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Interview With The Sunday Times Former Editor And The Spectator Chairman Andrew Neil; Interview With "On With Kara Swisher" Podcast Host And "Pivot" Podcast Co-Host Kara Swisher; Interview With "26.2 ToLife" Director Christine Yoo; Interview With "26.2 To Life" Subject Markelle Taylor; Interview With "River Of Fire" Author Sister Helen Prejean. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 28, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
One week since Rupert Murdoch's step aside, we examine the Fox fall-out and his deep political influence in the United States and beyond with
Journalist Kara Swisher and Andrew Neil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen up, everybody. We got the half marathon into 32 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- running through their sentences. Hari Sreenivasan explores the documentary "26.2 to Life" about is San Quentin prison's marathon club.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HELEN PREJEAN: And you're counting down the time to die. It's the most surreal thing that you can imagine in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- a look back at my conversation with anti-death penalty activist Helen Prejean as her memoir "Dead Man Walking" is adapted for New
York's Metropolitan Opera.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
We begin with a potentially seismic shift in media spanning the globe from Australia to the U.K. to United States. Since 92-year-old Rupert Murdoch
stepped aside last week as chairman of the Fox Corporation and New Corps. For decades, he had presided over a massive empire of television,
newspapers and tabloids. But attracting most of the attention was the far- right Fox News, which he created nearly 27 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN, FOX AND NEWS CORP. AND CHAIRMAN, THE SPECTATOR: How delighted I am that we've now reached this moment when we can firmly
announce the starting of a Fox News channel and a much greater effort to build up of Fox News in every area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Indeed, over the years. Fox's influential role in U.S. politics ballooned with Republicans' coveting exposure to its conservative leaning
audience. But with its pseudo news program and pundits, the network has been credited with stoking division, conspiracies, fake news, especially as
it became a mouthpiece for Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We keep marrying other species and other ethnics and --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you say they're not suffering from some of the process of Dementia right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK..
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like marry all the Swedes, because that their role. Finland -- Fins -- marry all the Fins, so they have a pure society.
In America, we marry everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Asian people are not liberal, you know, by nature. They're usually more industrious and hard working.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're a Muslim. So, why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, say you're a cocaine dealer and you kind of look like one a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white, but this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a
black Santa but, you know, Santa is what he is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Precisely is diversity our strength?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, after that kind of crash (ph) intolerance, where does the empire strike next now that it's in the hands of first son, Lachlan
Murdoch? Andew Neil, former editor of the Murdoch owned "Sunday Times" and Kara Swisher, the prominent tech and media journalist, have some incisive
Andrew Neil, welcome back to our program.
ANDREW NEIL, FORMER EDITOR, THE SUNDAY TIMES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Once the now 92-year-old Murdoch basically used to tell people, they'll have to carry me out of the office in a box. So, A, what's
happened? Why now? And frankly, what about the forward movement? What happens to this corporation?
NEIL: Well, he's out but there is no sign of a box. And how far out he is, of course, is still a matter of a debate. I think he'll still find it
pretty hard not to interfere in all sorts of things. And of course, since he's not been running the companies anymore, he'll have more time on his
hands to put his toppings worth in on content and all the rest it.
But I think he had a sense that there was nothing more for him to do. That he had run out of time, run out of roads. The company is basically -- both
companies, both the newspaper division and the television side, they're treading water. They're not going anywhere. They still make money, but he
can't do deals anymore. And Rupert Murdoch was, above all, a deal merchant. He actually at one stage probably the world's greatest deal merchant. Now,
there are no deals that he can do anymore, it's a much-diminished company and I think he just thought, time to hand over. Let's see how Lachlan does.
Though, in fact, I think he knows in his heart of hearts that it's the beginning of a great unravelling. The Murdoch empire which started to
unravel when he sold all the entertainment to Disney in 2016 and 2017, what's left on both sides of the Atlantic and Australia will start to
unravel as well.
AMANPOUR: That's really interesting because, as you say, one of the positives about him, according to his supporters, is his business savvy and
his business acumen as well as the political power that he amassed.
But I want to read you something and see if you agree. You know perfectly well that there is a new book out by Michael Wolff, just happens to be
timed. He basically says, you know, all of this that made Murdoch ungodly sums and an unholy amount of power, in the end made Murdoch miserable. Do
you believe that? Is that -- you know, that he was -- essentially became embarrassed by the politics, you know, he called Sean Hannity -- I'm sorry,
I'm going to say this, but I think he called him retarded just like the American people.
NEIL: I do believe that. I think Michael Wolff is largely right on that. I think he became miserable because his most important asset in terms of
money generated and in terms of profile and influence in the United States, which is the country he's always cared about more than any other for past
48 years, was Fox News, and he had basically nothing to do with Fox News. It made him a ton of money, but he didn't run it.
He couldn't get his way in it. He detested a number of anchors like Mr. Hannity, who he described as retarded. He, in the end, grew to loathe the
way Fox News had become the publishing arm of Donald Trump and the Trump White House. He couldn't stomach the prospects of Mr. Trump returning to
the White House again, yet there was very little he seemed to be able to do about it.
He had allowed the creation of a Frankenstein monster in Fox News that he could no longer control. Because that monster had created another monster.
That monster is the audience of Fox News, which is basically the cult of Donald Trump. And the moment you try to stop feeding the cult, for example,
he wanted the station to get behind Ron DeSantis, Florida governor, he was to be the new Republican great hope, the audience wouldn't allow it.
The audience collapsed every time DeSantis was on. DeSantis' campaign has gone nowhere. It's basically crashed and burned. And in the end, Rupert
Murdoch, the great creator of populous journalism, became the hostage of populous journalism in the shape of the Fox News audience, and that's where
we are today and that's one of the reasons why he's stepping back.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's really interesting because -- and you'll know this much better than me, of course -- that all of that might be true. And not
only that, you know, over $800 million in mea culpa for perpetuating and allowing the lie of Trump and the 2020 election to continue.
But now, as you say, DeSantis has gone nowhere. The ratings -- it seems Murdoch has allowed Trump to come back to dominate after briefly banishing
him because despite the feelings, you say, he's not willing to sacrifice a single ratings point.
NEIL: That's true. But he's also not given up trying to dump Trump, even though, to my mind, he's lost. I mean, in the battle between Trump and
Murdoch for the soul of Fox News, Donald Trump won. It's as simple as that. Rupert Murdoch lost. But he's not giving up until sometime, perhaps in the
next week or so. Glenn Youngkin will be making the journey from Virginia, where he's governor, to break bread and have wine at Mr. Murdoch's vineyard
in California. Having failed with Mr. DeSantis, I understand he thinks Mr. Youngkin could be the one who could take on Donald Trump.
But it's over. It's not going to happen. Mr. Trump, whether he wins the presidency is another matter, but the Republican nomination is pretty much
his in the bag.
AMANPOUR: OK. But can I ask you about the political power? Because, yes, he was powerful, yes, he was a kingmaker and a queenmaker, but not
necessarily for the good. Here's what David Cameron said about him, admitting to his influence back in 2012.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, THEN-BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And I think all side of the house there's a bit of a need for a hand-on heart. We all did too much
cozying up to Rupert Murdoch. I think we would agree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Cozying up to what others say essentially was a terrifying way that the media owners' control so much power. In retrospect, was it
healthy, the amount of power he exerted on politicians, frankly, from both sides of the spectrum, but especially leaning to the conservative and far-
NEIL: I don't think it was ever healthy that one person should have so much power. No. And I think the politicians have also themselves to blame,
because they made him more powerful than he really was.
I mean, you go back -- you're quite right. He supported Thatcher throughout that time and the conservatives for a while after that, but look at the
time when Tony Blair in Britain who was cruising to a landslide in 1997 to take over from a more abundant conservative government, you know, history
repeating itself at the moment in the U.K. Tony Blair still felt it necessary to cozy up to Rupert Murdoch.
And the fact is, it didn't matter what Rupert Murdoch did, Tony Blair was going to win, the Labour Party would win the election of 1997. So, the
politicians in Australia and both sides of the Atlantic made him more powerful than he really was. And he appreciated that.
I remember he used to think, I don't know why they gave me so much time and listened to me so much. But they do. So, I'm going to milk it for all it's
NEIL: They helped to create this overpowerful monster and they had to live with it. I think now we're moving on to a post Murdoch world in where what
the Murdoch press says, what the Murdoch media says really doesn't matter nearly as much as it used to.
AMANPOUR: Wow. Except you have said that he created a Frankenstein cult of the American electorate. So, I will move onto that a little later. But
first, I just want to end by asking you, we know that Trump is a dangerous -- a danger to the elected authority in the United States. He has tried
violently to overthrow it. He's been indicted, et cetera, et cetera. How should the media cover Trump having seen what they did in the lead up to
the 2016 election?
NEIL: Well, if particularly American networks regard themselves as an integral part of American democracy, which they should be, they've got to
stop just going for ratings because putting Trump on the screen is good for ratings and they've got to cover Trump not just because he's doing
something but because he's saying something important that needs to be questioned.
He should be treated like any other candidate and not like a celebrity, not like a star. He should be subject to the most rigorous examination and fact
checking. He should be dealt with strongly. He should be questioned at every turn. He should not be given air time just for the sake of it. He
shouldn't be given the oxygen of publicity just because the ratings will peak up.
In the end, the American networks who regard themselves as kind of great to repositories of great journalisms, they got to work out what is more
important, doing our job properly, holding part of account or simply racking up the ratings and taking in the money. I know what I would do.
AMANPOUR: Andrew Neil, thank you very much, indeed. That is quite interesting and different stuff to hear from the inside. We really
NEIL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Turning now to Kara Swisher. She is the host of the "Pivot" podcast. Kara, you know, you yourself have called Murdoch the single most
destructive force in media, at least one of them.
KARA SWISHER, HOST, "ON WITH KARA SWISHER" PODCAST AND CO-HOST "PIVOT" PODCAST ": I actually think he's the most single destructive force in
America, England and Australia. And it's a little bigger than that, with the stuff that his publications have done and his media power has done. But
it is. It's in its waning days.
AMANPOUR: Why do you say destructive?
SWISHER: Oh, you know, combined with gerrymandering and social media, it's created a sort of this tsunami of disinformation, of not understanding
where truth and lies are, of, you know, tabloidism, which I think has been around longer. So, I'm not as concerned about that. You know, what a soccer
star is doing, I don't care or whatever.
But I think it's really created this sort of very cynical idea about facts. And you saw it in that trial, the Dominion trial. They pushed it as far as
they could go and they finally had to pay the price, which was quite costly and about to do the Smartmatic case too where they're going to have to pay
up in time for this lack of -- I would say its laziness, but I think it's deliberate is what was happening.
AMANPOUR: I want to get you on the record, because you put your money -- or your feet where your mouth and your mind is. When Murdoch acquired "The
Wall Street Journal" when you worked there, what did you do?
SWISHER: I was there for a little while because I was under contract with our -- especially our conference. And so, we were running a very profitable
conference for the -- it was within "The Wall Street Journal" and we were - - you know, we shared risk and reward and everything else. And we worked there for a little while. But after that, when he was -- when the -- one of
their publications, I think it was "News to the World" was accused and it was proven that they had attacked a phone of a dead girl was so disturbing.
I think Walt (ph) and I, when contract came due, we left. I decided to -- we didn't want to expand with them. We had ideas around expansion, and they
were not the preferred partners of us.
AMANPOUR: So, Murdoch's strategy. You know, he unleashed, as we've all talked about, a new media. Fox promised news but its cash crop was
feelings. Making viewers feel, feel angry, feel betrayed, feel threatened was vital to keeping them tuned in for hours. That's "The New York Times"
SWISHER: Yes. It's 100 percent true. I mean, I have relatives, including my own mom, who really shifted based on her watching of Fox News. A lot of
-- you know, it's interesting because their demographic is so old as a group of people, but they managed to get them sort of enraged and engaged.
And that's -- you know, I always talk about enragement these days, both of social media and on Fox News, and a lot media actually, is enragement
equals engagement, and that's what they were going for.
AMANPOUR: And have you interviewed -- I'm sure you reported on Lachlan Murdoch who has been handed the reigns now. Andrew Neil had a pretty dim
view of what he might achieve. But what do you think is the next phase of this empire? If it's collapsing as we know it, what next?
SWISHER: Well, I haven't interviewed him. He's not -- we've asked, of course. I think he's -- well, I've interviewed Rupert several times
actually. He's always game for an interview. And I've interviewed James and I think I've interviewed Liz when she did a lot of her media stuff. But
Lachlan has been rare, and I think it's for good reason.
I think he's underwhelming compared to his father. I think he's been propped up by his father. And the real problem is the trust that controls
it when Rupert dies, as inevitably he will. Although, most people still aren't going to turn their back on him, I suspect, long after he's shed the
I think he set it up. And so, the four children, Lachlan, James, Liz and Prudence, are going to have to make decisions together. And from what I
understand, the three siblings are united in not wanting Lachlan to run it. And so, I think this move was a little bit about showing Lachlan that he
can do -- showing that Lachlan can do it, to signal it.
And so, I think they're trying to -- he's trying to show that Lachlan is his chosen successor, but it doesn't matter because he will not have
control after he dies. And, you know, he's 92. So, look at the actual world, he's well past them.
AMANPOUR: OK. OK. So, let's just dive down a bit because, clearly, you say the other three are united. They don't want Lachlan. I'm not sure why, if
it's politics or the personalities. But we know for fact that Liz and James, more to the point, have different politics than their father on many
issues, including climate issue.
I mean, James came out disavowed his father's denying of climate change. And so, he might have whole different way of delivering a media product.
What do you see down that line? Who do you think might get hold of the empire?
SWISHER: Well, I don't know, because it just takes two of them to block it, right? It doesn't take three, it takes two. I don't know anything about
Prudence, honestly. I think she's sort of been the quiet one, essentially. But I suspect she probably wants to sell it and sell Fox News off. They may
try to run it as a more centrist organization, that's a possibility. But it certainly won't have the influence it had because it's not skewing so far-
And I think Andrew was right about the audience. The audience has taken control of the story here. And that's why every time -- I think Murdoch is
horrified by Trump. I think it's well documented. And I think every time he tries to skew somewhere else, although Ron DeSantis isn't -- you know, it's
not very far from Trump or sort of the other direction, I think he gets pushed back, they love Trump. And they have made Trump. And so, they've
created a monster in Trump and a monster in their audience and they're held captive by the audience in many ways and the money that it brings in.
AMANPOUR: So, I asked Andrew, as a final question I'm going to ask you then, because, you know, briefly banishing Trump after January 6th and, you
know, obviously the Dominion and this and that, they've come back to continue to give him, you know, poll position in their coverage and their
How should the media -- because I don't think they've still got it -- cover Trump this time round? And I asked Andrew, for instance, about this, you
know, breaking convention and doing his own speech again instead of joining the, you know, mandated media agreement to be part of a debate stage.
SWISHER: I think Trump is handling it perfectly. Why should he? He doesn't need them anymore, right? If I were him, why should he deign to talk to
them? Even if he made them, he doesn't owe them anything. And he actually - - as usual, because he's a perpetual victim, thinks they're not nice to him because I guess he didn't get hugged enough as a child or something.
And so, I think that he can do whatever he wants. He's his own media company --
AMANPOUR: No. But how should we do it? How should mainstream media do it? "The New York Times," which you contribute to, CNN, BBC, should we be
covering that speech?
SWISHER: I think you have to. He's the frontrunner. I think it's really difficult. I think what you can't do is push back on him. I -- so far, most
of the interviews have been weak. I mean, the CNN thing didn't work out very well, obviously.
You know, like you say, truthful not neutral. When someone is lying or doing other things, I think that's a very powerful way to cover it. I think
that's exactly the way to cover it. And even if, you know, people say, you're partisan, that's too bad. If you're being truthful, that's key part
and that's the way to cover him and not let him get away. The NBC interview, if you can believe, it was worse because they didn't push back
on a number of lies.
But then you're -- Trump is always at an advantage. If someone is lying constantly, it's like by batting away gnats in the middle of a rain forest.
You just like -- you have this all the time. And so, you don't really have a conversation, you have a fact checking situation. And I don't think
that's -- I don't think his supporters care and everybody else is just mad at you if you miss one.
AMANPOUR: Kara Swisher, thank you so much.
SWISHER: Thanks, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, what would Fox News make of prisoner rehabilitation? Next, we turn to the chance for some in the beleaguered U.S. prison system to be
defined by more than just their crimes. A new documentary, "26.2 to Life," is going behind the barbed wire to capture the infamous is San Quentin
prison's running club.
The California penitentiary holds an annual marathon with participants completing 105 laps around the crowded yard. And the director, Christine
Yoo, as well as a member of 1,000 Mile Club talked with Hari Sreenivasan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Christine Yoo and Markelle "the Gazelle" Taylor, thank you both for joining
Christine, let me start with you. What gave you the idea to profile runners inside San Quentin in the first place?
CHRISTINE YOO, DIRECTOR, "26.2 TO LIFE": More than 20 years ago, I -- my relationship with the prison system started then. I had a friend who was
also fellow Korean American who was wrongfully convicted in the Sof California and he was sentenced to 271 years in prison. Knowing that
basically he would be spending the rest of his living days in the prison, it really, of course, impacted me deeply.
And I started to wonder, you know, what does life actually look like? You know, how do you actually create a life in prison?
YOO: So, when I happened upon this magazine article about the marathon at San Quentin, I -- it immediately, for whatever reason, captured my
imagination. I'm not a marathoner, but I do know that running can create a sense of freedom. It certainly does that for me. It solves my problems when
I do that.
YOO: So, I thought it was like the perfect opportunity to -- you know, of course, a marathon being a metaphor for life in prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Everybody that's running start lining up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's game time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one. Go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen record.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go get them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a community now. And if you can't live in a community in here, you can't live in a community out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should they let me out? Because I've changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Tell me a little bit about just the conditions of shooting a story inside San Quentin. I mean, it's a big undertaking for even a prison
system to agree to this.
YOO: Yes. And I'm -- you know, I'm an independent filmmaker. And that is exactly right. Who do you call? You know, prison is not the kind of place
that you can leave a voicemail and they're going to call you back. So, you know, when we decided to embark upon this journey, it did take about nine
months just to really figure out who to -- you know, the matrix of the bureaucracy, so to speak. We finally did speak with the right person and
they did grant us that permission.
But I will say this, that every time we shot in there, there was no guarantee that we were going to get another time to shoot. So, time was
always very limited. And over time, I mean, it took several years to do this. We -- you know, it was matter of gaining trust and them knowing that
I was really here to explore life inside and the human experience. It wasn't necessarily like a critique on the prison system. You know, that's
for people to decide on their own after they (INAUDIBLE).
SREENIVASAN: Yes. So, Markelle, we should let our audience know, you are - - have been recently released after serving 18 years. And I want to ask, what made you want to run? I mean, how did you find on you about this 1,000
Mile Club? As it's no secret in the film, you're kind of the fastest guy in there. What made you want to do this?
MARKELLE TAYLOR, SUBJECT, "26.2 TO LIFE": A friend of mine who committed suicide, who I was very close to, and the guy I'm not going to put his name
out there, but he had done like 20 something years and this was like his fourth or fifth board hearing and he got denied and he hung himself.
So, the following year, it was my turn to do the same thing, go to the board and present my case so I can try to get out. You know, I was like,
man, I don't want to be like that. I don't want to feel like that. And there's already stresses and anxieties and fears inside already. So,
hopefully, I have a better shot. But if not, I don't want to end up like that just in case I get denied. So, that's how I started running.
Running opened everything up completely. And I was able to see a lot better and more clearer. I was a little bit more focused. So, that allowed me to
have that mental freeness before even getting released from prison.
SREENIVASAN: When you're running, even though you're taking turn after turn after turn inside the prison complex wall, you're surrounded by
prisoners who are walking across the path, so to speak, not necessarily thinking about the fact that you're on your workout, what's going through
TAYLOR: First of all, I'd like to say that I got the idea of my purpose of running from "Forest Gump," the movie "Forest Gump." And the purpose -- he
ran for a purpose. So, that was my thing. I wasn't envision I was outside. I envisioning that I was carrying everybody, including the people I
victimized in my lifetime, people who are struggling and suffering from their own mental imprisonment, people who are struggling with cancer or
diabetes or whatever they're struggling with and suffering with, I'm there for them to represent them and to run for them.
Even people who have been victimized in their lifetime and my own personal victims and people that I harmed and hurt, everybody I'm carrying along
with me and I'm running for them.
SREENIVASAN: So, Christine, tell me about the difference that you had of how you perceived prison life to be -- even the nonrunning portions versus
maybe what these members of the club, these characters that you are profiling were describing to you?
YOO: I had certain perceptions of what prison and people in prison were like. False impressions, really. And as I got to know people, moving
through those spaces, I realized that, you know, they're no different than any of us out here, you know, the popular media, of course, true crime
doesn't do us any favors in describing what these human beings are actually like.
People are more than their crimes. They are three-dimensional people with goals and dreams and families. But what I was really interested in the
story of the 1,000 Mile Club is in the face of what seems like overwhelming systemic problems.
This is a story of hope. This is a story of transformation. And really, Coach Frank Ruona, he took his passion for long-distance running, created
community around that, that has had a ripple effect, you know, beyond the walls of the prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK RUONA, COACH: Typically, I don't question any of the inmates about their crime. It really doesn't matter much to me what they've done in the
past. What matters to me is what are they doing now and what are they going to do in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Christine, Markelle is just one of the characters that you profile. Let's talk a little bit about some of the other ones. Let's start
with Tommy Wickerd.
YOO: Yes. Tommy Wickerd, former NAZI white supremist gang member who has - - you know, over the years, he was a serial criminal. But, you know, being an Asian American female, I can definitely attest to the fact that those
days are behind him. You know, and further, the data does show that as people become older, they do age out of crime. But I was very interested in
profiling Tommy because he -- his story really shows the struggles of navigating being a father and husband from prison. And I'm very grateful to
his family for opening up their lives to us so that we can get a peek into what those struggles really are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOMMY WICKERD, PRISONER: She's like, marry me. I was like, marrying? I'm probably never coming home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can understand the law are the laws, but I have the right to be mad at my dad. No one is going to take that from me. I know
he's feeling sorry. But tell me then, until I share my feeling, why can't (INAUDIBLE) share his? To his son.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: So, Markelle, you know, I can see somebody watching this and saying, why are all these kinds of programs inside prison? They were
supposed to be there to be punished. Why should prisoners have access to things like this?
TAYLOR: Because I think that's a smart way to do that, because if not, it would be either against each other or towards the correctional officers or
both. I mean, it's already a very dangerous environment. So, we have to be able to have some to be able to get guys focused on other things instead of
on each other. So, to do that, you got to have these programs that help people to understand where they come from, why they acted out the way they
acted out, and what can get them to that place where they can be a decent human being again, you know, and find themselves and find their authentic
selves to be able to be the peaceful, productive, helpful human being that they always was meant to be.
So, without these programs and without this running community and without this running club, I think society, outside and inside of prison, would be
a very dangerous environment.
YOO: I'll add to that for a second, because the data shows that 90 percent of the people who are in prison do eventually find their way out. So, you
know, it's actually a matter of public safety that we want to have programs in prison so that people won't recidivize (ph).
Four of the members that have gotten out, there is a zero percent recidivism rate, which, you know, compared to the national average I think
in the U.S. after five years, like 67 percent. So, obviously, the running program and a lot of these programs are -- you know, it's doing something
right. It's a step in the right direction. And it is a matter of national public safety that we do engage in rehabilitation programs.
SREENIVASAN: What do you think are the structural obstacles from implementing a program like this elsewhere?
YOO: I think it really has to do with the culture of how we incarcerate people. You know, there's obviously the culture of over policing and the
relationships between the administration and the population. And for that reason, that is why we are on a mission to go to different prisons, to
screen the film, to have a platform -- that will create a platform for discussions, to meet with the administrations. So, we are -- have received
a lot of invitations.
For example, like the State of North Dakota, they let us know that the overwhelming majority of people who are locked up in that state are there
due to drug related offenses. So, the idea of, you know, replacing and addictive high with maybe a so-called runners high is what they're
YOO: You know, we're not saying that running is going to solve the mass incarceration problem in this country. OK. We don't want oversimplify it.
But what I do know is when I did talk with lot of the guys, they will say when they can complete five miles, you know, suddenly, they have this new
confidence. They can then, oh, I can complete my GED. Oh, I can -- you know, now I can deal with reconnecting with my family members. So, it does
set off a chain reaction of like positive behaviors.
SREENIVASAN: Markelle, I know you served 18 years for second degree murder. If it wasn't for these programs, if it wasn't for the 1,000 Mile
Club, if I just put you in prison, didn't give you any of these programs, I don't know how many more years you would have had but -- and if you had
come back out, what would be Markelle Taylor then versus the Markelle Taylor that we're seeing today?
TAYLOR: My life the way I was living it. I was so mentally sick and distraught that I over and over and over again continued to punish myself.
Especially for the crime that I over and over and over again continued to punish myself, especially for the crime that I committed.
So, I could never forgive my own self because of my addiction to alcoholism, because I was masking my original pain and the things I was
going through my life, I was very sad and unhappy and I was just making one bad decision after one bad decision because what I was -- that's the way I
was living my life, you know.
I think without these programs and without the running club, I probably would still be in prison and I probably would have died by now, I probably
wouldn't have made it.
YOO: To be paroled in the State of California, one must prove transformation and have evidence of transformation. So, if you don't have a
pathway to prove transformation, such as getting an education, such as completing a marathon, such as -- you know, any of these health help
groups, it's not going to happen.
But at the same time, for a lot of people, there are more opportunities that people have in prison than they ever had before on the streets. You
know, if they had those opportunities when they were kids, you know, would they have landed there? That's the question.
You know, I can tell you that most of the people that I talked with in prison just, anecdotally, you learn very quickly that all of the things
that create success for people in life, access to education, some kind of financial means, some kind of mentorship or family structure. Most people
in prison just don't have that.
Obviously, people did something to land themselves there. But, you know, we as a society too are responsible for that. You know, would people be there
if they did have access to education? If family structures were not broken because of multigenerational incarceration? That is also a big question.
Hopefully, people can look at the film and, you know, these walls will turn into windows. And people can take a look -- a better look at life inside
and what that really entails.
SREENIVASAN: So, Markelle, a couple things. I mean, now that there are so many other people in prisons that might be seeing this film, what do you
want them to take away from it?
TAYLOR: What I want is them to believe in themselves and to know that even if they're not accepted that they are not the worst thing they ever done.
And that as long as they can strive towards a reality that they know that can fit them, like -- and I'm going to give you an example with running. As
long as I know that I can maintain a seven-minute mile pace and train towards that and complete that, that's more realistic than I can even
achieve even higher goals if I put my mind to it and just never give up and just always believe that you are not your worst crime, I am not my life
crime, and I am a wonderful beautiful human being is what I would hope they take out of that.
SREENIVASAN: And, Markelle, also, look, I am an amateur runner compared to how you have not only qualified but finished the Boston Marathon. Can you
tell me what it's like for you or what it was like for you to finish that race?
TAYLOR: The experience, my life run in Boston, having an opportunity to do that was a very a humbling appreciative situation for me to where I felt
like a total sense of freedom and just really, really truly grateful to have the opportunities.
SREENIVASAN: What was it like when you crossed the finish line? I mean, what went through your head?
YOO: I made it out of prison. That's all I could think about, is I made it out of prison. I didn't even -- it -- things was just so fast for me at
that time, because it was just not even two months out of prison, it was like a month and some change when I got out. And it was like, man, and I'm
crossing a finish line in Boston and was like -- it was so like, I couldn't even really understand it. It was just -- I just was just thinking about
just I survived, what I went through in prison and got out and had a second chance in life.
SREENIVASAN: The film is called "26.2 to Life." Filmmaker Christine Yoo and 1,000 Mile Club member alumni and marathoner Markelle Taylor, thank you
both for joining us.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
YOO: Thank you. This was a real honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And you can watch "26.2 to Life" in select cinemas across the United States now.
My next guest has spent a lot of time inside prison walls on death row, in fact. Sister Helen Prejean is the well-known nun and leader in the movement
to abolish America's death penalty, often staying and praying with inmates until the very end.
Her memoir, "Dead Man Walking," inspired an Oscar winning film, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. And an opera which has just had its Met debut
in New York. Here's a clip where Sister Prejean is trying to persuade an inmate to confess his sins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, I'm really sorry that those kids are dead. Sorrier than you'll ever know. But I ain't confessing to something that I
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm trying. I'm trying to help you, Josephi. But you've got to let me in, and you've got to tell me the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, let's take this opportunity to look back at my 2019 conversation with Sister Prejean herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I just wonder whether when you started out as a nun you had any notion that your activism would become such a massive part of your life and
such a massive part of our global consciousness?
HELEN PREJEAN, AUTHOR, "RIVER OF FIRE": Well, first of all, I didn't have much of an idea of activism at all. I mean, confident life or religious
life before Vatican II was pretty much being prayerful and pious and charitable, going out to teach, but I didn't picture activism in the public
square at all.
Vatican II changed that for us and actually for the whole church. Or like Pope Francis refers to the church now, it ought to be a field hospital out
there with the wounded. So, "River of Fire," my book, is about waking up to the social dimension of gospel of Jesus and being on the side of marginated
poor people, which led me then to move into an African-American inner city project in New Orleans. And that's when I really woke up.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, how old were you when you entered the convent?
PREJEAN: I was a child bride of Christ. I was 18 years old. Cried all the way to New Orleans when I entered the division and left my family home. But
I knew what I wanted. And in the '50s, a life for a woman that where you could be religious and spiritual, you could be with other spiritual seekers
and you could do work and develop your intellectual life as well. We had great nuns that taught us and I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be one
of them, and so I did.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me then, you make a delineation between when you joined and then you say Vatican II. For those who don't know what that means, what
is Vatican II? What did it do? And how many years after you joined did that happen?
PREJEAN: Now, well, I joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1957. Vatican II, and so, it was to help the church into the modern world. So, it freed
up nuns to be able to just say, let us get out there and meet the people where they are, and it freed me up then to move into the St. Thomas housing
projects. Then I get a letter, write a letter to a man on death row. And behold, two and a half years later, I'm witnessing his execution.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk a little bit about that because, you know, everybody knows about you from "Dead Man Walking," your book, and also the
film that was made starring Susan Sarandon as you and Sean Penn as one of the condemned men. And we're going to play a little clip of one of the
scenes where you are accompanying one of these people who are about to be executed and then we'll talk and then we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS, "DEAD MAN WALKING": You did a terrible thing. A terrible thing, but you have dignity now. And nobody could take that from
you. You are a son of God.
SEAN PENN, ACTOR, "DEAD MAN WALKING": Nobody ever called me a son of God before. I've been called me a son of a you know what many times, no one a
son of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Sister Prejean, how close to reality was that scene?
PREJEAN: Right on target. I couldn't have worked with more collaborative people than Susan Sarandon and Tim Robinson and Sean. And that is the
actual statement from one of the men I was with, and nobody ever called me a son of God before. I've been called me a son of a you know what many
times. So, it's very, very close. They wanted -- Tim Robinson and Susan Sarandon really wanted to get it right. So, I worked with them on every
line, every scene of that movie.
AMANPOUR: Now, beyond the movie, in your own life, what was it that you were able to bring to these people? I think you accompanied six people to
AMANPOUR: What were you able to do for them? I mean, did you pray with them at the last moment? Did you hold their hands? Were you in the chamber?
What did you do for them? What were you allowed to do?
PREJEAN: What any human being does with someone who is facing such an exigency in their life like dying or being killed, it was to give them
dignity. It was to be present to them. It was to be able to say to them, look, you did a terrible, unspeakable thing, but you are worth more than
the worst thing you've ever done in your life.
I mean, I recognize our country is very far away, at this point in the United States, of recognizing that the death penalty is the torture of
human beings because imaginative, you know, conscious human beings can't help but anticipate being killed. And we are justifying it by saying, oh,
but look what they did. So, we're going to do them what they did to their victims. What kind of standard of morality is that?
So, it's to bring people into the human story is what I did with "Dead Man Walking," an eye witness account and the reader learns with me. And in the
movie, you'd follow me. I wasn't sure of myself. I was learning as I go. Tim Robinson all through the making of the movie, the nun was in over her
head. And indeed, that's really, really true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would (INAUDIBLE) Matthew Poncelet, this boy is to be executed in six days. You must be very, very careful.
SARANDON: Well, Matthew, I made it.
PENN: You've never done this before?
PENN: Never been this close to a murderer before?
SARANDON: Not that I know of.
I just want to help him take responsibility for what he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PREJEAN: So, what "River of Fire" does see is talk about the slow awakening that it was not just a pray to God to solve the problems of the
world, but prayer was to quicken me to be able to roll up my sleeves and reach out to the suffering world and to make a difference. So, it talks
about somebody coming to an awakening.
The gospel of Jesus -- Christianity can be very misused. I cringe at what Christianity does when you have someone like ex-attorney general, Jeff
Sessions, quote Romans 13, an apostle of St. Paul to justify the separation of children from their parents at the border. Saying, that if something is
legal, then it's of God, it has the authority of God. These parents are breaking the law by being illegal and so, we are justified in separating
them from their children. They brought it on themselves.
And they actually tried to use the divine authority to justify what they're doing. We got to get Christianity right. It's about justice. It's about
that everybody should have a chance at a decent life and not using it to hurt people, to put people down, to exclude people, to vilify people.
AMANPOUR: I wonder whether you have a view on what the Trump administration is doing and in the words of the current U.S. attorney
general, bringing back the federal death penalty after a moratorium or a hiatus of about 20 years. Let me just play what William Barr has said about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will be proposing legislation providing that in cases of mass murder or in cases of murder of a law
enforcement officer, there will be a strict timetable for judicial proceedings that will allow the imposition of the death sentence without
undue delay. Punishment must be swift.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you make of that? And particularly in the wake of the El Paso mass murder and the Dayton, Ohio mass murder where President Trump and
his associates were calling very loudly for the death penalty for what they call these most heinous of criminals?
PREJEAN: That's supposed to be what the designer death penalty has been from the beginning, when the Supreme Court put the death penalty back in
the Greg decision, they said, it's only going to be reserved for the worst of the worst. In the actual practice of who has been executed and who is
sitting on death row, it's always poor people and almost always people who have killed white people.
They're not going to do the federal death penalty any better than they're doing it in the States. And while he may think and the attorney general
might think just by doing a feat, we're going unleash now all these executions.
I've been talking to federal defense attorneys who are going to be working might and main to delay, throw monkey wrenches in that machinery of death,
delay it and possibly forestall it all the way through.
AMANPOUR: In the moment leading up to their final lethal injection that you witnessed, what do these death penalty inmates feel? What do they go
PREJEAN: What is so surreal about their deaths is that it's imposed on them and there are two red telephones in the killing chamber. One is to the
governor's office and one is to the court. So, with their consciousness being wanted is (ph) in the last moment, I'm trying to get my legs to walk
across this floor, everybody I've known on death row has the same nightmare, and it is the guard to come in, it's my time. They're dragging
me out of my cell, I'm yelling, no, no. And then I wake up, it was just a dream. Not tonight but later.
And then to count down the days, I'm going to be killed at Friday at 6:00 p.m. and today is Tuesday. So, there's Wednesday, Thursday, and you're
counting down the time to die, it's the most surreal thing that you can imagine in the world. And then, if one of those red telephones rings when
you are walking into that execution chamber, the execution doesn't happen.
I was with Dobie Williams three times. He was killed on the third try. But twice before, once when he was being served his last meal, the warden came
up to him and said, Dobie, I don't want to put you on a rollercoaster but we just got a fax from the Supreme Court, you got a stay. And the stay was
like for one week. And then they took him out and killed him.
So, it's the most surreal thing in the world of this death premeditated, a protocol of death imposed on human beings who try to do the best they can.
And that was the cause of my dialogue with Pope John Paul II. When I am walking with a man to execution and he's shackled hand and foot and he's
surrounded by guards and he kind of turns his head and says, Sister, please pray that God holds up my legs while I walk. Your Holiness, where is the
dignity in rendering a human being defenseless and taking him out and killing him? Can you help the church to see that dignity of all life, not
just the innocent but the guilty, as well? And Pope John Paul did a lot to move it forward in the -- of the death penalty in the Catholic church.
And Pope Francis, on August 2, 2018, finally after 1600 years, declared under no circumstance can the premeditated killing of a person for crime be
allowed the government to do.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you? You mentioned letters to the popes and meetings with the popes. You went to meet with Pope Francis personally to deliver
him a letter about your concerns of the way women are treated institutionally by the Catholic church. What precisely were you trying to
get out of him? What was your major complaint?
PREJEAN: It was to conduct dialogue about women in the church, which are not part of policymaking, decision-making. And I said to the pope in the
letter, when it's all males making all these decisions, it's not healthy. How are we going to have a healthy church if we don't take seriously that
when women are baptized, they are baptized in the image of Christ just like a man. That you can't rely on an accident of biology as to whether or not
you can fully image Christ. And it was to move that dialogue along with women just as we have done on the death penalty.
So, dialogue takes a long, long time. But when you have been a witness to something as I have with the death penalty, you could bring people there
and keep the dialogue going, to wake up the people, first and foremost, but it's the same thing with women in the church, any moral issue that has to
do with the inherent dignity of people and treating them with that dignity.
So, I knew I was going to be one part of the dialogue by having this letter to the pope. But you have to keep them -- when you love, like I love the
Catholic church, you keep the dialogue coming. I love my country. So, I keep the dialogue coming about why we shouldn't take people and strap them
down and kill them. When you love people, you stay at the table and you keep talking.
AMANPOUR: Sister Prejean, you, obviously, now, in your own clothes and you have taken your own name, this is, obviously, you've been doing this for a
long time. But pre-Vatican II and when you joined the nunnery, you were wearing a habit, you had a different name that you took as a sister. How is
personal life and personal space changed for you in the years, you know, since you -- at 18, now you're 80, you entered at 18, how has it changed
PREJEAN: That was the seismic change in the Catholic church of what the ecumenical Vatican II did for us.
AMANPOUR: Which was in the early 1960s, right?
PREJEAN: '62 to '65.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Got it.
PREJEAN: Before, we dressed in the habit, which was the original widow's garb of 1650 in France because widows were the only women that could go out
unaccompanied by men. And apostolic orders were the first. It was different from being a cloistered nun. You know, even the line in Shakespeare, get
thee a nunnery. If you went to a nunnery, you never went out again. You prayed for the world.
But apostolic religious orders have a life of prayer, deep meditation, community, but then you reach out to the -- and you are free. You're a free
agent to be able to see needs and respond. So, our sisters, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, we had the freedom to do that. And I would be nowhere without
the sisterhood. The sisterhood are under me. The sisterhood helped me grow up.
AMANPOUR: Sister Helen Prejean, author of "River of Fire," your spiritual memoire, thank you very much for joining us.
PREJEAN: Thank you. It's a joy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: An incredible and inspiring woman.
And finally, to another such one tonight. Hattie's come home. Hattie McDaniel was the first black performer to win an Oscar for her role Mammy
in "Gone with the Wind" in 1940. And when she died, she bequeathed to Howard University, but it went missing decades ago. Now, the academy has
gifted a replacement to the university where it was on display before its disappearance.
That's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can always
catch us online, on our website and all-over social media. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.