Return to Transcripts main page
Interview with Israeli Legal Scholar and International Women's Rights Advocate Ruth Halperin-Kaddari; Interview with Deputy U.N. Women Executive Director Sarah Hendriks; Interview with Haaretz Journalist Omer Benjakob; Interview with "Rustin" Actor Colman Domingo; Interview with Former Chief Speechwriter for U.S. President Jimmy Carter James Fallows. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 28, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
More hostages and prisoners expected to be released as Israel and Hamas continue their truce. As Israel gathers evidence of sexual violence
committed by Hamas on October 7th, I'll speak to Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a women's rights advocate who accuses the International Humanitarian
Community of staying silent. Then, I'll put that the same question to Sarah Hendricks from the U.N.
And disinformation, deep fakes, and division. An Israeli cyber journalist tells me how the war is playing out online.
Plus, one of the hidden heroes of the civil rights movement gets his due in the Obama-backed film "Rustin." Hari Sreenivasan speaks to leading actor
And finally, we say farewell to Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter with friend of the Carters, James Fallows.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Well, there's hope in Israel as more hostages are expected to be released as part of an extended truce. But the horrors of October 7th are still
being uncovered. Israeli police, along with a civil commission, are compiling forensic evidence, video and witness testimony to document cases
of rape and sexual violence against women by Hamas.
CNN spoke with witnesses to those harrowing events. And a warning that the following testimonies are graphic and contain disturbing accounts of sexual
First, take a listen to an Israeli paramedic whose unit responded to one massacre site on October 7th at Kibbutz Be'eri. He did not want to be
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
G, PARAMEDIC, IDF SEARCH AND RESCUE: The doors, I open, the bedroom. I see two girls, two teenagers, I guess 13 or 14 years old. One is lying on the
floor, one is lying on the bed. One on the floor, she's lying on her stomach. Her pants are pulled down towards her knees. And there's a bullet
wound on her -- the backside of her neck near her head, and there's a puddle of blood around her head, and there's remains of semen on the lower
part of her back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Thousands of statements and video clips have been collected, but investigators do not have firsthand testimony, and it's not clear if
any victims survived. However, Israeli police say dead bodies brought for identification show trauma consistent with rape and assault. One morgue
worker discovered -- described what she discovered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARI, VOLUNTEER, IDF MILITARY RABBINATE: The underwear was often bloody. They just -- some of them had underwear on that was very bloody and that
was very difficult to see also. We also saw most of the people, the women were shot at least once in the body, but then they were shot in the head,
and they were shot in the head many times, and it often seemed to be gratuitous cruelty, abject cruelty, because it was seemed to have been done
just to mutilate them. The women we saw were not just killed, they were cruelly, cruelly mutilated in many parts of their bodies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Some say those harrowing stories have been ignored by international communities, including Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Israeli legal
scholar who feels completely betrayed by women's rights organizations. She joins me now.
As you might expect, our conversation may include graphic and disturbing accounts of sexual violence.
Ruth, thank you so much for joining us. This is a very difficult but very important conversation to have. As just a citizen and a journalist,
listening to what we just played is quite damning. But as an expert yourself who has been in this field for many years, can you explain to us
how sexual violence was used as a weapon of war by Hamas on October 7th against Israeli women?
RUTH HALPERIN-KADDARI, ISRAELI LEGAL SCHOLAR AND INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Well, first of all, thank you, Bianna, for having me on
the show. It's really very important that international media and international communities start paying more attention to this as sexual
violence and rape was indeed used as a weapon of war by Hamas towards Israeli society, and particularly towards targeting Israeli women and
children and girls.
It has always been historically the fact part of war that women's bodies had been weaponized and were used in order to instigate the most horrific
horror and terror within society at large, and not just against the individual women who were victimized, it's like -- it's as if the body of
women represents the body of the nation.
And when victimizing and violating the body of the women, it is supposed to instill the greatest fear and the greatest humiliation for the nation as a
whole. And this was premeditated and intentionally targeted by Hamas.
In addition to these evidence that you just screened and mentioning the ongoing investigation, there already are statements issued by Hamas
terrorists who are being interrogated in Israel, and they clearly say -- they tell about the instructions and the permission that they were given by
religious leader to perform these atrocities.
GOLODRYGA: And what's notable when you mention that -- the evidence and what we've heard from these interrogations from the terrorists who were
captured is that yesterday a prominent Israeli human rights organization, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, is calling now for the International
Criminal Court to investigate whether some of these accounts and reports of sexual abuse committed by Hamas against Israeli women on October 7th
constitute crimes against humanity, and some of their evidence that they list does not include anything that came out of interrogation because they
say that that may open a window for coercion.
So, this is separate. This is coming from documented evidence they have compiled from the medical community. How significant is this?
HALPERIN-KADDARI: It is very significant because the Physicians for Human Rights is an incredibly credible civil society organization. And I'm really
grateful for the work that they did in putting all the dots together.
This is what I am now visiting in Geneva. And I have met with a number of high-level officials, including the High Commissioner of Human Rights,
Volker Turk. And I also spoke in front of many ambassadors yesterday at a closed event and presented this kind of evidence and testimonies and walked
through all the dots together because despite not having surviving witnesses, we do have eyewitness survivor who witnessed a gang rape next to
her. We do have a paramedic who spoke to a survivor who described that she was raped by four men and we do have all the other evidence.
And I do think that we need to add this to what comes out of the interrogations of the terrorists because this demonstrates the premeditated
plan and the systematic nature in which these orders were actually executed by the terrorists.
Recall that the massacre actually took place in 22 locations, at the same time. And these horrific images of the bodies that you just described at
the beginning of this part, and the testimony that comes from the volunteer in the IDF morgue, they described the same pattern, the same method in
which these horrific atrocities were executed by the terrorists in separate locations, in different locations, all at the same time. This demonstrates
a preconceived and premeditated plan. And that is why it does amount to crimes against humanity.
GOLODRYGA: Can you explain more, because you've now listed three times that in your testimony and even speaking with us the premeditation factor?
How does that play into in the investigation here?
HALPERIN-KADDARI: The fact that so many cases occurred at the same time, with the same extreme brutality, the level of brutality you warned at the
beginning, but didn't even describe the extent of the brutality that was exemplified in the bodies that that were found. So, the concentration of
all these cases occurring within actually a relatively short span of time, because all this was in less than a day, all this adds together. It
couldn't have happened without premeditation and without preconceived orders to exactly perform that.
GOLODRYGA: I just spoke with the first lady of Israel, Michal Herzog, on this very issue in the last hour, and she expressed what she had written
about in her op-ed, just her disappointment and just real shock, and the lack of global outrage, specifically among women's organizations and those
within the U.N. You similarly have been critical about a very hollow or lack of response.
And let's just give our viewers a sense of the tick tock here, because we're talking about something that occurred seven weeks ago now. The U.N.
made a statement just a week after the terror attacks that did not mention sexual violence at all. The U.N. then condemned, "All forms of violence
against women and girls, as well as any use of sexual violence as a weapon of war."
And just last week, the U.N. tweeted, "We met with Israeli women's organizations and heard about the work of the civil commission for crimes
against women and children. We remain alarmed by gender-based violence reports on the 7th of October and call for rigorous investigation
prioritizing the rights, needs and safety of those affected." Again, this is from U.N. Women, an organization you've been affiliated with and had
been affiliated with for a dozen plus years.
Not mentioned here was Hamas, not mentioned here was sexual assault and rape of Israeli women on October 7th. What is your response to the
responses thus far?
HALPERIN-KADDARI: I was actually affiliated with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the CEDAW Committee, which is
another human rights body that is also in charge in promoting and protecting women's rights throughout the world.
But CEDAW, as well as U.N. Women, their response was really devastating, was heartbreaking for me. Because neither of them acknowledged or
recognized the existence, the fact that sexual violence was part of the Hamas massacre, the Hamas October 7th attack. And these are bodies whose
raison d'etre is to protect, to promote, to fulfill women and to protect them from violence, all women, in all places of the world, regardless of
nationality, of race, of religion.
And by not acknowledging this, by dismissing, by ignoring, they are, in fact, almost, I would say, legitimizing the existence of these atrocities.
They're signaling, they're sending a message that these atrocities can go on unaccounted for.
And Hamas already said that they are going to do it again and again, a million, 7th of October. That's what they said. So, is this the message
that these human rights bodies, the international human rights community wants to send the world, wants to send to Hamas or to other terrorist
organizations that this can go on unaccounted for?
GOLODRYGA: Right after our interview, I will be speaking with the deputy executive director for U.N. Women. She is listening to this interview, and
I'm wondering if there are any words or questions that you have for her before I turn things over to that conversation?
HALPERIN-KADDARI: Thank you. I am glad to notice beginning of a change of the attitude from U.N. Women and hopefully from other human rights bodies.
And I also acknowledge the fact that the head of the U.N. Women Geneva office yesterday in opening the 16 days of fight of violence against women
did refer to October 7th as a place where sexual violence against women was committed.
So, I hope that this signals change and I do hope that we can continue to collaborate in the future in order to not just acknowledge this, but also
make everything possible to prevent further atrocities like that from occurring everywhere in the world.
GOLODRYGA: Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate your commentary and your input. We appreciate it. Thank you.
HALPERIN-KADDARI: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, let me now bring in Sarah Hendriks, the Deputy Executive Director for U.N. Women. She joins me from Dubai.
Sarah, thank you for joining us. I am assuming that you heard the conversation with Ruth and her direct message to you. So, I want to give
you the floor to respond.
SARAH HENDRIKS, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. WOMEN: Thank you so much, Bianna, and thank you to Ruth for her important words.
And indeed, U.N. Women is deeply, deeply alarmed at the disturbing reports of gender-based and sexual violence on October 7th. And as we've said in
the Security Council and through various platforms, we absolutely, unequivocally condemn all forms of violence against women and girls,
especially in the context of conflict. As you just heard Ruth say, this is never acceptable, and gender-based violence as a weapon of war is totally
Certainly, we have called from the beginning for the need to protect civilians, including, and especially women and girls in the context of this
conflict, and we've called for the need for any allegations of gender-based atrocities to be fully investigated with the utmost priority.
GOLODRYGA: Is there a reason, though, Sarah, that you can't specifically call out Hamas and the mounting evidence now over seven weeks that Israeli
investigators have collected that we've shown our viewers about the atrocities they committed specifically on October 7th? Because I think
that's the crux of the issue here. It's not just condemning sexual violence against women and in any war in general, it's specifically what occurred on
October 7th, perpetrated by Hamas?
HENDRIKS: Indeed. U.N. Women always supports impartial, independent investigations into any serious allegations of gender-based or sexual
violence. And within the U.N. family, these investigations are led by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
And just to provide a little bit of context in terms of U.N. Women's role, U.N. Women specifically provides and has extensive knowledge on gender-
based violence, and provides and supports investigations as we do with all U.N. investigations.
And so consequently, in this context, and within the U.N. system, it is the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which for us has the
mandate to investigate all alleged violations. It is absolutely important for the rights, for the needs, for the protection, for the dignity for the
survivors of violence to be supported throughout a process. And that's why we work through these globally mandated mechanisms.
That notwithstanding, we understand certainly we encourage and support national level efforts. The ones that you've heard about today, the Civil
Commission in Israel, which has brought together women's organizations to document gender-based atrocities impartially. Our work will be on the back
side of the Independent International Commission. And so, I hope that clarity is helpful (ph).
GOLODRYGA: So, are you satisfied with the pace of the U.N. and U.N. Women's response? Because we heard some strong words last week from the
U.S. ambassador. to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, asking why there isn't more outrage from that specific body and any more condemnation from
that body. We've heard from officials in Europe as well. So, it's not just the Israelis.
And I want to play for you sound from the first lady of Israel who I just interviewed in the last hour about what she says are the consequences of
not speaking out because she's saying they apply to women beyond just Israelis. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAL HERZOG, ISRAELI FIRST LADY: When they say, I'm alarmed, they are alarmed, I am alarmed that this is the only, the strongest word they can
use. It is very alarming because we need to understand today it's Israeli women, tomorrow it can be others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, she makes that point. And others would argue that in this time frame you've had many people, some powerful people in universities who
run women's assault organizations fired from their jobs because they are actually questioning the validity of any of these details.
HENDRIKS: I want to, Bianna, emphasize again that from the beginning U.N. Women and the U.N. system indeed went into action to support the
Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which, as I said, has the mandate to investigate all alleged violations.
This is done not in the public eye. It's done intentionally not in the public eye in order to support and protect the dignity and the rights of
victims and survivors of violence. We call this a survivor and victim- oriented approach for a reason. It's important that this is done in that way. And I hope that this is well understood.
By us expressing our alarm, by us expressing our grave concern, it is to stand side by side to look at the horrors of that day and to look them
squarely in their eye. Even as we work in parallel to ensure that effective documentation, effective analysis is undertaken in order for there to be
accountability. And I hope that that's clear.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it's -- it -- I really appreciate your time and explaining this. I guess my final question to you is, is this type of investigation
these types of responses the same that your organization would issue for any country that had this type of attack inflicted upon them in crimes as
you have responded to Israel thus far?
HENDRIKS: Correct. I'm so glad you asked that question because, indeed, this is the very same approach. These are the very same tools that we
utilize in all contexts where there are grave violations of gender-based atrocities and of sexual violence in the context of conflict. There is no
different. We have put our full capacity and support into the process of this independent investigation as such.
I did speak just last week with Israeli women's organizations, and I heard from leaders of Israeli women's organizations about what they are doing to
document in the context of their own country. We shared and heard from each other, learning from each other, their processes and U.N. Women in the U.N.
system sharing about our process. It was an important exchange.
What was even more important was also us coming together and agreeing on the importance of both Israeli and Palestinian women coming together to
drive forward a mandate of peace with both voices at the peace table.
GOLODRYGA: Sarah Hendriks, we really do appreciate your time today and we look forward to your continued investigation into these heinous attacks of
October 7th. Thank you.
HENDRIKS: Thank you, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, now the conflict between Israel and Hamas is also being fought online, where an influx of Israeli and Hamas content is battling for
hearts and minds. Well, in the wild west of social media, it's no surprise that disinformation is rife, something that's coming into stark focus this
As Elon Musk, the CEO of X, formerly known as Twitter, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog. It's a trip
that comes just after Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory on his own platform.
Well, someone watching all of this closely is Omer Benjakob, a cyber security and tech correspondent for Haaretz, and he joins us now from Tel
Omer, thank you for joining us. So, first, let's talk about disinformation in the form of the conversation that I just had with Ruth and the official
from the U.N., Sarah Hendriks. There's a lot of disinformation now just in covering a subject that should -- everyone should agree upon was, as we're
getting more facts in, a heinous attack and yet, we know we're starting to hear differing voices on this issue online as well. Talk about the
difference between disinformation and misinformation.
OMER BENJAKOB, HAARETZ JOURNALIST: So, I think what we're seeing in this war at a scale we've yet to see or at an unprecedented level is how both
nefarious state actors like Russia and others, but also people who support Israel or Palestine are actually throwing facts under the bus.
So, we're seeing information and facts being weaponized at a scale that I don't recall. And I think tech, and specifically Elon Musk, as X, is
allowing that to scale and go viral quite figuratively and literally. I think rape is just one of the most horrifying examples that we have. And
we're seeing this online a lot where allegedly pro-Palestinian voices feel this need to deny sexual violence and rape against Israelis, violence that
was documented by those actually perpetrating it. And this denial is part of an attempt to help the Palestinian cause.
And I think the intention might be good, but this denial is dangerous. And that leads us to the distinction between kind of disinformation and
So, disinformation is when, for example, a Russian operation forges websites and pushes out fake information that they know is false and they
push it out for nefarious contest for nefarious reasons, as opposed to misinformation, which is someone, you know, pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli,
for example, sharing something that they believe will help their side, but is actually wrong.
And I think what's so interesting is that we're seeing both sides now find the need to kind of deny the other side's fact, and there's something very
dangerous about this divide in reality where no one side and anyone believes anymore any form of information coming from the other side. And I
am concerned, not as an Israeli, but as a journalist, and I think it's very worrying that we've so richly -- so quickly reached a state where no side
can -- we no longer have a shared reality. No one believes anyone, and no fact can be perceived, you know, just in its own right. And I think that's
GOLODRYGA: Let's talk about Elon Musk's visit to Israel yesterday. Obviously, X has come under a lot of scrutiny and criticism for the
spreading of misinformation and antisemitism and some posts that he actually endorsed and retweeted and amplified. And nonetheless, he came to
Israel and had a meeting with the prime minister with the president.
Your publication really challenged his trip and the worthiness of it, a piece titled "Israel's Repulsive Embrace of Elon Musk is a Cynical Betrayal
of Jews, Dead, and Alive." So, I'm not asking you to endorse -- or whether or not you endorse that specific article, but talk about the reaction to
having this man in particular visit now.
BENJAKOB: So, I think what's so ironic and concerning and terrible about this is that Elon Musk has actually, I think, helped create the conditions
needed for this terrible state we're in right now.
So, regardless of what you think about his politics or even Netanyahu's politics, this current situation where people cannot recognize that
Israelis were innocent, Israelis were murdered and slaughtered on October 7th, while also simultaneously recognizing that civilians in Gaza are also
being killed as part of the Israeli response and the situation which no side can accept a shared reality is based on the technology that Elon Musk
makes money off of and he's actually expedited a lot of these kind of processes.
So, in the past, post kind of Trump, we saw tons of disinformation mechanisms put into place on platforms like Twitter And all this kind of --
all these mechanisms have been rolled back. And I think this this truly terrible kind of division in reality that we're now living through is how
Elon Musk actually makes money. And I think when you connect that to the politics of Netanyahu, you can kind of see why newspapers like Haaretz and
people who are concerned by the state of kind of veracity and facts take issue with this, because the reality is that they're allies. There's almost
this kind of international access or this access of international technology and local nationalist populist leaders who are invested in this.
And I think Netanyahu, because he wants to be perceived as part of this kind of, you know, as someone who plays on the international level, we'll
meet someone like Elon Musk and give him an easy PR win, but the reality of it is that they're both quite complicit in creating this very politicized
And again, in a reality in which we can know -- we can accept that Israelis were slaughtered and raped while simultaneously accepting that people in
Gaza are dying. And I -- I'm a firm believer in the fact that we can actually establish a shared reality. And we can say, you know what happened
regardless of our politics and we can kind of, you know, create for -- like just a shared sense of reality, right?
And I've seen online, on Twitter, it's just such a good example on X, forgive me, I've seen the same video used by both sides, but with different
captions. And I think that's just a perfect example. So, there's this video of children in cages and, you know, a lot of people were claiming it's
Israeli captives, and a lot of other people were claiming it was Palestinians that Israel had arrested, and it was an old video from
somewhere else, and both sides were wrong, right? But it's such a good example of how Twitter has really helped just create this terrible schism
GOLODRYGA: So, let's move on from Twitter to a platform that you've actually been quite complimentary of, and that is Wikipedia. Because you
also report that Netanyahu has abused this platform, if not Netanyahu himself, then some of his supporters, by constantly going in and editing
his page. Can you give us more insight into that and why it matters?
BENJAKOB: Sure. So, for many years I've now report -- been reporting about Wikipedia because I think that actually, unlike social media, it is the
most important social media online or the most important source of information online, and there have been attempts by different kinds of
actors to influence it and skew the content.
We've seen this about Israel. So, we've seen pro and anti-Israeli forces do information and disinformation war about Israel and Palestine on Wikipedia
in English, but also internally inside Wikipedia in Hebrew, we've seen efforts by people who are supportive of Nathaniel to kind of help push out
his narrative, according to which Israel was -- or Israel was -- what happened on October 7th is the result of a military failure, it's not a
policy failure on his part.
And we've seen Wikipedia pulled into this fray for the same reason we see journalists and journalism being being weaponized because you need
credibility. Disinformation thrives off of credibility, right?
And just to take Haaretz as an example, we're seeing on tons of websites and tons of social media and places online and on Telegram
misrepresentation of Haaretz's work. People claiming, for example, that we found that there was no sexual violence, which is false. We've reported on
exactly the stuff that you had just spoken about, right?
So, we're seeing different attempts to kind of use different prestigious sources to misrepresent the facts. And we've also seen that on Wikipedia,
but Wikipedia is better than social media because Wikipedia requires you to check your sources. And that would be like my one big takeaway for like the
viewers, check sources. Don't share things that you don't know where they came from. It's such a basic rule to apply and Wikipedia applies it. So, it
actually weeds out a lot of these disinformation efforts. But there were attempts by pro-Netanyahu supporters to kind of skew the content for sure.
GOLODRYGA: Well, that -- and that's why they constantly have to go and re- edit it because as you said people --
BENJAKOB: Exactly, yes.
GOLODRYGA: -- sleuth observers are there watching it and catch it and then they go in and try to edit it after the fact. Omer Benjakob, this is really
fascinating. We'll have to have you back on to just talk about the world of social media and its coverage and how it's skewing so many fact-based
issues. Thank you.
BENJAKOB: A pleasure. Thank you for having me.
GOLODRYGA: Well, just moments ago, we saw the first pictures of Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the tribute service for his wife, Former
First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Jimmy Carter turned 99 in October. He and Rosalynn were married 77 years ago. And later, we will speak to James
Fallows, who was Carter's former chief speechwriter in the '70s and remained a close friend.
But now, we want to turn to the story of a man central to the civil rights movement whose name you may never have heard. Bayard Rustin was a key
organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. and a tireless advocate for equality. He was also openly gay.
Barack and Michelle Obama are working to restore the civil rights legend's rightful place in history with their new Netflix film called "Rustin."
Its star, award-winning actor Colman Domingo, is getting rave reviews for his performance. And here he is speaking with Hari Sreenivasan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Colman Domingo, thanks so much for joining us.
First off, for those in our audience that don't know who Bayard Rustin was, you play him, you did the homework, who was he?
COLMAN DOMINGO, ACTOR, "RUSTIN": Bayard Rustin was a young quaker from Westchester, Pennsylvania. He was a young communist at a time. He was -- he
played the loot. He sang Elizabethan love songs. He was one of the most strategic minds and a great organizer.
And in 1963, he did the monumental task with he and a group of what he called Young Angelic Troublemakers. They were the architects for the March
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINGO We are going to put together the largest peaceful protest in the history of this nation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How big?
DOMINGO 100, 000 people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he for real?
DOMINGO: A massive two day demonstration with enough power to shut down the White House and Capitol Hill, made up of Angelic Troublemakers such as
yourselves with ideas so bold, so inspiring. The execution will demand all groups draw tightly together and become one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: So, why is it that we don't know about them? Why is it that it's just not common knowledge in high school history books when we do read
about the March on Washington?
DOMINGO: What I like to believe is, is that his -- he has such an impact and he was such a great civil rights activist and organizer and strategic
human, fascinating guy. But I think he was marginalized because he was openly gay. That's very clear to me that he was all but erased from the
history books and his significance of what he did.
SREENIVASAN: Being openly gay in that era is a whole different thing than being openly gay today. I mean, there were so many other challenges that he
was facing kind of simultaneously.
DOMINGO: Well, the thing is this man was fighting for not only, you know, civil rights, but human rights. And he was being exactly who he was in the
world. You know, like why I mentioned why he was a young -- a Quaker, is like he grew up with his grandmother. They were very supportive of him just
being who he was in the world. So, that was part of his North Star.
So, he didn't think it was something that was -- should -- something he'd be ashamed of in any single way. But we do know at that time, you know,
being openly anything, being openly gay in particular, would cause harm to your -- not only your body, but also to your livelihood. You could lose
your job. There was no protections in any way. So, therefore, he had to stay subverted in many ways.
So, I think that that's exactly -- that was part of his struggle. And -- but yet, still, the one thing you couldn't deny was how smart the man was,
and how courageous he was, and how he was -- everyone respected him in his mind, which is wild.
They respected him. They called on him. He was the one who inspired Dr. King about Dr. King's ideologies about passive resistance, these are things
that Bayard Rustin learned, you know, from the teachings of Gandhi and Thoreau, and what, like he even says, even the teachings of Jesus. You
know, so -- which is wild.
So, you look at history and the way history will shine the light on some and then suppress others, it's a bare bones case of that.
SREENIVASAN: As the film points out, it's not just the sort of the folks you expect to try to repress him or erase him, but it's people from now
what we would consider the more progressive corners of, say, the democratic political machine that didn't want him to be the face of this event. They
didn't want the event.
DOMINGO: Martin Luther King, he fit that profile in many ways. There were other incredible leaders as well, men and women, who had incredible voices.
Yet, for the movement, I think the movement wanted to gather and just say, this is exactly who we are.
The other folks who didn't fit that, and Bayard Rustin was very much an outlier in every single shape and form, the way he spoke, the way he moved
through spaces, the way his hair looked, the way he was dressed, he was an outlier in every sense of the term. So -- and also, Bayard was also -- you
know, he was -- the struggle was not only with the outside forces like people like Strom Thurmond or Hoover who are using anything to make this
movement fall apart, but also within his own -- you know, with his own brotherhood, you know, whether with -- the NAACP in particular, in our film
Adam Clayton Powell in particular, does things, says things to discredit Bayard Rustin because, you know, it's all about power in many ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINGO: Are they expecting my resignation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some are, yes.
DOMINGO: Then they're going to have to fire me, because I will not resign. On the day that I was born black, I was also born a homosexual. They either
believe in freedom and justice for all, or they do not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Tell me about his relationship and friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Because in the film it's played out in an interesting way
where really an allegation and an accusation made about them is used to, well, silence him politically.
DOMINGO: Yes, they were very close. They were like brothers. But of course, we have to examine that this friendship and this sort of tenderness
between brothers who really believe in each other's minds and beings was challenged with folks, you know, they didn't understand a relationship
between an openly gay man and a straight man.
I think they could not think of anything but sex in between, instead of thinking, like, I know -- it's like, no, that's a deep friendship and
brotherhood. But because, again, it's biases of the world and what they put on it. And then that was also threatening to not only within the movement,
but it was threatening to outside the movement. People can use it in any way, shape or form and even lie about it.
I think, you know, from what I know, I think there was a picture made like created of like Martin Luther King in the bathtub and by Rustin sitting in
a chair nearby or something, to be suggestive, to see if it can be used to like discredit both of them, to bring down the movement. You know what I
There's a lot of forces as much as we were coming together for the fight for civil rights, there were many forces that we're trying to make it fall
apart within the parties and outside of it as well. So, I think from what I knew in the way that Aml Ameen and I played it, Aml is Ronald McCain. He's
beautiful. And he's playing Martin in a way as sort of as a young man who doesn't have it all figured out just yet.
So, you see the relationship that they had sort of teacher and student, which is what we wanted to experience. And then, also see how the thing
that was important to us is to see the tenderness between these men, that one would never really imagine, the tenderness between these two. They had
to be intimate to really support each other for the fight for civil rights. They had to.
So, that's what we wanted to explore. Intimate in the loving brotherhood sense, you know.
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about what it's like playing someone like Bayard Rustin when you are also a left-handed black gay man who would
be 51 when you were acting this role?
DOMINGO: The similarities are staggering, and then the difference are also profound, but what we meet in the middle feels like -- it feels so special
and feels like the right thing and the right time.
By Rustin, playing him came along at this perfect time in my life and career where I feel like, you know, it's taken 32 years of work to pour
into a character like this and to lead a film like this. This is -- he has so much size and so much purpose and intent. He gave his life to -- into
the fight and struggle for civil rights. That's something that many people can't say. People -- you know, people are activists when it's convenient,
but this person was like an activist always, even when he was in high school, you know, protesting lunches and things like that. But that's
exactly a dedication.
So, I think it's a profound privilege because I think that even as I find myself as an artist, finding even more mindfulness and intention with what
I'm doing is even more important, especially in this phase of my career. So, I feel so blessed and so honored that I get to share with folks this
man who is such a personal hero to the entire world. It's an incredible honor.
SREENIVASAN: When did you first learn about him? Because as we just discussed, it's -- his history is not common knowledge.
DOMINGO: Well, I stumbled upon Bayard Rustin in college. Now, not even in a class or course. I joined the African American student union because I
was very curious about, you know, discovering more of my history, having more, I don't know, camaraderie with fellow African Americans.
So, I joined the student union, and we were having a discussion about the civil rights movement. And then his name came up, sort of as a footnote.
And it was a -- because I think a few things came up, like, oh, Laker, Westchester, Pennsylvania, openly gay, organized the March on Washington. I
was like, wait, what?
And then even more so, he sang Elizabethan love songs. He played the lute. I was like, wait, who is this person? And how come I don't know about him?
DOMINGO: You know, I'm from Pennsylvania, but also, I just thought like, this is a profound human, why don't we know his story? And then, the more
digging I did, I finally realized why, I was like, oh, because he was openly gay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINGO: And whoever has direct dealings with Mr. Hoover let him know that on August 28th, black, white, young, old, rich, working class, poor will
descend on Washington, D.C., and there's nothing he can do to stop it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: The pace at which the March on Washington was organized seems staggering on so many different levels, even without the kind of racial
challenges that we might face today to try to pull together 100,000 humans to one location when not everybody can afford to fly. I mean, there's just
layer upon layer. And as I look at it, I'm like, and they did it seven weeks?
DOMINGO: Oh, yes, and they did it -- let's all remember, they did it without social media. They did it without clicking. It was really
grassroots organizing at its best. And they did it in less than -- in about seven weeks' time. That's outstanding.
So, the idea of this strategist in his mind, he was like, no, we can galvanize and get all these groups, whether it's the LCLC, the, you know,
NAACP, you name it, all to come together. He really believed. I mean, I think that's -- it was outside of his -- in his thinking, which is great.
And also, he worked with a lot of young people because I think he also preferred working with young people because they're not rigid. They have --
they believe in possibility. They believe in the unexpected. They're like, yes, let's go on a ledge and believe that we can actually get this done,
and they did it.
But they also harnessed and galvanized unions and coalitions, which is something that -- you know, I mean, they understood I have to gather people
and invite the unions to be a part of this. Everyone is a part of this fight in some way, shape, or form.
So, he knew those are the things and tactics that he knew. Very strategic, very detailed. He knew that he can get it done.
SREENIVASAN: So, what was tough as an actor? I mean, going through all of the materials, seeing pictures of him, seeing maybe video of him in
different places. What did you pick up on? What was the hardest for you? Is it his physicality? Is it the accent?
DOMINGO: Well, you know, I've always done work when it comes to accent work, physical work. I come from the theater. So, I think that's always
been a part of what I do. And how -- I'm a bit of a shape shifter, I know that, because I think that's what I -- I like to fully embody a character
in every single way.
So, those things I knew how to build. And I'm very rigorous in my work. So, I just work at it and work at it for hours upon hours. And because I just
want to, you know, really honor and get it right and then recede because I don't want people to see the work, I want to actually just see the person.
That's always been my goal.
SREENIVASAN: So, what kind of homework are you able to do? What is -- what remains in the archives? What kinds of data were you able to pull up?
DOMINGO: The strangest thing is, there's a lot, which is great. You know, yes, there's books on his writings. I love -- I think writing people's
letters are a great key to their mind and the way they think and the way they feel.
You can find letters between he and Dr. King. You can find some interviews and some debates. And, you know, whether his debates were successful or
not, but you just watch him work, you watch his -- the way he speaks, which is actually about three octaves higher than mine in pitch. The way he moves
his body through spaces, which is very sort of fluid and fantastic. And his fingers always move like birds. The way he smokes. So, you can, you can
find a lot.
SREENIVASAN: You were able to meet with several people who knew Bayard. He passed away in 1987. Including one of his partners, organizers who knew
him. What -- how do they remember him today?
DOMINGO: Oh, man. I was just texting -- I text Rachelle Horowitz all the time now. We're very close. And I'm meeting with Walter Naegle for lunch,
who's Bayard's partner. And they all remember him -- first of all, the thing I must say, because it's on my heart, that they were -- they said
that they've been getting lots of responses, people are calling them. And I think it feels like Bayard's alive again.
So, people are calling, oh, my gosh. That moment in particular, when Colman puts down his cigarette and stomps it out, I've witnessed that many times.
Bayard did that. Did you know that? I was like, no. She said, there was something, she says, you must -- and she said she's not a spiritual person.
She said, but there's something spiritual around the portrayal. It feels like we're calling on each other. And that's what I feel.
And they feel very proud of the film. They feel proud that his story is out there. His legacy is -- and his importance is out in the world. Because I
think that they've always looked at him as such a -- he was always on their Mount Rushmore, and now we really do marvelize him now with our film.
But we also make sure that it's human, because he's not a perfect person. He's kind of messy at times in his private life, and that's all to show a
real full human being. So, they're very happy. And that makes me happier because more than any criticism of the film in any shape or way or form, I
feel like I needed to know that they knew that I took care of him more than anyone.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. He was posthumously given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and President Obama and Michelle Obama are part of the sort of
producing team of this. Do you have any idea if they've seen it, what their feedback is?
DOMINGO: They have seen it, loved it, clapped for it, introduced me to the HBCU First Look Film Festival because of it. They are such champions of
this film and Bayard Rustin's legacy. They couldn't be more lovely and wonderful without making sure that, you know, Bayard Rustin is on
SREENIVASAN: What's it mean to you as a person, as an actor, that you got to play somebody who's become a personal hero to you? I mean, does it add,
I don't know, anxiety or stress to wanting to get it right because this is somebody you looked up to or how do you you process this?
DOMINGO: Oh, Hari, you know what, it was when I first offered this role, I thought I could go one or two ways. I could be terrified or I don't have
time to be terrified, I have to get down to work. That's what I felt. I said, I have to get down to work and I have to work exceptionally hard
because I know that that's what my hero did. He worked exceptionally hard every single day to make this country a little better. And so, my job was
just to stay focused in on that.
I feel like I've been given such a gift, especially right now. When I want to film like this is out in the world, but I think we need to rally the
spirits of people and let ordinary people know that they can make a difference just by showing up and being a part of it. I think we need it
more than ever and I feel very, very blessed that it's out right now, that I've been -- that when people get to know who Bayard Rustin is, I'm the
face of Bayard Rustin, that's beautiful.
I feel like I know for sure this goes down into my personal -- my legacy. This is a legacy work, and I know it is. I look forward to, you know,
children and children upon children, you know, learning about Bayard Rustin, and knowing that they think of me at the same time.
SREENIVASAN: Actor Colman Domingo who plays Rustin is on Netflix now. Thanks so much for joining us.
DOMINGO: Thank you, Hari.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, saying goodbye to Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, along with
former President Bill Clinton and former First Ladies, are attending Carter's private tribute service in Atlanta. Her husband, 99-year-old
Former President Jimmy Carter, is also there.
James Fallows was Carter's former chief speechwriter in the '70s and remained a close friend. He joins me now. James, it's good to see you.
This is really a reflection on the life of Rosalynn Carter and what a life it was. A lifetime partner to her husband, married for 77 years, the
longest White House marriage in U.S. history. The Bushes thought they could, they could trump them, but no, they got close, but couldn't. Talk
about your fondest memories of Rosalynn.
JAMES FALLOWS, FORMER CHIEF SPEECHWRITER FOR U.S. PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: So, I'll say, it is fitting for both of the Carters. They've had such a
long time out office, by far the longest time as post -- you know, post president and post first lady for, you know, more than 40 years for people
to come to appreciate them in a way that was not so much the case, perhaps in the late 1970s when they were in office, in the early 1980s after this
emotionally and politically devastating loss for them to Ronald Reagan.
And I think that what has become clear is both the way that Former President Carter himself has invented a new role for the post presidency
and found a way to have people even reconsider what he did in office and how the role of Rosalynn Carter, both as his partner, all of their lives
and as their own independent spokesperson for mental health and many other issues, how they are, I think, now seen in full dimensions that they might
not have been if they had -- if we were observing these passings 20 years ago.
The first time I met Rosalynn Carter was in the summer of 1976. I had started writing for -- working on the Carter speechwriting team where it
was based in Atlanta. We stayed sometimes in the best Western Americus Hotel. And we came to that famous house in Plains, Georgia, the same ones
you're seeing in the news now, there was Ralph Nader, who had been a patron of mine, I'd worked for him on several projects, was coming down to have
his meeting with Jimmy Carter, candidate Jimmy Carter, I was a sort of an intermediary between them.
And there was a famous softball game between the Carter staff and the press in which Ralph Nader was the umpire for the softball game and Jimmy Carter
was the wicked underhand pitcher. And sometimes Jimmy Carter was unhappy with Ralph Nader's calls of balls and strikes, but Rosalynn Carter was
there as sort of the calming influence to keep everybody in line. And she simultaneously was very clearly a person Jimmy Carter then, you know, ahead
in the race for president, listened to, most entrusted most and also, the gracious small town host serving Ralph Nader lemonade on the porch. So, it
was a vivid introduction to her.
GOLODRYGA: I think as time passes, there's become more of an appreciation for his administration, the Carter administration, but it had, for a long
time, been known for tumult internationally and domestically specifically economically, and the Iran hostage crisis.
I wonder how the two of them came to terms with -- or if they ever did, with the label of having the best post presidency and the contributions
they made to the world, to their community in the years after.
FALLOWS: So, none of us, except for a handful of people in history, can know what it is like to lose a presidential election. I think that is a
profound blow for an incumbent that it is really hard to imagine. So, they encountered that. And for a long time, Jimmy Carter was a shorthand among
both Democrats and Republicans for a "failed administration."
But I think it is worth recognizing, number one, the enormous power of faith in both of -- both of the Carter's lives that every modern politician
professes to be -- you know, to be church going or to have religious faith. It really was and is the animating part of their life. So, I think they
actually believe there was God's justice that would be reckoned in the long-term.
And most Americans were born in 1984 or afterwards. So, most Americans have no memory of Jimmy Carter as president. They remember him as -- him and
Rosalynn Carter as these benevolent people around the world, winning Nobel Peace prizes, eradicating giddy worm, monitoring elections at various
places. So, I think it must be gratifying for them to have been recognized in this stage of life for all the good things they did in office and after
GOLODRYGA: Well, she no doubt was a trailblazer in her own right. Class valedictorian, turned down his first marriage proposal so that she could
finish college. She promised her father she would. She ultimately gave in and married Jimmy and was there with him all along the way. I think
sometimes it's a cliche to say that the woman made the man, but, you know, Jimmy Carter, I would imagine would say he would never have accomplished
what he did in life without having his Rosie there at his side.
James Fallows, thank you for taking the time to talk about her incredible legacy.
FALLOWS: Bianna, thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And that is it for us for now. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.