changed what summer means for most of us. So events that we would have
maybe experienced once in lifetime are now very common. And heat waves are killers.
And they are -- the really mean thing is that they are very silent killers, because, unlike with flooding or with storms, people don't drop dead in the
streets, and you don't see the devastation immediately. But people die quietly, silently in their homes.
And it's usually people who are poorly educated, who have already poor health, who live in badly insulated homes, who don't have air conditioning.
And so we don't see -- we don't see how deadly heat waves are. We only see it months or even years afterwards in the statistics.
And all these deaths are actually preventable .People don't need to die from heat. We know what we need to do to avoid that. So there are very
simple things that you can do, just drinking water, opening cooling centers, and -- which has happened already in the Pacific Northwest and in
But, of course, people need to know that they have to go there and that actually their life is in danger if they don't do it. So there's a lot of
education that still needs to happen.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, at least 719 people suffered sudden and unexpected deaths from the recent heat wave in Western Canada.
And part of the reason is because we haven't seen these kinds of record temperatures in parts of the world and country, where they don't
necessarily have air conditioning, because they haven't had to use it in the past. And over the past few years, we have seen the records continue to
I'm wondering if this is frustrating for you, as a scientist. And perhaps this is one of the reasons you conducted this in record speed time of nine
days to not only keep this front and center for the population, but also for policy-makers. You're the scientist here. You lay out the research and
Should more be done when it comes to policy and elected officials responding?
OTTO: Well, we absolutely have to do more to address climate change.
And, of course, the most important thing is to stop burning fossil fuels, because that's the only -- the only way how we will -- how we will be able
to stop global temperatures from rising further. But that's not the only thing that we have to do.
We also have to do -- and particular authorities in cities and states need also to put adaptation really front and center, because, as I said, these
deaths are preventable. And we have -- and if people -- but only if people are really educated and know that a heat wave warning doesn't mean pack
your beach bag, but that it means your life is actually in danger, and also that people learn to check in with the elderlies and so forth.
We see the same thing -- you mentioned the flooding in Europe. We see the same thing happening in Germany, where now, after extreme rainfall events
that have actually led to 230 deaths, it's everywhere in the media. Everyone is talking about. Every politician is going there and having his
picture taken in the area.
But the weather forecast the evening before was 30 seconds after the news, after the evening news, and nothing more. And no one has learned that heat
and extreme weather can actually be dangerous, even in the parts of the world where it didn't used to be dangerous and deadly.
And I think that is really important to have that adaptation and education.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it necessarily doesn't need to be at the end of a news update, right, or program, but they should be leading with it, especially
given the consequences that we're seeing play out in real time.
My final question to you is just on the models and the forecasts, because, as you know, as every scientist would say, they're not perfect. They can be
wrong at times.
And looking at what is transpiring over the past few years, record heat waves, the flooding, were your models too optimistic, in the sense that
this was forecast perhaps to happen in 50 years from now, in 30 years from now, for another generation or two, and people are living this now?
Does this sound the alarm for the scientific community? And what should it relay to the population as a whole?
OTTO: Well, I think we actually have climate models that do contain these kinds of events.
But it is very difficult to know what to look for in a climate model, when you have never experienced anything even like it. So the records were -- in
Canada and in the U.S., they were broken by up to five degrees Celsius. So, while models -- and you have said models have -- models are not perfect, so
to actually realize that what the model is -- the magnitude of the event that is in the model, that this is actually something that is realistic,
you usually compare it to observed temperatures.
And in most parts of the world, observed records are very, very short. So, even if these events are likely to happen, or even if they are possible,
you will not have observed them necessarily.
So, I think we do -- we should take this as a very strong warning to be prepared for surprises, to really be aware of what kinds of events are our
society vulnerable to, and particularly look for these events in models, and even, yes, to really take low-likelihood, high-impact events, as we
would call them in the science community, very seriously and prepare for them, so really apply the precautionary principle.
So that holds for politicians, but also, I think, for scientists, that even things that we think are unlikely, we should communicate them. And we
should say that it is a possibility we cannot exclude.
GOLODRYGA: Because, as we're seeing play out in real time, the consequences of not addressing this are deadly.
Friederike Otto, thank you so much for your work. I know that you said you and your team had sleepless nights getting this study out, but it is
crucial that everybody hear and read the research that you have come up with.
Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
GOLODRYGA: And still to come tonight: Much is made of the temperament, personalities and families of U.S. presidents, but little is said of their
Well, our next guest takes a closer look at how certain key friendships have shaped American politics.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, if there's one thing we've become accustomed to, it's biographies of U.S. presidents and the endless scrutiny
of their policies and personalities. But we don't hear much about the influence of their inner circle. That's the theme of Gary Ginsburg's new
book, "First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents." And he's joining me now live from New York.
Gary, welcome. Congratulations on the book. I loved it, devoured it.
What gave you this idea? This is your debut book and you decided to focus on these nine presidents and their nine first friends. How did you get this
idea and how did you find these nine presidents to focus on?
GARY GINSBERG, AUTHOR, "FIRST FRIENDS": Well, since I was in the third grade I've been endlessly fascinated by the American presidency. And when I
got older, I went down presidential campaign, served in the Clinton administration.
And I came to watch some really remarkable close friendships between the leader and their best friends. I saw the Hollywood actor, Warren Beatty's,
friendship with Gary Hart, for example, in 1984, or Vernon Jordan's friendship with Bill Clinton and how does Frank could speak in a way that
no one else could, speak more bluntly, act more naturally and have a really meaningful impact at times on decisions.
To my surprise, you know, I looked at literature and there's been nothing written about the first friend. There's been books about first pets, first
wives, she chefs, first butlers but nothing about the first friends. And so, I decided, let's write this book.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I'm so glad you did. And almost as fascinating as the relationships themselves are how they came about. And we look at Abraham
Lincoln. And before he was one of the most revered U.S. presidents in history, he was a beginner lawyer who couldn't afford to find a bed or buy
a bed or any sort of bedding. And enter a shopkeeper, Joshua Speed, who ended up, you know, entering his life and together, they shared a bed for
four years, which raises a lot of questions that you attempt to answer in this chapter, but it really gives a sense as to how he influenced the
GINSBERG: Yes. Well, you're right. Lincoln shows up in Springfield, Illinois in 1837. He's a brand-new lawyer. He's got with no money. He shows
up and sees this guy, Joshua Speed, this storekeeper. He says, you got bedding? He says, it's going to cost you $17. Lincoln doesn't have the
money. Speed then says, hey, go upstairs, I actually have a bed that you can share. He goes upstairs, comes back down and says, Speed, I'm moved.
They spend four years, as you said, sharing a bed. Historians and others have for years tried to suggest that they were lovers. I don't think they
were. There's no suggestion in their voluminous correspondence between the two. But what happened was they forged such a special friendship, that when
Lincoln became suicidal in 1841, it was only Speed's intervention, the fact that he took all the sharp objects away from Lincoln and kept him from
killing himself when he was distraught over a breakup with Mary Todd. He had proposed to her. Pulled back.
Speed ministers to him, Lincoln gets better. 20 years later, Lincoln is president of the United States. One of his first meetings is with Joshua
Speed. They stay friends on and off for the next 20 years. He says, Speed, I want you in my administration.
Speed is already making too much money to do it. He says, Abe, I'm not going to join your administration, but I'll do one better, I'll save
Kentucky from seceding from the union. It was one of the border states. And that's what he did for the next year and a half. He did everything he could
to make sure that Kentucky stayed in the union. They did. Obviously, Lincoln went on to win the war and the union stayed intact.
GOLODRYGA: You also highlight the role that wives, the first wives and families play throughout these relationships. Sometimes they embrace these
first friends and treat them like family. That wasn't the case for Woodrow Wilson and Edward House and that really impacted their friendship toward
GINSBERG: It sure did. Just to go back a little bit, when Woodrow Wilson decided to run for president in 1912, he was looking for a best friend. He
had a great friend on the Princeton faculty. They had a bitter breakup in 1907. Wilson's daughter later said it was one of the two great tragedies on
his life in addition to losing out in the League of Nations. He needed a friend.
At the same time, Colonel House, who was his first friend, was looking for "the man and the opportunity." He wanted to play a significant role in
life. Within the first hour of their meeting, they bond. And over the next seven years, House would act as Wilson's closest friend and closest adviser
and most remarkably, as a private citizen, single-handedly run foreign policy for the United States during the crucial First World War decade of
1914 to 1919.
But to get to your point, Wilson's first wife dies, his second wife instantly doesn't like House. She's jealous of his friendship, jealous of
the hold he has. When they're in Paris in 1919, negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, she finally exacts her great revenge and he convinces Wilson
that House is undermining him. They have their final conversation on the train platform as Wilson is leaving to go back to the United States the
night after he had signed the Versailles Treaty. They never speak again. House spends the next 20 years trying to make sense of the breakup. Never
GOLODRYGA: Yes. He never did. Even on his death bed. Arguably, the friendship that had the most impact on policy, in U.S. policy, was Harry
Truman and Eddie Jacobson. They had been partners in business and their relationship and friendship dated back decades, and it was Eddie Jacobson
who was the one who convinced Harry Truman to recognize the State of Israel in 1948 over the objection of some of his top advisers, including George
Marshall. This is fascinating.
GINSBERG: Yes. I think, to your point, Bianna, the single most powerful example of how a lifelong friendship can change the course of history.
They're in Haberdasher together for two years in Kansas City in the early 1920s. It goes under. They stayed best friends. Truman becomes president.
Only because of their singular friendship, it was based on trust and candor, they were two midwestern guys, basically common folk.
And in 1948, Truman has to make a very difficult decision, do you recognize an independent State of Israel. George Marshall, as you say, is dead set
against it. He's the most revered man in the country and Truman is afraid of going against him, but he actually feels the need to do something right
for the Jewish people, he recognizes the refugee problem being really pugnacious and has to be dealt with.
Eddie Jacobson, gets on a plane, flies halfway across the country and walks into the Oval Office one day in March of '48 and speaks to him in a way
that no aide or cabinet secretary could. He says, Harry, I know what you need to do, you know what you need to do. I have a hero. You have a hero.
My hero is Chaim Weizmann who is waiting to see Truman. Truman won't see him because he's so upset with how the Jews had been lobbying him. He's fed
up with them. He says, I'm not going to deal with it anymore.
Because of the stern talking that Eddie Jacobson gives Harry Truman, Truman sees Weizmann, two months later, he's the first foreign leader to recognize
an independent Jewish State 11 minutes after it's declared. It's a remarkable friendship.
GOLODRYGA: It is and sort of heartbreaking that Eddie Jacobson died before they -- the two couples were expected to go on a trip overseas and they
would have been visiting Israel as well.
Gary, we'll have to leave it there. It's a fascinating book. I'm looking forward to the second book after we have a first female president of the
United States, and you can dive into her relationships, which I'm sure will just going to be fascinating as well.
GINSBERG: Thanks for having me, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
And when we come back, we revisit Christiane's conversation with the goddess of pop, Cher, on her career, her struggles and her latest
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. We're going to dip back into the archive now and look back at Christiane's sit-down with the one-world icon, Cher.
The chart-topping singer and Oscar winning actress has been ruling the world since the '60s, but Cher recently put on a new hat, conservationist.
Last November, she helped relocate an elephant known as the world's loneliest elephant from an Islamabad Zoo to a Cambodian refuge. Christiane
sat down with Cher not long after to discuss that, her career and her latest adventures.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Cher, welcome to the program.
CHER: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
AMANPOUR: It's great to have you here.
And I want to ask you first about something that maybe not so many people know about you, and that is your conservation work. Free the Wild, you're a
CHER: Right. Right.
AMANPOUR: And, yes, the pictures went viral. You rescued and re-homed an elephant.
AMANPOUR: Why? Where? What made you do that?
CHER: Well, I didn't plan to at all. The kids on my Twitter feed started sending this thing, and it was -- it was, free Kaavan. And I thought, well,
OK, if I don't answer, they'll just stop. But they didn't. And it was in Pakistan. And I thought, I'm just an entertainer. How am I going to go to
Pakistan and free an elephant? We had to work through two administrations. And when Imran came in, everything got much easier.
AMANPOUR: That's the current prime minister, Imran Khan.
AMANPOUR: So, how long have you been working on this?
CHER: Three years.
AMANPOUR: Wow. That is dedication.
CHER: Yes, it just -- as we started doing it, I wasn't going to give up. So, we went to Pakistan. And we saw him. He's beautiful. And we started
meeting the Pakistani people. And the people were so nice to me, and then - -
AMANPOUR: Did they know you as Cher the entertainer?
CHER: I don't know. I don't think they did. It was a teeny little place. I mean, little like that.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And then, the elephant was airlifted to a refuge.
CHER: So, then he landed and we were all on the tarmac and we were excited. And then there was a five-hour drive to the sanctuary. And so, I
could see him. And, in Islamabad, he just did this. That's all he did. That's what elephants do when they're traumatized. They move their head and
they move their body. And once he got into it, he didn't do it. And he looked around and he was walking around. And he was looking at everything
and giving himself a dirt bath and talking to the girls, because--
AMANPOUR: That's amazing.
AMANPOUR: You know, you've had a massive career, singer, actress, now conservationist and philanthropist. Did you know that "The New York Times"
has named Cher as one of the top performers of 2020 for your performance in the 1987 film "Moonstruck?"
CHER: OK. Well, that's great. I'm happy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MOONSTRUCK")
NICOLAS CAGE, ACTOR: I'm in love with you.
CHER: Snap out of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, do you relate to how they have obviously found something that they respond to in "Moonstruck"?
CHER: Well, you know, it's a wonderful movie. And MGM hated it. They didn't want to put it out. They said, there's no audience for this movie.
And we were all proud of it. And we thought, we don't care if anybody sees it. We believe that we've done something good.
And then, one of the films that they had out fell apart. And so, "Moonstruck" was the only thing they had, so they put it out. And all of a
sudden, there was this groundswell.
AMANPOUR: You know, it was one of your first major -- I mean, you know, you had already been nominated for best supporting in --
CHER: Right. In "Silkwood," right.
AMANPOUR: -- in "Silkwood," which was really a dramatic film. I mean, that was amazing.
CHER: Right. And I didn't have any part when we started that. He just kept saying, Cher, I want you to say that go in there, and then I want you to be
there. And, I mean, the part just started expanding like crazy.
AMANPOUR: I mean, did the acting world take you seriously as an actress?
CHER: No. My first job was with Robert in "Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean."
CHER: Altman. And they told Robert that this is his first time on Broadway and do not hire her. It is a huge mistake. Do not hire her. And if you know
Bob, it was like the first thing he did.
AMANPOUR: Which is great.
AMANPOUR: I love also, you know, because it really speaks to who you are, when your mother once told you, you're quoted to saying, "mom said to me
one day, you should settle down and marry a rich man." And I said, "mom, I am a rich man."
CHER: I am a rich man. Yes. And I don't know where it came from, but it -- it's -- obviously, it's somehow real, because I didn't expect to say it at
all, but it just came out. And that's the way I feel.
AMANPOUR: I just saw you mouthing it as I was saying it. I mean, it's obviously almost like a mantra.
CHER: Right. And also, the kids are always saying it. And like I have a T- shirt that shows me and it says, "Mom, I am a rich man."
AMANPOUR: It resonates.
CHER: I think it's a good thing for young women, but I don't know exactly what it means.
AMANPOUR: Well --
CHER: I don't know exactly -- like I said it and -- but I don't know why I said. I mean, I know I feel it, but I'm not sure the reality of it. I don't
know where it came from.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you don't know where it came from. But now, looking back, because this obviously was years ago --
AMANPOUR: -- do you have an idea of what you were trying to say?
AMANPOUR: But you also talk about how difficult it was for you as a woman.
AMANPOUR: So, maybe subconsciously --
CHER: Can't we all talk about that?
AMANPOUR: Come on, then. I want to hear you talk about it.
CHER: All right. Well, yes, it was hard. I mean, I had Sonny, though. So, in 1965 -- and also, we were drowning in America. It wasn't until we came
here, you know?
AMANPOUR: Here to the U.K.?
CHER: Yes, because the people in America hated us. They were so afraid of the way we looked. And we were so strange to them. They were like, uh-uh,
uh-uh. We came here, and it was like, we love you. It was heaven. It was heaven, because everybody liked us and our songs were on the charts. And --
you know, and when we went back, people thought we were English.
AMANPOUR: "I Got You Babe," of course, was --
AMANPOUR: -- the iconic one. There's so many, but that one--
CHER: But if it wasn't for the U.K., we couldn't get arrested.
AMANPOUR: I never knew that. I mean, to be fair, when you did the "Sonny & Cher Show," it was broadcast around the world on American stations in
places as far afield as Iran. I mean, I watched it growing up. Tell me how difficult it was for you, as a woman, because you've spoken about it,
certainly on stage, reinventing yourself. I think there were bankruptcies. There were people who didn't take you seriously --
AMANPOUR: -- despite all your massive success.
CHER: Yes. There was this one reporter who kept saying, she's got 10 minutes left,
she's not going to be here in a year. And, finally, I said, you know what, dude? I'm going to be here when you're not longer -- when you're no longer
And I kept thinking of myself as a bumper car. And I thought if I hit the wall, I'll come back and I'll go another direction. And, I mean, I went
bankrupt. I -- it was terrible. Nobody wants to do that. And, also, no one wants to think of themselves as, like, a loser and that no one likes you
again. So, I just had to keep doing this.
AMANPOUR: But it clearly was -- I mean, in retrospect, I mean, really valuable. And you proved everybody wrong and it was a source of great
AMANPOUR: -- and success for you.
CHER: But you don't know it. Like you're hoping, and you're not giving up, but you don't know what's going to happen.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So -- well, you know you said, dude, I'm going to be here for forever. There have been people recently --
CHER: Well, it was just a front. I didn't know what I was going to be.
AMANPOUR: Well, but the thing is, you have been.
AMANPOUR: You have outlived so many of the naysayers. And you are 75 years old.
CHER: Seventy-four. Seventy-four.
AMANPOUR: Seventy-four years old.
CHER: Give me every minute I can have.
AMANPOUR: Sorry. I fully agree with you, 74 years old. And critics have said that your voice is as strong as ever.
CHER: And it is. And I had my doctor -- I mean, it's not like for me to give a compliment. My doctor said -- he was looking, you know, at my cords.
And then he said, I want to show you something. So, he pulled up some cords. And he said OK, these are your cords and these are 25- and 27-year-
old girl cords. And I'm just recording an album now. And I don't know -- I mean, it's very unnatural.
So, this might be my last album. I feel like Tony Bennett and Betty White, you know? But it could be my last album.
AMANPOUR: You know, you have a son --
AMANPOUR: -- who's a transgender son, Chaz. And do you think that is what has made you sympathetic to the LGBT community, or did you have that going
in? Did the fact that --
CHER: At nine years old I knew. Like, one day I came home and there were these two men in my living room with my mom and my aunt. And they were
doing their hair. And they were talking. And I was thinking, why haven't we ever had this kind of guys around, because these guys are like the coolest?
And that was my beginning into the gay world. And we were always just like this, because gay people don't feel like they fit in, and I never felt like
I fit in.
AMANPOUR: How much did being -- I mean, your father was Armenian heritage. Your mother, I believe, was Cherokee, American Indian.
CHER: And many other things.
AMANPOUR: And many others.
AMANPOUR: How much did --
CHER: I never met my father until I was 11.
AMANPOUR: No. No. But you knew that you had all this identity.
CHER: I didn't know anything.
AMANPOUR: You didn't know? Did you all know that you were --
CHER: My mother didn't tell me anything until the day he walked in the door.
AMANPOUR: And what about her own background, Native American background?
CHER: Well, they would tell me stories about my great grandmother and how she was tough. From what I understand she was very, very tough. And so --
but my mother really -- I don't know why she didn't want to tell me and then he walked in and I knew lots of reasons why she would look at me with
a strange look sometimes because he and I have the same expressions and, you know, we eat slowly, you know.
CHER: And don't -- neither one of us have a temper.
AMANPOUR: And he sort of abandoned you. I mean, your mother was a single mother basically.
CHER: He took my mother to Pennsylvania and left her.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you again about Chaz because you see now that there's a massive public debate about how to speak about, think about the
transgender issue and it's quite pointed, there's a lot of cancel culture, there's a lot of -- for a lot of people a lot of difficulty around just
even discussing the issue. What do you think of that? I mean, you obviously -- I mean, you came to it really naturally and you obviously had no
CHER: No, that's not exactly true.
CHER: I did. It was very unlike me to in the beginning have a problem with Chaz being gay and it disappeared like that. And then we talked about
transgender for many years. And then -- and she would say, no, I don't want to do it. And then he went and said, OK, I want to do this. So -- but it
wasn't easy, like I remember calling and the old message, the old Chaz message was on the phone and that was very difficult. But then you have one
child but you don't really lose them.
CHER: They just are in a different shape. You know, and Chaz is so happy, so unbelievably happy and I don't know what the peoples' problems are.
They're fearful and they just don't understand how to react to it. Some of it's religious. I am not sure, you know. I'm just not sure why it's such a
big thing. And I try to -- I talk to people, you know, on Twitter or people come up to me and I just say, just relax and you guys will get through it,
you know, get through it together.
AMANPOUR: You've very political, you're very involved. You did a lot of campaigning for --
AMANPOUR: -- Joe Biden, Joe and Kamala.
CHER: I've known Joe since 2006.
CHER: Right. And I adore him, I love him. And I am sorry that they are trying to hog tie him so that he can't do anything because he's such a
great man, great heart. I know everybody knows that, tough, you know, little temper and has so many ideas. He wants to do so many things, you
know, and they're all good. You know, he wants to do things for the people.
AMANPOUR: What happens when lockdown ends?
CHER: I don't really know. Oh, I'm going to direct a film.
CHER: And I'm really excited. It's a great film. I kept telling them get someone better, you know, get someone -- I've only directed one thing,
please get someone better. But they keep telling me that I'm the right person and it's a great film. I can't tell you what it is but --
AMANPOUR: Yes. Can you tell us who's in it?
CHER: -- it's a great film. You're going to love it. I promise you you'll love it.
AMANPOUR: Can you tell us who's in it?
CHER: Because mostly it's not -- it's young people with a great storyline, a great storyline and I can tell you this, it has something to do with "The
Rocky Horror Show" but really nothing.
AMANPOUR: OK. Everybody's going to be now desperately digging to figure out what it is. Do you have a favorite film of your own?
CHER: Well, I guess it's "Moonstruck." I really loved it. But I also love "Silkwood." I mean, I had no cares, I had no responsibility, you know, I
did funny things, you know, I did sad things but I had no feeling. You know, I had no -- I was like a child when they just do stuff, you know. I
just had no feeling.
AMANPOUR: No expectations, no --
CHER: No, no.
CHER: And Meryl was so great. The first time I saw her, she came up, put her arms around me and said, I'm so glad you're here.
AMANPOUR: That's really great. Inclusive.
CHER: Yes. And I was -- I kept unpacking my suitcase. My sister kept packing it and I kept unpacking it and I went, how can I go make a movie
with Meryl Streep, are you kidding me? And my sister said you can, you can.
AMANPOUR: And do you have a favorite song of yours?
CHER: Oh, maybe "Song for the Lonely" and "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me."
AMANPOUR: And if I was to ask you to sing a little bit now, would you?
AMANPOUR: No, fine. I always try it but --
AMANPOUR: -- I realize --
CHER: But I'm making a new album that's going to be really cool. I can't tell you about it either but no one's ever done this and I've been thinking
about it for like 10 years.
AMANPOUR: Nobody's ever done the album that you are going to do?
CHER: Yes. I don't know if they just didn't think about it. But I thought about it a long time ago and went I'm going to do this. This is going to be
AMANPOUR: On that note, Cher, you won't tell me about your new film, you won't tell me about your new album. I'm just going to have to say thank
AMANPOUR: Thanks for being with us.
CHER: I'm so happy to be with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Cher and Christiane, a powerhouse interview.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks so much for watching and good-bye from New