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Interview with European Commission Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans; Interview with Former Chief Speechwriter for Barack Obama and "Grace" Author Cody Kennan; Interview with Pulse Nightclub Shooting Survivor and Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon Wolf; Interview with LGBTQ Australian Football Player Josh Cavallo. Aired 1:00-2p ET
Aired November 22, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Amanpour". Here is what is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANS TIMMERMANS, EUROPEAN COMMISSION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT FOR THE EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL: We've lost a year, and we don't have a year to lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Humanity runs out the clock on climate change as the COP27 Summit manages to make no progress on fossil fuels. I speak with the E.U.
Climate Chief Frans Timmermans. Then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If we can find that grace anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Declaiming the defined presidency. Obama's speechwriter, Cody Keenan, discusses his time at the White House in his new book "Grace".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDON WOLF, PULSE NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING SURVIVOR AND PRESS SECRETARY, EQUALITY FLORIDA: Moments like this when another community is under
assault, it brings it all rushing back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A survivor of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub mass shooting talks to Hari Sreenivasan about the attack on a Colorado gay club, and rising hate
speech in America.
And finally, as the FIFA World Cup runs on, Qatar's draconian clampdown on LGBTQ advocacy in the spotlight. My conversation with Josh Cavallo, one of
footballs' few openly gay players.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
This is the make-or-break decade, but with what we have in front of us is not enough of a step forward for people and planet. That is the verdict of
the European Union's Climate Policy Chief Frans Timmermans, after an underwhelming COP27 in Egypt.
While progress at that latest climate summit was made on compensating developing nations for the loss and damage caused by wealthy carbon
guzzling nations, there was no deal on the most important issue of all, emissions. A major failing that came after nations like China and Saudi
Arabia blocked a key proposal to phase out all fossil fuels.
Frans Timmermans join me from the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Fresh from frantically trying to hash out Europe's green future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Frans Timmermans, welcome to the program. Can I ask you, because you're busy negotiating, you know, expansions of the EU Green Deal, et
cetera. What do you make, now two days after the end of COP, with the results that came out of there, which is pretty disappointing on the
FRANS TIMMERMANS, EUROPEAN COMMISSION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT FOR THE EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL: It is disappointing on the emissions level, but it's
great news on the loss of damage level because we can now enter to talks with those countries most affected by loss and damage, the most vulnerable
ones, and start to devise mechanisms to support them. So, I'm very enthusiastic about that. I'm disappointed that we didn't go beyond Glasgow
in terms of our emissions reductions because the major emitters on this planet need to do more if we will -- want to have a shot at remaining at
1.5 degrees Celsius.
AMANPOUR: Which already, even the U.N. is saying, may not be a realizable goal anymore. But let me ask you about loss and damage. Obviously, you're
all spinning it or maybe not, presenting it as a success. And yet, you obviously cannot be, you know, blind to the structural Orwellianism of this
is because it's because of the fossil fuels and the emissions and not raining them in, that you then have to pay loss and damage to countries
like Pakistan who have no carbon footprint.
So yes. Fine. Great. But the initial problem is not being tackled. And by the way, before we get to that, is there any clarity on how this loss and
damage will be paid? Is their commitment to a structure, a schedule, actual financing and funding of it?
TIMMERMANS: Well, that will have to be worked out in the next months until we see each other again at the next COP in Dubai.
But the most important thing, in my view, is that we have broken with the tradition that sets developing countries against developed countries. And
we're now talking about major emitters versus countries that emit almost nothing but suffer most from the climate crisis that's already there. And
those countries deserve support immediately.
But your point is also very relevant, that if we don't do better at emissions reductions, there's no amount of money on this planet that could
do enough to address the consequences. The dramas will be without end if we do not reduce our emissions. We are at 1.2 degrees and look at what's
happening in Pakistan, the droughts in Eastern Africa, the coastal lines being destroyed, the unpredictable weather patterns, the hurricane seasons
that last 10 months. All that is already happening now. Just imagine what would happen if we'd overshoot the 1.5 degrees.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me then play this little piece of, kind of, a desperate speech by Alok Sharma, who is the U.K. climate chief, and who had
this, sort of, wrap up a speech about what wasn't achieved at this COP. Let's just play it.
ALOK SHARMA, COP26 PRESIDENT: We also wanted to take definitive steps forward. We joined with many parties to propose a number of measures that
would have contributed to this. Emissions speaking before 2025, as the science tells us, is necessary, not in this text. Clear follow through on
the face down of coal, not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels, not in this text. And the energy text weakened in the
Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak. Unfortunately, it remains on life support.
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Timmermans, that is just so clear. Essentially, all the important things not achieved, not even written down, not even aspirational
anymore at COP27. So, is 1.5, which you all deem and the science deems necessary, actually a realizable goal?
TIMMERMANS: We're on track. We're even speeding up. And that is helping our economy, it's not hurting economy. And on top of that, we came with the
proposal on loss and damage that is different from the one that was supported by China. And this will mean that we can really target the most
Alok Sharma is right, what he said. We fought for those things. We demanded those things, but we did not get them. On the other hand, we also have to
say that when we start -- a week before the end of COP, we were even way, way back from Glasgow. We were so weak in terms of even reaching what we
had agreed in Glasgow. That worst-case scenario we were able to avoid. We are at Glasgow, but we've lost a year, and we don't have a year to lose.
That's my biggest problem.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's all of our problems and it's really disappointing, I have to say. And I wanted to ask you, because you mentioned COP28 which is
going to be in Dubai, that is the UAE. That is a fossil fuel nation. And this is what the French climate chief has said. This is, you know, Laurence
Tubiana, the CEO of European Climate Foundation said -- she said, the influence of the fossil fuel industry was found across the board. The
Egyptian presidency has produced a text that clearly protects oil and gas petro-states and fossil fuel industry. This trend cannot continue in the
United Arab Emirates next year.
So, what do you say to that? I mean, will this trend continue or will it not continue?
TIMMERMANS: Well, we have a huge fight on our hands, but we need to fight this fight for the sake of our children and grandchildren. But we also have
an incoming COP presidency in the Emirates that is very ambitious. Very ambitious, a declared proponent of keeping the 1.5 alive. I want to work
with them very closely. I trust them on their word that they're willing to do this. But let's see and let's work very hard.
And I count on the support of the Americans, of many other countries, that really believe in the need to do this. Again, the fight is far from over,
but it can still be won. You know, the one biggest adversary we have is despair. And we should never let despair rule us. We should keep this fight
going and then we will win.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Timmermans, I agree with you, but on the other hand one should never also blindly trust, and as Ronald Reagan said, trust but
verify about the Soviet Union and nuclear reduction. How do you trust and verify that the UAE will keep up its pledges that it's made in public?
TIMMERMANS: I have established a relationship of trust with them, I believe. I think they are genuine and honest about what they want to
But the proof of the pudding will be in the meeting. We will see in the next months. But we will work with them very intensively to make this
succeed. I trust them. I know they want to do this. And we have no choice but to persist.
You know, this can still be done. I think it is in the interest of the world's economy. It's in the interest of our citizens. But it's mostly in
the interest of those people who are suffering so terribly already in countries that cannot defend themselves and that desperately need our
support. So, let's build both back a coalition that will increase the major emitters commitments to reduce their emissions, and at the same time build
a true fund for loss and damage that will support the most vulnerable on this planet.
AMANPOUR: Well, we hope your trust is well placed. I can't help but reminding and remarking that the UAE is a safe haven of sort for a lot of
Russian activity right now, as the world seeks to sanction and prevent Russia from having activity as normal because of the war. The UAE is a safe
And so, I just want to ask you, as the west and you all try to wean yourself of Russian gas and energy, do you think that gas might be sort of
a, "Necessary evil going forward" until this war and Russia's hostage taking on this and weaponizing of it can be mitigated?
TIMMERMANS: For some countries that are industrializing, especially in Africa, natural gas will be a transitional energy carrier before they can
go fully on renewables. You know, we would love to switch to renewables overnight, but that takes a couple of years before you have the right
And in that -- in the meanwhile, gas will play a role in our energy. So, you know, we can't afford to have our industries collapse because we have
no gas. We cannot afford households to be in the cold because there's no gas. So, we will have to operate on these markets. We will have to look for
other funds. But we never ever want to depend again on Russian fossil fuels. You know, once bitten twice shy. That can never happen again.
And you and I, we're both in -- first Soviet Union, then Russia, 30 years ago, we saw what happened. Actually, it formed my -- me, it formed you. I
know that. And we both know that we now have to make sure we immunize ourselves on our dependency on Russia. And that's not just for our own
interest. I think it's also in the best interest, long-term interest of Russia.
And of course, we disagree with the attitudes of the Emirates vis-a-vis Russia. But I have to say, if I look back a couple of months, we got to
blame Europeans, the west for food shortages, for all sorts of things as a consequence of Russian propaganda. Now, you see that the world is waking up
to who is really the culprit here. Putin and his barbaric war against Ukraine.
And you see that the wider world -- and this was also a sentiment I felt at COP in Sharm El-Sheikh, understands that we need to stand together. We need
to make this transition to renewables work. We need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. And I think those countries that produce fossil
fuels, such as the Emirates, need to think about how they're going to make their money in the world after fossil fuels. And this is one of those
countries that is actually actively thinking about that.
AMANPOUR: Well --
TIMMERMANS: And we have to work with them. We have to work with them.
AMANPOUR: Right. I wonder if anybody can take some actual lessons from countries that have done this successfully. For instance, Costa Rica and
for instance, Uruguay, which has had a very important, both political and scientific, decoupling from these fossil fuels to, you know, to renewables.
So, I want to end on optimistic note and ask you whether you agree with the European Space Agency, which is kind of trying to investigate whether there
can be huge solar farms in space that could actually direct warmth and electricity and heat in, you know, in the correct dimensions to the Earth
and whether that would work.
TIMMERMANS: Well, in this world where there's so much pessimism going around, I think there's so many technological innovations. Human ingenuity
is being challenged at such a level that almost on a daily basis I see new developments that bring hope. The hydrogen economy that is coming. New
sources of solar power, as you have mentioned. Wind turbines that individually can generate 50 megawatts of energy. These things are
happening and they are happening at great speed.
And we should, you know, understand that this is the hope for the future. Just imagine bringing solar power, wind power to Africa. 600 million people
who now have no access to energy will have access to energy. That's not just life-changing for them, it will change the world.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Frans Timmermans, thank you so much for joining us.
TIMMERMANS: My pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And hope can be a powerful tool for change. Just ask the former President Obama's speechwriter. His sparkling oratory lifted a nation and
made him the first black U.S. president, that's of course Barack Obama. And my next guest was often behind those spoken words.
Cody Keenan was Obama's speechwriter throughout. Writing to persuade, to celebrate, but also to mourn as the nation faced a spate of shootings.
Sadly, this has not let up. The country is reeling from a mass shooting in Colorado, this time targeting in LGBTQ safe space, Club Q. Five people were
killed, another 19 were injured on Saturday.
In his new book "Grace", Keenan recounts efforts by the president to console when a white supremacist killed nine black parishioners during
bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina back in 2015. And Cody Keenan is joining me now from New York. Welcome to the program. So --
CODY KEENAN, AUTHOR, "GRACE" AND FORMER CHIEF SPEECHWRITER TO BARACK OBAMA: Hi, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: -- that speech at that church by President Obama was one of the most affective and affecting of his presidency. So, I just want to start by
asking you when you see what happened over the weekend in Colorado, how would you start to pen some unifying, consoling message for a president?
KEENAN: Well, it's gut-wrenching every single time. You know, the first thing we would try to do after a eulogy, and it's awful to say this, but my
assistant actually had a checklist of things we would look for. You know, find some heroes. Find some great stories that you can at least, kind of,
rally the country around at the beginning of the speech and memorialize the victims.
But then what President Obama always wanted to do with eulogies was save the back half for more of a sermon to talk to people about what are our
obligations now that this person is gone. What are our responsibilities in their wake.
AMANPOUR: And do you think he was different from other presidents or public figures in that regard? Do you think his sense of the cadence and
dividing the speech, as you say, into this front half and then the back half, was specific to him?
KEENAN: He had a unique ability as a writer to do that, and as a performer. You could almost adopt a preacher cadence, you know. One of the
things that was so extraordinary about the Charleston eulogy is it was really a black church service on national television with a black
president. Eulogizing a black preacher and using that language to weave together a vision of American exceptionalism and progressive traditions and
faith altogether into this quintessentially American event that most people do not see.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's just -- because, you know, I know many people remember it. So, let us play a little snippet of that. You had written a
speech and then President Obama ad-libbed in song, or maybe not ad-libbed. We'll ask you on the other side, but it was so powerful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Amazing grace. Amazing grace. How sweet the sound? That saved a wretch like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Cody, it never disappoints and it never gets old. So, first of all, let's talk about "Grace", that's the title of your book. That was the
theme of this speech. Tell me where that came from, how you made that into, you know, the central theme of this, which was a eulogy.
KEENAN: Yes, what's interesting is President Obama didn't want to give a eulogy. And selfishly, I did not want to write one. We had done over a
dozen at that point after other mass shootings. And after Republicans in Congress blocked a background checks bill after the shootings Newtown 10
years ago, the president said, you know, what do I do the next time this happens?
Charleston was a real test of that. And we had a pretty heated debate in the Oval Office as to whether or not he should speak at all. He said we
have run out of words. And that's never really true. You can find inspiration anywhere. And grace came from the families of the victims two
days after the massacre. They all went to the killers' arraignment. And one by one they went up, you know, through their tears, through their grieve
and anguish, forgave him, which was the staggering thing.
KEENAN: I -- it wasn't something that I don't think I could have done. And that sort of changed the way we all watched that week and that's what
inspired President Obama to go down and speak and to make it about grace.
AMANPOUR: And so, I said ad lib. Did you know -- did he know that he was going to sing? Was that factored in? Was that, OK, now, Mr. President you
say grace and then you wait and you sing "Amazing Grace".
KEENAN: Yes, that is not the type of thing you write into a speech. That was his idea. He -- I'm very honest about this in the book. He did more
work on that speech than maybe any other speech in the White House. I worked as hard as I could to try to get it right.
He had said, you know, write about guns. Write about the confederate flag. Write about race and wrap it all up in grace. And I just kind of looked at
him and said, OK. And I did my best. And we were also -- that week, we were waiting on rulings from the Supreme Court on Obamacare and marriage
So, there was a lot going on. And I gave him a draft the night before and I knew it wasn't quite there. And he called me back to the White House around
11:00 at night and he had completely rewritten the back half by hand and he included the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" and actually built out the structure
of the speech around them.
And on the morning of the speech, which is the final day in my book, the Supreme Court ruled and favored marriage equality. We boarded the
helicopter to fly to Charleston, and he handed me the most recent copy and he said, you know, if it feels right. I might sing it.
AMANPOUR: Again, it's -- it is remarkable. I just want to ask you because we do have a picture, actually, an image of an Obama speech. Red penciled
and rewritten and, you know, it was by your predecessor, Jon Favreau in this case, but what is it like to be, you know, so heavily edited in some
cases by the president who's such a good writer and such a good speaker himself?
KEENAN: Yes, he would remind us all the time. He was the best speechwriter in the country. It was actually great to receive edits from him, because it
meant that you gave him something he could work with. And that's really his dictate to us. He always said this is a collaborative endeavor. You know,
we're collaborators. I just want you to give me something I can work with.
And that was never really -- we always ignored him because we wanted to get him something great. We wanted to impress him. We wanted to get him
something perfect. And sometimes we just couldn't do it. But he could always take speeches to a higher place than we could on our own.
AMANPOUR: And also, he had, sometimes -- I don't know, maybe to you it wasn't strange or sort of abstract, but he would say things like, go and
read some -- I don't know, James Baldwin. Go and listen to some Miles Davis. I mean, Lord above, what do you do with that?
KEENAN: Yes, he told me -- I was stuck on a speech. He was scheduled to give a speech on the 50th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech from
the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which you are just set up to fail, you know. You are not going to top that speech. And when I -- another
speechwriter went and asked him for advice on it and he said, read James Baldwin if you're stuck and listen to John Coltrane if you are not. We're
like, what? Same with Miles Davis.
I -- they helped. But, you know, I joked about it, but he -- before any big speech, we would sit down and talk with him. You know, what's the story
we're trying to tell? What do you want to get across here? And whenever we really needed a lift, he would jump in and help out.
AMANPOUR: So, away from the atmospherics and some of the humor, there were obviously, and particularly Charleston, you know, it's just so deeply
important these issues. That was, as you say, wasn't a eulogy. It was really a sermon. It was also consoling. It was also about grace, reflecting
on those incredible survivors who had forgiven this horrible assailant.
But you mentioned, you know, marriage equality passed in the Supreme Court. Obamacare had passed. And you wrapped some of the book in -- and I believe
it's 10 particular days in June 2015. What set those 10 days apart from the rest of the time you are there?
KEENAN: It's a sheer magnitude of events that happened that week. It was, you know, the Supreme Court ruling for Obamacare and marriage equality. And
it was the shooting in Charleston. It was what the families did in that act of grace. It didn't actually inspire some Republican governors to quietly
bring down the confederate flag around the south.
And every event in the book went right at the question of, who we are as Americans? What do we believe in? Do we actually believe that all of us are
created equal? And what are we willing to do to prove that true? You know, are we willing to stand up to bigotry, white supremacy, racism, misogyny?
Are we willing to guarantee that people who work, you know, two or three jobs have health insurance? Are we willing to guarantee that our gay
brothers and sisters can marry who they want just like we can?
And all of those things came right to the forefront of America in those 10 days. And you see, you know, still kind of this tragic tonight connection
between, you know, the murders in Colorado Springs over the weekend. Those people were targeted and killed for who they are. In Charleston, those
people were targeted and killed for who they are. You know, you saw the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, those people were targeted and killed for
who they are.
I mean, we -- this is something we're still battling with an America every single day. And I took the thesis for the book from a line that President
Obama added to his speech in Selma. He said that Selma -- and I equate that politics, was not a clash of armies but a clash of wills. It was a contest
to determine the true meaning of America.
And we're engaged in that contest every single day, whether we like it or not. And we have to stand up and we have to speak out against these things.
And we have to -- you know, there is an ecosystem on the right that pushes this stuff, that warns people that, you know, transgender and queer
Americans and gay Americans are brainwashing your kids. They are doing about teachers too.
It was only a matter of time until something like Colorado Springs happened. And it's happened before and it will keep happening. And it can't
be a surprise, until we all push back against this stuff.
AMANPOUR: I mean, look, it must be horrible not just for the president but for you all who worked for him to see after that presidency full of grace,
in many of these instances, some of these hard won and hard fought for rights, still potentially on the chopping block, certainly, at the Supreme
Court. I mean, who knows after what they did to Roe versus Wade, what might happen to marriage equality and other, you know, equality issues.
And I just wonder -- I mean, you must have written several different types of speeches. For instance, on -- I guess, the marriage equality or maybe
the Obamacare, you didn't know exactly how it was going to go until it went. And you had to have a lot prepared, right?
KEENAN: That is absolutely right. We had four speeches prepared for each scenario. You know, and working on the speeches, what do you say to the
country when millions of Americans are about to lose their health insurance? What do you say to a country when millions of Americans are
about to be told, you don't get to get married like the rest of us?
Those were awful drafts to write. And fortunately, we didn't need to write them. But like you said, this is an ongoing battle, that's why the subtitle
of the book is, "The Battle for America". You know, the Supreme Court is looking at Obergefell again as hard as that is to imagine. And, you know,
it's like President Obama always said, progress does not travel in a straight line. It is fragile. You need to fight for it, secure it, and then
keep going for more.
AMANPOUR: Now, I'm sure you don't want to go on the record, you know, channeling President Biden's speechwriter. But what if Obergefell goes the
other way around again? What would you write?
KEENAN: You know, that's -- well, we have written it before, but you --
AMANPOUR: Yes, you have.
KEENAN: -- you know, you remind Americans that they belong here no matter what, no matter who they are. And I'm sure the Biden White House, they
still have our plans, I'm sure, for what would have happened to the Supreme Court --
AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you.
KEENAN: -- and they're -- there is a battle that will have to wage --
AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you whether that template was there for them to pick up, yes.
KEENAN: Yes, there is a battle you have to wage in the courts then. But an interesting thing here is we -- a young man on our staff was the one who
came up with the idea to light up the front of the White House in that same 10 days in all the colors of the rainbow. And someone asked him, you know,
what do we do if we lose in the Supreme Court? Then he said, then it's all the more important to light it up. And, you know, I think that's something
the Biden White House would do if this happened.
AMANPOUR: Wow. And we're showing that image right now. And by the way, it's so profoundly relevant, the idea of a rainbow because of the Qatar
World Cup happening. And we're going to address that later on in the program.
But I want to also ask you about what sort of motivated you, you know, to maybe write the book. And you trace it back to a series of tweets that you
posted in 2017. Now, this was when President Trump has succeeded President Obama. And you were responding to him. He was firing off a series of
Twitter broadsides against these issues that we've been talking about, Obamacare, et cetera.
He's how you started your own Twitter response to Trump. You said, our president is having a cynical morning. So, here's a story of the 10 most
hopeful days I ever saw and politics, capped off two years ago today. So, what inspired you to write what you called a broadside against cynicism?
KEENAN: You know, I was -- who knows what President Trump was tweeting that morning? It was just, you wake up every morning to something else
awful and absurd that would case the country to fight all day long. I had noted -- my phone, actually, told me that it was the second anniversary and
you know, I'll show you pictures.
And so, I said let's just remind people what we are capable of just two years ago. You know, what we've always been capable of. You know, the big
triumphs in that book were not just President Obama's alone. They're results of a 50-year movement for LGBTQ rights. A hundred-year movement for
universal health care. We got this 400-year civil rights movement that's still going on. You know, it's entirely up to us and in our hands. And we
don't have time to be cynical or fatalistic.
So, I -- you know, that tweet storm is the first thing that made me think, the reaction to it was that there is a book here, but I wrote it not just
because it's a great story that demands to be told. But I teach college students now at my alma mater of Northwestern University. And I want this
book to do for young people what other books did for me, and convince them that politics is worth their time and effort. It is something that is
absolutely worth going into. And --
KEENAN: You know, I teach speechwriting now and it's just -- it's amazing when I do let them choose their own topics for a speech, how many of them
choose climate change, like you last segment.
KEENAN: And gun violence. And these are things that I probably would not have written about in college 20 years ago when I was in that same
classroom. So, things will change for the better because this younger generation is demanding it. It's just a question of if we can do it in
AMANPOUR: Yes, and as you say, it's about leadership. It's about what you choose to focus on and how you put it in front of the public. So, I wonder
whether you are optimistic on whether the young people who you teach are optimistic about the fact that issues of importance, democracy and other
such important issues like a woman's right to choose, were victorious in this last midterm election. I mean, let's face it, President Biden got no
shellacking compared to your own President Obama in his midterm.
KENNAN: Yes, well that was great. I am still optimistic, and I do not see a conflict between realism and optimism. You know, realism is we deal with
the world as it is. Optimism is shooting for the world as it should be. And without optimism, without hope, you don't have anything to survive for. So,
yes, we've had a lot of losses in recent years. But again, you know, progress does not go in a straight line. And whatever team, whatever side
of the American people, whatever part of this class of wills works harder and longer and outworks the other side is ultimately going to win out.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much indeed for joining us with your book, "Grace." Thank you so much, Cody Kennan.
KENNAN: Nice to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Now, our guest knows all too well the national scourge and the deep personal pain of a mass shooting. Brandon Wolf survived the Pulse
Nightclub shooting in 2016. It was one of the worst in U.S. history. He has become a gun safety and LGBTQ civil activists since. He joins Hari
Sreenivasan to discuss the terrible violence too often directed at that community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Brandon Wolf, thanks so much for joining us. First, I want to kind of get a
temperature check, if I can. It was six years ago, back in June, you were in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. You survived, a couple of your best
friends did not when -- I guess, where are you at right now? I mean, grief takes different amounts of time for different people.
BRANDON WOLF, PULSE NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING SURVIVOR AND PRESS SECRETARY, EQUALITY FLORIDA: Yes. I mean, listen, first of all, thank you for having
me again. I wish it was under better circumstances, but the truth is that this is a scar you carry for the rest of your life. It's not a one-day
healing process, a week's long healing the process, it's a lifelong healing process. And moments like this when another community is under assault, it
brings it all rushing back, the first feeling I had was one of heartbreak.
Heartbreak in part because I know what this community is going to go through. Again, not just for weeks or months, but for years to come. I was
heartbroken for those who are going into Thanksgiving week and we'll have an empty seat at their dinner table. I was heartbroken for those who are
going into the holiday season who are going to have missing presents under the tree, a missing stocking on their fireplace. I was heartbroken for
those who, like me, probably had to call their friend's parents and tell them that their children were not coming home from a space that was
supposed to be safe for them.
And that last part is also what made me furious. I have been so angry over the last couple of days. And I think most of the LGBTQ community in this
country and around the world is in that same place. And I'm angry because we have been subjected to years of right-wing garbage, misinformation,
about LGBTQ people that has cascaded across this country. We have been subjected to horrible and disgusting tropes. We have been accused of posing
a threat to children simply because we exist on planet earth. And all along we told people what the inevitable consequences of that unbridled hate
LGBTQ young people told us that their schools were less safe than ever. Two thirds of them, in a recent study, said that the recent political climate
has had a detrimental impact on their mental health. All along we told them that someone would have to pay the price for their short-term, cynical,
political goals of building careers on the backs of a marginalized community. And now, we have five dead. We have dozens injured. We have an
entire community terrorized. They are the ones who ultimately had to pay the price for that hate.
SREENIVASAN: I want to talk a little bit about how it got here. But kind of backing up for, perhaps, our audience that might be overseas or
elsewhere that don't understand why these places are significant. What is the Club Q in Colorado Springs or the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando? What do
they represent for the people that are there?
WOLF: For marginalized communities, for people under assault, safe spaces like Club Q and Pulse are lifelines. They are refuges we carve out in a
world that threatens discrimination and violence against us every time we walk out the door.
Listen, Pulse Nightclub was one of the first places I ever held hands with someone without looking over my shoulder first. Pulse Nightclub was one of
the very first places I wore my skinniest pair of jeans and danced with both left feet without being afraid of what someone would call me. Pulse
Nightclub was a place where I could exhale, where I could be all of myself in a world where people told me that that probably would never be, you
know, a right or a privilege afforded to me. Pulse Nightclub was a place where I could be me. I know Club Q was that same way. And when you invade a
place like Club Q or Pulse, it feels like you have invaded all of them.
SREENIVASAN: You know, in response to Saturday's shooting, you tweeted, and I want to read, we don't know a motive yet. But let's be honest, the
anti-LGBTQ hysteria being whipped up in this country has had me checking over my shoulder more than I have in six years.
Tell me about that kind of, well, I guess, lack of safety that you feel. Why do you need to look over your shoulder right now? What is the fear?
WOLF: Well, it's a scary time to be in LGBTQ person in this country. I live in the State of Florida, and it's not just, you know, the extremists
in different parts of our state that have been whipping up this anti-LGBTQ frenzy, it's powerful people in our state. It's the governor of the third
largest state in the union who has trafficked in some of the darkest and ugliest tropes in the books. And by the way, he has continued to do that.
People, right-wing influencers around this country, have continued to do that even as the temperature has risen.
People are afraid because there are armed protesters showing up to drag branches (ph), places where, you know, we are just having a mimosa, eating
eggs with our friends, have now become the front lines of a battle, a culture war. People are afraid because there are white supremacists being
arrested outside of Pride Festivals in places like Coeur D'Alene, Idaho threatening to commit acts of mass violence. People are afraid because
children's hospitals in Boston and other cities have suffered bomb threats over the last couple of years, having to install metal detectors in airport
security like terminals to keep people safe in those hospitals.
And people are afraid because, at the end of the day, we know where this rhetoric takes us. It's not the first time the LGBTQ community has found
its back against the wall. And it's not the first time we have seen the deadly consequences of this kind of hateful rhetoric. So, people are afraid
because we know what happens next.
SREENIVASAN: You know, after the Pulse Nightclub shooting you decided to sort of change your life and dive into this topic. You work for Equality
Florida, one of the largest civil rights organizations in the state. What made you take that step?
WOLF: A lot changed for me in the wake of Pulse. But one moment was really the catalyst. We had a funeral service for my best friend, Drew. He was my
chosen family, my brother, six days after the shooting and his mom asked me to be a pallbearer that day. And I was helping to push his casket down the
aisle and while I did that, I found my hand was gripping the side so tightly that my knuckles were turning white. And it's because I did not
want to let go of my best friend until I'd found the right words to say goodbye.
We got to the front of the church that day and I looked down at his casket and I made him a promise. I promised him that I would never stop fighting
for a world that he would be proud of. And that's not just a world that Drew would be proud of, it's a world that all of us can be proud of. It's a
world that treats people with the dignity and respect that they deserve. It is a world that tells young people they are perfect exactly as they are. It
is a world where people can walk out of their homes without fear of discrimination and violence.
And I took that promise really seriously. As you said, it's why I quit my, you know, corporate career and went into the work of fighting for LGBTQ
civil rights full-time. It's why I launched another organization called The Drew Project in honor of my best friend, to get resources to queer young
people across the country. I'm dedicated to that fight because I believe that, again, a world that Drew would be proud of is one we can all be proud
of, and it's one that's worth fighting for.
SREENIVASAN: You know, this past summer, Congress worked on legislation, passed, bipartisan manner, that would enhance background checks that would
-- you know, for buyers that under 21. It would hopefully implement red flag laws and prevent people from getting guns who should not have had them
in the first place. But in the wake of this tragedy, do you think that that legislation went far enough?
WOLF: Well, I've said from the beginning that that legislation will save lives, but it won't solve our crisis. It was a really important step
forward for the Biden administration to help get that over the finish line. That is the first significant gun safety legislation federally that we have
seen in three decades. That's a big win worth celebrating, but we knew from the beginning that we had a lot more to do. We still have to really address
our Swiss cheese approach to background checks. Universal criminal background checks are something that 98 percent of Americans support. They
are still not implemented here in the country.
The red flag provision that you are talking about in that piece of legislation, the federal government offered a framework to states to
encourage them to adopt red flag laws, but we did not implement a national red flag law. I think that is one way that we could solve this crisis. We
have not raised the age of purchase across the country. And I think we really need to do that. And the president agrees that assault weapons and
high-capacity magazines have no place on our streets.
The streets of Orlando are not a war zone. People don't need to be carrying assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. And I believe that on a federal
level we need to reinstate the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And I just want to underscore that those things are not radical.
Those things are not divisive. Those things are policies that a majority of the American people agree on.
And if our representatives were truly in Congress doing the work to represent their constituents, these things would be easy and they would
SREENIVASAN: You know, you are very familiar with Governor Ron DeSantis and the law that passed in Florida earlier this year that essentially bans
discussion of any gender issues for young children. What is the impact that it has had on the LGBTQ community in Florida?
WOLF: Well, I'm going to give you a really salient example of how this law could be applied. In second grade in Florida, students are required to
complete the family tree project. That is when you get a little cardboard cutout of a tree and you draw your family members on it and you get to come
in and do a presentation.
If a student comes in and has their family tree and says, on this branch are my two moms, they sometimes take me to ice cream on the weekends. And
another student says, well, that's weird. You can't have two moms. Where is your dad? The moment the teacher steps in and says, a family with two moms
is of as much value as anyone else's family in this classroom, they have technically engaged in classroom instruction on sexual orientation.
And so, you asked about the impacts of that law would be, and we've already seen them across the state. Because school districts don't want to test
whether or not that is how far parents will take it. Remember, that the enforcement mechanism allows a parent to sue the school district without
any mediation whatsoever. They've simply cut back on talking about LGBTQ people at all. We have seen books with LGBTQ characters band. We have seen
teachers told to put their family photos away in desk drawers. We have seen pride flags and safe space stickers peeled from classroom walls. We even
saw Miami-Dade County public schools refuse to recognize LGBTQ History Month this year because they were concerned that it could be in violation
of the law. Those are the impacts that that law is already having.
And we know that weighs most heavily on LGBTQ young people who are hearing a message loud and clear from their government that there is something
wrong with them and that they don't belong here.
SREENIVASAN: What is the connection between that law and what very quickly became a talking point, that if you oppose legislation like that that you
are automatically what's called a groomer, and you might want to explain that to our audience too?
WOLF: Yes. Well, thank you for calling that out. Because it's not just about the legal ramifications of HB 1557, the don't say gay law. It's also
about the rhetorical ramifications. And the instance you are talking about, the governor sent his press secretary online, because the bill was
floundering in the legislature. It was deeply unpopular. It was being railed against across the country. And he needed that political win.
Remember, it only serves one purpose, and that is to propel him towards the 2024 presidential bid. And so, his press secretary went online and began
trafficking in this age-old groomer trope. Now, a groomer is someone who essentially takes a young person and manipulates them until they are able
to complete sexual abuse against them. And when you are accusing someone of being a groomer, you are essentially accusing them of being complicit in
And so, you have the governor's office of the third largest state in our union calling anyone who supports the idea that families with two moms
should be acknowledged and recognized alongside everyone else as a pedophile. That's an age-old trope that has long been used to justify
discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people. That same language has been used to block us from becoming teachers, to stop us from adopting
children, to try to block us from marrying the people that we love. And it's also been used to carry out acts of violence against people.
That language then festered across the country, being repeated by right- wing talking heads, people on Fox News, it then it showed up on protest signs with right-wing extremists. And, of course, it shows up in the
manifestos of those carrying out acts of violence against the LGBTQ community.
Again, I come back to this idea that, this was inevitable. This was predictable. And this was exactly the circumstance we warned about from the
SREENIVASAN: Brandon, I just want to remind our audience that this is not an issue limited to Florida. According to the human rights campaign, a
record 340 anti-LGBTQ bills were filed this year in 2022. 25 anti-LGBTQ bills were enacted around the country. And 17 anti-transgender laws were
also enacted across 13 states. And I want to, you know, hear a little bit about specifically the focus on transgender laws focused on teens, focused
on individuals. Why do you think that is right now?
WOLF: Keep in mind that a lot of the right-wing strategy is baked in confirmation bias. It is baked in the hope that people don't understand
what it's like to be someone else. And so, the right-wing, specifically extremists, can make up from whole cloth what those lived experiences are,
and they can reduce those people, stripped of their humanity, and turn them into in -ism, right? They can turn them into an ideology that is attempting
to indoctrinate and persuade your children.
This is not a new phenomenon. And really, the right-wing did not go to sleep after LGBTQ communities won progress across the country. It's not
like in 2015 when the Supreme Court decided that marriage equality would be the law of the land, that all the people who were vehemently opposed to
same sex marriage suddenly went away or disappeared. They went back to the drawing board. They went back to their focus groups, their war rooms, and
began to ask the question, how can we turn back the clock on LGBTQ equality?
And so, they began to make up from whole cloth stories about transgender people to scare people. And I also want to underscore that these stories
they've made up, the hysteria that they've whipped up across the country is simply not true. The things that they say are happening in schools are not
actually happening. The things that they accuse transgender people of being, transgender people are not. They are your neighbors. They are your
family members. They are small business owners. They are doctors. They are performers. They are the people who live in our society every single day.
And by the way, they are the most likely to be the victims of hate violence in our country.
It is shameful that, once again, we have right-wing actors in America who are hoping that everyone else doesn't know what it's like could be
transgender, and as a result, they can make up stories to turn them into the boogeymen of tomorrow.
SREENIVASAN: Sunday was supposed to be the Transgender Day of Remembrance. And this year, according to the Human Rights Commission, at least 32
people, trans people, were violently killed. Why is the violence affecting trans people, and really trans people of color, so particularly?
WOLF: I -- my heart breaks for the transgender community because they have been saying this for a long time. They have been begging for people to see
them, to hear their cries for help, to treat them with dignity and respect. And the way we combat it, again, is to humanize them. I think about, you
know, the way which people see transgender people, especially black trans women, when they are applying for jobs. The way that people see transgender
people, especially black trans women, when they are visible in the public, when they are owning businesses, when they are dropping their kids off at
school. The fact that they face such vitriol and hatred every single time they walk out the door means they are at risk every single time they walk
out the door. And that is made worse when powerful people in this country continue to inflame that hatred.
All of that violence is weighing most heavily on that community because we have fostered a hostile hateful environment toward them. And we have to do
some serious self-reflection about what kind of country we want to be moving forward if we believe that their lives to really matter.
SREENIVASAN: Brandon Wolf of Equality Florida, thanks so much for joining us.
WOLF: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, to Qatar where homosexuality is illegal and any sign of pride is unwelcome. Some supporters wearing rainbow colored
clothing at the FIFA World Cup are reportedly being turned away from the stadium following FIFA's ban of team captains one of armbands. Germany's
Football Association has lost one of its sponsors, and a senior German minister calls the ban a big mistake.
The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said that it's concerning while speaking alongside the Qatari foreign minister in Doha.
Now, when he came out last year, Josh Cavallo became the only openly gay top-flight football player currently playing. And he's joining me now from
Adelaide. Josh, welcome to the program.
Josh, I know that it's practically before dawn there. Your team is about to play after our show ends. But I want to first start by asking you, what it
was like? I mean, it is extraordinary that you are the only, as I qualify, top-flight professional player who's come out. What were the repercussions,
if any, for you?
JOSH CAVALLO, LGBTQ AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL PLAYER: Yes. Look, I think it's clear what the repercussions shows that we have a long way in the football
world at the moment through the World Cu and a lot of the issues that's coming up and arising, it's -- it shows that there's a lot of problems that
we still got to overcome in the future with making football an inclusive environment for everyone to feel safe and to play.
AMANPOUR: But did you personally have any backlash?
CAVALLO: Personally, yes, I did have backlash. But that's the thing for me, what got me through are the messages I get every day on a daily basis,
whether it's from moms, from children, from grandparents, and to see that my story helped influence them and change their life for the better, and
helped save their lives, I -- you can bring all the hate you want, as long as I'm saving lives, I will continue doing what I'm doing.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, that's really an important statement. And I want to read what you have posted, because, you know, you were obviously very upset
over the FIFA threat to give yellow cards to all of those team captains who wanted to band together to support, you know, tolerance and sexual
identity. You have written, FIFA, I love my identity. You have lost my respect. You have shown that football isn't a place for everyone. The
attacks on the LGBTQ plus community from World Cup leaders affects so many who live in silence because of your draconian ways.
I mean, how could FIFA do that? And also, how could those football players decide to sort of bow to the band?
CAVALLO: Yes. Look, I commend the seven nations for wanting to embrace inclusivity in the World Cup campaign, you know. The allies that supported
me a year ago are coming out, like, it's at these times where we need to see who meant the support, that they actually show it, you know. FIFA, you
know, has a responsibility to look after all the football players and fans. And it's clear that they don't stand for the lives and the liberty of the
Look, it's -- I'm disappointed in FIFA. They have made me feel excluded. It's just sad to see, because in 2017, FIFA implemented human rights policy
that obligates the governing body and everyone in the game to protect human rights, you know? Following that just in June, you know, I remember the
Pride Month (INAUDIBLE) being displayed all over their social media accounts. So, stating football, you know, is a place for everyone, an
inclusion, it is an important principle of the game.
So, it's -- then seeing what is happening, as we speak, as you've said, fans being turned away from the game, and for having colorful clothing or,
you know, teams being forced to being removed the word love from their jerseys, simple things like that, or being banned to wear an allied captain
armband, like it's the one love armband where -- to promote inclusion, to send a message against discrimination of any kind or form. So, it's very
disappointing to see how FIFA has behaved in this World Cup.
AMANPOUR: After our interview, after this program, your country, your nation, will be playing. Australia will be playing its match against
France. Do you expect the captain to wear the armband? Do you know what they plan to do? Would you have done it had you've been there?
CAVALLO: If I had been there and I had been the captain, yes, I would have worn the armband. I'm not ashamed to be who I am. And it's exactly the
reason why I've come out and to be the person I am today. You know, representation is so important and there's so many people watching these
games, you know, that it just shows that FIFA's intentions are not to make a place -- football a place for everyone, you know. We have families
watching, we have the next generation watching. FIFA needs to do better. It's the world game.
AMANPOUR: So, do you expect your captain to where it?
CAVALLO: Yes, I do. I do expect my captain to wear it.
AMANPOUR: I just want to read you this. Adam Crafton at "The Athletic" wrote yesterday that captains, "Receiving yellow cards in full sight of
global television cameras would have represented a historic moment for gay representation both within football and in the Middle East."
So, he is saying that to those who say, well, it might -- maybe not be fair to expect top-flight players to risk yellow cards at World Cup.
CAVALLO: Yes. Look, it's definitely concerning because it's FIFA putting them in this position where it's like they are going to be risking a World
Cup, something that we trained for as professional athletes and dreamed to represent our country at the world stage. And now, it's going be getting a
punishment for doing something that is inclusive and doing something that involves everyone in the world game. Currently, this is a World Cup, and
we're not acting like it's World Cup.
AMANPOUR: And just very finally and quickly, it's almost a bit like a bait and switch, because all of a sudden, these things are happening at the last
moment. You know, there was a lot of concern about people going and there were some sort of effort by Qatar said, no, we will be OK. We will let you
have beer at the stadiums or we won't be heavy-handed against LGBTQ community. And then all of a sudden, they have cracked down.
What does this mean when sports wants to go to other countries which have questionable human rights, you know, records?
CAVALLO: Yes. Look, it's definitely concerning, you know, when the Qatari and World Cup ambassador stated that LGBTQ plus is damaged in your mind, it
simply sends a clear message yet to everyone around the world that the LGBTQ community is not welcomed. You know, the message I feel like I'm
receiving from FIFA and World Cup leaders is that, you don't belong. When I would rather hear FIFA say, we've got you.
So, it's something like that we need to look out for the countries that we are going to and we're having these fantastic tournaments at.
CAVALLO: It's so important on the location, to make sure it's an inclusive environment for everyone across the world.
AMANPOUR: It's a really important moment, a really important lesson. And, Josh Cavallo, thank you so much for coming on and sharing those important
And we remain hopeful that we can get that sitting Qatari official on the program to discuss this and other issues.
That's it for now though. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.