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Civil Liberties in U.K. in Danger?; Interview With Laurence Fishburne and Frankie Faison; Novak Djokovic's Australian Visa Canceled; Interview with Brennan Center Democracy Program Senior Counsel Michael Li. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 14, 2022 - 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.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The on-again/off-again Djokovic drama continues, as the Australian government again cancels the tennis champion's visa.
Veteran sportscaster and former tennis pro Mary Carillo tries to make sense of it all for us.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There were things we simply did not get right.
AMANPOUR: As Partygate dominates British headlines, we look under the radar at new legislation that could gut civil liberties here.
SIDNEY POITIER, ACTOR: They call me Mr. Tibbs.
AMANPOUR: An icon of civil rights in America who broke new ground in popular culture.
Actors Laurence Fishburne and Frankie Faison remember the great Sidney Poitier.
MICHAEL LI, SENIOR COUNSEL, BRENNAN CENTER DEMOCRACY PROGRAM: We are not going to be a strong country if we don't include everybody at the table.
AMANPOUR: Michel Martin with voting expert Michael Li on the latest round of undemocratic gerrymandering.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour isolating in London.
Now, as America prepares to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King over this holiday weekend. We look at the ongoing fight for civil liberties.
But, first, there are new developments in the Novak Djokovic case, as he fights for his choice to remain unvaccinated. He's up against a tough
deadline. The Australian Open starts on Monday, but will the world number one actually be playing?
Djokovic will again be detained pending more hearings, after his Australian visa was canceled for the second time.
So, here to make sense of the whole confusing business is broadcaster and the former tennis pro Mary Carillo.
Welcome back to our program, Mary. Good to see you.
MARY CARILLO, SPORTSCASTER AND FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Very good to see you.
AMANPOUR: I guess everybody's head boomeranging over all of this, literally. Where do you stand on this? Did the immigration minister, the
federal government make the right decision? Is there blame to go all around? What's your take?
CARILLO: There's blame to go all around, first and foremost, obviously, Christiane, with Novak Djokovic did. Get vaccinated.
I mean, you can't travel around the world and hope that you can go through borders that way. But, also, Tennis Australia really goofed up. They're
tone-deaf. Craig Tiley, I can't imagine that he's going to hold on to his job much longer, because it seems like the loopholiness of the laws that he
tried to get tried to use to get Novak Djokovic into the Australian Open, it was just -- it just didn't feel good. It didn't seem right.
And the fact is, I mean, in simplest terms, Christiane, Novak could -- he could enter the Australian Open, but he couldn't enter the country. And
it's been going on for too long. We both love tennis so much. The fact that it makes international headlines when something terrible happens, like
Naomi Osaka having her mental issues, or the Chinese player Peng Shuai accusing a high-ranking government official and sexual abuse, now this, our
sport is better than this.
AMANPOUR: Let me just get you straight.
I understand what you're saying about Djokovic and he should get vaccinated, and there shouldn't be one for him and one rule for everybody
AMANPOUR: But you're not saying that Naomi or Peng Shuai's cases shouldn't be as serious and as dominating as they are?
CARILLO: Well, I mean, that fact is, they become big stories, and, again, the spotlight on tennis, I just -- we both love this sport so much.
The Australian Open, years ago, Roger Federer called it the happiest lamb because people are coming off of their vacations in the Maldives, and
they're all fit and healthy again, and they have had their training blocks, and now it's nice and sunny, and you're not taking your dog out of the snow
So, for this to happen to -- just a couple of days before the Australia Open, we don't even know if this guy's going to go into play, going to be
allowed to play. I mean, yes, it's much different from the other tragedies that have happened in this sport over the last year.
But this one really stings, because it all seems so unnecessary and so tone-deaf on so many -- for so many people.
AMANPOUR: So, look, let's get to the nitty-gritty of Djokovic himself.
And let's face it. The Australian people, who've gone through really, really draconian lockdowns, probably more than any other country outside of
AMANPOUR: ... have suffered and sacrifice for two long years.
And they were very angry, the majority, anyway, according to the polls, that he might be treated differently. And the immigration minister has
sought to portray his decision as a public health matter, because he doesn't want to give oxygen...
AMANPOUR: ... to the anti-vaxxers, which Djokovic seems to be.
But I guess I want to ask you a tennis question now.
AMANPOUR: This man, this number one has equal footing in terms of Grand Slam wins with the other two greats, Federer and Nadal. Federer is not
playing. Nadal is playing.
What does this say about the actual tennis and the competition at the top of the men's game?
CARILLO: The pity, the great pity it is that Djokovic is a tremendous player.
And his flexibility is one of the best parts of his game, Christiane. You - - we have seen him all move and react and get back into the court. He's so inflexible in some ways, and the defiance he has in this case could cost
him his place in tennis history.
Rafael Nadal is going for his 21st major as well. Novak Djokovic is, to my mind, the best hard court player of all time. And I think he's also the
best tennis player of all time. But the fact that, when his obituary is written decades from now, hopefully, this could be like right up there at
the top, is -- this scandal, is just so wrong.
And, again, I feel very much for all the players who are training for the Australian Open, and no one is talking about anything. but the fact that
Novak Djokovic has turned this whole thing upside down.
AMANPOUR: We heard from Andy Murray. I mean, we didn't specifically.
He made a public statement saying, this situation is not good for anyone.
AMANPOUR: And you have kind of laid that out.
What -- you know Djokovic. I have never met him, but many reporters have and broadcasters and analysts. What is it about him that everybody wants to
like this guy, and yet there seems to be, for want of a better phrase, so many unforced errors? And now he's claiming to be the victim of all of
this. His family says he's a victim.
And it's not just this issue of being unvaccinated. It's also having apparently lied about where he was afterwards, who he met with, who he
told, whether or not he had COVID, as an exemption. It's all confusing.
CARILLO: It is.
And it's a pity, because, Christiane, he's so -- I mean, as is true of so many of us know, Novak is not one thing. He's -- apart from being a
tremendous athlete and all that, he's very intelligent. But he -- his defiance of things is at once his greatest strength and probably his
I mean, he just -- and he claims that he's not anti-vax. He considers not getting vaccinated a personal choice. But the fact is, just as you
mentioned, in December, after he knew that he had tested positive, he was out unmasked. He was giving an interview to a French writer. I mean, those
kinds of missteps make no sense when you see how focused this guy is on being the very best he can be.
And I have to say, it's not like he doesn't believe in the -- in COVID. I mean, he has given ventilators to Serbia. When Italy had its first big
outbreak -- he loves Italy, and, at times, he threw a bunch of money to that. He opened schools in Serbia. They love him in his country.
I mean, he is godlike. I wish his father would stop saying -- comparing him to Jesus Christ on the cross and that he's been crucified. Come on, man.
Don't say stuff like that. But it's very -- he's a very, very complicated guy.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed.
Let me ask you very briefly a final question. Do you think he should play, given the circumstances? And if he does play, what will that say about the
sport, about the rest of the players, about the rules, about being a role model?
CARILLO: I don't think he should play.
I wish he -- frankly, my opinion, I wish he had pulled up before the draw was made. He's supposed to play on Monday. The top half of the draw -- you
know how this works. They play the top half one day, the bottom half the other day.
So they didn't even cut him a break in saying, all right, you might have to have a couple of days of rest. I got to assume that the big night match on
Monday night at the Australian Open is going to be the number one woman player in the world, Ash Barty, as it should be.
And even -- he's breaking ATP rules as well. So, yes, I think he's actually in a lot of trouble, Christiane, a lot of trouble.
AMANPOUR: Well, nobody wanted it to be this way.
Now, Mary Carillo, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us. And we will wait to see how it plays out in Australia with these hearings ongoing.
AMANPOUR: Now, here in Britain, another scandal and another apology from the British government.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now had to say sorry to the queen herself for more boozy parties that were held in Downing Street on the eve of her
husband, Prince Philip's funeral, when the nation was not only in official lockdown, but it was also in official mourning.
Partygate shows an ongoing disregard for rules by the people who make the rules, the very same people who are making new rules that could actually
drastically set back all our civil liberties here in Britain, among these laws, a policing bill that makes many forms of protest virtually
impossible, and an immigration bill that allows the government to criminalize certain refugees and strip people of their citizenship without
It is an assault on rights like we would expect to see from perhaps authoritarian governments in Russia, also called illiberal democracies like
Human rights and civil liberties lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy is in the House of Lords preparing to vote on this very legislation. And she is
joining us now.
Welcome back to the program, Baroness Kennedy.
So let's just talk on big picture. If these bills are passed, if the House of Lords says OK, with no amendments, does this, as some critics and those
who are worried suggest, put Britain on the track to a much less liberal democracy, much drastic cutting into civil liberties?
HELENA KENNEDY, BRITISH HOUSE OF LORDS MEMBER: Oh, Christiane, most certainly.
I mean, this is one of the most oppressive pieces of legislation that we have had since the Second World War. I mean, it really is a total attack
upon civil liberties. And, of course, it's arisen because, in some ways, some people don't like demonstrations because they're disruptive.
But many of the advances that we have made in our democracies have arisen because people demonstrated. We ended slavery because there were
demonstrations. We got better workers' rights because of taking to the streets and protesting.
We protested to get women to vote and to get gay rights and to get advances on so many different fronts. And It is one of those fundamental things in a
democracy. As you know, it's one of the ways in which people give expression to their views and their thoughts. And it's the way that they
get change. And it's the way that they hold governments to account.
And once you start peeling that away, you really are interfering with the checks and balances and the important things that there are in our society
for giving voice to the public.
AMANPOUR: Baroness Kennedy, the government would say, for their part, hey, we're not stopping protests. We're just going to try to stop what irritates
the public, as you just pointed out, the disruptive kind of protest, the noisy kind of protest, the, let's say, climate activists gluing themselves
to a window kind of protest.
Is that what they are trying to do?
KENNEDY: Well, I think I think we'd all like us to put on our best Sundays and to walk quietly in particular places that they designate.
But that's not the nature of protest. Even international law has recognized that protest inevitably involves a level of disruption and noise. And this
piece of legislation is actually saying that noise should be one of the things that should be prevented, if they think that there's going to be too
Well, what international law actually does say and what our own laws have always said is that, inevitably, this might cause inconvenience. There has
to be a tolerance by society when it comes to protest, because it's so fundamental to the good working of a democracy.
And so what they're saying here now is that, the home secretary, Priti Patel, who really did bring this in because she didn't like the Black Lives
Matters demonstrations, which we had here in the United Kingdom, the taking down of a statue in Bristol, and it being rolled into the river. And some
people were prosecuted recently, and the jury acquitted them in relation to that, because it was a protest about something that went to the heart of a
community, and that really was about a man who was a really terrible slave owner and exploiter of black people.
And the history of it was so terrible. But people didn't like the idea of that. It's part of a sort of the culture wars that are going on. People
don't like the idea of extinction rebellion, protest about climate change and the environment.
And it's interesting one of the things that's happened, Christiane, is that this went through the House of Commons. And the House of Commons has a huge
majority, so they can get anything through at the moment.
The House of Lords, the house in which -- the part of Parliament in which I sit, is a revising chamber. We can't stop laws, but we can often amend and
improve on laws or try to restrain some of the excesses. It's part of the checks and balances.
And, often, we will be successful in the voting in the House of Lords. But when it was back into the Commons, it's overturned. This time, however, one
of the things that's happened is that Mrs. Patel, our home secretary, who's not a pussycat by any means, has introduced a whole lot of amendments,
government amendments, to even toughen the law further, since it's come into the House of Lords.
What she may not have realized is that, if we succeed in voting them down on Monday of -- and a couple of days next week, if we vote them down, I'm
afraid, because they started in the House of Lords, then they will come back to us, and it will be very difficult for the Commons to pass them.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you, Helena. I need to ask you a question.
Do you foresee you in the House of Lords being able to significantly defang the worst aspects of this rollback on the right to protest? What do you
predict, knowing which way many people vote, will happen to this bill when it comes in on Monday?
KENNEDY: A lot of it will depend on the crossbenchers, because -- and I suppose on Labor, the benches that I sit on, whether Labor -- Labor is
obviously debating what its position should be. It doesn't want to be seen to be sort of giving encouragement to people to topple every statue that
there is up and down the country or anything of that sort.
But at the same time, I think they're very concerned about this being a real wholesale attack on civil liberties and something fundamental.
The crossbenchers are important in the House of Lords. They're non-aligned politically. And so having them voting with Labor and the Liberal Democrats
and the Green Party and the different people in the parties represented in the Lords, even if they're Conservatives -- I think a lot of the
Conservatives in the House of Lords are going to be concerned about this too.
AMANPOUR: So there's another bill which I mentioned. That's again, another, Priti Patel bill, the home secretary, who won't talking about, who
is very, very, very conservative on many of these issues, which could criminalize asylum seekers for the first time in history...
AMANPOUR: ... and strip British citizens without their knowledge of their -- even without their knowledge of their British citizenship.
This stuff is kind of happening under the radar. There's been no protests in the streets about it. Everybody's talking about Partygate and Boris
Johnson and this and that.
Let's say it goes through this. Does it just survive the length of this government, or is this then law for the foreseeable future?
KENNEDY: It will go on to the statute books, and then it will depend on a government, some government of some other complexion in the future deciding
that some of this has to be changed back.
I mean, I'm a civil liberties lawyer. I'm a lawyer who cares about these things. And I thought, when Labor was in government, and they occasionally
did something that I didn't like with regard to law, then I took a stand.
This is on a level and with such a sort of real attack on some of the fundamentals, that is shocking to even people on the Conservative benches,
particularly lawyers and former judges.
And one of the things about that immigration bill, the idea that you criminalize people who are fleeing from persecution -- I have recently been
involved in trying to evacuate women judges and prosecutors from Afghanistan, and they're currently in a European country.
And the law, as it's being created, would have made it very difficult for them to come here now, some of them, because they have already landed in
somewhere that is considered to be the first landing spot.
So, if you land somewhere, you're supposed to stay there, and you're not allowed to move on. The other thing is, there are no legitimate routes. And
so all of this is about, if you come here, and you have paid someone to be -- who's -- to help you to escape, then you're going to be considered
illegal, and you are committing a criminal offense.
And so you will not get asylum, and you will not be allowed into this country. But you will also be criminalized. That is a complete affront to
the refugee convention. And so it's as if Britain is somehow retreating from some of our international commitments, some of the things that we --
we have really liked to imagine that we were the great protectors of these civil liberties, that we were the -- one of the nations in the world and a
very old democracy that protected these things.
And I think it's particularly worrying, in our present world, that Britain should be reneging on these very fundamental things, freedom of expression,
freedom of assembly, the right to protest. These are things that are about democracy.
And you only have to look at the way in which protest is dealt with in other places to know that it will give great comfort to the tyrannies of
the world if they see Britain going down this road too.
AMANPOUR: Baroness Helena Kennedy, thank you so much.
You are just highlighting for us the creeping authoritarianism even in the most Western of democracies.
AMANPOUR: And we turn next to the United States, because all of this a stark reminder as America prepares to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.
Civil rights was a North Star for the trailblazing actor Sidney Poitier, who died last week at the age of 94. Poitier he was the first African-
American to win a best actor Oscar in 1960 for "Lilies of the Field." And, in 1963, he joined his fellow actor and iconic civil rights campaigner
Harry Belafonte for the March on Washington.
Here's what Belafonte just shared with us about him.
He said: "Some losses are endurable, and some are just not. I miss Sidney more than I had ever anticipated, but I would rather have had him in my
life the way we were than to not have had him at all. We shared a lot of mischief-making and history-making. I dearly miss those times together."
Words from Harry Belafonte.
And to discuss Sidney Poitier's incredible life and his legacy, I'm joined by the actors Laurence Fishburne, whose starring roles span from
"Apocalypse Now "to "The Matrix." And, also, Frankie Faison, joins us. He was directed by Poitier in "Hanky Panky."
So, gentlemen, welcome to the program.
It's an amazing person who the world has lost. And I know that he crossed your paths in different ways.
Laurence Fishburne, let me ask you first what you took from Sidney Poitier. You have described him as a bit of a mentor. Tell me his impact on you
LAURENCE FISHBURNE, ACTOR: Well, thank you for having me, Christiane.
There's so much to say about Sidney. First, I would just like to express my condolences to his family, Joanna, his wife, his daughters, his
Sidney was my North Star, both as an actor and as a man. He was a sterling example of how to move through the world, specifically as a black man, but
as a man in general. His humanity and his compassion were full.
I mean, he was absolutely the gold standard for me in terms of what it meant to be a human being in the world.
AMANPOUR: In many of the obituaries, your name is mentioned, because he says that he believed that he kind of paved the way for you and for many
others who came after him.
Do you feel that way? I'm talking specifically as an actor and as a star.
FISHBURNE: Specifically and as an actor, indeed.
I mean, without Sidney, I certainly would have been -- would not have been able to do the things that I have done, myself, Denzel Washington, Samuel
Jackson, Forest Whitaker, Wesley Snipes, I mean, I can keep mentioning names, and there were guys that came before us, guys like the late Ivan
Dixon, who performed with Sidney in many of the movies and was a dear friend.
So many of us owe a great debt to Sidney.
AMANPOUR: And, Frankie Faison, you were slightly older, if you don't mind me saying, and you would have been around when he got -- older, rather --
when you got his Oscar in 1963.
And you were directed by him. Tell me about your personal experience with him, and particularly what that meant, that moment when he won that Oscar,
the first ever black actor to win a best actor Oscar.
FRANKIE FAISON, ACTOR: Well, I was at an age that was -- I was a teenager. And I was also pursuing acting through my school. I was very interested in
And Sidney Poitier was the person that allowed me to feel that I could become an actor and become a successful actor. And when he won the Academy
Award, it was just outstanding. I mean, I think I laughed, I cried. It was a brilliant moment in the history of black arts entertainment.
And I don't think that he was just a person who paved the way for me as an actor. I think that Sidney Poitier was the way for me as an actor. And
everything that I have done, I'm always -- especially in film and television, I'm always feeling a bit of Sidney Poitier's presence, and the
need to do the right thing and to do it well, because he was such a tremendous influence on me and just about any black actor from my
AMANPOUR: Look, I want to put something to you. I mean, obviously, it's the clip that's been heard around the world, or, as the director said, the
slap that was heard around the world.
And that's "In the Heat of the Night." We're going to play this clip. No spoiler alert for somebody who may not have seen this film. But we're going
to play this clip that was extraordinary, given -- well, it was extraordinary. Let's just play.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POITIER: Some people, well, let us say the people who work for Mr. Colbert, might look at you as the person least likely to mourn his passing.
We were just trying to clarify some of the evidence.
Was Mr. Colbert ever in this greenhouse, say, last night about midnight?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Even I got excited about that just now. It is just remarkable and electric to watch that.
And, of course, let's just remind everybody he was a detective. He was being asked to help solve a crime in a small town. And he was going to
question this paragon of the community. And we saw what happened.
Do you remember, Laurence Fishburne, when you first saw that and what impact it had on you?
FISHBURNE: I remember the impact it had on me. I remember feeling a sense of righteous kind of indignation, I think is the word.
But since seeing it when I was a boy, it's one of the films that I return to, that I visit quite often. Sidney's performance in that movie, and that
moment, in particular, as you say, it was the slap that was heard around the world, and he insisted on it being a part of the film.
The meaning is very clear, that he is standing up for himself as a man in that moment. And it's something that I think all of us who've seen it have
carried with us for all of our lives.
AMANPOUR: And, Frankie Faison, not just a man, but a black man, he clearly bore that burden on his shoulders.
And what was -- what was the impact on you?
FAISON: Well, the impact of that slap was, I view it in two different ways, one as an artist and one as a man.
And I think, as an artist, he was doing exactly what he felt that was necessary for him, for that character to do. And, as a man, I think the
weight of it was tremendous as well, because it was him defending -- not defending himself, but being who he was as a man, being an equal.
And at that point, I do remember and recall not thinking of Sidney Poitier as being a black man. I mean, he's a black -- he's a man who is black and
who is an actor, but as a person, one to one, face to face, dealing with this situation head on. And he dealt with it in the only way that he could
do it as a man and as an artist.
So, it was riveting for me, that whole -- that whole incident, that whole situation.
AMANPOUR: And, again, when do you remember how many decades ago that was.
And I want to play an excerpt from an interview he did with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air." And this was back in 2000. And he spoke about this scene and
about his philosophy about what he would and would not play in a movie.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
POITIER: Those kinds of moments were never found in American films, from the inception of films in this country.
That kind of a scene, which would be electrifying on the screen, was always either avoided, not thought of. And I insisted that, if they wished my
participation in the film, that they would have to rewrite it to exemplify that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Laurence Fishburne, you are a major film star. And I wonder how that resonates with you.
I have heard him say it, now Sidney Poitier, I have heard Cicely Tyson say it to an interviewer before, that they would never take roles that
demeaned, in her case, women, black women, in his case, demeaned the dignity of people, and especially black people. And he stood up for that
and would not play those kinds of roles.
Did you ever find yourself in any compromising situations that you would -- I don't know, that you wished that -- or whatever -- that you could have
FISHBURNE: I understand, Christiane.
For me, I was so fortunate to have examples like Sidney and Cecily and James Earl Jones that I was sort of given a directive by them to really
seek out ways to portray African-American people, the community that produced me in ways that would demonstrate and illustrate the best of us,
even if that meant I was playing a gangster, for example, which I have done several times. It's not so much what you do, it's the way that you do it.
AMANPOUR: Let me play a little clip that we have from "A Raisin in the Sun," that's another film that Sidney Poitier starred in, it also was a
Broadway film play that he was in. We have a little film clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNEY POITIER, ACTOR: Baby, nothing happened for you in this world unless somebody gets paid off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walter, leave me alone. Eat your eggs, it's going to be cold.
POITIER: See, a man say to his woman, I got me a dream. She says, eat your eggs, they're getting cold. A man say to his woman, help me, I'll take a
hold on this world somehow and she says, eat your eggs and go to work. I tell you I got to change my life because I'm choking to death and all you
say to me is eat these eggs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Frankie Faison, you have said that that film, that play had a profound impact and influence on you. What was it about the story and about
Sidney Poitier's performance?
FAISON: Well, I had the honor of, you know, playing the role as most black American male actors have had, if they were lucky, and what it meant, it
gave me a way to move forward in telling the truth of a situation no matter how painful it was. And he found himself in the situation where he was
being compromised in many, many ways but he found the only way to come out of that was to be truthful in who he was playing this character and who he
was in this play.
And throughout my whole life, this has been -- had an impact that has propelled me forward to do -- to speak the truth in everything that I do
and to be -- know that I have to be held accountable for the kinds of work and characters that I play, and I would never play something or do
something that I did not feel have credibility in moving forward in people understanding the lifecycle of whatever you're doing and the human cycle of
who you are, and he taught me that.
AMANPOUR: What was he like as a director, Frankie?
FAISON: I tell you, it was -- his intensity as a director is the same thing that he amplified as an actor. It was just -- you know, when he
smiled, whenever -- and he didn't smile a lot, but whenever -- and he was with Gilda Radner and the other funny guy, I can't even remember his name
now, I'm sorry, I'm having a moment.
AMANPOUR: It's all right.
FAISON: But anyway, when his smiled, it just burst and erupted. And throughout that whole process of working with him, I'm like -- I can't even
remember because it was so powerful and so impactful for me to actually be in the presence of working with this man, this icon. And -- but it was --
it's a moment that I will cherish forever. And like I said, he was an exceptional man, he was an exceptional artist.
AMANPOUR: That smile and that stare that he was very famously known for. I want to ask you, Laurence Fishburne. You know, when you listen to the
interviews both Harry Bellefonte and Sidney Poitier who were the two big black stars at the time and who also had their incredible civil rights
activism as well, made a huge difference, but they both talk about how they had to sort of get roles in between their money-making activities.
For Poitier, it was dish washing. For Harry Bellefonte, he was, you know, moving garbage around and collecting garbage from a particular apartment
building back that he was hired back. You know, these men, these people had to do really difficult things to able to pursue the love of their life,
which was the arts. How does that -- how do you respond to that?
FISHBURNE: Well, I take great inspiration from it. The fact that they were willing to do whatever was necessary to sustain themselves as human beings,
and at the same time, never losing sight of their goal to become actors, to represent themselves, to express themselves and their communities with
dignity, with intelligence, and compassion and grace. That has always been inspirational to me. And as I said at the beginning of this interview,
Sidney was the North Star for me.
AMANPOUR: I want to read something. We've got a couple of minutes left. I want to read from his first autobiography which is called "This Life." And
he's talking about that moment when, you know, he was nominated for that Oscar and what if he won it. He's saying, think, Sidney, think. Time is of
the essence. Whatever I say up there must be the truth first and it must be something intelligent and impressive that will leave the people in that
room and the millions watching at home -- leave them all duly and irrevocably impressed with the intelligence and decorum of one black actor,
It's so revealing because it does, you know, obviously go to the fact that he had all those expectations on his shoulder. So, very quickly, I guess,
you know, can you like -- what do you think about that, that reflection from him? First you, Frankie.
FAISON: Well, I mean, I have no idea. I could never imagine the kind of pressure that was on him at this point because he would have to stand up
there in front of millions of people being the first black male actor to receive this award and the responsibility that fell on his shoulders to
represent the whole black community and -- but he was a man who was built for this challenge. He accepted it. And he did an amazing job. He
exemplified everything that you could ever expect from a person in that situation. So, my hat is off to him.
AMANPOUR: Our last 20 seconds, Laurence. And, of course, it was not until 2002 that the next black actor got Best Actor and that was, of course,
Denzel Washington. Speak to the pressure that Poitier felt back then.
FISHBURNE: I believe that he had a real understanding of that -- you know, that cliche of to whom much is given, you know, much is required. And I
think he lived up to that. He lived up to the challenge and he understood that what he was doing was bigger than just himself. I mean, it was -- his
responsibility was to people worldwide and I think he walked that path with grace and with dignity, and I'm tremendously grateful that he did.
AMANPOUR: Laurence Fishburne and Frankie Faison, thank so much for your really heartfelt and important and, of course, interesting reflections.
And, of course, Hollywood did have to go its own -- go through its own reckoning after Oscars So White, there's been a bigger attempt at
diversification, but it's not all there yet.
Now, on the issue of civil rights, manipulating district voting boundaries or gerrymandering is dividing the nation. Republicans suggest that the
process is not that bad. But in a recent "Washington Post" op-ed, Michael Li, who's one of the foremost experts on this issue says, that's a
Here he is with Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Mr. Li, thank you so much for talking with us.
MICHAEL LI, SENIOR COUNSEL, BRENNAN CENTER DEMOCRACY PROGRAM: Yes. I'm glad to be here.
MARTIN: The Democrats have been saying with increasingly strident terms that something is desperately wrong. I mean, they've gone so far as to say
that, you know, democracy is at stake, and Republicans have said the opposite. They say that Democrats are exaggerating, that they're
hysterical, that there's nothing to see here, they're just tightening up some things administratively and that this is sort of par for the course.
So, the first question I have for you, is something wrong with the way the maps are being drawn, the way, sort of, elections are being administered,
the way the legislation is moving to change the way elections are ministered?
LI: Well, you know, there's certainly is something wrong. And, you know, gerrymandering is, you know, the bridging of maps. You know, the United
States, we redraw maps every 10 years after the census and the purpose of that is to make sure the districts are equally populated. That's a
requirement of the constitution and it's also an opportunity for states to make sure that maps comply with laws like the voting rights act.
But for a bunch of our history, it's also been an opportunity for mischief, for people to put their thumb on the scale and to try to tilt a map in
favor of themselves, in favor of their party or to discriminate against disfavored groups, in particular, racial minorities. And that's what they
call gerrymandering, and that's something that we've done, you know, throughout our history from the very, very beginning of the country, but it
is something that's getting worse because it is easier now to draw maps that have a really pernicious effect and make sure that they stick.
You can literally draw tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of maps in a matter of hours. Take North Carolina, for example, which a 50/50
state. A perpetual battleground. Last decade, Republicans drew a map that had 10 Republican districts and only three Democratic ones, right, which is
widely skewed. Democrats, you know, could win 50 percent of the vote and only end up with a quarter of the district. And, you know, Texas is, I
think, perhaps the most egregious example of this where, you know, under the old maps, Democrats got 36 percent of the seats in Texas. Under the new
maps, they got 37 percent of the seats in Texas. So, very little change.
But under the new map, there are no competitive districts. In fact, if Democrats got 58 percent of the vote, they would still really be locked
into the same 37 percent of seats. And to put it more simply, Texas, you know, could turn deep blue and it is still -- Republicans would have almost
a 2-1 advantage in the congressional delegation. And it bears noting that, really, all of these gerrymanders are accomplished heavily at the expense
of communities of color.
MARTIN: How does this work if the districts have to be of roughly equal size? How is this possible?
LI: You know, I think when the Supreme Court first imposed the equal population requirement in the 1960s, many people thought, well, that will
be the end of gerrymandering because districts have to be equal size and there's only so much, because before what happened is that the district was
not equally populated. Some districts have way more many people than others, and that's how people gerrymandered in the past.
But it turns out that if you just sort of artfully draw lines, you can achieve a really bad effect. And Texas is, you know, a prime example where,
you know, communities are split apart really very ruthlessly in order to achieve, you know, this dynamic, right, (INAUDIBLE) for example, Latinos in
Suburban Dallas are pulled out of the district that they're in right now and placed into a district that is mostly rural.
And so, there are only a small part of the rural district. And so, that they will elect, you know, a Latino preferred candidate and instead, you
know, it's white rural voters who will dominate that district. And that's really sort of how you accomplish this. And, you know, you really slice and
dice and recombine voters in very artful ways.
MARTIN: Can we talk about Texas for a minute? Just talk about Texas just a bit more since you know it well. Like give us this example of how -- what
the effects of this extreme partisan gerrymandering in Texas have been, like give an example of how many districts do you think there should be
that are competitive versus how many are there?
LI: Yes. In Texas, you know, Democrats really have been limited to about, you know, 36 percent, 37 percent of seats and, you know, you'd think a fair
map would be somewhere closer to, you know, 45 percent or 48 percent of seats, you know. And, you know, I think this is true across Texas, these
maps. It's certainly true at the congressional level but I think, you know, you really are looking at the legislative level and perhaps it's
You know, if you had fairly drawn state house maps in Texas, there's a reasonable chance that you would have a Democratic State House now instead
of Republican State House. And if that were the case, it would be unlikely that the Texas legislature would have passed laws like the abortion law
that it passed in 2021 that went up to the Supreme Court because Democrats would not have passed that law. But instead, because you have gerrymandered
maps, you know, you are seeing really distorted legislative outcomes because a party that doesn't -- you know, the maps are skewed in favor of a
party that, you know, isn't really sort of Texas, right?
In a lot of ways, Texas is very diverse. It's one of the youngest states in the country. But that just doesn't -- isn't reflected in the way that maps
are drawn and the product of those maps
MARTIN: And what about voter suppression? This is something that has become -- you know, almost a mantra and that's -- among Democrats and
activists. This is not to, you know, diminish it but they have been increasingly alarmed about what they see as aggressive tactics to suppress
Is -- first of all, is that accurate? Do you feel that there has been a concerted effort to suppress the vote, to keep certain people from voting?
And if so, what are they?
LI: Well, voter suppression really is sort of a cousin of gerrymandering, right? Gerrymandering, you know, is designed to predetermine what the
election results are. With voter suppression is designed to is to make it harder for you to vote through any number of ways, you know, to make it
harder to register to vote, to cut the number of polling places and to, you know, require you to bring certain limited forms of ID in order to vote.
Voter suppression really is like a death by a thousand cuts. Like any of these things by themselves, you might say, well, you know, that's not
probably not going to have a significant effect. But when you look at it cumulatively, it really is a rolling back of access to the ballot box, you
know, in really, I think, in response to the record turnout in 2020 if some of the, you know, demographic changes that are being reflected now in
And so, I think, you know, people -- you know, there are people, frankly, in our country who are scared of the changing America and want to suppress
it, you know. Now, in a rational world, what they would say is, gosh, you know, there's a lot more black voters or Latino voters or a lot more Asian
voters. We should go out as Republicans and go compete for those votes. We should try to figure out how we should win our chair of those voters by
appealing to those voters. But instead, but what they've decided to do is, we're going to try to negate those voters' votes either through
gerrymandering them out of power or by making it harder for them to vote.
MARTIN: But what about the whole question of, like, drop boxes, for example? I mean, this is an example of where Republicans argue that they're
actually trying to make things easier. In Georgia, for example, which is one of the places that the current Justice Department is looking at, that,
you know, in 2024, major metropolitan counties with large numbers of black voters had 111 drop boxes. Nearly 60 percent of the absentee ballots that
returned were placed in a drop box.
Now, the new law mandates the use of drop boxes in all counties. But it places a limit on the population size or the number of early voting
locations. So, the poor counties surrounding Atlanta would be limited to a total of 23 drop boxes. This is according to the Atlanta Journal-
Now, it is rare these days for people to kind of get in a room and say, we're trying to keep black people from voting. I mean, you know, good luck
with finding somebody to say that. So, how would you argue that something like this is really intended to be racially discriminatory?
LI: Well, I think you look at the impact on communities, right, and you look at sort of where the cuts are, at like many places around the country,
for example, when you talk about polling place cuts that are occurring at the minority communities, right, you know, and the same thing, you know,
you have to look at where drop boxes are and, you know, where -- you know, and the reality is like -- you know, like, for example, we saw really long
lines, you know, heavily in minority communities, right, in 2020.
I don't think lawmakers enact laws ignorant of the impact or at least they shouldn't. And, you know, when it's brought to their attention, to say,
hey, this is going to have a disproportionate impact on certain types of voters, you know, then I think you have to take into account. If you don't
take into account, I think that you can be held responsible for that.
MARTIN: And what do you say to the argument that this isn't racial, it's political? Even for people who are willing to admit that the intention here
is to advance certain people over others, what they will say and I've heard Republican activists say is, no, this isn't racial, this political. It's
our goal to advantage Republicans. And too bad, if more white people tend to be Republicans, sorry, but it's not racial, it's political. What do you
make of that argument?
LI: Well, certainly, that is the argument that is going to be made in redistricting cases around the country this cycle, really, thanks to the
Supreme Court's ruling that partisan gerrymandering is OK. So, if you discriminate against political opponents, the Supreme Court has said that
the constitution doesn't bar that or at least the courts can't enforce that.
And so, you know -- and even though those -- you know, the resulting maps are like really racial discriminatory because the Supreme Court has set up
its very artificial binary, if it's politics, it's OK, if it's race, it's not OK. And the danger is that, you know, if courts aren't willing to probe
closely, they may just get away with that because, you know, it is really, in a lot of ways, very false fight (ph), you know, it's either race or it's
politics, right? It's not some kind of fusion of the two, right?
Why should either be OK, right? You know, like, why should political discrimination be OK? Like, you know, like, why should politics be that
hardball. And particularly, when you look at states like Texas or Georgia where, like, the maps really have a racially discriminatory impact or in
North Carolina. In North Carolina, a third of the black members of the North Carolina State Senate could lose election in 2022 because of the way
the maps are redrawn. And fifth of the Biden members of the North Carolina State House could lose reelection in 2022 because of the way the maps were
You know, I think, you know, as we become a more diverse country, you really have to look yourself in the face and say like, why are we allowing
this? Like why do we not allow all of America to really be at the table, you know, particularly, these groups that accounted for almost 100 percent
of the country's population growth?
We already are a multiracial country. The question is whether we can become a multiracial democracy. And, you know, that's the real challenge. And, you
know, like we are not going to be a strong country if we don't include everybody at the table.
MARTIN: And I recognize that part of your task, Mr. Li, is to describe what is, and your vision of what the way it's supposed to work as opposed
to the way it does work. But I'm wondering, you know, what the argument might be for those who just don't care about this. I mean, who think that
it's just fine, you know, the strong do what they will, the weak do what they must. You know, (INAUDIBLE). And if they can make these maps work, if
they can make these maps drawn to their favor and then they can hold on to power, then that's perfectly fine. I just wonder, what would you say?
Well, I would say two things. I mean, I guess, you know, first, you know, America's only going to get more diverse as time goes on. It's not going to
stop getting more diverse. So, you know, at certain point, you have to deal with America as it is.
And second, I would say, like, you know, like it ultimately -- you know, like if you don't sort of, like, start -- try to compete for the votes of,
you know, a more diverse America, you're really, ultimately, consigning yourself to oblivion, right?
There are districts, for example, in Texas and Georgia that Republicans -- that -- where multiracial coalitions are increasingly being really
effective in, you know, electing candidates or coming close to electing candidates, and those are dismantled in redistricting. Minority voters are
-- parts of them are pulled out and stuck in a different district and parts are left in the district but they're backfilled with more conservative
rural white voters. And that may buy Republicans some time.
But in, you know, a more rational poll, Republicans would leave the district as it mostly was and start say like, gosh, you know, we only --
you know, we're only -- you know, we only lost this district by 10,000 votes. Let's try to find 10,000 Latinos or Asians or black voters who will
vote for us and win it. And so, they would start building their own multiracial coalitions to compete with Democrats' multiracial coalition.
But instead, Republicans have decided that they're going to be the party of white people. But the problem is that white people are declining. You know,
a number of white people in the country fell last decade for the first time in our country's history, will fall again this coming decade by all
And so, you know, really like, you know, Republicans are playing a game, but they're playing a short game because the long game, you know, doesn't
favor that kind of tactic. And the sooner they realize that, the better off they will be as a party and the better off we will be as a country.
MARTIN: Did Democrats gerrymander too? I mean, there are states in which Democrats do control the voting apparatus. Are they engaged in some of the
LI: Lots of evidence in our history shows that both parties, if they have the sole power to draw maps will draw discriminatory maps. You know, like,
I think, you know, like leaving, you know, power in the hands of politicians, it's just -- it's a little bit too tempting not to use. And
so, Democrats do gerrymander.
You know, this decade, they will be at a disadvantage in that because Democrats control the drawing of only 75 congressional districts.
Republicans control the drawing of 187. So, there's a lopsided disadvantage. And, you know, many of the states that Democrats draw maps in
are states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island where they already control all the seats. So, you know, there is no opportunity for Democrats to like
(INAUDIBLE) seat in Massachusetts or Rhode Island because they already control everything.
And so -- and the other thing is, you know, like Democrats, like, you know, sometimes tend to be a little bit worse at gerrymandering. Both parties
would gerrymander but Democrats tend to be a little worse at gerrymandering because they tend to be a little bit more aggressive when they do it. So,
the essence of a good gerrymandering is that you don't draw districts that your party wins by 80 percent because then you're doing it inefficiently.
What you want to do is you want to draw districts at your party wins by say like 52 or 53 percent, because then you're spreading voters out and
maximizing the number of seats you have.
Democrats sometimes do that too aggressively and spread them out too thin. So, if there's a big shift, sometimes they end up losing seats
unexpectedly. So, both parties will gerrymander. Republicans have tended in the past, at least in the past, not very long. But Democrats have tended in
the past to be a little bit less effective at it than Republicans.
MARTIN: Now, before we let go, we're speaking at a time when Congress is battling over the freedom to vote act and the John Lewis voting rights
bills. President Biden travel to Atlanta along with the vice president to give an address concerning these issues and to (INAUDIBLE) urge the Senate
to move forward on this, to make this happen.
What would these bills do to address -- I mean, as briefly as you can, what would these bills do to address the issues that we're talking about?
LI: Now, these bills would do a lot. You know, in terms of redistricting, they would ban partisan gerrymandering by statute, which close loopholes
that Republicans are using around the country to defend racially discriminatory maps they're claim that, yes, these maps have a
disproportionate impact on Latino and black and Asian voters, but we really just discriminating against Democrats by having a statutory ban or partisan
gerrymandering, that excuse would be cut off.
But it also -- the new bill also would strengthen protections for communities of color and really sort update the voting rights act, which
was written, you know, 60 years ago, right? And so, the voting rights act written for a very different America. It was written literally for black
and white America where there weren't sort of like -- you know, most the country was either white or black, there weren't many Latinos and very few
In 1965, when the voting rights act enacted, you know, maybe 7 percent of the country was Latino or Asian. It's, you know, close to a quarter. Now,
it will be close to 30 percent in a decade. Most people's color now in the metro areas of the country live in the suburbs, not in the cities, right?
And the voting rights act doesn't necessarily work very well in the suburb just because it was not designed for that kind of world.
And so, these bills would update that in critical ways and help make sure that our democracy works for the 21st century multiracial America that we
MARTIN: Mr. Li, thank you so much for talking with us and sharing this expertise.
LI: Yes, I'm glad to be here.
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Remember, you can always catch us online and on our podcast. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.