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Interview With "Pelosi In The House" Director And Nancy Pelosi's Daughter Alexandra Pelosi; Interview With Columbia University Professor Of Physics And Mathematics Brian Greene; Interview With "Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy" Author And New York Times Journalist Elizabeth Williamson. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 14, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.


NANCY PELOSI, U.S HOUSE SPEAKER: Are they calling the National Guard?


PELOSI: If they stopped the proceedings, we will have totally failed.


AMANPOUR: As the January 6th Committee finalizes its long-awaited report, a new documentary offers a behind the scenes look at one of the rioters'

main targets, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her filmmaker daughter, Alexandra, tells me about capturing her mother's story and the brutal attack on her

father, Paul. Then.


JENNIFER GRANHOLM, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF ENERGY: This is one of the most impressive scientific feat of the 21st century.


AMANPOUR: But what exactly is nuclear fusion and how soon could it unlock new hope for our planet and clean energy? Columbia math and physics

professor Brian Greene breaks it all down for us. And.



own nation calling you a liar and a fraud and saying that this horrific loss did not happen to you was just devastating to them.


AMANPOUR: The Sandy Hook massacre 10 years later, journalist Elizabeth Williamson tells Hari Sreenivasan how that school house tragedy became a

watershed moment in the spread of disinformation.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I am Christiane Amanpour in London.

After more than a year of investigating, the January 6th Committee has announced that it is near the finish line. Next week, it will release its

final report about the attack on Capitol Hill. And at its last public hearing, it will make criminal referrals to the Justice Department.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a prime target that dark day. Her office was ransacked and some rioters hunted around the capital, looking for her and

then Vice President Mike Pence. They were all there in Congress to certify Joe Biden's election. A new documentary called "Pelosi in the House"

features this phone call between the speaker and the vice president as the insurrection unfolded.


NANCY PELOSI, U.S HOUSE SPEAKER: How are you? Oh, my goodness. Where are you? God bless you. But are you and -- are a very safe? We're in that -- we

are still not safe enough for us to go back. We have been told it could take days to clear the Capitol. And that we should be moving everyone here

to get the job done. We are at Fort McNair which has facilities for the House and the Senate to meet. We'd rather go to the Capitol but it doesn't

seem to be safe. We've gotten a very bad report about the conditions of the House floor with defecation and all that kind of thing. OK. And then call

us back. OK. I worry about you being in the Capitol. Don't let anybody know where you are.


AMANPOUR: The woman behind the camera is Pelosi's own daughter, Alexandra, an Emmy nominated filmmaker. Her father, Paul, survived a vicious assault

in October at the hands of a man asking, where is Nancy? The very same question that insurrectionists were yelling that day inside the Capitol.

The documentary shows her mother's fight to preserve democracy in the face of danger. It also tracks her stunning rise from homemaker to House

Speaker, the first and only female to hold that office. And Alexandra Pelosi joins me now from New York.

Welcome to the program. I just want to ask you first, as a daughter, how is your father? We saw him make his first appearance in public, you know, at

the Kennedy Center Honors. But how is he?

ALEXANDRA PELOSI, DIRECTOR, "PELOSI IN THE HOUSE" AND DAUGHTER OF NANCY PELOSI: Well, physically, he's getting better every day. But traumatic

brain injury is not something that goes away. There's a lot of PTSD. There's a lot of -- you know, this is still very raw for our family. And I

think our whole family is very traumatized because we have been so numb to these threats that have been coming -- I mean, literally, since she first

became speaker 20 years ago, we've been getting these threats for decades now.


I mean, my own children have had death threats. In FBI affidavits, there are clear crazy people that just really have put a big huge target on my

family. And the fact that they actually succeeded with my father, it's really a lot to process.

And so, I think he's still very traumatized. And I think the road is a very, very long road to recovery. It's not something where he's just going

to wake up one day and say, oh, I feel better now. It's a lot. Plus, today is the first court -- you know, it's all in court now about what happened

that night. So, we're going to have to relive it when we have to listen to the 9-1-1 call and the body cam. All of that stuff is going to happen in

court and the family is going to hear all of that stuff. So, this is all very raw for us still.

AMANPOUR: And clearly, as you say, the family has been traumatized. You, yourself, got up and went immediately accompanying your mother from

Washington to San Francisco as soon as you heard the news. Tell me about --

A. PELOSI: Well, that --


A. PELOSI: That was something that -- we didn't know if he was going to have brain damage. We didn't know if he was going to live. We didn't know.

No, that was probably the most terrifying day, you can imagine. He really was lucky. The doctor said, centimeters from death.

You know, it really was a -- it was a hammer attack -- an 82-year-old man alone in his own home, attacked in the middle of the night with a hammer. I

mean, there's not -- and more than once, you know, there are lots of blows. It's a lot to, sort of, process. So, it was a very -- I mean, we -- it

ended well. I mean, he got his head fixed. And now he looks like Frankenstein, but it's still a lot to, sort of, -- going through that whole

process, I think, is something that we -- I haven't slept through the night since it happened. I mean, it's still a lot.

AMANPOUR: I can only imagine. I mean, it's just so awful. And all of us who have covered your mother's career and watched from afar know of the

relentless, you know, attacks on her character that finally led to this point. And it is chilling to hear that they were shouting in your home,

where is Nancy, when we heard them in your documentary and, you know, that day when all the footage came out. Where is Nancy? They were hunting her


So -- I mean, you have said and others have said that -- and she has said that this is really the final blow for her political office holding going


A. PELOSI: Well, you have to remember that, if I take you back to the beginning of January, the first week of January, someone put a bloody pigs

head on my parents' doorstep, on my childhood home, there was a big -- this was over the holidays, right, and spray-painted the garage and all that.

So, that was the week of -- leading into January 6th.

So, we go to Washington for -- where she was being sworn in as speaker. And this is a ceremonial event that the family always goes to, the whole family

goes. All families go to these things. So, I was with her for the day that they were going to certify the election result.

And when the Capitol police took her out of the -- you know, she was at the roster room, just going through the script of how we certify the election

results. The security came in and they removed her from the podium. She didn't even have her cellphone with her. She was just taken out of the

building. She didn't even want to be removed from the building because she's like a captain, she wanted to stay, you know, with the ship. She was

not happy. She was -- there's footage of her, you know, not -- wasn't very happy about the fact that they were taking her to an army base to get out.

But I started filming because, you know, you didn't have the clerk of the House there to record this. I'm a documentary filmmaker, that's what we do.

You know, it's like a soccer player. You put a soccer ball down, what does the soccer player do? They kick the ball. Of course, I filmed everything

because that was my human nature. It was all with an iPhone.

You know, people think -- you know, conspiracy theorists say like, oh, Nancy Pelosi wrote a documentary crew to the Capitol. No, I had an iPhone

and I filmed what was happening. But she started to make calls to the vice president, as you just saw, and to all the people, the secretary of

defense, the attorney general to -- what they were trying to do was they were trying to take 435 members of the House and 100 senators and get them

from the Congress to the army base to certify the election results.

So, they were going to do this -- they were going to complete what it says in the constitutions, this is how it goes, they were going to complete that

task that night no matter what. And so, that's what I was filming, was how they got -- you heard in that call, what she's trying to do is saying,

should we bring everybody here to the army base --


A. PELOSI: -- or should be go back to the Capitol. And as you know, they've got to go back to the Capitol. So, that's the whole --


A. PELOSI: -- yes, go ahead.

AMANPOUR: Yes -- no, no. Exactly. I mean, just the fierce fight to defend democracy at its most endangered moment in memory was captured incredibly,

incredibly poignantly by what you did. And of course, by so much of the other footage we've seen. But some of it, obviously, we haven't seen

because you had the iPhone and you were with her the whole time.


I was struck, I have to say, by the fact that she was so solicitous of Vice President Pence. And it -- maybe he was solicitous back, I don't know. But

he clearly asked how she was. I was struck by how she was talking to him. She pulled down her mask, you know, she pulled out something to eat. I

mean, all these normal, natural reactions. But solicitous of, essentially, a political opponent who, along with the president, he served had demonized

her. How does it work in Washington?

A. PELOSI: Does it work in Washington? I mean, there is definitely a disconnect, and this has been sort of my whole life's work. I've made 14

HBO films. These are all, sort of, around the same topic which is how people behaved in private, compared to how they behaved at the podium. And

there's definitely a disconnect.

You know, last week I went to Washington to see my old friend, George W. Bush, because he and I -- I made a film about him in 2000.


A. PELOSI: It was my first documentary, it was called "Journeys with George". And I went to go see him because I consider him an old friend.

Despite all of the -- I wouldn't agree with him about anything politically, but I've always considered him to be a decent human being, despite the Iraq


And I brought my mother along. And you would have thought it was a buddy film, the two of them were getting along so well. Now, they had bitter

fights. She voted against the war. There were people protesting, living outside of our house for the entire Iraq war because they were angry that,

you know, even though she voted against the war, there were people living outside of our -- the protesters -- this whole idea of protesters living

outside of our house. We've just been living with that forever, it seems.

So, they still got along as human beings because even though they didn't agree, they still had respect for the institution. He's the president.

She's the speaker. And they come from political families and they understand that there has to be some respect. That's what we lost with the

last president. There was zero respect for the office of the presidency. Zero respect for the -- for anything in the Congress.

And so, the reason why January 6th was such a tough day for Nancy Pelosi, I think, is because her father was in Congress and she thinks of the capital

as the sacred temple of democracy. This is like the most sacred place on Earth to her, right. She's been in Congress for 35 years. She thinks public

service is a noble calling.


A. PELOSI: And so, for people to break the windows and break-in and literally poop all over the place is really what, I think, offended her on

her inner soul.

AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean --

A. PELOSI: That makes me think --

AMANPOUR: -- absolutely. And you talk about George Bush and, again, in the film, it's very interestingly portrayed because, of course, he was the

president when she became house speaker, the first female. And he paid that tribute to her saying, you know, for the first time, I have the honor to

say Madam Speaker. And there really did seem to be a reflection.

And in the film, she says to you or -- I think, she says to you that, you know, many, many sons have followed their fathers into Congress or into

wherever. But I am the first daughter to follow my father into this position. And that was, of course, when she was first elected to the House,

I believe it was 1987. Being a woman has also been fundamental to what she has -- I guess, I'm asking you, to what she has lobbied for. Things like,

you know, the Affordable Care Act. She has been, you know, incredibly vociferous and passionate about doing that kind of legislation that

benefits families and children as well as everybody else.

A. PELOSI: And that's the hardest part for our family to deal with now. Because we -- my children -- and I have teenagers, right. My 16-year-old

was with me in the Capitol on January 6th. Then he kept saying, why do all these people want to kill Mimi? He's trying to understand what has she done

that is -- that has led to this actually leaving us in the ICU with my father.

I mean, what is it that you can point to? I understand if you don't agree with her politics and half the country doesn't. And that's fine. And I

understand that if you watch Fox News, you hate Nancy Pelosi, because if I watch Fox News, I would hate Nancy Pelosi, too.

I don't know how it goes from hating her and hating her politics too, I'm going to go break into her home and attack her husband or break into the

Capitol and literally poop all over the place. And that, to me, is the effect of social media. How social media has destroyed the fabric of our

society. And how I feel we have to ask -- she's so -- she loves to talk about defending democracy, but I have to ask, I mean, is it even a

democracy if such insane conspiracy theories can be spread?

And the kind of misinformation, it's -- there's no civility left. I really worry about the future of our democracy. See, when she went to Congress the

first time, there was no social media. We didn't have these misinformation machines spreading all this toxic misinformation.


So, it's really a scary time. And I guess, you know, you're asking about what did she do in her career? When I was sitting in the ICU with her, the

first day, I said to her, if I had known that this is where was going to end, I never would have let you go to Congress in the first place. Because

this has really had damaging long-term effects on my family. But I don't know if it was worth it.

AMANPOUR: That's interesting because I think your father chimed in at that point as well and sort of -- I mean, maybe not in the ICU, but since, about

why she did --

A. PELOSI: Yes, since then.

AMANPOUR: Yes. About why she's done it.

A. PELOSI: And my father defends her decision and her career. And says, well, I understand. My whole family would say it. If she came to us today,

if we could roll back the clock, if she came to say, in this social media environment, I would not ever recommend this life.

AMANPOUR: Which is a really --

A. PELOSI: This is something not for the faint of heart.

AMANPOUR: Yes, which is a really sad thing to do because actually, as you say, like her politics or not like her politics, the legislating has been

very, very effective and perhaps, you know, more effective than perhaps any man -- I don't know, since Lyndon Johnson. I'm not sure. But anyway, she's

clearly very, very effective.

And we see in one of the clips her whipping the votes for the Affordable Care Act. And, you know, she said, famously, that -- you know, some people

count sheep when they sleep. I count votes. She was taught by her father and her brother, both elected officials, to always do the math. And here's

a little clip.


N. PELOSI: I don't know why he thinks that this is OK to vote no on this. He said to somebody he expects to get a pass from the Speaker. Well, he's

thinking of a different Speaker. I don't give out passes.

WENDELL PRIMUS, POLICY ADVISOR: The Speaker was very masterful about rounding up members who had difficulties with the Affordable Care Act for

whatever reason. She had to persuade those members, kind of, one by one that they had to go on to the bill. You do not take it to the floor for

debate until you have the votes locked up.

N. PELOSI: I have a little disturbing report that he said he expect to get to get his pass on this. (INAUDIBLE) especially on something as

(INAUDIBLE). No, but I mean, this is -- it's -- this is a declining moment for the Democrat. This is why we elect a Democrat. This is why we are here.

You know, you can't just feel like taking the end of it. But it's just the recognition of saying, I'm not on this team. It has to be some (INAUDIBLE)

especially when we vote like this. I don't want to take opinion (INAUDIBLE).


AMANPOUR: I also find your filmmaking quite interesting because you often take her from -- you know, you film her from the back. You often pan across

to see the children because your children are often there and other children are often there. And she managed to mix being a mother and a wife

and a grandmother with being the most powerful elected woman in American history. How did that change her to you as a mom, maybe?

A. PELOSI: Well, you know, that is the Ginger Rogers part of her life, is that she had to do it backwards and in hills. She has five children, nine

grandchildren, and she still has to be a grandmother and a mother. We don't just give her a pass because she has a day job.

But the thing about filming from behind her back, you know, this film was not authorized. Nancy Pelosi never signed a release. It's a miracle that

HBO even aired it because she never gave me permission to make the film. And she saw the film for the first time at the National Archives on Monday

night. And so --

AMANPOUR: OK. What did she say?

A. PELOSI: -- I was always filming and this is decades, decades of filming.

AMANPOUR: What was her review?

A. PELOSI: I think that --

AMANPOUR: Because, look, I mean I was stunned that she let you take pictures of her in her pajamas, no makeup, you know, lying back on her

pillows or whatever, talking to leaders, counting the votes, getting things done. But in situations that we have never seen her, you know, in public

like that before.

A. PELOSI: I don't think she ever gave me permission. I was always filming. I do everything myself, either with an iPhone or a handheld

camera. So, it's not as if I had film crews and lights and camera. I don't -- I think she just got used to me. I've been doing this for so many years.

And you showed the footage from the Affordable Care Act, none of that ever ended up in public. I'm not on social media. So, it never ended up out


So, I was feeling for so long, it was 2009, 2010. And no one ever saw it until Monday night. So, I think no one ever -- was afraid of me or

threatened or scared of me because they were used to me there and they just figured, that's what she does because she's always here and she's just

bored and she's just filming. The biggest task of all of this was editing into a story that you could watch from beginning to end because I had

hundreds of thousands of hours of footage over decades. So, hopefully --


AMANPOUR: Alexandra.


AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you, look, you are a daughter. You know, you're not a warts and all critical analyst of your own mother. You are a

daughter and you love your mother. What would you say to people who say, oh my gosh, you know, this is really -- you know, it's like a -- it's family

movie, but it's also her view, the Nancy Pelosi family view of her politics?

A. PELOSI: You nailed it. That's it. I'm not pretending to be objective. I'm her daughter. I got to be in the room when it happened. And I filmed

everything. And I thought it was a public service. It's like a civics lesson. You heard in that clip, you do not take a vote to the floor if you

don't have the votes. Well, I've seen Mitch McConnell take a lot of bills to the floor that he did not have the votes for.

I think a lot of people, especially the next generation that are coming in, they should all watch this film so that they can learn how a bill becomes a

law. This is like "Schoolhouse Rock" for the next generation. But I'm not pretending that this is some sort of, like, objective journalist

presentation. I am her daughter. But I don't know anyone that is, you know, looks at their mother with the kind of -- I mean, she's in her pajamas and

she is, you know, lounging around like a regular mother would. I mean, I -- it's not -- I don't think it's that flattering if that -- I think that

people don't --

AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, that's why I wanted to know what she thought. Last question, what was her review when she finally saw the film?

A. PELOSI: I think she was just very nervous. She was at the edge of her seat the whole night. And so, I don't think she even knew what to make of

it. It's very hard to look in the mirror. It's like how your daughter sees you. I don't know. I think she's pretty uncomfortable with it but she

hasn't said anything. She's smart enough not to say because she knows I'm the off-message daughter. She knows I will go and tell everybody what she


So, she's just keeping her view to herself so that -- you know, this is -- families are a complicated ecosystem, you know.


A. PELOSI: They're like -- so not everybody in the family -- we don't all agree.


A. PELOSI: You know, we don't all drink the Kool-Aid. It's not as if we're all in some cult war. We all have the same opinions. We all have our own

worldview and this is just my take. I'm the youngest of five.


A. PELOSI: And this is the way I see my mother. I'm sure if you ask my sister, she would have made a completely different movie.

AMANPOUR: And I thought it was very funny because you kept saying, I want you to -- I want to crack you. I can't crack you. You're a tough nut to

crack. So, it was fascinating. Thank you so much, Alexandra Pelosi. "Pelosi in the House", it is now on HBO and HBO Max. Of course, that's part of

Warner Bros. discovery, which also owns CNN.

In her more than three decades in politics, Nancy Pelosi has made protecting the planet as well, one of her key issues. And a new report out

today underscores the urgency of the matter. The International Rescue Committee says that climate change will accelerate humanitarian crises

around the world next year.

So, this week's scientific breakthrough on nuclear fusion has been hailed as a clean energy game changer. But my next guest says, it is not all that

clear. It's not a silver bullet. Brian Greene is a professor of mathematics and physics at Columbia University and he's joining us now from New York.

Welcome to the program. Brian Greene, you are known for making very difficult subjects accessible. So, everybody got extremely excited. You saw

the secretary of energy in our clip earlier, you know, talking about how this is going to change the way this whole notion is looked at. What is

fusion? What is nuclear fusion first and foremost?

BRIAN GREENE PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AND MATHEMATICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: So, nuclear fusion is a way of extracting energy that's locked up in

matter. We've done this in the past with a nuclear fission, which is taking large atoms and breaking them apart. And when they break apart, sort of,

like rubber band snapping, energy is released. But we all know the problems with fission, right? There's nuclear waste, there's meltdown and so forth.

Nuclear fusion is a cleaner form of nuclear energy where you take light atoms, like hydrogen, plentiful atoms, and you meld them together. This is

exactly what power is. A star like the sun. And when these atoms meld together, some of their mass is converted into energy.

Einstein's famous E = mc2 comes into the story here. When that mass is converted into energy, we can then harness that energy, in principle, like

the sun does to create energy that we need here on planet Earth. That's the basic idea of the science.

AMANPOUR: So, I feel like a but is there. So, if people say or ask you, I mean, is it -- where does it stack up? Penicillin, electricity, you know,

the combustion engine. What -- how big of a breakthrough is this?


GREENE: Well, nuclear fusion, if we could truly harness nuclear it and have fusion power plants around the world, if we could have the kind of

fusion power plant that you saw, perhaps, at the end of the film, "Back to the Future", Mr. Fusion sitting on top of this futuristic vehicle, if it

could harness that energy then this would be a huge, huge breakthrough.

And what's happened now is for the very first time, and this is a big scientific breakthrough, the scientist at Livermore Laboratory have been

able to get more energy out from a fusion reaction than they directly put in. And this has been kind of the gold standard. When you can reach more

energy out than you put in, now, you're on the road to being able to harness this.

So, it sounds great and it is great. This is a big breakthrough. But the leap from what they've done to having power plants that use nuclear fusion

is a huge leap. And I guess I somewhat worry when I hear about thinking that this the panacea for climate change. This is the panacea for our

energy needs. Maybe 30 years, 50 years from now. I don't know.

Nobody can predict the rate of technological progress. But you don't want this to somehow mitigate in the minds of people and leaders the crisis that

we face right here right now which requires right attention. This is not the answer to our problems right now.

AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, that's always the thing, right? Every time we think we are on the verge of something, it's always a whole another group of

people who say, well, you know, we have to wait and it's a process. And this and that.

To that end, you know, professor Katharine Hayhoe, she has said -- and we've had her on this program often. Getting a lot of questions about what

today's nuclear fusion breakthrough means for climate. My answer is not much. We already have the technologies we need to decarbonize 80 percent of

the electricity sector by 2030 even's demand soars due to electrification.

So, you've explained, you know, that this is not a short-term solution. So -- OK. We have the technology, as she says. But obviously not the will,

right, then otherwise we'd be well on the way to meeting the 2030 goals.

GREENE: Yes, I mean, that's absolutely the case. And my fear and perhaps it is not completely well-founded fear but I just think that we scientists

need to be clear that this breakthrough scientifically essential and vital and the scientists need to be lauded for the decades of research that has

finally allowed us to cross this threshold of getting more out than we put in. But we need to focus on cleaning up our act today, not looking 50 years

down the road to what may well be the answer at that time.

And I, sort of, also can't help but underscore one point which is this, so the scientists, for the first time, have found that they are putting in

less direct energy through powerful lasers that caused the fusion process to happen compared to the energy that comes out. But if you also include

the energy that it required to power up the lasers themselves, if you look at, sort of, the whole shebang from beginning to end, they put in the heck

of a lot more energy to include that than what they are able to extract.

So, this is an important step. A vital moment that perhaps will be remembered, December 5, 2022 as the moment when we finally crossed this

barrier between getting more energy out then we put in for the first time. But this is the first step of many steps to get to a place where we can

actually turn this into a technology.

I mean, right now, we're able to create this experiment, you know, a couple times a week, they're able to fire the lasers into this little tiny gold

capsule that fuses the ingredients together to yield a net access of energy. But the energy that's produced, you know, can boil a pot of water.

It can keep a couple of light bulbs on for a couple of hours. That's the amount of energy we're talking about right now. To turn this into a power

plant, you're going to have to do this thousands of times a second, which is ores of magnitude beyond anything that anybody can really do today.


GREENE: So, scientifically, huge. Technologically, big leaps yet to come.

AMANPOUR: So, managing expectations, I guess, is vital. But we don't have a long time to just manage. We have to actually deliver. So, where do you

think we -- and I say we as the world, are post, you know, COP27, which didn't really -- I mean, people are very disappointed by what it didn't do

and didn't pledge and didn't achieve.

GREENE: Yes, I mean, it's absolutely the case, right? I mean, we need a focus that will view this crisis as a crisis and we need to be in crisis

mode. And it's very hard to get the world to that place.


And, you know, the problem with these kinds of issues is when you finally see the tera that the situation is going to yield, it's too late. And so,

this is a part of human nature. You need to fire people up now about a problem that's going to hit us very hard very soon.

AMANPOUR: So, look --

GREENE: And that's an issue. I don't know how to resolve that.

AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, the truth is people are fired up. It's governments and special interest --


AMANPOUR: -- who are not fired up. I mean, even business, quite a lot of it, is fired up. Obviously, not the fossil fuel business because they feel

that they, you know, a bit to lose. I want to ask you to weigh in on big oil companies and greenwashing, that's the word that the Democratic-led

House Oversight Committee used today. Publishing findings of a yearlong investigation into big oil companies saying that they've engaged in long

running greenwashing campaigns while raking in record profits at the expense of American consumers, and no doubt, consumers over the world.

Finding that the fossil fuel industry is, "Posturing on climate issues while avoiding real commitments to reducing greenhouse emissions."

You know, BP has stated it strives to be a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. Committee finds that internal BP documents show the company's

recent plans do not align with the company's public comments. I interviewed BP's Bernard Looney about this just after COP26. I'm just going to play

what he said to me on this issue and then I would like to get your take on all of this.


BERNARD LOONEY, CEO, BP: This is not a light switch. We don't turn at 112- year-old company on its head overnight. But we've carried out the biggest restructuring in our history. We've entered offshore wind, and the largest

and fastest-growing markets in the world in the U.S. and the U.K. We are involved in hydrogen. We are doubling down on electrification. We are doing

all the things that a company of ours needs to do to be part of the solution.


AMANPOUR: Part of the solution?

GREENE: I mean, you know, it sounds good. I haven't read the report. I haven't studied BP's particular business plans. But, yes, I am highly

skeptical that the approach that they're taking is going to be enough to save the world. I mean, look, even look at the U.S. government, the amount

of money that we spend on subsidies for fossil fuels dwarfs the amount of money that we, say, put into fusion research.

So, right there you see the disparity between the kinds of things that we, as a people -- at least, as a government of the people, for the people, is

actually supporting. So, it's not enough.

AMANPOUR: So, you are obviously very good at explaining, particularly these difficult things. And you do it, you know, in your day job but also

sometimes in cameos on various films and all the rest of it and. You were in the "Big Bang Theory". And I just want to play a clip where you're

playing yourself and you're being "Mocked" by other scientists. Let's just play this.


JIM PARSONS, ACTOR, "BIG BANG THEORY": Dr. Greene, question?


PARSONS: You've dedicated your life's work to educating the general populist about complex scientific ideas.

GREENE: It does, in part.

PARSONS: Have you ever considered trying to do something useful? Perhaps reading to the elderly?

GREENE: Excuse me.

PARSONS: Yes, but not your books. Something they might enjoy. I kid, of course. Big fan.


AMANPOUR: So, I get to see you and you're smiling. Yes, do -- first of all, do you like doing those things? And what is your view about trying to

teach this stuff and trying to make it accessible to people who probably don't have, you know, background in it or all the like?

GREENE: Yes, I think part of the big problem with science education is we view it as this siloed undertaking. You take your math, you take your

physics, you take your biology, you take the test and then the student leaves a classroom and they forget all about it.

And so, I've dedicated part of what I do to try to move science to the center of popular culture. And being on a show like "The Big Bang Theory",

sure we weren't covering deep scientific ideas in that little humorous exchange. but to see a real scientist talking about ideas that are relevant

to the universe, it helps to move science where it belong, which is in the center of public discourse.

AMANPOUR: Absolutely. Professor Brian Greene, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.

GREENE: My pleasure.

AMANPOUR: Now, President Obama called it the single darkest day of his presidency. Exactly 10 years ago when 20 children and six teachers walked

into Sandy Hook Elementary School and never walked out.


President Biden paid tribute to the victims today and he said, our nation is missing a piece of its soul. But the heartache didn't end there.

Conspiracy theories cast illegitimate doubt on the shooting and caused inordinate pain to the parents. Elizabeth Williamson, author of the book

"Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy", joins Hari Sreenivasan now to explore the disinformation campaign and whether families will ever receive justice

and compensations for their suffering.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Elizabeth Williamson, thanks for joining us.


SREENIVASAN: In the beginning of your book, you take great pains to point out the amount of research, the amount of interviews, the number of

interviews that you did. But I think it'll become apparent in this conversation why but why did you do that at the outset?

WILLIAMSON: Thanks, Hari. I did that because I wanted to do two things. One, establish the baseline truth of an event that, unfortunately, has

become a foundational story and how disinformation spreads in our society. And so, it's been questioned and denied by so many people. So -- and then I

also wanted to point out how many records there are out there that tell the truth of what happened on December 14, 2012. And the record is voluminous.

And the investigations have been replete.

So, I wanted to show readers of the book that, you know, there is plenty out there telling you exactly what happened that day.

SREENIVASAN: When you talk to, kind of, the survivors of this tragedy, in all the different ways that they've been affected, beyond the immediate

grief of losing their child, what does the disinformation, what has the -- what are the, sort of, campaigns of lies do to them?

WILLIAMSON: Hari, it's a significant secondary trauma that is inflicted on these individuals. I mean, they -- when they went through this tragedy one

thing that they did receive from the great majority of Americans was an outpouring of heartbreak and support and positive messages to them. You

know, people, you know, telling them that they've kept their loss in mind. That they grieved with them.

And then when you have a growing swath of Americans, of their own fellow citizens, saying that this lost didn't occur. And that -- not only that,

that this was some sort of government gun control plot and they were accomplices in the plot. So, it's sort of villainizing them and demonizing

them. I mean, that was just really difficult for them to take. Because if there's one thing that people look for when they are grieving this way, it

is the community of others. So, to have part of your community and your own nation calling you a liar and a fraud and saying that this horrific loss

did not happen to you was just devastating to them.

SREENIVASAN: You know, you write, it has happened many times since, but Sandy Hook was the first mass tragedy to spawn an online circle of people

impermeable and hostile to reality and its messengers. You basically wrote that these conspiracies, that this actually didn't happen, started so fast

after that tragedy. How did it happen?

WILLIAMSON: Yes, within hours these theories began. And I would have to place at the center of this Alex Jones of Infowars, who has an audience of

tens of millions of people. And so, he gave voice to the suspicions among misguided Americans that, you know, this was a so-called, false flag

operation. A government plot to institute draconian gun control measures.

And Jones, on his show, within hours of this shooting, put that forward. I think both sides knew of the gun debate -- rather, knew that this was going

to be a watershed moment. But what people didn't understand was that this was a watershed in the spread of these false narratives in our society. And

this is something that we've seen happen repeatedly over the past 10 years since Sandy Hook.

There was one father, Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah Pozner, was the youngest Sandy Hook victim, who has a technology background. And he did

understand that these falsehoods spreading on social media where the beginning of a trend, and we have seen that since. So, we've gone from, you

know, these false theories attaching themselves to Sandy Hook, then to most mass shootings, then Pizzagate, then the great replacement theory that led

to the violence in Charlottesville. Coronavirus myths. The 2020 election conspiracy that brought the rioters to the capitol on -- in January of



So, it really was, kind of, the beginning of a terrible trend in our society.

SREENIVASAN: You know, what's interesting is we all know someone who is, kind of, just suspicious. Might be drawn to conspiracies. And what you lay

out is also the role of the algorithms behind social media in here. These people who might have been by themselves found friends. What did that do to


WILLIAMSON: Absolutely. So, it's really important to remember and in a strange way comforting to know that most of the people who attach

themselves to this particular body of falsehoods don't necessarily believe it. But they're getting something out of being part of a group of Sandy

Hook deniers or a group of conspiracy theorists around any major event.

And that's -- that they get a chance to form a new identity from themselves. They become citizen journalists or investigators. They find

other friends. A lot of conspiracy theorists, as you point out, were very isolated before the internet and before social media. Here they find this

group of people, they become a, kind of, army of misguided people. A closed circle. They, sort of, praise each other. They embroider these theories.

They create a growing body of falsehoods and they defend them. And sometimes with confrontation, and as we've seen, with violence.

SREENIVASAN: So, tell us a little bit about Alex Jones here. What did Sandy Hook do for him? And what is his role in the spread of how these

conspiracy theories make it into the mainstream?

WILLIAMSON: Alex Jones -- for Alex Jones, Sandy Hook was, first of all, a driver of sales on his Infowars website. His business model is that he

sells products in advertising adjacent to these theories on his Infowars online and radio show. So, when people listen to his show, he pitches them

products like dried food and doomsday prep or gear for your shelter when you're preparing for the ends of times. Diet supplements and quack cures

for people who distrust traditional medicine in established science.

So, he uses these, kind of, viral theories to move merchandise. And he makes up to $70 million a year in revenues doing that. So, for him, this

definitely was a profit-making event and this theory was something that, as we've seen in court, he was tracking how successful, you know, the sales

were and the viewership was, as he spoke about this theory.

SREENIVASAN: There was an instance right after Newtown where one of the parents, reluctantly, sort of, steps up to a press lectern to address this

tragedy. What is important about, I guess, that speech, and more specifically, a few seconds right before that happens?

WILLIAMSON: So, yes, you're speaking about Robbie Parker, Hari, whose daughter, Emilie Parker, died at Sandy Hook. He was the first relative of a

victim to speak publicly. So, he was hearing from friends that media were trying to, you know, piece together the lives of all of the victims and say

a little bit about them. And he wanted that information to come from him.

So, he agreed to meet at his church in Newtown, out in the parking lot at, you know, just a lectern. What he thought would be a single journalist, but

really it was a sea of cameras and reporters and microphones. And so, when he steps to the lectern, he gave a, kind of, shocked, gasping half laugh.

And Alex Jones seized upon that, that split second, beginning what was otherwise a wrenching and heartbreaking recollection of Emilie's life. And

he used that half laugh to say, Robbie Parker is an actor and he's a fraud and he's making this up, and he's getting into character. And he played

that video snippet over and over again for years. And in so doing he turned Robbie Parker into, kind of, the face of this false idea. That these

parents and relatives of the victims were participants in a government plot.

SREENIVASAN: But where did that idea of crisis actor come from?

WILLIAMSON: That's really an interesting thought because the person who really coined that in this context was a man named James Tracy. Who, at the

time, unbelievably, was a journalism professor at Florida Atlantic University. And he had found a website in which people were offering to

help first responders rehears for the response to a mass tragic event, you know, mass casualty event.


And so, they were offering people, who they called crisis actors, to pose as victims so that firefighters and EMTs could practice triage and first

aid and evacuation. And he applied that term to the Sandy Hook families and it stuck. And it sticks to this day to a variety of people who are falsely

accused of participating in government plots, including, most recently, it was used by the Russian to describe the women who were evacuated from the

maternity hospital that the Russians bombed in Mariupol. They were calling them crisis actors. So, that just gives you an idea of the virality of

these terms and how they have come to pervade our culture.

SREENIVASAN: So, what is the cost of being called a crisis actor or being, kind of, the center of one of these conspiracies? What is the cost to the

parents of these children who were murdered in their daily lives? Do they have to deal with this?

WILLIAMSON: Yes. So, the abuse for them began online. People started going on to their personal social media pages and leaving vile comments. Calling

them actors and liars, frauds, and worse. They went on to social media pages that were created by their friends and family, both to memorialize

the victims and also to raise money for things like funeral expenses.

Then they started to confront them on the street. They showed up at their homes. They dug through their trash. They looked in their windows. They

harassed family and friends. They disrupted memorial events that they were holding to commemorate the lives of their loved ones they lost that day.

And then they began to threaten their lives. And some individuals have actually been arrested and jailed for doing this over the years.

SREENIVASAN: There have been a series of lawsuits and -- against Alex Jones. What is the state of that now?

WILLIAMSON: So, in -- as you're saying, in mid-2018 the families, in total, of 10 Sandy Hook victims sued Alex Jones for defamation in a series

of four separate lawsuits filed in Texas and Connecticut, later combined into three. At the end of last year, after nearly four years of

stonewalling, refusing to submit business records and testimony ordered by the courts, the courts in both of those states found him liable by default,

which meant that he lost those cases. He lost his ability to defend himself in court because he wasn't compliant with what the judicial system


So, that set the stage for a series of three trials for damages. One that was in Austin this summer, in which a jury awarded Neil Heslin and and

Scarlett Lewis, the parents of Jesse Lewis who died at Sandy Hook a total of nearly $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

And then a very big case brought by the families of eight victims in Waterbury, Connecticut, that negative verdict of $1.4 billion dollars for

those plaintiffs, those family members. And then there is one more damage of trial brought by Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa whose son in Noah

Pozner, and that is scheduled for March 27. Alex Jones is trying to evade these verdicts that he's already received and so he has declared bankruptcy

and so that is moving through the courts.

SREENIVASAN: So, how do we deal with that? It seems that we're in an era where disinformation and misinformation spreads a lot farther and faster

than the truth.

WILLIAMSON: Yes, unfortunately, you know, we have a lot to lay on the doorstep of the big social media platforms for that. They can spread this

material with impunity. Something needs to be done to rein in that ability to spread disinformation and not be held, you know, liable or even

responsible for the consequences when, you know, vulnerable people are harassed or when our democracy is eroded by the lies, as we saw on January

6, 2021 and in election questioning since.

So, there is some work being done to try and adjust the policies governing social media platforms so that it -- there's a disincentive for spreading

this disinformation. And then on the personal front there is some work being done developing some ways to teach people how to recognize these

manipulative viral conspiracy theories when they encounter them in the wild. When they see them online.

Because once someone embraces them for all those social reasons, it's really hard to get them to relinquish their grip on these theories. But you

can teach people to be a little more savvy and aware when they encounter them online and to be more likely to report them and less likely to spread



SREENIVASAN: Do you think that there is any step that we can take? Is there a legislative solution? Is there something about holding social media

companies responsible that doesn't trample free speech?

WILLIAMSON: If you look at the social media platforms, first of all, there is a wide misconception that this is a freedom of speech issue when a lot

of what happens here is happening on private platforms that are businesses. This is not government stifling who want freedom of speech. This is

companies saying, by spreading falsehoods, you are or inciting violence through these falsehoods. You are violating our terms of service. That is

not a violation of free speech principles.

And companies have to be incentivized, either through penalty or through some kind of positive measure to tighten the cranks on this kind of, you

know, disinformation that's spreading and causing these problems. You know, downstream problems both in our democracy and the violence that we are

seeing and the domestic terror plots that are based on these misconceptions.

So, if a company is using disinformation or viral conspiracy means to draw attention and to end -- they're pushing it out through their algorithms to

people in order to keep them online, one of the models says that that should be held as a violation of section 230, or an outright violation that

if you're actively as a company, as a very profitable, successful, business, using disinformation to draw in and reel in and keep people

online, then you should be held liable for that content.

SREENIVASAN: So, what are these families looking for now 10 years afterwards? I know some of them were party to the lawsuits against Alex

Jones but, every parent will tell you that I don't really care how much money, you're never going to give me back my kid. So, what is it that

they're looking for?

WILLIAMSON: They really are looking to alert Americans to the fact this is not something that just impacted them. That it wasn't this specifically

horrible nature of this crime that ignited these conspiracy theories, that this phenomenon is pervasive. That there is a growing number of Americans

who are willing to embrace these delusions and act on them.

And that's eroding the way our politics operates, the way we conduct ourselves online, and really how our society functions. So, that is their

message. And you're absolutely right, Hari. The money doesn't matter to them. But they want people who engage in this to be to account.

SREENIVASAN: The book is called "Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth", author and journalist for The New York Times, Elizabeth

Williamson, thanks so much for joining us.

WILLIAMSON: It's my pleasure, Hari. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And, finally, this toxic distortion of information comes at a particularly frustrating time as science driven by verifiable facts is

actually notching some winds. From nuclear fusion, as we discussed earlier, to news of another promising advance. An experimental cancer vaccine

powered by the same mRNA technology used in COVID-19 shot was effective against melanoma, skin cancer, in a critical early trial.

The messenger RNA treatment cut the risk of recurrence or death by 44 percent according to a preliminary report. The vaccine helps direct a

patient's own immune system to hunt down and destroy cancerous cells. And even more good news, unlike with nuclear fusion, mRNA base cancer vaccines

are well on their way to broad approval. Multiple versions could be wildly available within the next five years.

And just to note, tomorrow, we'll devote the whole program to the war in Ukraine. And I'll speak live to the country's foreign minister, Dmytro

Kuleba. And I'll review all that's happened in the 10 months since the invasion with Ukrainian and Russian authors Andrey Kurkov and Nina

Khrushcheva. And we'll also look back at some of our reporting from there, so do tune in.

That's it from now. And if you ever missed our show, you can always find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now

is a QR code, all you need to do is pick up your phone and scan it with your camera. You can also find it at and on all major

platforms, just search AMANPOUR. And remember you can always catch us online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks for watching and goodbye

from London.