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Iran Nuclear Talks; Interview With Women's Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon; Interview with The New York Times Magazine Staff Writer Ronen Bergman; Interview with Playwright Tony Kushner. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 02, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: If we walk away from this, we're basically telling the world that not addressing sexual
assault with the respect and seriousness it requires is OK.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Women's Tennis Association pulls out of China in support of champion player Peng Shuai. I ask WTA Chairman Steve Simon
what this means for women's rights and for his bottom line.
Then: As nuclear talks resume, Iran demand sanctions be removed, while U.N. inspectors report ramped-up uranium production there.
I speak to Mohammad Marandi, a member of Iranian delegation, and to journalist Ronen Bergman about secret cyber-skirmishes between Israel and
Also, playwright Tony Kushner on honoring Stephen Sondheim's legacy in his blockbuster reimagining of "West Side Story."
MO AMER, COMEDIAN: Is the pandemic was it real?
AMANPOUR: Hari Sreenivasan talks to Palestinian American comic Mo Amer.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
When the Women's Tennis Association announced his decision to suspend all tournament in China, league chairman Steve Simon took a crucial stand in
defense of his champion Chinese player Peng Shuai and in support of women's rights, saying: "If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and
sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded, equality for women, would suffer an immense setback."
WTA co-founder Billie Jean King tweeted her support for the decision: "I applaud Steve Simon and the WTA leadership for taking a strong stand on
defending human rights in China and around the world. The WTA is on the right side of history in supporting our players."
And men's champion Novak Djokovic called it a very bold, courageous stance. The Chinese Tennis Association, for its part, is opposed, saying that it
would damage the interest of the entire sport of tennis.
So why has the WTA thrown down this gauntlet at this time, and at what cost?
CEO Steve Simon is joining me now from Los Angeles.
And welcome to the program, Mr. Simon.
You have taken a bold step. And, from what I can gather, it's the first time a major organization has thrown down this kind of gauntlet to the
Chinese in response to human rights and other violations. But it's going to cost you a huge amount, right? Can you tell me the amount of money and
contracts involved and whether that at all was a consideration?
SIMON: Well, thanks for having me.
And I think, to address your question straight on, what it will cost us by taking the stance is still very much uncertain. We do believe it will be
significant if, in fact, we're forced to suspend all of our events and we're not actually able to operate due to the local Chinese authorities not
wanting to take these accusations and allegations seriously.
It's a complicated pathway that we have embarked upon, but we are resolute in our position on this. And we're willing to deal with the challenges that
will come forth as a result.
AMANPOUR: So you have about 10 tournaments. And, as you say, they're suspended for the moment. You haven't canceled them formally. But you have
sent a direct message.
And that is, as you know, in direct collision with China, the government, the spokespeople, the Chinese Tennis Association, who they say it'll just
damage the entire sport.
What do you say to them? I mean, their reaction is to be expected, but very few people take them on, certainly not in the sports world. What do you say
to the Chinese government's reaction?
SIMON: Well, I would say that, at this point, it's unfortunate.
It's not going to affect the overall sport of tennis. The sport of tennis is a global sport. It's one of the largest consumed sports in the world
today. And it's going to continue to grow.
We, as the WTA, and China have had a great experience over there to date. We have great friends, we have great partners in the region. And this is
This is a situation where we're dealing with right and wrong. And there's too many times in this world in which we're faced with challenges such as
this where we allow politics and government and money and financials to get into the way of what the right decision is, and we end up with compromised
When we're getting into the issue of sexual assault, it is at the core principles as to what you reflected in your opening as to what the WTA
stands for. And with what Billie Jean in the Original Nine developed this organization and organized it around.
It is about the principles of respect, opportunity and equality. When you get to sexual assault, there cannot be compromise in any way, shape, or
form. And in this situation, you have to separate the business side from the point of what's right and wrong. And we're going to side on the side of
what's right and wrong.
AMANPOUR: So, many women around the world in any sector, not just sports, not just tennis, will applaud that.
And my question to you, though, is, you actually want the Chinese government to do something. That is to actually president Peng Shuai in a
way that you all can see she's neither coerced, nor dictated to, nor in any other way have her own free will impinged on.
But you also want an investigation. You have received e-mails from Peng Shuai in since you have taken your stance. Do you have any reason to
believe those e-mails really come from her, were dictated to her? How would you characterize them?
SIMON: Well, I would characterize them as orchestrated at this point in time.
When you came up -- when you had -- when you come out with the allegations that Peng early in November, they were significant, and they were detailed.
And now to be receiving the e-mails and the correspondence from her that certainly are very -- they are just 100 percent orchestrated. And I do not
think that they reflect what the allegations did and the true position.
I can only imagine the range of emotion and feelings that she's gone through.
AMANPOUR: And do you have any other independent way of knowing from your contacts there whether she's under duress, or whether she's just having to
do what she's told right now, or whether there's an even darker aspect to what she might be undergoing right now?
We don't have a lot of contact coming out of the reach. The contact that we have had from the region has basically been consistent: She's in Beijing,
she's fine, she's not under no physical stress, et cetera, which is what we have seen in the videos and the pictures that we have seen.
We just feel very strongly that this is certainly being orchestrated. It's consistent with those that are very familiar with the region as to how
these things are handled over there. It is fully expected. And, as you reflected before, we have two principal points right now, which is we
definitely want to confirm that Peng is available to speak without censorship or any pressures or any restrictions in any way.
And we do want a full and transparent investigation of these various serious allegations.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Simon, can I just ask you how you -- we have had the IOC senior official Dick Pound on this program. The IOC are the only ones
who've actually spoken to her and have released a picture.
I try to press them to release the entire audio of their conversation with her in that video conference. That hasn't happened. But they don't believe
that you are on the right track, that, as they said, beating your chest in public is not the way to get anything out of the Chinese.
Let me play -- this was -- you know, this is before your announcement of the suspension.
AMANPOUR: Let me play what Dick Pound told me on this program a few weeks -- a few days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK POUND, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE MEMBER: The ATP may have its own views, but I don't think they have been paying much attention to what's
happened in basketball and football in threatening Chinese with economic sanctions on this.
It's not going to work. And part of the proof of the pudding is they were not able to get in touch with her. And that's her sport. And maybe she
didn't like the attitude that they were showing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he said ATP. He obviously meant the WTA.
But it's this classic dilemma, right? Some believe that you can get more by quiet diplomacy. Obviously, the IOC believes that. And they have the Winter
Olympics in question. And you, on the other hand, believe in laying down this very clear ethical marker for the MeToo allegation and her safety.
How do you think this is going to proceed? Have you talked to the IOC? Do you think it's going to become a sort of a bit of a battle? Will the
Chinese be able to divide and conquer, for instance?
SIMON: Well, it's a very good point that you raise.
And, clearly, with the IOC videos that were shared -- and you can follow Mr. Pound's comments -- obviously, they have been able to convince either
the government or Peng to have that discussion.
I think, when you watch that, I believe that you can also see that it's very much orchestrated. Peng has known where to reach out to us. And it's
been chosen that they deal with the IOC. Obviously, we have taken a very firm stand, and we have taken it for a reason. It is the time, as I said
earlier, that we need to be addressing what's right and wrong.
And we cannot be in a position where we're telling the world that the addressing of sexual assault is not being addressed with the respect and
seriousness it requires because it's difficult. It's just something that we cannot let happen.
And I think we have been very, very clear from the get-go that anything less than that is unacceptable.
AMANPOUR: Now, the ATP has today, their chairman, have said that they are also monitoring the Peng Shuai situation, that they are also calling for
this investigation to be concluded or undertaken even.
But they're in some bit of hot water as well, the ATP, because -- and this is about the champion player Alexander Zverev. They -- now they have said
that they are going to be announcing an internal investigation. But he has been accused of domestic violence by a former girlfriend. Of course, he
himself strongly denies the allegation. He says he welcomes any investigation.
But do you think, given the moral stance that you have taken in this case, do you think the ATP should take an equally moral stance on Zverev pending
the results of the investigation? Would you think that he should be suspended?
If an allegation of search was made against a member of the WTA, would you consider they should be suspended, pending an investigation?
SIMON: Well, I think you have to be consistent.
And, as you have reflected there, that any time these accusations of occur, and people have had the courage to come forth with them, they deserve a
full and transparent investigation without any levels of censorship. And based upon the findings of those investigations, the appropriate results
should come from that.
And should they go through the process, and should it prove that Mr. Zverev was guilty, then he should be punished accordingly. In fairness, if it
comes out that the investigation reflects that they were untrue, then, of course, that has to be addressed in the same way.
But every time this happens, there should be an appropriate investigation to find out the results, and people should be accountable based upon the
results of those investigations.
AMANPOUR: Just very quickly, a suspension pending an investigation is not something you would agree to then?
SIMON: I think that they need to go through the investigation first, yes. That would be my opinion, but that's part of the ATP.
SIMON: It's not under my jurisdiction.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Simon, thank you so much, indeed.
This case will continue. And we will keep watching it.
Now, another round of Iran nuclear talks is under way in Vienna, with a new more hard-line regime calling the shots this time from Tehran. The U.S.
secretary of state, Tony Blinken, says there's not a lot of cause for optimism, but that it's still not too late.
Iran demands an end to draconian sanctions imposed by the United States, this after the Trump administration pulled out of the agreement.
Meanwhile, the U.N. nuclear watchdog reports that Iran started producing enriched uranium with more efficient and advanced centrifuges at its
underground nuclear plant at Fordow.
Mohammad Marandi is an adviser to Iran's negotiating team, and he's joining me now from Vienna.
Welcome to the program. We have talked to a lot in the past about these issues.
So, the U.S. secretary of state is saying, not a huge cause for optimism of getting this deal back on track, particularly in the wake of the IAEA's
latest report of the increased uranium enrichment and the more advanced centrifuges, and including, he says, a lack of access to a particular
facility in the region of Karaj.
Do you share that lack of optimism?
MOHAMMAD MARANDI, UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN: If there is a lack of optimism, it is because of the actions of the United States.
The current administration in Washington was -- the president of the United States was critical of Trump's maximum pressure campaign. Yet, when he came
to power, he continued with that policy and continues with that policy today.
The United States is in clear violation of the agreement and in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, whereas the Iranians were fully
implementing the nuclear deal. Even after the United States left the deal, the Iranians continued to abide by the deal in full for a full year, even
though the Europeans left -- effectively left the deal.
Then, after a year, the Iranians gradually decreased their commitments, and then stopped their commitments. And even that was in accordance with the
deal, because articles 26 and 36 allow Iran to stop implementing the deal when the other side is not abiding by their side of the bargain.
So the only side that from the very beginning was sitting at the table and stayed at the table is Iran. The United States left the table, caused
hundreds of billions of dollars of damage to the Iranian economy. And I think it's rather strange for the United States to be demanding of Iran at
So -- but let me just put it to you, because you also know that the JCPOA says that Fordow should not be used. I hear what you said about the
But Fordow is a step beyond. And, also, the IAEA needs full, satisfactory access. As the chief said to me, without our signing off on what's
happening at the plants and the various places in Iran, there is no negotiation and there's no deal possible.
Is Iran just using this as a negotiating tactic? Or does -- this particular government negotiating team maybe not so eager to get into the deal again?
MARANDI: The current administration sent a heavyweight delegation to Vienna. There were three deputy foreign ministers here and a series of
high-ranking officials. So, obviously, Iran is very serious.
With regards to the installation in Karaj, sabotage was carried out, which caused damage to the facility, and the Iranians believe that the United
States and Israelis were behind it.
And with regards to Fordow, it is a right of Iran within the framework of the IAEA and the nonproliferation treaty. The only reason why Iran has --
was no longer using it for enrichment was because of the nuclear deal. If the Americans didn't -- if the Americans don't want Iran to use it, then
they should have thought about that earlier.
They should have remained within the deal. But the Americans -- the American government can't have its cake and eat it too. They can't expect
to violate the deal, to impose suffering on ordinary people intentionally, and then expect the Iranians to sit back and abide by their commitments
within the framework of the deal.
That's a very strange expectation that the Americans and the Europeans have.
AMANPOUR: I want to pick up on your last point, which is that there was sabotage at the Karaj plant, and the Iranian government believes that it's
the handiwork of the United States and Israel.
I will be talking later -- right after this interview to the Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who's broken a lot of news stories about these
cyberattacks and the sort of cyberwar that's going on.
There has been and it has been reported, and, obviously, you experienced it in Iran recently, an attack on gas stations, petrol stations, that was --
caused a huge amount of problem for civilians, and, at the same time, what the Israelis believe to be potentially an Iranian cyberattack on a dating
site in Israel that caused a huge amount of sensitive information to be released into the public on a huge number of people.
What is the state of this cyberwar as it moves from government installations to the civilian population? How do you think that's going to
affect people in Iran?
MARANDI: The real problem is that the United States has created a culture where it can attack countries with impunity.
It can destroy Libya. It can destroy so much of Syria, carry out a dirty war there. It can help the Saudis destroy Yemen. It can invade Iraq, occupy
Afghanistan. It can do whatever it wants. It can impose illegal sanctions on a country. And the Israelis do the same thing. They constantly bomb
Syria. These are all violations of international law.
So, now the United States, the Israelis, they carry out cyberattacks against Iran, and no one in the West complained, because, apparently, it is
OK for them to do it. If it was Iran that carried out such an attack on the United States, or Russia or China, what would have been the response in
So the real problem is that the United States has gone rogue. And its ally, the Israeli regime, a regime that we consider to be an apartheid regime,
has gone rogue as well.
If the United States wants to bring back stability that to this region at a time when the United States has so many internal problems, economic
problems, it is dealing with rising powers like China and Russia, if it wants to cut costs, and to ease tensions in this region, the only way
forward, the best way forward is to end the hostility, the attacks, the assassinations, the sabotage, the cyberattacks, and to accept the nuclear
MARANDI: ... and to end the Trump maximum pressure sanctions.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's what we're trying to figure out, whether there is a realistic hope of that happening.
I'm going to put these questions now to our friend in Israel Ronen Bergman, but Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says the U.S. should call
off the talks altogether after the IAEA report.
MARANDI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Meanwhile, "The New York Times" reports a new cyber conflict, as we have just been discussing, breaking out between Israel and Iran, which
is targeting each other's civilians now.
And journalist Ronen Bergman co-wrote that, and he's joining me now from Tel Aviv.
Ronen, welcome back to the program.
You heard what Mohammad Marandi has just told us. Tell us a little bit more. They are clear and they really believe that it was Israel and the
United States, as they say, who sabotaged the Karaj nuclear plant. What do you know about that particular one? You have done so much reporting on all
RONEN BERGMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, the -- there was a series of sabotage and bombings.
And some of them, at least according to U.S. sources, were done by Israeli intelligence, not necessarily with the help of the U.S., but many with the
pre-knowledge, and during the Trump time, the Trump administration with -- they used consent, if not enthusiasm, to support this campaign of sabotage.
In addition, the U.S. has killed, by some reports, with the help of Israeli intelligence, Iran's number one operation executive, Qasem Soleimani. And
Israel has killed the chief nuclear scientist, Fakhrizadeh, just a year ago in a sabotage, ambush done by a robot commanded from afar.
This is a -- I would say, not a shadow war anymore. It's an open war between those two countries, Israel and Iran, that pops up in different
areas in the Middle East. The previous interviewee have said -- talking about Syria and Iraq. You have mentioned the cyberwar.
I think that there's no sphere, land, sea, air, cyber, where those nations are not in all-out war, fighting each other on different kinds of hegemonic
control, Israeli fear of Iran making its way to a nuclear bomb, and Iranian claims that Israel aligning with the U.S. in order to diminish Iran's
influence in the area.
AMANPOUR: So, you have broken a lot of these stories. And now the latest is this movement of the cyberwar from government and official and
infrastructure installations to just civilians, the Israeli attack on the Iranian sort of gas station infrastructure, and the Iranian counterattack
on Israeli -- this Israeli dating app, which apparently exposed the information of potentially 16 percent of Israel's population, and
particularly sensitive information.
It was an LGBTQ site, Very, very sensitive information. What is the point of this, Ronen Bergman? And does this lead to a military confrontation?
What has caused it to move from infrastructure to civilian targets?
BERGMAN: So, the story you're referring to, Christiane, I wrote with my friend colleague and the great journalist Farnaz Fassihi of "The New York
This crime -- I would say the proliferation of cyberwar, which is not new - - those two sides exchanged cyber blows for the last more than a decade. Israel and the U.S. has initiated an Olympic game operation to sabotage and
destroy much of the centrifuges installed in the same place where the explosion that was mentioned previously, Natanz and Karaj, was -- just
But what happened in the last two years was that, according to Israel, Iran has started to attack Israeli water pipe infrastructure, in some cases,
being able to get control over some of those pipes and, according to Israeli intelligence, trying to mix poison into the water, trying to hurt
And Israel, in its turn, according to U.S. officials, was damaging the -- severely damaged the flow of oil, flow of gas from the central stations to
the gas stations, causing unbelievable eruption and disturbance to daily life, either not enabling people to refuel their cars or forcing them to
pay in cash and not use the subsidy card, something that cost them twice or as third as much.
This is for the first time harming vast population. And, in return, Iranian hackers hacked the server storing the data for the biggest LGBT site of
Israel, which is not just the names of those people, that many of them are not out of the closet, but also many intimate details about their sexual
preferences, who is HIV-plus, pictures.
And you can imagine the immense -- you mentioned one 1.5 million people registered to that Web site, understanding their most intimate details are
out there, posted on the Telegram channel of this Iranian hacking group.
And the amount of panic and hysteria in Israel, and I would say, for the first time, what we are seeing is not just countries fighting, but massive
population suffering from that.
AMANPOUR: But, Ronen, where do you see it heading? And, of course, I'd said 16 percent of the population. What I meant was the population signed
up to this dating site.
But what is the point? Where do you see it going? Some are worried that this civilian aspect of it could at some point tip back into a military
confrontation or into a military confrontation.
BERGMAN: Well, I think that there are two things here.
One is that the purpose, according to intelligence experts who are updated with the details of that attack, the purpose of the attack on the gas fuel
system, those 4,000 gas stations, was to create some civil unrest and bitterness towards the regime that is not able to supply gas in time.
But we know this has happened exactly two years after the riots that erupted when subsidy on oil was cut down. So this is a very sensitive
point. And whoever was behind the attack understood that in order to cause civil unrest.
I think what the Iranians are doing to counter that was to attack soft points in the Israeli infrastructure. Would that lead to military
confrontation? The military confrontation is already there. Israel is attacking Iranian targets, military buildup targets in Syria almost every
But there's something more frightening. And it goes back to the -- your conversation with the adviser to the Iranian delegation to the talks in
Vienna. If Iran reaches or crosses this red line that it is very close to, for example, enriching uranium to 90 percent, military grade, Israel will
probably say there is no reason for a peaceful research or production of energy, nuclear energy to enrich to 90 percent.
That means, the Israelis would claim, only one purpose, to serve as the core for a nuclear bomb.
BERGMAN: This is a red line that Israel have demonstrated numerous times in the past it will not allow anyone right to pass it.
BERGMAN: I don't think the region is going into a very good place now.
Right. Right. Indeed.
I mean, the United States says right now they don't see 90 percent enrichment. It's very, very important to say that.
It's much lower at this point, but clearly this is a flash point to be watched.
Ronen Burgman, thank you so much.
Next, to two different warring gangs who have been fighting, singing and dancing for more than 60 years. I'm talking about The Sharks and The Jets
from the iconic musical "West Side Story." Originally landing on Broadway in 1957. Now, this take on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliette" is hitting
the big screen again courtesy of Steven Spielberg. Here is their version of "Tonight."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And we're joined now by the film's screenwriter, the Pulitzer- prize winning playwright, Tony Kushner.
Welcome back to the program.
You must be thrilled. Early reviews are really great. It's -- I think it was in 2014 that Spielberg first approached you about this. What did you
think? I mean, did you -- you know, there was already an iconic film that has, you know, held everybody's imagination for that long.
TONY KUSHNER, PLAYWRIGHT: Yes, I mean, the 1961 film is without question one of the most beloved films in cinema history and certainly one of the
great movie musicals. It's also some controversy, but it's unquestionably a great bit of film making and Steven and I both loved the film -- the 61
film very much.
So, when he first asked me if I would be interested in this doing this, I thought he was crazy. And it took a little while for me to change my mind,
but eventually, I was -- I got very excited about it and I had a fantastic time working on it.
AMANPOUR: Well, everybody is looking forward to seeing it. But I want to ask you, obviously, about Stephen Sondheim because this doesn't come just
from the film. It comes from Stephen Sondheim's great lyrics and music. And, of course, he died just after Thanksgiving suddenly at the age of 91.
Just talk to me about him. What kind of collaboration you may have had with him over the years and did you discuss this film version with him before he
KUSHNER: I think I met Steve in the early 1990s. And -- no, I -- no, I'm sorry, probably around 2000. And we became friends, we weren't close
friends, but we were in contact on and off. I mean, we were on stage a number of times and I revered him. I mean, I think, you know, one of the
greatest songwriters that ever lived and one of the greatest practitioners of the musical theater form, maybe the greatest ever, and a real genius,
which is a word that I don't use lightly.
His lyrics are astonishing. His music is magnificent. And last night's story was the first professional production he was involved with.
In 1957 he was 24 years old when Arthur Laurents approached Leonard Bernstein and said, I know this guy who is a talented songwriter. Why don't
we hire him to be the lyricist? And turned Bernstein's internal credit and he said yes. And the lyrics in West Side Story are absolutely astonishing.
I've spent seven years with them now and they never fail to offer up new surprises. He was a writer of incredible depths and understanding of human
nature. And he really understood how a song and a musical has to function in terms of advancing the narrative arc and deepening the audiences
understanding of character and conflict. There's really nobody better than Sondheim. In fact, he really moved the whole forum forward to him who love
for music was incalculable. So --
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: So, he did, as you say, revolutionized the idea of the musical. And, yes, his legacy will continue for a long time. But I want
to pick up on what you said about the previous much loved film with Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno.
Natalie Wood famously was, you know, browned up for her role. It's the kind -- you used the word controversy about some of the aspects of the first
film. You know, tell me what you've done to bring it out of that sort of controversy and into the real world of today. And, you know, were you
always sure that you wanted to do this, given the controversies that did exist around it?
TONY KUSHNER: Yes, I mean, you know, I mentioned that there are controversies around "West Side Story." I mean, specifically from the
Puerto Rican community and from the Latinx community. There are feelings that the representation both in the source material itself in the 1957
musical and in the Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins film there are problems. And there are unquestionably problems. It's a product of its time, the
original musical, and the 1961 film.
There were things done that would not be done now including having a white actress of European descent like Natalie would play a Puerto Rican girl, a
teenage girl with brown face on. And many other decisions that were made that were absolutely problematic and I can understand it would cause
serious pain. And I really -- I take that seriously now and Stephen and I took it seriously when we attacked the business of making our own version
of "West Side Story" which is much more based on the 1957 musical in many ways than in the -- on the 1961 film.
You know, I feel like what we really did, it's hard to describe it. There are so many things that were done to try and make the representations of
all the characters recognizable to people who have lives that are similar to the lives or common culture as the characters on screen.
But in a way I felt all along that I was just taking the four-day Jewish man who wrote "West Side Story" and created Jerome Robbins and Arthur
Laurents and Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein.
At their word, they were very -- they absolutely wanted to make a musical that was about racism and the horrendous consequences of racism.
There were things they dared -- where they sort of missed the mark. There were many things where they didn't miss the mark. The characters that they
created, I think, are very vivid. I don't think that they're stereotype. So, you know, with great respect, I can understand why there's certain
animus towards "West Side Story." But I -- obviously, Stephen and I didn't share that animus or we would never have made it in the first place. And I
really hope that people come to see our film.
I promise you, in the first five or 10 minutes, if you have doubts about the politics of West Side Story, you'll see things that you haven't seen in
any version of West Side Story. I don't want to give anything away. But that will -- maybe if you're open-minded, it make you think otherwise.
And, you know, we never did it because --
AMANPOUR: Well, we --
KUSHNER: -- we felt we wanted to -- sorry.
AMANPOUR: No, no, no. I was just saying we're looking forward to seeing it. And, you know, we -- I wish we could talk more about this but
certainly, Stephen Sondheim was very, very complimentary of your work on this. He said the to, you know, the "Late Night Show" the other day before
he died. So, we're all looking forward to this.
Tony Kushner, thank you so much, indeed.
And now, we're going to go to President Biden who is going to give an address on his update on the COVID situation in the United States.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JOE BIDEN, PRSIDENT OF THE U.S.: -- I was told this as I was leaving the White House -- that there is an expectation that 30 percent of the non-
vaxers -- "Under no circumstances would I get a vaccination" -- because of the new variant are now saying, "I'm going to get a vaccination." So we
hope that's true. I hope that's true.
The second point is that launching new family vaccination clinics to make it easier for children, parents and whole families to get vaccinated in one
place, and new policies to keep our children in school instead of quarantining them at home. I'll talk about the detail of each of these in a
The third piece of this is making free at-home tests more available than ever before, and having them covered by your private insurance plans,
available in thousands of locations and available at community health centers and other sites for the uninsured who don't have insurance.
Four, increasing our surge response teams that are -- our doctors and our nurses. I know the people in this audience know incredibly well about what
a surge team is, but medical staff and the communities with rising cases and overburdened hospitals and short on personnel. And by the way, they
make a gigantic difference. The governors, Republican governors as well as Democratic governors, contact me when I go into their states, talk about,
"Thank you for these surge teams," because it really makes a difference in some -- some communities are hit -- hit so much harder than others. They
just, you know, they -- they -- they just can't make it without. And we're -- what we're going to do -- I'll to this in a -- in more detail in a
The fifth thing we're doing -- we're going to accelerate our efforts to vaccinate the rest of the world and strengthen the -- strengthen the
international travel rules for people coming to the United States. I plan to announced -- my plan I'm announcing today pulls no punches in the fight
against COVID-19, and it's a plan that I think should unite us. I know COVID-19 has been very divisive in this country. It's become a political
issue, which is a sad, sad commentary. It shouldn't be, but it has been.
Now, as we move into the winter and face the challenges of this new variant, this is a moment we can put the divisives behind us, I hope. This
is a moment we can do what we haven't been able to do enough of through this whole pandemic: Get the nation to come together, unite the nation in a
common purpose to fight this virus, to protect one another, to protect our economic recovery and to think of it in terms of literally a patriotic
responsibility, rather than a -- somehow, you're denying people their basic rights.
I -- the plan I'm announcing today is a plan our scientists and COVID teams have recommended, and while my existing federal vaccination requirements
are being reviewed by the courts, this plan does not expand or add to those mandates; a plan that all Americans hopefully can rally around, and it
should be -- and should get bipartisan support, in my humble opinion, and it should unite us, not continue to separate us.
BIDEN: Parenthetically, you all know that there are literally, as it relates to whether or not we're going to pay the federal debt, whether
we're going to, in fact, have a continuing resolution, et cetera, some of my friends on the other team are arguing that if I don't commit that
there'll never be any more mandates, they're going to let us default. In the neighborhood I came from in Claymont, they'd look at me and say "go
figure -- go figure."
But before I explain each new action in more detail, I want to -- and I'm not going to embarrass you, doc, but I want to thank Francis Collins. You
know, you've done an incredible job, doc, here at NIH, one of the most important scientists of our time, in my view. No, I'm -- I'm not being
solicitous, I think I'm -- I'm not exaggerating a bit.
After I was elected President, Dr. Collins was one of the first calls -- I think you're the second call I made, to ask you if you'd stay on -- the
second call I made. It's because when I was Vice President, I got to know Dr. Collins really well, when I was given the opportunity to manage the
Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
And Dr. Collins is an incredible resource for our nation and I'm grateful - - I mean this sincerely -- I'm grateful for everything he's done in this -- for this pandemic and advancing all kinds of medical breakthroughs,
including mapping the human genome.
He recently announced he's going to step down as Director of the NIH this month after a truly consequential tenure. But the good news really is Dr.
Collins is going to return to the lab, the National Human Genome Research Institute. And we look forward to his unmatched ability to unlock
possibilities that are within our reach.
And doc, the bad news for you is you ain't getting rid of me, man. I'm going to keep calling you all of the time because there's a lot of other
things we can do -- you can do with -- help me to get done. You just tell me -- point me in the direction and I'll follow.
I just received a briefing from Dr. Collins and Fauci and Dr. Lawrence Tabak, as well as Dr. Julie Ledgerwood, and I appreciate it very much. My
only regret was it was a short meeting, so I (inaudible) come and speak. I think we'd all benefit more if we had the -- made my speech short and spent
more time with these docs.
But at -- you know, as the -- the -- the study -- the -- the omicron variant just -- that we have just two cases reported here in the United
States. But as I explained on Monday, this new variant is a cause for concern but not panic.
We know there'd be -- we knew there'd be cases of this -- of omicron here in the United States and it's here. But we have the best tools, the best
vaccines in the world and the best medicine and the best scientists in the world, and we're going to fight this variants with science and speed, not
chaos and confusion, just like we beat back COVID-19 in the spring, a more powerful variant -- delta variant in the summer and fall.
As a result, we enter this winter from a position of strength compared to where America was last winter. Last Christmas, fewer than one percent of
American adults were fully vaccinated. This Christmas, that number will be 77 -- 72 percent, including more than 86 percent of seniors, the most
Last Christmas, our children were at risk without a COVID-19 vaccine. This Christmas, we have safe, effective vaccines for children age five and
older, with 20 million children and counting now vaccinated. Last year, a majority of our schools were closed at Christmas time in that area. Now,
we're -- 99 percent of our schools are open.
But I pledge to always be straight with you, just straight from the shoulder as President of the United States and tell the American people
exactly where we are. So here is -- here it is -- experts say that COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in the weeks ahead and this winter. So we need
to be ready.
You can read the whole plan we're talking about here at whitehouse.gov -- go to whitehouse.gov and it's all laid out in detail. For now, here are the
five key points I want to expand on slightly.
We're expanding our national booster campaign to provide booster shots to all eligible adults. Our docs and the scientists believe that people who
get a booster shot are more protected than ever from COVID-19. I was just told which -- a question I got to ask, I've been meaning to ask for a long
time, whether or not -- not just it increases the -- the -- the resistance to the variant that is being dealt with but it also is -- it -- it -- it is
stronger. It not only just raises the total but it's -- it's a -- stronger, it makes things more powerful, in terms of resisting.
And the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, and our top public officials recommend all
adults -- all adults get a booster shot when it's time. But here's the deal -- more than about 100 million are eligible for boosters but haven't gotten
the booster shot yet.
Folks, if you're over the age of 18 and you got vaccinated before June the 2nd, six months has gone by. Go get your booster now -- go get it now.
Booster shots continue to be free. We've already made available 80,000 locations coast to coast in the United States of America -- 80,000
locations to get the booster. And if you want to know exactly where to go, text your ZIP Code to 438829 to find where you can get your booster shot
now -- now.
And starting today, we're making it easier than ever to get a booster shot. I'm calling on pharmacies and they've been cooperative, big and small, both
for more appointments, more walk-in hours, including on week nights and weekends, so you can get vaccinated at a time that works best for you and
Pharmacies will send millions of texts and e-mails to remind their customers to return for their booster shots because they know who got the
booster shot at CVC (ph), you've got to -- they can -- they're -- they're now -- they've agreed they're going to send texts to that particular person
when their time is up, when -- when they've met the -- if you're -- if it's Pfizer or Moderna, six months, if it's J&J, two months.
And to -- you know, to reach our seniors, we're also collaborating with the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP, who will be reaching out to
their 38 million members. They're going to make an aggressive effort. They're going to be hosting virtual town halls to answer questions and even
arrange rides for seniors to get their booster shots. And so that will all be coming.
My administration has also contacted the 64 -- will contact the 64 million people on Medicare to remind them to get their booster shots. We have the
ability to do that from the federal level.
And just like I did to make it easier for folks to get their first and second shots, I'm providing paid off time for any federal employee who goes
to get their booster. If they're -- the only time they can get it -- the -- the booster where they are, if it's at such and such a day, in the middle
of the day, they can go. All they have to do is demonstrate that's where they went or they took their son, daughter, husband, wife, mom, dad. They
get paid, they don't get docked their pay. And I'm asking other employers from the private sector to do the same thing. No one should have to choose
between a paycheck and getting additional protection for a booster shot.
BIDEN: Now, I want to reiterate Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins believe if you're worried about omicron variant, the best thing to do is get fully vaccinated
and then get your booster shot when you're eligible. Excuse me, we don't yet believe, excuse me, that additional measures will be needed. But so
that we're prepared, if needed, my team is already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson to develop a contingency plans for
other vaccines or boosters.
And I'll also direct the FDA and the CDC to use the fastest process available, without cutting corners for safety, to get such vaccines
renewed, reviewed and renewed -- reviewed and approved if they're needed.
Second, we're expanding our efforts to vaccinate children ages five and up. For any parent worried about Omicron variant or the Delta variant get you
child vaccinated at one of the 35,000 locations in the country including doctor offices, pharmacies, children's hospitals, and 9,000 pop-up clinics
If you're wondering where to go, again, visit vaccines.com. And today I'm announcing that we're going to launch hundreds of new family vaccination
clinics across the country. These sites are going to offer vaccinations for the whole family one-stop, one-stop. Children can get vaccinated, parents
can get vaccinated, get their second -- first or second shots or their booster shots.
Family vaccination clinics will be held in community health centers and other trusted locations. Some will be mobile to reach further into hard to
reach communities; if it's boosters shots for adults, vaccinations for kids, all at the same place at the same time. Now when we first announced I
said the logistical problem, it wasn't just we didn't have enough vaccines when we got into office, but once we got the vaccines the logistical effort
to get all communities in all areas vaccinated was a gigantic logistical undertaking that would make any military proud of being able to do it.
But because of the incredible talent including our military we got that done. And we can do the same thing now as we continue to expand. We know
parents of children under the age of five are wondering when the vaccine will be available for their little ones. That's the question I most get
often asked now at functions.
We had a function celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas and various things at the White House. The parents coming up to me, they're saying I have a 3-
year old, is there going to be a time that that -- am I going to be OK? Is she going to be OK? Or he going to be OK?
And let me say this, I strongly support the independent scientific review of vaccine usage for children under five. Now we can't take shortcuts with
that scientific work. But I'll do everything in my power to support the FDA to do this safely and quickly as possible when we get to that round up (ph)
Vaccinating our children is also critical to keeping our schools open. But while over 99 percent of our schools are open now we need to make sure that
throughout the winter, this winter.
The CDC is now reviewing pioneering approaches like we call test to stay, test to stay policies, which could allow students to stay in the classroom
and be tested frequently when a positive case in that classroom popped that wasn't them.
Up until now you go home and you quarantine. But rather than being sent home and quarantined they'd be able to stay, because the tests would be
available and regularly.
BIDEN: The CDC will be releasing the latest science and other findings in the coming weeks so that other schools can learn from an -- from the
impediment -- excuse me -- if there's any impediments in this practice, they can learn to implement exactly what the best way to do this is. It's a
We want our children in school and we're going to take new steps to make sure they -- it stays that way. But again, the best step is to vaccinate is
to vaccinate their children. Get them vaccinated.
Third, this winter we're going to make free at-home tests more available to Americans than ever before. To better control the Delta variant, I made
testing more available, affordable and convenient. I used the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests, including at-home
When I came into office, none of these tests were on the market. Thanks to our actions and the work of all of you, we now have at least eight at-home
testing options and prices for those tests are coming down.
But it still isn't good enough, in my view. That's why I'm announcing that health insurers must cover the cost of at-home testing. So that if you're
one of the 150 million Americans with private health insurance, next month your plan will cover at-home tests.
Private insurers already cover the expensive PCR test and -- that you get at the doctor's office. And now, they will cover at-home tests as well.
Now, for those not covered by private insurance, we're going to make available free tests at thousands of convenient locations -- locations for
folks to pick them up and take a test kit home.
The bottom line, this winter you'll be able to test for free in the comfort of your home and have some peace of mind. This is on top of the 20,000
sites already around the country, like pharmacies, where you can go in and get tested for free. We have to keep this going.
Fourth, we're going to continue to help communities that experience rising cases this winter and improve the care -- the care for those who get COVID-
Since this summer, we've worked with Republican and Democratic governors, as many Republican governors and Democratic governors, to deploy what we
call surge response teams. These teams work.
They provide needed staff for staff overruns -- that there's (ph) badly needed staff, where overrun hospitals are handling more patients than they
can -- they can handle, for their emergency rooms and intensive care units who don't have the personnel available. They help provide lifesaving
treatments to communities in need, like monoclonal antibody treatments.
We have over 20 teams deployed now. Today, I'm announcing that we're going to triple that -- more than double. We're going to get to 60 teams ready to
deploy in states experiencing a surge in cases over the course of this winter.
I was just with a governor in Minnesota who was raving about the positive impact it's had on his state. But there's other states the same -- in the
Additionally, we're increasing the availability of new medications recommended by real doctors -- not conspiracy theorists, OK?
For example, monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70 percent and -- for unvaccinated people
at risk of developing severe disease. We've already distributed over 3 million courses of this treatment to save lives and reduce the strain on
And we have a promising new arrival pill -- excuse me, antiviral pills on the horizon that could help prevent hospitalizations and death for people
infected by COVID-19. We've secured enough supply of these pills already. And early indications are that these treatments will remain effective in
the face of Omicron -- we don't know that for sure yet, but that's the hope and expectation.
BIDEN: And like with the distribution of the vaccines, we will ensure that these medicines will be available to the hardest-hit communities in the
America -- America, as well.
Fifth and finally, as we've seen with COVID-19 and the Delta variant, and now with Omicron variant, all that emerged elsewhere. It all came from
somewhere else, and ultimately beat this pan -- to be -- to -- to beat this pandemic, we need to go to where it came from and the rest of the world. We
also need to vaccinate the rest of the world. America has, in my view -- continues to lead in that effort. We've shipped for free more vaccines
around the world than all other countries in the world combined, every other country combined, over 280 million vaccines so far to 210 countries,
including South Africa, where we delivered all the doses they requested.
Now, today, I'm announcing that we'll accelerate the delivery of more vaccines to countries that need it, places delivered 200 million dose --
more doses within the next 100 days; on our way to delivering more than 1,200,000,000 doses for the rest of the world. Let me be clear: There's not
a single vaccine dose America ever sends to the rest of the world will ever come at the expense of any American. I'll always make sure that our people
are protected first. But vacillating (sic) the world is not just a -- a -- a moral tool, a moral obligation that we have, in my view; It's how we
protect Americans, as we've seen with this new variant.
America's doing our part, and we'll do more. But this is a global pandemic, and everyone needs to fight it together, and that includes countries we're
helping that aren't particularly friendly toward us.