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Interview With Former E.U. Special Representative To The Horn Of Africa Alex Rondos; Interview With U.S. Special Envoy For Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens; Interview With American Library Association President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 01, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, welcome to AMANPOUR, here is what is coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a nightmare, it was terrible. We haven't slept even for 15 days.


AMANPOUR: Thousands flee Sudan amid war and humanitarian disaster. I asked the former E.U. envoy to the region, Alex Rondos, round of what the

International Community can do to end this.

And --


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our message is this, journalism is not a crime.


AMANPOUR: -- the fate of U.S. citizens wrongfully detained abroad to take center stage in Washington as President Biden meets the parents of jailed

American journalist Evan Gershkovich, the U.S. special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, joins me.

Then, America's culture wars.


STATE SEN. PENRY GUSTAFSON (R-SC): Women have much more to consider in a pregnancy than any man on the planet.


AMANPOUR: The Republican state senator who stopped a near total ban on abortion in South Carolina. Penry Gustafson joins me.

And --


LESSA KANANI'OPUA PELAYO-LOZADA, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN, LIBRARY ASSOCIATION: Organized groups are gathering folks across the nation with lists of books

that they haven't even read to have them removed.


AMANPOUR: Book banning reaches new heights. Hari Sreenivasan talks to the president of the American Library Association about how LGBTQ, black, and

indigenous stories are being silenced.

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

We begin in Sudan where witnesses report a sixth cease-fire is being broken by explosions and gunfire. Here, you can see smoke rising over the capital,

Khartoum, clashes between the country's army and rival paramilitary groups, the Rapid Support Forces, have let shortages of food, water and medicine.

And now, doctor say that corpses littering the streets are creating an environmental catastrophe.

A mad scramble is underway to evacuate thousands from across the world who are stranded there. Many making the 800-kilometer journey across the desert

to Port Sudan. There, they are then ferried across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.

Earlier today, a ship carrying 100 Americans arrive in Jeddah, more than 500 people have been killed in the conflict, which is entering its third

week, including at least two U.S. citizens.

So, what can the International Community do? Many are looking to the United States and also to Saudi Arabia to help bring the two-warring general to

the negotiating table. Alex Rondos, the former E.U. envoy to the Horn of Africa tells me that the stakes are extremely high.

Alex Rondos, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Listen, the news is terrible and gets worse and worse out of Sudan, the humanitarian catastrophe, not just in human lives, but also in,

you know, basic services and deliveries. When you look at it, what immediately comes through your mind? What do you think is really at play?

RONDOS: It's a fight for power, obviously, but it's also a fight for control of the assets of Sudan between the military and the forces of

Hemeti. But what is also at play here is that a long-standing civil war, as it were, has reached the capital of Sudan, and that's what's frightening,

emblematically, the state risks completely collapse.

And being an urban conflict, which is what it is, you need to start thinking of scenes those of Aleppo potentially hitting a city in the Horn

of Africa. It's frightening. And I fear that the two sides seemed to have crossed to issues crossed to Rubicon. They have decided to fight it out to

the end unless somehow someone can intervene quickly. A little quickly.

AMANPOUR: Well, look, that is really interesting what you see -- what you say, that they have decided it seems to fight it out until the end. The

head of the Rapid Support Forces, who you just, you know, quoted, Hemeti, the RSF head, told in Arabic language TV channel that he does not see a

reason to negotiate with the leadership of the army. So, there basically is no room for diplomacy.


RONDOS: There's no -- well, diplomacy not backed by some degree of threat, as it were, I think is going to be a real problem. And I think here is the

issue. These are two leaders who actually -- and in here lies a paradox, both of them are desperately keen that they don't lose the last vestiges of

a reputation internationally, both teacher on the edge of being rendered criminal by the ICC.

Hemeti is former Janjdaweed, the -- General Burhan was closely linked to the regime of Bashir.


RONDOS: I think it's time some people consider that as something to be raised and quite directly.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, Janjaweed, obviously, is the central government-backed militia that created the genocide in Darfur that is responsible for all

those killings. And you say, Burhan was --

RONDOS: Precisely.

AMANPOUR: -- a top leader for Bashir, who himself is being indicted by the ICC. The question I have to you is really to go back almost to the

beginning, how is it even -- you know, here we are saying that there is this massive civil war on its way into the capital to be played out in

blood and guts and natural resources, and total, you know, power, how are these two ever trusted with being the democratic transition from Bashir?

What went wrong on -- you know, in Sudan and in the International Community?

RONDOS: Two things. And let me start anecdotally, because two days ago I was listening to the prime minister of Sudan -- the former prime minister,

Abdalla Hamdok, who had to resign at the end of 2021. But he was asked publicly what lessons he drew. And he made this point that after the

incredible scenes of a rising from a population, a peaceful rising, which resulted in a government in which he was asked as a civilian to take a

lead, he said he had spent all his -- all that time trying to demonstrate that Sudan could do something unusual, which was that civilians and

military could work together to arrive with an eventful democratic and civilian rule.

And the lesson he's learned is that, unfortunately, that didn't work. So, we need to ask ourselves, whether from very early on, were we too much of a

hurry to find a solution which we thought was pragmatic but actually tilted towards those who controlled all the money and the weapons? And that the

civilians gradually got squeezed out? So, that is a lesson we got to learn.

Which means the international system, which was backing this, needs to go back and rethink whether the processes, of which I was involved, but as I

look back, we overcomplicated it. I think we may have needed to rise to the occasion by bringing together two or three of the most serious states and

institutions at the highest levels in order to bring that level of political attention to bear.

Don't forget, the last two or three years, the world has been otherwise engaged and distracted. That strategic distraction became an opportunity

for real serious mischief, which is going to possibly have real strategic implications. This is not just about Sudan, it's about a much wider area

that could be affected.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, you are talking about the last three years, in which we've had the war in Ukraine, plus the COVID pandemic, and all the other

things that have taken up all the oxygen of the International Community.

As you know now, it appears, at least the United States, Saudi Arabia, maybe Egypt, they are trying to do, you know, diplomacy here. You say,

rightly, that you were involved the last time around. What do you think? I mean, if you had to look back, you've sort of said what might have gone

wrong, but, you know, we hear that for years, the International Community has essentially accommodated and appeased these two generals instead of

holding them accountable at milestones along the road.

From your experience, what would you say is the mea culpa?

RONDOS: My belief, fundamentally, is Sudan was all about control of money and the assets of the country. The International Community should have

organized with the civilians to get a total control of the assets of the country so that those ceased to be stolen by either a military cartel or

someone who's arrived to somewhat of a warlord from west -- from Darfur. We failed. We were too polite at one level.

I think, secondly, people wanted to dividend (ph) for the revolution, that meant making sure resources were available. I think there is more sources

from the International Community, which could have provided a bit of a sort of breathing space to allow politics to occur, it didn't arrive in

sufficient quantities and on time.

I'm convinced that if you don't provide that sort of oxygen, politics can't occur properly. And at that point, the people with the guns then start

rising again. But I think right now, we are way beyond that.


Today, I would sort of urge anyone to think about how you move a few very well-trained battalions arriving to Khartoum to protect that airport. After

all, everyone has been arguing or saying, and we see that the two parties agree to aircraft landing in the airport and taking people out. Well, how

about making sure that they keep along other planes to come in and then --

AMANPOUR: Well, what do you mean? Let me just stop you.

RONDOS: -- humanitarian --

AMANPOUR: Do you mean --

RONDOS: And then, you start building a process. And in that context --

AMANPOUR: Sorry. Do you mean U.N. troops? What -- who -- what are a couple of strong battalions of what?

RONDOS: Whomever, the neighbors. Ethiopia. The neighbors are perfectly capable. They've done this in this region frequently. In Somalia, we've got

20,000 troops from the region operating. (INAUDIBLE) just wants a few battalions to ride in that airport and then carve out some corridors to

provide protections for civilians with supply of assistance.

And one other thing, I beg everyone to understand, that this is the country through which the Nile flows. There's, what, you know, technically is

called critical infrastructure. There are dams, there's electricity. This is a city without water and water supply, without electricity, and it is

vitally dependent on all of that.

Therefore, if we don't move decisively, and I believe at the diplomatic level and even security level, people are beginning to contemplate this.

I'd just argue that they hurry, they speed up, they scale up those types of plans. And that may wake up the warring parties.

AMANPOUR: Wow. That's really quite dramatic that you believe it will take that. And certainly, we're really pleased to have your experience and that

advice. Alex Rondos, former envoy to the Horn of Africa, thank you for joining us.

RONDOS: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Now, in Washington, over the weekend, President Biden addressed the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Amid the traditional laughs

and the jokes, the very serious state of affairs for those wrongfully imprisoned abroad. Biden met privately with the parents of the Wall Street

Journal's Evan Gershkovich, who's been arrested and jailed in Russia.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our message is this, journalism is not a crime. Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other

American held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.


AMANPOUR: Now, over the last -- because it's not just journalist, over the last 10 years, there has been a 175 percent increase in Americans being

wrongfully detained, that's according to the James Foley Foundation, the advocacy group. U.S. Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens is

the man tasked with bringing Americans home. He even personally escorted the WNBA star, Brittney Griner, back from Russia after what nearly a year

in jail there. And Roger Carstens is joining me now from Washington, in the State Department. Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Can I start by asking you whether there's any update on negotiations to bring back Evan Gershkovich. I've had his editor-in-chief

on this program in the last week, and you yourself, publicly, in an interview, said that, you know, negotiations are just beginning to be made

and to be sorted out on that regard. That was a couple of weeks ago. Do you have an update?

CARSTENS: Yes. Christiane, what I can tell you is that the United States is using every possible channel that we currently have, every time the

United States engages with the Russian counterpart, we are bringing up Evan's case.

You probably know that Ambassador Tracy had a chance to see Evan at Lefortovo Prison on the 17th of April. She had a chance also to sit in his

court hearing on the 18th of April. And sadly, she just -- we just found out that her request to see Evan on the 11th of May was denied by the


But the bottom line is we continue to press the Russians, we continue to strategize on how best to progress, and a lot of this is going to play out

overtime. In a perfect world, we are able to work on getting Evan home before a trial starts. As the Russians, however, indicated, they often hold

someone until the end of a trial process and only even then begin negotiations to bring them home.

It's our intent, of course, to have a full court press and try to bring it back as soon as possible.

AMANPOUR: Interestingly, the editor-in-chief, Emma Tucker, said she thought it might take, you know, until after a so-called trial. But I

understand you're pressing to do that before

Now, on the other American still held hostage in Russia, this is Paul Whelan. He was not brought home. He was left behind when Brittney Griner

was brought home. And his family now is worried that he might be left behind for this other high-profile detainee, which is Evan, you know,

journalists and there's a lot of, rightly so, publicity around his case.


You recently said, again, that there's a significant deal on the table for Whelan. Is that deal still on the table and what does it involve, a swap

for someone else, who?

CARSTENS: So, Christiane, the deal is still on the table. We keep reminding the Russians we're expecting an answer, whether it's a yes or

now. Wouldn't want to get into the details. And I think really the bottom line is we talk too much about what we're trying to do with the Russians.

We essentially begin to negotiate in public, and that to my mind might decrease our chances of bringing Paul home. And as you can imagine, I would

never want to do anything that would decrease those chances.

I should say, there's a good chance Paul will probably end up seeing this interview. So, if you don't mind, I talk to Paul probably once every week

or two when he calls from Russia. I'd like to say hi to him, if he gets a chance to see this in his Russian prison.

But aside from that, we talk to the family, not even just weekly, we talk to them continuing throughout -- continually throughout the week. We try to

reassure them and let them know that we're still pressing hard. It's our intent to bring Paul home. Again, I talk to him quite often. This is

personal for me.

AMANPOUR: OK. I understand that. Of course, Paul, a former marine. He was detained in 2018. Convicted in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years. The Russians

alleged that he was involved in an intelligence operation. Clearly, you've all denied that as has Paul.

But I'm really interested in what you are saying because it's very different to how it appears. The negotiations or not are being conducted

with -- for the Iranians. Some of the longest held American hostages are Iranian Americans. I think you know that Siamak Namazi, who's been in for -

- in Evin, a very well-known and terrifying prison to all Americans, has been in there for seven and a half years.

You know -- and I think you probably listen to the interviews that he very bravely called this program to do in order to appeal to you and the

president and other to get serious about negotiations with the Iranian government and for visits. Here's what he said.


SIAMAK NAMAZI, PRISONER, EVIN PRISON: President Biden, I certainly hear and I sincerely appreciate your administration's repeated declarations that

freeing American hostages in Iran is its top priority. But I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn't appreciate how dire our situation

has become. It's very hurtful and upsetting that after 25 months in office, you haven't found the time to meet with our family.

Just give them some words of insurance. Sir, Morad, Emad, and I have now collectively languished here for 18 years. Our lives and families have been

devastated. We desperately, desperately need you to finally conclude that we suffered long enough as Iran's hostages.


AMANPOUR: You know, Roger, it's still very painful to listen to that for me and I'm sure for their families and probably for you as well. But the

fact of the matter is that there are several things that I need to ask you about that.

First and foremost, what is the state of negotiations by the U.S. administration for Siamak and Morad and Emad's release? And are they being

hampered by the political dynamic that swirls around between the U.S. and Iran?

CARSTENS: So, Christiane, I can't get into very many details about this. This is probably one of the most sensitive outreaches. I can tell you that

we still continue to work on this negotiation, to bring these Americans home.

I agree with what he said. It's painful -- it is painful to listen to. I talked to the families quite often. Secretary Blinken talked to all the

families. And we take his pleas very quite seriously. But just can't get into the details of that.

But in terms of the -- I would say, the tensions between us and the United States or whether -- I'm sorry, us and the Iranians and whether it kind of

affects the negotiations, I would assume there be an aspect of that in the negotiation we've had. Any yet, from my time in these three years of doing

this job we've had a chance to sit down with the Venezuelans, the Syrians, et cetera, and even though there might be tensions or even a lack of

diplomatic relations between two countries, we still usually able to find some sort of common ground and eventually come to a deal.

Iran's been frustrating because it has been taking so long. There's a saying that, we have in my office that the other side gets a vote. So, no

matter how much of time, energy and creativity we put in to trying to bring someone home, at the end of the day, the other side holds the key to the

jail cell, and it's our job to try to find a way to get them to turn that key.

CARSTENS: So, I share in his frustration. I share in the frustration of the family members as well. And just -- I hope everyone out there to

include the listeners and the families, of course, now that we're on a full court press to get them home as well.



CARSTENS: I'll share a story that Secretary Blinken has not only talked to all the families but he keeps a card in his left breast pocket with the

names of all those who are wrongfully detained. So, this is serious at the State Department. And you can tell from the president's comment on Saturday

night, this topic is important to the president as well.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Look, I imagine that it's important for you all and certainly for you. We have the picture of you escorting, you know, Brittney

Griner home. And clearly, you have to work this every day. But we are getting a very clear message from the Iranian families that what Siamak

asked for in that interview was a meeting of the families with the president.

And I'd like to read you something that someone with good knowledge of Siamak and others in the case has said to me, and I want to put it to you.

This person is telling me, clearly, President Biden is not prioritizing bringing home the American hostages in Iran. The objective way to judge is

to observe how he acts when the detained American is a famous WNBA player or a globally learned journalist at a top American newspaper in Russia.

In these cases, he talks about the Americans personally. He makes calls to the families. He meets the families, and the White House and its staff has

seen making moves and speaking about their efforts. It's clear to the world repeatedly that the president is personally committed to bringing them

home. But in the case of the Iran hostage families, the president has literally ignored their desperate pleas for help and support. And the

families are repeatedly blocked from accessing anyone in the United States government that has the power to reach a deal to bring them home.

I know you've just said the secretary of state has spoken to them. But I also know, because I've asked many in your administration, that this

message somehow is not getting to the president. Even though one of the hostage families delivered a letter to the president herself at the Norwuz

ceremony and told us about it.

What do you think is preventing the president from doing what he does for just about every other detained American from meeting as a comfort call

these Iranian American families?

CARSTENS: Well, Christiane, I would say that the -- under President Joe Biden we've brought back 27 Americans in 27 months. Of that number, only

two of those families met with the president. So, there were 25 Americans that were brought home in the last -- over two years whose families never

met with the president of the United States. And what that says is that the president's committed to actually getting a job done.

The real metric, the real measure of success is whether someone comes home, steps on a tarmac on U.S. soil and falls into loving arms of their family.

That's the metric they we're shooting for. So, whether the president speaks to a family or not it doesn't stop the machinery of trying to get the job

actually done.

I can tell you the president is committed. I know that for a fact. I know Secretary Blinken is. I certainly am. And I think in terms of what -- that

your commenter said, we -- in the 27 Americans that we've brought back, they come from different financial backgrounds, different races,

ethnicities, different parts of the United States. They're all very different in many ways, but they all share one thing in common, and that is

the hold a blue passport.

So, if an American holds a blue passport and they're wrongfully detained or held hostage by a hostage group, the United States of America is going to

work overtime to come and bring them home. I can assure you that the president is committed and we're going to find ways to solve all these

cases. But hear me, they're hard and sometimes they take a while.

AMANPOUR: And I just want to ask you one final question on this case because it's very, very red hot. And that is, I asked you about the Iran

American politics. But what about the exiled community who seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the United States saying, we don't want any

deals to be made with Iran and just more sanctions? Is that a problem for you trying to come up with some kind of deal on these prisoners and


CARSTENS: We take in, I would say, a lot of different information from various streams. And whether it's a diaspora community, whether in

intelligence reports, diplomatic cues, we're always taking a look at everything to try to get the job done.

But at the end of the day, the president's going to render decision based on the courses of action that are delivered to them, and that's what we're

currently working on. So, I would -- I guess if I were to be a little more direct, I would say it might be a factor but, in a way, it's still going to

result in some sort of a deal that we're going to be able to eventually hammer out.

I can refer to cases that we've already brought home from Venezuela, for example.


CARSTENS: Where there is also a very strong community in the United States that's very vocal. And yet, we're still always able to find a way to get

the job done. And we'll get the job done in this area too.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm sure that'll be of some comfort to those families, and all of those who are held wrongfully abroad. Roger Carstens, thank you very

much indeed for joining us.


Now, for decades, American conservatives have tried to end abortion in the United States. Since the reversal of Roe v. Wade last year, the crackdown

on abortion rights has come swift and fast in Republican majority states.

Just last week, new bills threaten to ban abortion in Nebraska and South Carolina in nearly all cases. But in both those states, a handful of

Republicans blocked the legislation. Here's South Carolina state senator Penry Gustafson.


STATE SEN. PENRY GUSTAFSON (R-SC): There are millions of women, millions of women in this state, who feel like they've been personally addressed in

this legislation. There are millions of women who feel like they had not been heard.


AMANPOUR: So, with the unpopularity of strict bans and the GOP looking ahead to the 2024 presidential elections, are we seeing the party refocus

somewhat. Penry Gustafson joins me now from Camden in South Carolina.

State Senator, welcome to the program.

GUSTAFSON: Thank you so much. It's a joy to be here. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And such an important issue. As you yourself said, women have to make these decisions and only women are affected more, I think you said,

than any man on this particular issue. So, just walk me through what went through your mind and through your politics when you stood on the floor of

your legislation and said no to the draconian ban that was being proposed?

GUSTAFSON: Well, one of the things I wanted to convey in my remarks were things that were not passed or not discussed at any previous committee

meeting. I was flabbergasted to see an absence of discussion about pregnancy itself. And I've heard some segments made that were inaccurate by

the men and they were legislators. They need to know, right then and there, before if it was too late, exactly what it was what.

In this day and age, if you believe that a woman knows when she's pregnant the moment she conceives, you are wrong. And so, I want to make sure some

of these statements were addressed directly. I also want to talk about just the biology of what happens. We seem to have this stigma of discussing such

things. There should be no stigma. This is biology. If you're not comfortable talking about, perhaps we shouldn't be passing bills about


AMANPOUR: It's really interesting to hear you speak because you are a Republican state senator in a Republican dominated legislature, and your

pro-life. And so --


AMANPOUR: Yes. And you -- basically, your position carried the day by one vote. And the same in -- I believe in Nebraska, where the same issue came

up, and again, by one vote, the Republican legislature there did not allow a blanket ban on -- you know, on abortion. And I think you're talking about

the six weeks in where you say, if a woman, you know, is expected is know exactly when she's conceived, it's kind of fantasy.

Can you --

GUSTAFSON: Well, out Senate passed --


GUSTAFSON: I'm sorry.

AMANPOUR: Go ahead. No, no. Go ahead.

GUSTAFSON: I was going to say, our Senate passed a really good bill that spoke to the issues presented by the South Carolina Supreme Court last

year. They ruled out S1, the fetal heartbeat bill, and being unconstitutional for the state.

I had voted for S1. We found another bill. We wrote in. All those issues were addressed in that bill, S474. We passed it. I voted for it. We sent it

to the house and then, the house decides to send us their bill, which is total abortion bill. It was unacceptable. They knew that the votes weren't

there. They know that six or seven formal times now, and we held our own. We held our own, nobody changed their votes, nobody was expected to change

their votes.

And if they don't get it by now that South Carolina does not want a total abortion ban, we've proven it in the Senate. And we'll do it again. At the

same time, we need restrictions on our abortions. It's out of control in our state.

AMANPOUR: So, I hear you. And again, it's very important that Republicans talking like this. Let me just read you some of the recent polls. And this

is by Fox News, which is for Republicans, a lot of Republicans, a lot of, you know, sort of hardline conservatives go to get their information.

So, recent polls by Fox News shows essentially how far out of step the GOP is with the electorate on this issue. And I wonder how much your concern by

these facts. So, according to the Fox poll, abortion should be legal, says 56 percent of respondents. Illegal say 43 percent. Again, according to the

Fox poll, access to the abortion pill, abortion medication should be legal according to 65 percent and illegal according to 30 percent.


And so, just tell me, that's also obviously important because you've seen how this issue has cost you all votes in the midterms and probably in the


GUSTAFSON: Well, frankly, ma'am, I do not legislate according to polls or what may happen, you know, at the next election. Of course, I'm running for

reelection. I expect to be reelected. But I have to focus on what's best for South Carolina, what most of South Carolinians want. And in it is true,

I represent a rural district and there are many, many Republicans who are strongly pro-life. They're antiabortion. I respect them. I hope they feel

like they've been heard, but I have even more so people who do not want the total abortion ban.

So, I've taken all that into account. The Republican Party has a very prolife stance. It is unfortunate that people decide to divide themselves.

I'm not part of that. I try not to be. I'm doing my senatorial duty as a Christian woman in our State Senate.

AMANPOUR: I would like to play a soundbite by Nikki Haley, obviously -- Nikki Haley, your former governor. She's running for the Republican

presidential nomination on this particular issue. Here we go. OK. Here we go.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe there is a federal role on abortion. Whether we can save more lives nationally

depends entirely on doing what no one else has done today, and that is to find consensus. That's what I will strive to do.

No Republican president will have the ability to ban abortion nationwide.


AMANPOUR: So, that's a pretty definitive statement. First, do you agree with that? And also, South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace has said, the

party needs to find middle ground on this issue. As you know, the Wisconsin Supreme Court vote -- they -- you know, in Kansas and other, there are all

trying to -- you know, they're all making votes that are causing some ruckus.

But can you explain the difference then between what you're saying about the states and the bigger picture whereby some senior Republicans call for

a federal ban?

GUSTAFSON: Well, this is a problem in America, isn't it? We must keep those power separated. It's called federalism. And when you try to have --

you know, Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. So, we have to uphold that legally.

I think if the decision is made and given to the states, to take this up and figure out what each state wants to do for their own citizens, that's

how it should be. If federal government should leave themselves out of it, we don't need them telling us what we need to do or not do. I respect

Governor Haley very much, but I do disagree with her on this issue. The federal government needs to stay out of it.

The states, we are handling it, albeit a little slowly in South Carolina. But -- and as far as consensus is concerned, the Republican consensus is

that we do need restrictions. Now, there is a range of that between zero weeks and 12 weeks. The six weeks I think is the perfect time and the time

period that best suits all parties within the Republican Party. That's why (INAUDIBLE) for 74.

AMANPOUR: And as you know, the fact shows that the majority of abortions in the United States are within that 12-week, the first -- I believe the

first trimester. Anyway, I want to ask you finally another hardline Republican position that the majority of Americans are not behind, and

that, of course, is guns.

Again, on Fox. Fox found background checks for guns have 87 percent support. Requiring mental health checks, 80 percent support. Require 30-day

waiting period, 77 percent support. And ban assault rifle, 61 percent support.

So, where does South Carolina stand on what is a clear majority of people and of Republicans on these issues, for sensible gun control?

GUSTAFSON: Well, first of all, I think part of the problem is the word control.

AMANPOUR: Protections then.

GUSTAFSON: We have a lot of people who want to be left alone. And in South Carolina, we have very strong gun ownership. We need to have responsible

gun ownership. I believe in background checks. And to my knowledge, there is no loophole. We have them. You have to have a background check in order

to purchase a gun, firearm.


I tend to disagree a little bit with the national outcry as far as going very, very, very strict toward guns. Down south, where I'm from, a lot of

people raised, they learn how to use a firearm properly and safely and also put it away, a sword on their hip or however. We passed the open carry law

with training two years ago, and it looks like we're going to be looking at constitutional carry, which doesn't require permit.

AMANPOUR: All right.

GUSTAFSON: I stand very, very torn about this. My constituents want me to vote yes on constitutional carry. They want me to. It is clear.


GUSTAFSON: The law enforcement does not want it. But we shall see when the bid comes up. I'm still trying to keep my eyes and ears open, my heart open

to that decision.

AMANPOUR: All right. Penry Gustafson, thank you so much. State senator in South Carolina.

And now, from a sanctuary to about a battleground, libraries are at the center of another polarizing debate dividing the U.S. in these ongoing

culture wars. Attempts to censor books have escalated to levels unseen since striking began decades ago. After elected officials and activist

groups ramped up efforts to target certain titles.

As librarians find themselves on the front lines of the battle for intellectual freedom, the president of the American Library Association

speaks to Hari Sreenivasan about the year of the book bans.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. And thank you to Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada, the president of the American

Library Association. Thank you for joining us.

We want to talk a little bit about this report that you've put out. And this is startling because what you say is that there have been more books

challenged since ever -- since your organization began tracking this. And just so our audience is clear, what is a kind of challenge to a book in a

school district or a school mean?

LESSA KANANI'OPUA PELAYO-LOZADA, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION: Absolutely. So, a challenge is a formal complaint by a parent or a patron,

if we're talking a public library, to have a book removed from the collection, to restrict access to it for everyone else in the community.

SREENIVASAN: 2,500 challenged books, and that's nearly double the number of titles that people sought to ban just a year ago. What's behind this?

PELAYO-LOZADA: Yes. So, what are we seeing are organized efforts for book removals and challenges in public and school libraries across the country.

These organized groups are gathering folks across the nation with list of books that they haven't even read it to have them removed, often for

sexually explicit content, but what they're really targeting are LGBTQ stories and histories as well as people of color stories and histories.

SREENIVASAN: And so, that's a common thread that you're seeing between all the books that are being challenged?

PELAYO-LOZADA: Absolutely. On our top 10 list, which was expanded to top 13 list, because that's just kind of how dire the situation we are in.

There were so many ties on our top 10 band books list that we had two expand it.

Every single title had the guise of being banned under sexually explicit. But the themes that were in it, the stories and the characters that were

featured had primarily LGBTQ backgrounds and black and indigenous histories.

SREENIVASAN: Were you surprised at any of them that showed up on that list?

PELAYO-LOZADA: I was definitely surprised. So, many the titles were also on last year's list, a fair number of them. But we saw titles which appear

on the list that haven't been out there in years, like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Crank" by Ellen Hopkins.

And so, part of that, I think, is that individuals are using previous top 10 list to determine what books they want to see challenged without

understanding the context of it. And that helps us as library workers to be quite honest because we can see the trend, we can -- it also helps us to

determine what organized efforts there are or when individuals are not challenging books in good faith and are not interested in having a

conversation about whether it is right or wrong for our community library.

SREENIVASAN: Is this happening more at school libraries or at public sort of town libraries?

PELAYO-LOZADA: It's happening in both. So, about 50/50, between the public and school libraries. There are few challenges that do happen in academic

spaces as well as schools in generals, and not necessarily school libraries. But this is a national event.

I think that individuals often characterize it as a red state, blue state. But what we saw in 2022 was that nearly every single state in the United

States had a least one challenge. The only state that didn't have any reported challenges was Nevada. But we also rely on self-reporting and

verifying challenges in the news.

And so, a lot of challenges go unreported because individuals are afraid to speak out. Although the American Library Association provides

confidentiality and confidential one-on-one assistance to those who need it.


SREENIVASAN: OK. So, what happens after these challenges?

PELAYO-LOZADA: So, we have recommended selection policy tool kits of the American Library Association that individual libraries can use. But

libraries are hyper local institutions. So, each one handles it a little bit differently.

However, we have recommended practices, such as when you receive a formal challenge, you don't remove the book off the shelf until a committee had

has time to review it so that everybody still has access to that information, to that book.

But what we're seeing also are a number of libraries and jurisdictions who are jumping over those policies and procedures and just removing the books

straight out, whether it's because they are part of these organized attacks or they are using it for their own moral agenda.

SREENIVASAN: Many of these challenges are wrapped in the language of parental rights. And at the core of that conversation or at that point of

view is that, I'm parent and I shouldn't have the authority to tell my child things about race, about sexuality at a time when I know my child

might be ready to handle it or absorb it and that it's maybe not the place of the school district to decide for me.

And I mean, I'm sure you've heard that 100 times. What's kind of your last response to that line of thinking?

PELAYO-LOZADA: Yes. So, it's really important for us to remember that parents absolutely have the right to parent their children. They have the

right as a family to decide what they read together, to decide when their children are ready for certain topics. But they don't have that right to

make that decision for other people's families.

We know that our children develop so many skills through reading, whether it's empathy, whether it is, you know, scientific skills, skills that they

need for school are also skills to understand how to deal with the complex issues that they are dealing with in their lives. And our children and our

families go through so many different stages and experience at different times that we have to make sure that families have access to these

materials when they need them and are not being restricted by others who disagree or want to dictate when they need those resources.

SREENIVASAN: According to Pan America, the most prevalent states where this is happening are Florida, Texas, Missouri, Utah, South Carolina. Is

there something happening in those states that makes this fight so much more vociferous or even effective?

PELAYO-LOZADA: I think that we're seeing it mirror what is happening in legislative areas as well. Those states often have laws that are trying to

be passed that restrict access on the state level. It's not just the local library level or even a citywide level, it is a statewide level that they

are trying to restrict access to information but also, trying to restrict access to individual rights and liberties.

So, in Florida, we're seeing the Don't Say Gay bill and then, we're seeing a ton of LGBTQ books on the list for removal. Previously, it was critical

race theory related books like "The 1619 Project" that were under attack in those spaces as well. So, we are seeing these challenges near what is

happening in our broader national and state conversations.

SREENIVASAN: Is there an uptick around kind of political years and political cycles? I mean, in President Biden's campaign video for his 2024

relaunch, he called out this specific topic as well.

PELAYO-LOZADA: Yes. So, I think that these challenges are going to continue through the election year. A lot of politicians, especially right

now, are using this as a political wedge issue. And so, I think that we have to remain steadfast and ask our individuals to unite against book bans

with us because we cannot do this alone as library workers. We have to have the majority of voices who we now are opposed to book bans join us and talk

to their legislators and not let them use this as part of their political games.

SREENIVASAN: Challenging books or trying to ban books has an incredibly long history, probably as far back as whenever the first book was printed.

That said, do you find anything different now in the speed or the force of these challenges in 2023, just given the data and how much more challenges,

how many more challenges are in 2022 and 2021?

PELAYO-LOZADA: We definitely do. It is so much easier now to organize individuals and also to spread misinformation, through using the internet,

through using social media groups. And so, that's really, I think, the difference between book banning now and book banning that we saw in the



I think some of the themes are very similar. You know, the '80s book banning was a pushback against the '70s women's liberation, Roe v. Wade,

continued civil rights, also, the gay rights movement. And we're seeing that today also, pushback against coming out of the pandemic, George

Floyd's murder, and increasing gay rights and trans rights. And so, those themes are similar from the '80s to now, but how are individuals who are

challenging books are organizing is much different, and there is much easier access to be able to spread misinformation in that way.

SREENIVASAN: You know, there seem to be kind of different attacks on books. On the one hand, you have people concerned that there might be too

much sexuality in books or concepts and conversations about race, but you also have attacks on books and characters that might have been racist then

and certainly are deemed racist now. But I kind of wonder how you deal with the content or you just say, this isn't about continent all?

PELAYO-LOZADA: Yes. So, I think the same principle applies. You know, we do look at content when we are deciding what books to put into our

libraries because we want to make sure that they represent our communities' values as well as the larger broader society that we are living in.

And so, it's really important for us to also remember when we are looking at books who are considered classics, right, often "To Kill a Mockingbird,"

also shows up on banned book lists. So does "Of Mice and Men." And so, these are things that we are often taught in high schools and part of our


We have to remember to take these into the historical context that they were written in and find the value, just like when we look at our banned

books list today and things are trying to be banned for being sexually explicit, it's often one or two passages that are within a larger text that

to help us to understand the journey of a character or the journey of the history of an individual.

And so, it's important for us to remember, again, that, you know, everyone has the right to decide what they want to read but they don't have the

right to dictate or decide that for other individuals. And so, we want to make sure that our collections are as inclusive as possible and are as

broad as possible to provide as many different viewpoints to a situation as is responsible for us to do.

SREENIVASAN: Does this ALA take a position towards publishers who are thinking about reediting what we might think are classic books?

PELAYO-LOZADA: We don't have an official stance on that, that I would be able to comment on.

SREENIVASAN: Do you find publishers that are trying to reedit books to make sure that they're still available and they can still be sold and


PELAYO-LOZADA: We -- I have read some instances of that. I believe a number of Roald Dahl's books were recently "updated." And I think that

those decisions should be made between the publisher and the author or the author's estate, depending on where the rights for the book are held.

But I think that really understanding the context that our books were written in is essential to understanding how our society has changed over

the years. And I think that one of the things also that we kind of get mired in is that books that we read as a child, we have to have our

children also read, even though they may be outdated, and I don't think that that is a viewpoint that we need to hold anymore. I think that

sometimes they are wonderful to share, but sometimes they were right for us in the moment.

They were so many things that I read as a kid in the late '80s, early '90s that I probably -- I would not share with children today. And as a

children's librarian, I need the choice to not share because they did what they needed to do for me, but our children have so many wonderful stories

to be able to pick from today, why don't we choose some of the new things that are out there as well?

SREENIVASAN: You point out in your report that it is not just books that are the sole target of attacks orchestrated by the conservative parent

groups and right-wing media, both school and public librarians are increasingly in the crosshairs of conservative groups during book

challenges and subject to defamatory name-calling, online harassment, social media attacks and doxing, which is to publicize where their personal

information, as well as direct threats to their safety, their employment and their very liberty.

PELAYO-LOZADA: Yes. It's a very scary time for library workers. You know, one of the things that we risk when our library workers are not able to do

their jobs is we risk the inability of our libraries to function the way that they should as spaces for creativity and learning, as spaces of

resources for veterans and small business owners and families. Libraries are community space.


And so, when our library workers are under attack and cannot do their jobs or being fired or jailed or fined for doing their jobs, we have to come to

their aid. Our librarians and our library workers are trusted individuals in their communities. We know that. We know that because from a survey that

the American Library Association did in March 2022, it showed that 90 percent of bipartisan respondents held their library workers in high regard

and also, had a lot of faith and high regard for the work that we do in our communities.

So, we know this is also vocal minority of individuals who are doing these organized efforts. From that same poll, 71 percent of bipartisan voters

that were polled said that they did not support challenged books, that they did not support removing books from the public library.

And so, when our library workers go out into their communities, they have that trust, but they are also fearful. They're fearful of their lives.

SREENIVASAN: So, are librarians asking you for support? And if so, what sort of support are you able to offer?

PELAYO-LOZADA: Our library workers are absolutely asking us for support. So, at the American Library Association and through our Office for

Intellectual Freedom, as we have always done, we provide one-on-one confidential support for library workers, whether it be working on their

policy to make sure that it reflects standard practices that will protect them and their jobs, as well as the materials in their collections, whether

it is legal advice, making sure that they have the tools they need if they are being sued or facing jail time or legislation, or also financial

support can often come into the needs of our library workers if they are experiencing job loss or hardship.

And so, we have funds like the merit fund that individuals can donate to, to help them ensure that they are able to live their lives while they are

experiencing this. And then, we also provide emotional support. These are really challenging times.

As you've said earlier, you know, our library workers are experiencing mental health crisis and coming out of the trauma, also, of a pandemic

where many library workers were on the front lines every single day and did not have the opportunity to work from the safety of home. And so, we're

first responders and putting their lives on the line.

So, all of that combined, the American Library Association is very serious about making sure that our library workers have the tools they need either

from us or from their local administrations and jurisdictions.

SREENIVASAN: Besides the content challenges, there have traditionally been budget constraints for libraries around the country. And I'm wondering

whether some of these kinds of attacks that might be political in nature wind their way up and say, well, I guess we're just going to make these

libraries available not so much on Saturday and Sundays anymore, or maybe only three days a week instead of five.

PELAYO-LOZADA: Yes. We are frequently on the chopping block because I think that the value of libraries as being intrinsic to a successful

community is often underappreciated. And so, what we're seeing now with book challenges in Llano, Texas, for instance, a judge ordered that books

that had been removed from the collection be put back onto the shelf.

And so, the city officials held an emergency meeting to try to defund the library, to try to close stores. They'd rather have no library than have a

library that has books that represent everyone in the community. And so, the community came out. They protested. They showed up to that meeting. And

the board decided to not close the library.

And so, when we are able to articulate the value of our libraries, not just during book challenges, but during every day where we can demonstrate the

impact that the life-changing transformative impacts that we make on individuals, it's really essential for those funding conversations when

politicians and city officials have to make really difficult decisions.

SREENIVASAN: Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada, the president of the American Library Association, thank you so much for joining us.

PELAYO-LOZADA: Thank you so much for having me.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, the one in only Willie Nelson threw a birthday party, really, a birthday for the ages. It was a star-studded two-

day concert at the Hollywood Bowl in celebration of the legendary country music singer's 90th birthday. Neil Young, Miranda Lambert, Cheryl Crow and

Tom Jones were just some of the artists joining Willie Nelson, singing his songs in tribute.

When Snoop Dogg took the stage, the pair sand "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die."




AMANPOUR: That's just a little sneak at the stage. For Willie Nelson, age is just a number as he gets -- sets off on the road again for another U.S.



That's it for now. Remember, you can always catch us online, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on our podcast. Thanks for watching and goodbye from