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Interview With Venezuela Opposition Activist Leopoldo Lopez; Social Media's Toxic Side Effects; Gymnasts Call Out FBI Over Nassar Investigation. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 16, 2021 - 13:00:00 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.
MCKAYLA MARONEY, NASSAR ACCUSER: They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): How the FBI failed U.S. gymnasts. I talked to the attorney who prosecuted Team USA doctor Larry Nassar.
And social media's toxic side effects. We dig into a stunning new report that says Facebook researchers knew Instagram could hurt teen girls and
didn't share it.
Then: hungry and helpless. Exiled opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez joins me to discuss the new film "A La Calle" about the struggles of life today in
GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: There seem to be a large number of Americans who are only happy when they're unhappy.
GOLODRYGA: "American Happiness and Discontents." Writer George Will talks to Walter Isaacson about how anger is driving political polarization.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
"All we needed was for one adult to do the right thing" -- those words from us gymnast Aly Raisman, a shot at officials for failing to stop convicted
sex offender and disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar.
The brave athletes, along with Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols, gave powerful emotional statements before Congress about
the trauma that they have endured and how the FBI after learning of the abuse did nothing to stop it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARONEY: They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing.
ALY RAISMAN, NASSAR ACCUSER: I felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar's plea deal.
SIMONE BILES, NASSAR ACCUSER: I blame Larry Nassar. And I also blame an entire system.
MAGGIE NICHOLS, NASSAR ACCUSER: I am haunted by the fact that, even after I reported my abuse, so many women and girls had to suffer at the hands of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: FBI Director Chris Wray, who was not leading the Bureau when the abuse was first reported, admitted that there was no excuse for how the
investigation was handled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I share your bewilderment. I share your outrage. And I don't have a good explanation for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: You may recall Nassar was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for the abuse.
Angela Povilaitis was the lead prosecutor on that case, and she joins me now for an exclusive interview from Detroit, Michigan.
Angela, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us.
And I am sure, for you, this must have been a punch in the gut to once again hear this testimony from these women, these survivors, given that we
first heard from them, you first heard from them in that courtroom several years ago, when you prosecuted, successfully prosecuted Larry Nassar.
ANGELA POVILAITIS, FORMER LEAD PROSECUTOR IN CASE AGAINST LARRY NASSAR: Thank you for having me, Bianna.
And you're right. It was a gut punch. It was very much a deja vu type of afternoon watching the brave, courageous young women repeat their story yet
again, yet again before another congressional hearing, yet again before the public and the media.
And it was -- I'm so incredibly proud and grateful for everything they have done and continue to do, but they shouldn't have to be there. And they
continue to tell their story. And it's not easy. We saw trauma in real life yesterday as they testified and relived those horrors.
GOLODRYGA: They continue to suffer with that trauma, I mean, to hear Aly Raisman say, I'm a 27-year-old who can barely get through 10 minutes at a
time, that it is so emotionally and mentally exhausting for her, a gymnast, an athlete, a competitive world champion, to be experiencing this.
Obviously, we just saw Simone Biles and the accomplishments she made in Japan. And what these women and girls at the time endured, you talked about
this in the trial. As of now, we know that there were 300 survivors. But you said that number could be infinite.
What was it about Larry Nassar that made officials appear to want to protect him more than these athletes?
POVILAITIS: Well, I think it was the perfect storm, quite honestly.
And Senator Booker yesterday touched on this, that there is a societal issue that we have to address. We don't start by believing victims,
particularly when we're talking about renowned or beloved or respected professionals.
Nassar fit all of those criterias. He was a dad. He was an Olympic doctor. He was a professor. He ran for school board. And I believe that you see
this repeatedly in other cases with priests or other Boy Scout leaders as well. This isn't limited to this case.
But it's hard for people to wrap their head around the fact that, sometimes, people that commit these horrific acts of child sexual abuse and
sexual assault don't look like monsters, that they look like our neighbors, our friends, our family members.
And I think, with him, he was able to bamboozle so many people. He had a unique set of medical skills. He played the good guy to many abusive
coaches' bad guy. He gained the trust of parents, of victims. He used his celebrity to access even more victims.
But this isn't unique. This happens every day somewhere in America, where someone beloved is able to talk their way out of an allegation or try to
discredit a victim because of who they are and what they represent.
And for an average observer, somebody who you say is easily bamboozled by the mystique and by the aura that Larry Nassar presents himself to be, a
well-qualified family man, that's one thing.
But there are officials, in particular, FBI officials, who are trained to see through people like him. And in this case, many failed.
And I want to just read a brief portion of a Twitter thread that you posted yesterday, and you talked about that. You talked about the case
specifically, and I'm just going to read the first tweet.
You said: "When I got the case in October of 2016, I, we," your team, "had many meetings with local FBI and fed officials. I, we repeatedly asked what
had been done between July 2015, that first report to the FBI, and the 'Indy Star' reporting in August 2016. Our questions were never answered and
were always evaded."
What role in dropping the ball here did the FBI play?
POVILAITIS: Well, we saw it demonstrated firsthand yesterday, both in the powerful testimony of the survivors, but also in that historic
acknowledgement and apology by Director Wray.
It's long overdue. But we know that there were many opportunities that the federal officials had, that others had throughout the course of Larry
Nassar's career, had they done their job, had they investigated claims, had they believed victims.
We know, in July of 2015, that three of America's most beloved Olympic athletes reported their abuse to the FBI. And we know, after yesterday's
testimony and the IOG report, that very little investigation, if any, was done for many, many months, no proper interviews.
I was heartbroken to hear again in graphic detail that McKayla Maroney was interviewed over the phone in her bedroom about such serious and important
and traumatic events.
And I just imagine her putting her phone down without an advocate, without therapy. Her abuse was minimized. There were many opportunities in which
the FBI dropped the ball here.
And I think it's important that we shed light on those missteps and we learn from those lessons. But I'm also left with the idea of, how many
other victims aren't Olympians who are out there, whose cases are being investigated that may have also come against an agent similar to this?
It's very disturbing when we start to talk about the big picture ramifications.
I'm so -- I'm really happy that you brought up McKayla's testimony too, because I wanted to ask you about that. I'm not happy about that. I guess
I'm glad that you brought that up, because there's nothing happy about any of this.
But when she said -- first of all, that the fact that the FBI assigned a male officer to be investigating this and to be speaking with these women
and then young girls to go through such graphic and emotional and personal experiences, I don't understand for the life of me why they weren't
assigned women, who I would imagine would have at least been a bit more comfortable for these girls and women to talk to.
But, nonetheless, McKayla said that, when she finally finished and told this officer what had happened, he just said: "Is that all? Is that it?"
And to have that as the response after a young woman, a young girl reveals such detail, I can only imagine, mentally, how traumatizing that was, which
leads to the next question of accountability.
Chris Wray noted that one of those officers had been fired, the other had retired. I mean, is that it? Is that the end of the story?
POVILAITIS: I sure hope not. I mean, those things should happen as a matter of course, from what we have learned during the course of this case
and this investigation.
Of course those agents shouldn't still be working on cases. I believe one of them up until two weeks ago was involved in human trafficking
investigations and other cases.
So, while I think we all who care about this case and care about these survivors welcome that response, I think the questions that were asked
yesterday by the survivors and by many of the senators are ones that we're still left with.
And, quite frankly, we're incredibly disappointed that the Justice Department didn't come to the hearing and didn't answer those questions.
Why were charges not brought when we have agents who the inspector general has clearly identified as lying during the course of the investigation?
And, again, those lies had real direct consequences to these victims and to the other victims that Nassar had access with. I think that's the first
question of accountability. Why are there no criminal charges? And are there others who were involved that we don't know? Is it really plausible
that there are only two officials who had knowledge of this in 2015, who seemed to be the focus of where the blame is getting put?
Are there any others who were aware, who were aware when "Indianapolis Star" brought that report which broke this open? But for that investigative
journalist, I fear that Nassar would still be abusing victims involved in this.
There are a lot of questions that remain and continued demands for accountability and change.
GOLODRYGA: And you have devoted your professional career to helping represent and speak out for these women and these survivors of sexual abuse
I'm curious, from your perspective, given that we saw justice was not served for so many years for these women of such high profile, is this a
setback for you and other girls and women who you're defending whose names are not known to other Americans and people around the world?
POVILAITIS: I don't think it's a setback.
I think any time we have an opportunity to shed light on these types of crimes that are -- they occur in darkness. They breed in darkness. And by
shedding light on these horrific aspects of our society, we can only empower other survivors, whether it occurred yesterday or 20 years ago, to
I'm a firm believer that we have to talk about this more. And we have to start by believing victims. McKayla and Aly and Simone and Maggie came
forward to trusted adults and told what happened. And they were not believed. They were not properly treated with a trauma-informed, victim-
centered approach, the best practices that we use in order to be successful in our case.
So I'm not discouraged. I think there's a lot of work that needs to happen with various law enforcement agencies. Prosecutors need to do a better job
of taking challenging cases. And we as society have to start by believing victims, . It doesn't mean that we wholeheartedly don't investigate or
corroborate, but we have to support those victims so that, when they decide to come forward, we're going to actually do something with that
information, and we're going to investigate these thoroughly, and we're going to stop predators from abusing other victims.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Angela Povilaitis, thank you so much for all of the important work you do.
And, once again, our thanks to those brave women yesterday who not only talked about the impact on themselves, but clearly what was most important
for them was to express their concern for all of the other victims of Larry Nassar as well.
Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
POVILAITIS: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And turning now to the dangerous side of social media.
Instagram says it's looking for new ways to discourage users from focusing on their physical appearance, this after "The Wall Street Journal" revealed
researchers from Facebook, which owns Instagram, repeatedly found that the app was toxic, even deadly for teen girls in particular.
What's more, the article says the social media giant knew it, but downplayed the mental health issue in public.
Here now is one of the reporters -- the report's authors, Georgia Wells, along with Tristan Harris, a technology ethicist and co-founder of
Thank you both so much for joining us.
And, Georgia, let me begin with you, because what we have seen with these social media stories and allegations and scandals over the past few years,
in particular with Facebook, is that Facebook says, listen, this isn't a Facebook-only issue, this applies to all apps.
That's not the case here. What this report indicates is that this was Instagram-specific.
GEORGIA WELLS, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, so, exactly.
As the documents said, this issue of negative social comparison was worse on Instagram. Negative social comparison is this issue where you're looking
at content, rather from the perspective of trying to learn more, and more from a, how do I stack up next to these people?
And the documents state that, on Snapchat, the effect is mitigated partly because a lot of their filters are silly, rather than beautifying, and, on
TikTok, it's mitigated because a lot of the content is performance-space.
But Instagram, the body is the focus.
GOLODRYGA: And we talk about how widespread this issue is; 22 million teens log on to Instagram in the U.S. each day; 40 percent of Instagram's
users are under the age of 22, which is actually why Instagram was so appealing to Facebook, because they saw that their audience and their users
were continually older demographic.
Talk about the issues that are plaguing in particular young girls. We're talking about eating disorders and depression, even thoughts of suicide.
WELLS: Yes, the documents -- one of the documents said 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them
Another document said -- quote -- "We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls." That was a study of teen girls who struggled with
GOLODRYGA: Clearly acknowledging that Facebook and Instagram knew of this issue.
I was really struck by an interview that you conducted with Anastasia Vlasova. And she talked about her struggles with eating disorders and
mental issues and thoughts of self-harm, because she says of what she saw on Instagram and what she was exposed to starting at a very young age.
Let's listen to some of that interview.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANASTASIA VLASOVA, INSTAGRAM USER: I definitely realized that a lot of the content that was produced by some of my favorite fitness influencers
triggered my binges or my restrictive cycles.
And I vividly remember this one time when I ate, I think it was a piece of cake or ice cream, just some kind of dessert that isn't the healthiest for
you. But it's no big deal. And I made my mom take me to the gym around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. just so I could run six miles and burn off what I had just
(END AUDIO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And it all went downhill even more so for her as she got older.
But the good news is that she's OK now and she's healthy. But she got there, because, Georgia, she quit Instagram. I mean, is that the only
solution here? What is anything that Facebook is doing and Instagram is doing to mitigate this?
WELLS: I have spoken to many, many teen girls over the past several weeks.
Anastasia clearly quit Instagram. Other teens I have spoken to said they have now installed the apps that can limit the amount of time they spend
each day on Instagram.
But Instagram also -- we spoke to current researchers there who say that they're cautiously optimistic about some new features they're working on.
So one would be a nudge that might try to direct a user away from more harmful pieces of content. The other might be a nudge that would remind the
user to take a break from Instagram.
But the documents also state that some of the most vulnerable teenagers can be the hardest to reach.
And, Tristan, this is where I want to bring you in, because I don't want to put words in your mouth. But I would imagine that this report, this
bombshell reporting from "The Wall Street Journal," and all the internal documents that they have revealed within Facebook and Instagram itself, are
not of a surprise to you.
TRISTAN HARRIS, CO-FOUNDER, CENTER FOR HUMANE TECHNOLOGY: No.
Bianna, thank you for having me.
And, yes, I think this "Wall Street Journal" investigation is incredibly important. I think it puts meat on the bones of what so many people have
been feeling. Some people might be feeling that this is equivalent of a news story saying water is wet.
I think people now understand and agree that this is a deranging brain implant for our society. We have essentially two billion people who are
jacked into a brain implant that does not have our best interests in mind and we jacked it into our own children.
So long as these companies -- and it's not just Facebook. I mean, I do agree that -- and we need to look at what Facebook's own research and
Instagram specifically has done.
But you could actually generalize these different effects in a very predictable sense to the entire engagement industry, to TikTok, to
Snapchat, to YouTube, because all -- so long as they all profit from values-blind engagement, meaning whatever it is that gets attention -- in
some of "The Wall Street Journal"'s other reporting, they have basically found that it's radicalized political parties across Europe, because,
instead of a 50/50 split between positive and negative content, mostly neutral things about policy, the more they played up negative sort of
yellow journalism, they profit by turning each of us into yellow journalists that increasingly lie, distort, exaggerate.
And that's what gets more of attention. But that's been distorting everything in our society. And for those who saw "The Social Dilemma," I
think this is just validation of the fundamental concept that the business model at the core of these services is the fundamental problem.
And everything else besides that is sort of a distraction or rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We have to change the fundamental business
model of these companies. And until that happens, we can just expect more and more evidence of water is wet.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I just want to read for you what Facebook's response was to the "Wall Street Journal" reporting.
And I will read this -- quote -- "Social media isn't inherently good or bad for people. Many find it helpful one day and problematic the next. What
seems to matter most is how people use social media and their state of mind when they use it."
And what stands out to me in this, Tristan, is, forget accountability, but, earlier, we had heard over the past few years, when Mark Zuckerberg would
testify, even Adam Mosseri, they would really highlight the benefits of social media and Facebook and Instagram.
Not this. This sounds a bit different. This just sounds sort of to each their own and, our product, it doesn't play a role in this. How do you
interpret their response?
HARRIS: Well, forever -- this is getting a little -- I mean, this has happened for so many years now.
They basically claim, hey, we're just holding up a mirror to your society. So if you already have teenagers who have anxiety issues, or mental health
problems, we're sorry that this product is just showing a mirror to the existing problems in society.
But it's not a mirror. It's more like a fun house mirror, because, specifically, the things that it wants to amplify in that mirror are the
things that were good for getting attention.
And so long as that's true, we are worth more as a society when we're addicted, outraged polarized, validation-seeking, and misinformed, because
all of those things are success cases of this engagement model. And while there are many benefits that can come from these services, the point is
that the balance sheet of risks, harms and life-threatening things, as Georgia was saying, I mean, kids who have body image issues and eating
disorders, it can affect them for their whole lives.
They can become infertile, osteoporosis. There's deep issues that can come from all this. The balance sheet of risks is now so overwhelming that, when
the world stops working, and open societies don't work, we cannot afford that outcome.
So it doesn't really matter what benefits are there, if the balance sheet of costs are not internalized.
GOLODRYGA: So, Georgia, I mean, we have now one of the few times in the modern day in this era in Washington where you see bipartisan support for
an investigation coming from two senators, one Republican, one Democrat, Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn.
But is that going to get the results and the answers that your investigation has made clear are needed?
WELLS: I don't know what kind of teeth could come from whatever they might suggest or propose.
But I can confirm that my inbox right now is filled with e-mails from parents who really care about this issue right now, just e-mail after e-
mail after e-mail.
GOLODRYGA: So, what does that mean, Tristan?
So are we now going to follow what other CEOs, what tech CEOs have been doing for years now? And that's allowing zero screen time for their
children, and even though they may work at some of these or invest in some of these companies, they don't allow their children to have any sort of
accounts? I mean, is this sort of a zero sum game?
Is there any way? Because the executives at these companies will say the genie is out of the bottle, like, this is the wave of the future. So it's
either Congress that doesn't appear to have the right answers right now, or parents making the decisions for their children.
HARRIS: Well, I think it's so enormous.
I think we're in need of something more like a Constitutional Convention for technology, because technology has accelerated so quickly beyond the
capacity for governance to actually catch up or to know about the issues.
And when you create harm that you can reverse later, that's one form of sort of issues in an industry. But when you create harm that's
irreversible, like, let's say, deranging open societies so they no longer function, while we have geopolitical rivals who are functioning faster and
faster and better coordinating, we need a Constitutional Convention to say, what does technology plus open society equals stronger open society?
Right now, digital authoritarian societies are consciously using technology to make stronger, more effective authoritarian societies, whereas open
societies, by contrast, are not using tech to make stronger. Open societies, they're allowing private technology companies to profit from
open societies working at all.
This is more than even all these incredible harms that I think people are tuning into. It's whether or not open societies can exist in the future.
And I think we can get there if we have something like a Constitutional Convention for, what is the relationship, the right relationship between
technology making a better open society?
And the key to that is going to be changing the business models that might require very dramatic intervention.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, that -- I would imagine a Constitutional Convention this is a bit of wishful thinking, but no doubt something more needs to be done,
because these stories and investigations like yours continue to expose real dangers that put our children at great risk.
So I appreciate all the work that you're doing at "The Wall Street Journal." And, Tristan, thank you, as always, for sounding the alarm. We
WELLS: Thank you, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And if you or anyone are affected by any of the issues we have discussed, you can ask for help wherever you are on findahelpline.com.
And now we turn our focus to Venezuela for a sobering look at what's happening in what was once one of Latin America's wealthiest nations. A new
film, "A La Calle," in on the lives of everyday people as they struggle to find food, medicine and earn the money they need to get by.
Take a look at this clip of two men so desperate to eat that they're looking for food in the sewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The people who want a revolution are starving. Look at the state of Venezuela, such a rich country, with
oil, gold, and look at us Venezuelans in the sewer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They want to treat us like thieves or junkies, but we are neither. I'm a high school graduate, a port
operator. And now I'm here in the sewer because of the country's situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: That is so difficult to watch.
Featured heavily in this film is one of Venezuela's most famous faces, exiled opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who spent more than three years in
prison followed by house arrest for speaking out against President Nicolas Maduro.
He joins me now from Spain, where he and his family are currently living in exile.
Leopoldo, thank you so much for joining us.
And, as I mentioned, it is very difficult to watch this film, but equally important. And I wanted to begin this interview by asking why it was so
important for you to participate in this film. What message is it that you were hoping that the world takes from this?
LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, VENEZUELA OPPOSITION ACTIVIST: Well, thank you very much for the opportunity.
This film "A La Calle" portrays the struggle of a country for freedom. And there are many reasons why millions of people were fighting and continue to
fight for freedom in Venezuela.
And I think the film is very successful in portraying this fight for freedom by difficult reasons that are very different in very different
sectors of Venezuela.
My personal story is a story of the fight for freedom from political leadership. We promoted protests, pacifist, nonviolent protests in 2013,
2014. And we were -- I was detained. I was sent to a military prison, where I spent almost four years. Then I was taken to house arrest. Then I was
taken back to military prison.
And then I spent a year-and-a-half as a -- political asylum in the embassy of Spain. And the commitment that we have had all throughout these years is
to have freedom and democracy in Venezuela.
When you don't have freedom, you really struggle, because you understand that there is a great need for everyday life to function for this idea of
GOLODRYGA: And freedom now for many in Venezuela would appear to be a luxury, given that, as that clip showed, millions don't have enough food;
80 percent of the country is now food-insecure.
There is another story, another character we hear from. His parents actually have a very heartbreaking moment in the documentary, a protester,
Juan Pablo. He was killed by a member of the National Guard who had fired a tear gas canister at him as he had been protesting just along with many
And his father, his parents went to testify for Washington about their son. I want to play that clip. And we can talk more about it after.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): That impact to his chest caused his death. This is what my son had in his backpack. Is this enough to
overthrow a country?
Does this give the right to these people to take his life? Not only our son's, but also his family's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I believe he was just 17 years old. And it is very difficult to watch that father in such heartache and explain that all his son wanted was
a better future for his country, which he loved so much.
I'm just wondering. Now that we are a few years into this, and as that -- the film documented multiple years of the fight for freedom in the country,
why hasn't more been done? I mean, you talk about the de facto leader, Juan Guaido. We see him heavily throughout the film as well.
At one point, he was recognized by 60 countries as the legitimate leader, by the United States as well. And yet here we are today, in the middle of
2021. You are an exile in Spain, and Nicolas Maduro is still in power in Venezuela, near -- nearly a failed state at this point.
What's happened? What went wrong in your fight?
LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, I would first like to address the testimony that we just heard. That's one testimony. There are
thousands of testimonies of parents having to bury their children, of children burying their parents for their willingness to confront a
Nicolas Maduro is a criminal. He's a criminal that is being presented as such by the International Criminal Court. Today, the U.N. presented a
report that is called the fact-finding mission of the U.N. Commission for Human Rights and it states very clearly that Nicolas Maduro and his
dictatorship are responsible for committing crimes against humanity. That Nicholas Maduro has committed or ordered crimes that have affected millions
You've heard a testimony that portrays very well the heartbroken reality of thousands of people that have gone to the streets, that have gone over and
over many things in order to have freedom in our country. Unfortunately, and that's your question, today, we continue to have Nicholas Maduro as a
What I would like to bring this reflection even beyond Venezuela. We have seen similar protests elsewhere, in Nicaragua, in Cuba, in Belorussia,
Grusia Myanmar, and many other places around the world, where you have seen people go out to the streets. But dictators learn from each other, have
taken the tactics of repression and using fear, violence, prison and even death in order to contain the push for freedom.
So, yes, we are continuing to fight against Nicolas Maduro. He continues to have defector power. But we continue to have the will to fight. We are a
super majority of Venezuelans, more than 85 percent of the Venezuelans want change to happen. But the reality is that we have a strong criminal,
ruthless dictator that is holding onto power, similarly than places where there are still dictators, North Korea, Cuba and many others.
And I think it's very important for the United States public opinion, the people of the United States to understand that this fight for freedom
requires an international engagement and particular the commitment of the United States. Because we are not only fighting Madura, you asked me, why
Maduro is still there in power, and part of the reason is because he receives the support of very strong and mighty countries. And I am talking
about China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Cuba, are countries that have an expansionist view of their authoritarian systems and they are affecting not
only Venezuela but also many other countries that I mentioned before.
So, this is a global issue. And "A La Calle" as a film it presents the case of Venezuela, but you could very well extrapolate what is happening in
Venezuela, in Cuba, Nicaragua and to many other countries.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. I mean, I --
LOPEZ: I think this is a moment to rise up to the challenge that freedom needs to be a flag that represents the will, not only of government,
parliaments, but also of the public opinion in free countries.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And I have interviewed Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader from Belarus also living in exile who has made that exact
same point. And it comes at a time when President Biden has said that the real foreign and geopolitical challenge, the foreign policy challenge for
the future is democracy versus autocracy. And he's really turned his eye to one of Maduro's factors, and that obviously is China.
And my question to you is, we have not heard much of a policy related to Venezuela from President Biden as of yet. Do you think that is a mistake?
And would you expect to hear more from him?
LOPEZ: Well, I think it's important that President Biden and the hill (ph) as well because Venezuela -- and this is key to understanding, it has been
and it continues to be and I hope it remains that way, a bipartisan issue. It's equally an issue that motivates Republicans and Democrats. It might be
one of the very few issues that has this bipartisan support in the U.S. And President Biden has continued the pressure on Nicolas Maduro. He has
continued to say that Nicolas Maduro is a criminal dictator. He has continued the policy of imposing pressure through different types of
sanctions and the commitment to pressure until we have free and fair presidential elections.
And, yes, I believe that more can be done, but I also understand that this a problem that if seen only as a case for Venezuela, it weakens our case.
That is why what you said before is very important. This is a global issue. It's an issue that affects Belorussia, Grusia Nicaragua, Kuwa (ph),
Venezuela and many other countries that are fighting this same reality.
How to confront autocrats that are taking ahold of power in countries that are also being (INAUDIBLE) and are losing the possibility to have a better
future for its population. So, our call for action is to unite all of those leaderships, movements, countries, presidents, parliaments around freedom
When I started here in the United States in the 1990s, it was a time where democracy and market economy was at the height of the hopeful future for
the years to come. The model that everybody hoped that was going to be replied -- replicated elsewhere was democracy and free economy. Well, 30
years after that, the situation is very different. And I think that as President Biden, as you quoted, clearly stated the real global issue today
is authoritarianism facing democracy.
And I believe democracy needs to prevail. But in order to do that, there needs to be commitment and courage and real policy that not only defends
democracy from within in democratic countries, but that it promotes leadership, movements and activism or freedom in countries like Venezuela,
where we are suffering the cruel reality of dictators.
GOLODRYGA: Where many of the people can't get enough to eat and can't take care of their families. Leo Lopez, I first heard your voice and your name
and that daily podcast interview of the "New York Times" just a few years ago and I appreciate all that you are doing now to bring the voice of
millions of Venezuelans desperate for freedom and food to light for the world to see.
Thank so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
LOPEZ: Thank you very much. I appreciate being in your program. And one very last thought, for many people, freedom is just there. Like the oxygen
when you breathe it. Well, you know that it's lacking when you done don't have it. So, our goal is for people to fight for freedom everywhere in the
GOLODRYGA: And you went to jail for that as well. Leo, we appreciate you. Thank you.
And "A La Calle" is now streaming on HBO Max. Part of our Warner Media Family. And will be available soon for audiences around the world.
And now, we turn back to the United States with big divisive issues like vaccine mandates, abortion laws and the notion of freedom fueling the
political divide. Are Americans becoming consumed now by discontent? And what does that mean for the pursuit of happiness? It's the focus of
conservative columnist, Gorge Will's new book. And here he is talking to Walter Isaacson with insights on resentment in today's America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thanks, Bianna. And Gorge Will, welcome back to the show.
GORGE WILL, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN HAPPINESS AND DISCONTENTS": Thank you. I'm glad to be with you.
ISAACSON: Your new collection of essays is called "Happiness and -- American Happiness and Discontents." It kind of reminds me of that phrase
the historian, Daniel Boorstin, and others have used about democracy and its discontents. Why are we so hit with discontents these days?
WILL: Well, these days, the traditional American tendency to say we're not measuring up to our glittering ideals enunciated in the 18th century is
aggravated by the fact there seem to be a large number of American who are only happy when they're unhappy, that they seem to find life affirmed by
being furious all the time. I don't know why.
ISAACSON: You know, you wake up every morning and say how lucky you are, you tend to be happier, right?
WILL: Exactly. And, you know, in the 19th century we were fighting whether one set of human beings could own other human beings and whether slavery
should expand into the territories and what to do with public lands and all of that. The grievances today seem to me to be strikingly unsusceptible to
amelioration by legislation. I don't know what you do to assuage the grievances of people who are aggrieved about status, about feeling slighted
or condescended to or despised. I don't know how politics get to hold of those problems.
ISAACSON: Do you think though that the amplification of people's resentments, the speed of which they travel is at the core of some of this
resentment and discontent we feel?
WILL: I do. I think the condition of the Republican Party sort of attests that. The Republican Party is in quite staggering unique position today, in
which I think most of the elected officials, certainly in Congress, also in State Houses, most of the elected officials in the Republican Party are
terrified of their voters. At least terrified of a significant portion of their voters, the active, intense, compact base of the Republican Party.
And if you are terrified of your voters, you don't like them very much. And if you don't like them very much, you don't respect them. Now, that's a
very strange position for a political party to be in. But I think that is where the Republican Party is today, living in total fear of the next
sulfuric belch from Mar-a-Lago.
ISAACSON: George W. Bush, former president, on 9/11 gave a pretty amazing speech in which he talked about how our politics has become a naked appeal
to anger, fear and resentment. Is that what you are talking about and is that sort of the two polls of the Republican Party, a Bush poll and a Trump
WILL: I don't think there is much fear involved. I think it's 98 percent anger. And again, a kind of unfocused furiousness. Some people will not get
vaccinated just because other people say get vaccinated. Just a generalized truculence that manifests itself --
ISAACSON: Wait, wait. Explain that to me. Explain that thinking to me.
WILL: Well, I'm not sure it's a thinking. It's a reaction against the other side. If the other side is for it, then we're against it. The shirts
and the skins.
ISAACSON: But then, how do we start weaponizing and polarizing normal things like should you take a vaccine?
WILL: Again, it's the tendency, the political tendency now to define yourself not in terms of what you are for but who you are against. A lot of
this is class. A lot of it, again, status anxieties and status resentments. Driven by the fact that some people seem to be thriving much more than
others. But America has always had winners and losers. This is different and I don't quite know why.
Again, I don't want to be a technological determinist here, but the fact that this coincides with the arrival of this, in 2007, the first smartphone
arrived and we have been getting dumber ever since.
ISAACSON: Do you -- what do you think of Biden's vaccine mandate?
WILL: I think it's either illegal or unconstitutional.
ISAACSON: But is it wise?
WILL: It's a wise aspiration and I understand his impatience. But the constitution, particularly and the rule of law, in general, requires
patience. What I meant by it's illegal if the Congress did not intend to grab these extraordinary sweeping powers. Powers without, as far as I can
tell, a limiting principle to the occupational safety and health administration. It's unconstitutional if Congress did intend to get them.
In which case, it would violate the non-delegation doctrine, but something the court is very reluctant to enforce, but sooner or later has to get back
to enforcing, hasn't really done so for 60 or 70 years.
What that doctrine says is that Congress can -- in the words of John Rock, Congress can make laws, it cannot make legislators. And what Congress has
been doing is yielding, in this case, to OSHA in the eviction case to CDC has been delegating essentially legislative powers to executive agencies at
great cost. In this case, A, to separation of powers. But, also, to the principles of federalism.
ISAACSON: Yes, but let's imagine that Congress, itself, decided to pass a vaccine mandate. Would you think that make sense?
WILL: No. I think such police powers belong to the states, and the states should that. I am all in favor of the states imposing vaccines. And as I
recall -- it's been a while since I went to third grade, but as I recall, we were all -- we've got our chickenpox and measles vaccinations, nothing
wrong with that. But, again, the federal government simply does not have those police powers.
ISAACSON: Do you think that private companies should mandate vaccines?
ISAACSON: And how do you think we should get there then if I could be exposed to somebody that decides not to be vaccinated or be a company that
decides not to have their employees vaccinated?
WILL: With you I can just tell are vaccinated. And this brings us to one of the problems in President Biden's recent speech. He said, hey, get
vaccinated because it's safe, effective and free. It's effective, he kept saying. And he was right to do that. But then he went on about six
paragraphs later, and said, what we're going to do is protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.
Well, why do we protected from the unvaccinated? The unvaccinated are a terrific threat to themselves, a threat therefore to the healthcare system,
to intensive care units and all the rest. But they're really not a great threat to the already vaccinated.
ISAACSON: So, are you against seatbelt laws and helmet laws for motorcyclists?
WILL: I'm all for them, but it's up the states.
ISAACSON: Even a federal law then on seatbelts, you would favor?
WILL: No, it's up to the states.
ISAACSON: OK. On -- in Texas now, there is a new abortion law that among other things delegates to ordinary citizens, almost a vigilante way to
enforce it. Give me your take on that.
WILL: Well, it's lunatic. It's tricky because it's a slight of hand in order to insulate the law from challenges, because Texas - the state
governor of Texas can throw up a (INAUDIBLE) to say, we're not involved. Sue someone else. The first time, Walter, someone goes for this $10,000
bounty, there will be a suit and it will get to the court and it will be swatted down, I think, promptly.
The Texas law is a side show. The big event is coming up in autumn when we have all the arguments in the Mississippi case.
ISAACSON: And what do you think is going to happen there?
WILL: I haven't a clue.
ISAACSON: And what should happen?
WILL: I'm not sure. It seems to me -- this is clear. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Hart Ely at the time that Roe v. Wade was handed down, a
very distinguished law professor argued, Roe v. Wade is a terrible constitutional law. It's barely constitutional law. It is a raw judicial
power. You know who really is terrified of Roe v. Wade being overturned, about 8,000 state legislators in this country because all of a sudden Roe
v. Wade becomes a regulable activity.
I think a lot of Americans who don't pay close attention to this think if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion becomes illegal. No, it doesn't. It
becomes something the states have to decide about. And the legislators, even probably a large number of them who say they want Roe v. Wade
overturned are in feeling trepidation that that might happen and they'd actually have to come up with a policy through regular policy-making.
ISAACSON: You say the Texas abortion law with its vigilante enforcement is, I think, lunatic was your word. Do you think the Department of Justice,
which tried to file suit to stop it, do you think that makes sense?
WILL: No. Because, again, who are they going to sue? The State of Texas isn't involved. That's the trickiness about this. But what conservatives
often ask is this, what happens when, say, California says, that's a neat idea. We're going to have these private attorney general laws and anyone
can sue anyone who is guilty of hate speech or guilty of violating gun control laws as we have them in the State of California. I mean, both sides
can play this game and it's a recipe for even more civic discord than we've managed to produce anyway.
ISAACSON: Is there any lesson in the California recall of this week where Newsom won handily?
WILL: Well, there are two lessons. One is, California, thanks to Hiram Johnson, the governor -- progressive governor from early 20th century
instituted progressive populism. And you want to know what conservatism is, it's whatever populous isn't. Populism says, the passions and the desires
of the public are clear, self-gratifying and should be translated as directly as possible into public policy.
Conservatism says, wrong, wrong, wrong. The fact is public opinion in inchoate. It should be filtered and refined and slowed through
representative institutions. So, point number one, the recall, it's like in golf, you hit a bad shot, you declare a mulligan. The California Electorate
wants to say mulligan, and we want to start over on the governor. It seems to me an absent gross turpitude on the part of the office holder. You are
stuck with the guy you chose, get over it.
ISAACSON: Now, wait. When you talked about populism and that conservative has been something that tried to temper populism. It seems to me the
conservative movement in America has now been, in some ways, captured by populism.
WILL: Absolutely. That's why it's this being conservator. Because, by the way, this kind of populism translates directly into executive power, which
has grown far too large for the constitutional equilibrium of our Madisonian architecture. But I -- that was my first point. My second point
is this. Walter, it doesn't matter who is governor of California. It really doesn't.
The governors of California are fungible parts and a large machine run by the public employees' unions in California. If Mr. Newsom had been recalled
and Larry Elder become governor, Elder could say, great, I'm for school choice, and the legislature with Democratic super majorities, veto-proof
majorities, would have said, that's a very interesting opinion but we don't care.
California is even more than most blue states a crystalline model of blue states, the blue model of governors, the public employees' unions
negotiating with their employers.
ISAACSON: You say that populism, in some ways, has captured what used to be the conservative movement in the Republican Party. It's also there on
the Democratic side, a sense of populism, anti-elite, anti-establishment.
You know, in American history, populism hasn't had a great run, at least since Andrew Jackson. I mean, it's the last time you had an outright
populous elected president and yet, both parties are becoming more populous. Why is that?
WILL: It's easy. That is no one ever really got in trouble in America by saying that the people are wise and should go what they want as soon as
possible. Of course, that calls back to mine -- H. L. Mencken's definition of democracy, which is the belief of the people know what they want,
deserve to get it good and hard.
If we've had one great successful populist in -- from your State of Louisiana. Huey Long translated populism into a political regime that is
pretty close to have been police state for a while in Louisiana. Not pretty.
ISAACSON: Do you think this type of populism with an authoritarian tinge has peaked in the Republican Party as well and that people like George Bush
or Paul Ryan are able to push back at it?
WILL: Not yet. Not nearly yet. The question is, Donald Trump is an entertainer. And the one thing an entertainer can't be is boring and
predictable. He has one pedal on the organ and he has worked it now for 20 years. Really, to be fair to him, it used to be that Japan was going to run
all over us. Now, it's China. And it's -- but these are minor tweaks to his basic message.
And I think we may be rescue by boredom. The wonderful human capacity. And we may be the only creatures who have the wonderful human capacity to get
bored. And I think Donald Trump was on the way to becoming a bore.
ISAACSON: There is a protest coming up this weekend and it has caused a fence to go back around the capitol. What do you make of that and how do we
protect our capitol while still, you know, exulting our democracy?
ISAACSON: Well, that fence is an obscenity. And whoever put it up should be fenced in and rolled up with it and carted away. The idea with the
United States should look like a nervous Banana Republic with a capitol constantly trembling because there is a rest of tank regiment at the edge
of town. I mean, what kind of people are w that we think we have to?
I think the United States capitol is the greatest secular building in public use in the world. It's a magnificent building. And it's the
epicenter of our democracy. And the idea that whenever a group of angry people come to Washington we have to pretend as though it has to be
fortified. Well, my good lord, if the police aren't better at controlling the crowds in that, change the police.
ISAACSON: But you saw what happened on January 6th.
WILL: Exactly. And because it happened on January 6th, we know to be alert to it and prevent it. That's not an excuse. January 6th is not an excuse
for making us look like an embattled armed camp.
ISAACSON: But do you blame some of the politicians, including Trump, that seem to, you know, excite people?
WILL: Of course. Of course. He incited that riot. I blame him. Of course. Obviously, he incited it. He did it on television. We all watched it. I
watched every minute of that day. Paul Ryan and others did. Paul Ryan told me that his response was he wept to see this happen to that great building.
ISAACSON: So, why are people inciting again so that we have more of these things happening this weekend?
WILL: Because they're morons and because they're irresponsible. That's why. But again, the fact that these people do these things is not an excuse
for making this -- Washington look like a fragile brittle capitol. It's neither.
ISAACSON: Gorge Will, as always, thank you for joining us
WILL: I enjoyed, Walter. Let's do it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And, of course, no one wants to see a repeat of January 6th. That is for sure. One of the darkest days in U.S. history.
And that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from New York.