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Interview With Former U.S. House Republican, U.S. Air National Guard And CNN Senior Political Commentator Adam Kinzinger; Interview With "God & Country" Producer Rob Reiner; Interview With "Zodiac: A Graphic Memoir" Artist And Author Ai Weiwei. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 30, 2024 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Tension reigns as President Biden ponders how to punish the killing of three American service people in Jordan. I speak to U.S. Air Force Vet and
Former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger about Biden's options at home and abroad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is my first grandchild. It's supposed to be happiness, she says, but I couldn't
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- born into war, Correspondent Jomana Karadsheh reports on the tens of thousands of mothers and new babies at risk in Gaza.
Also, ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America and Christianity are like baseball and apple pie, and we celebrate them together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- "God & Country," a new documentary puts Christian nationalism in the spotlight. Award-winning filmmaker Rob Reiner joins me.
Plus, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei tells Hari Sreenivasan about his new graphic novel "Zodiac," which explores the ongoing struggle for
freedom of expression through art.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. President Biden says he has decided how to respond to the attack which
killed three U.S. troops in Jordan, but he's not yet provided details. It comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that the situation in
the Middle East has not been this dangerous for 50 years. Hamas, meanwhile, says it's studying a proposal for a potential renewed truce and hostage
deal, but insists on Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza.
So, what are Biden's options? Adam Kinzinger knows these issues on several levels. As a former Republican congressman and as a pilot still serving in
the Air National Guard. And he's joining me from Texas. Welcome back to our program, Congressman.
Can I first start by asking you about a very, very serious matter, you know, the president has got to decide whether he's going to take an action
that could hit a sovereign state and expand what is a sort of a -- you know, a war in the Middle East right now, a widening war.
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, look, it's going to be a tough decision no matter what he decides to do. Look, we have
a longstanding position, and I think it's the right position that we will defend ourselves, that Americans have a right to defend themselves if
they're attacked. And we have a right to retaliate if far troops are attacked.
And up to this point with 160 attacks on American troops, you know, throughout the Middle East. We've been lucky to the point where there has
been no loss of American soldiers lives until this last attack. And that was obviously very tragic with dozens injured. So, he's going to have to
make a decision.
I think the thing to keep in mind is, of course, nobody, I don't even think Iran is seeking to widen this war. But when we don't react, particularly on
something as deadly as what happened, that is seen as weakness. As much as we'd like to think that we can now just, you know, engage in a friendly
negotiation with Iran and kind of get everybody to step back from the brink, that's not how it's worked.
So, I don't envy the president's decision, whether he takes us directly to the militias that did this or whether he expands us to, for instance,
maritime assets with Iran, but I think it's going to have to be a significant strike to make it clear that any benefit you think you are
gaining from attacking Americans in the region, the cost will actually far exceed any benefit.
AMANPOUR: So, with that, let me then ask you, Senator Lindsey Graham has tweeted, hit Iran now, hit them hard. Senator Cornyn writes, target Tehran.
You know, they all -- the administration says, we're not looking for a war with Iran. And you've laid out two scenarios that would, you know, exact
punishment, but not directly hit the nation.
Now, President Trump says the current situation would never have happened if he was president. But as you know, and as we all know, Americans were
killed on his watch just before Hassan Soleimani was targeted. But he was hit outside Iran. Nonetheless, it was a major Iranian military and
political figure. He didn't want full out confrontation either.
KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, look, so with Former President Trump, I mean, when he did kill Soleimani, that was actually a pretty brave thing to do. And
there were a lot of folks that said, you know, oh, this is going to lead to World War III, and it didn't. And I think the lesson from that is they will
have -- it's the same as Vladimir Putin, they will advance until they hit a brick wall, and they know they can go no further.
That said, it's easy to tweet. If you're Lindsey Graham, it's easy to tweet just bomb Iran, because you don't have to make the decision. You can just
be on whatever side as you want. And if you look in the GOP there's actually a big split. There's the bomb Iran now crew and then there's the
Joe Biden starting World War III crew.
And instead of arguing with each other, because they're on very different positions in this issue, they're all arguing against Joe Biden for some
reason. Let's see what he does here. But I think there is a way for him to have a significant response that is tough. The key is we don't want to look
like we're just reacting because we have to. A response that is tough that's not necessarily bombing the middle of Tehran and trying to expand
the war further.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk about the other issue that is a big -- well, one of the big issues around this Israel-Gaza war, the Houthis. Again, the U.S.
and the, and the U.K. decided to take air action against their missile bases or whatever they have there in Yemen.
It is one of the poorest places in the world. It is war-torn. The Houthis are non-state actors, and yet they seem to be winning not just the
propaganda war, getting tons and tons of buy in from young people all over the world, including in the United States, but they haven't stopped.
So, if the United States can't stop the Houthis, what can they do about Iran and its other backed militias?
KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, look, it' a tough question, and it's all about what level of force are we willing to use. Now, look, force doesn't solve
everything. And, you know, we saw in Afghanistan, the United States won't be defeated when it comes to the military, the U.S. and the U.K.
particularly. We can be defeated in our will.
And so, with the Houthis, for instance, we've attacked them a number of times. We've taken out some of their anti-ship missiles as they have stood
up, but they're still attacking. This is a long-term process to degrade their ability to do this. And even if they're going to continue to fire at
ships, one of the things we're showing is that the cost is not nothing.
You want to fire one anti-ship missile. It's going to cost you three or four if we respond to that. That's important to look at, this deterrence as
a long game strategy. The problem is, we kind of live in this moment where it feels like we -- when we strike something once, we have to actually see
immediate results. That's not necessarily the case. But that willingness, that will to stick it out is important.
In terms of the youth, look, I have a huge problem with what's happening on TikTok. That's been litigated 100 times in the in the political side of
things. But there is there is a failure somewhere in our education system that there are people that are showing, you know, sympathy to the Houthis
and actually heroism of the Houthis when they actually launched this attack against Israel and against shipping in the Red Sea out of whatever, some
sense of brotherhood.
AMANPOUR: And it is precisely their anti -- as they say, anti-Zion and anti-U.S. message that is resonating around the region, and as you say,
amongst some in the United States and in the West. So, given that the Gaza- Israel situation is the context and the frame for all of this heightened activity right now.
You know, yes, there's meant to be negotiations going on for a pause and more hostage prisoner swaps. But what about the pressure on President Gaza?
A lot of political -- sorry, on President Biden, a lot of political pressure on him. Do you think the White House expected this much pushback
at home and abroad for its support of Israel?
KINZINGER: I don't think they did. And I think, you know, they've so far done a good job of kind of resisting that pressure. I mean, let's keep in
mind this is only three or so months ago that this war was kicked off. I mean, really, this was kicked off on October 7th with a brutal attack on
I think the administration has played a good role in terms of trying to prevent the escalation against Hezbollah in the north. It seems like they
have been able to walk Israel back, at least for the time being, and some of that, continuing to stress to Israel the importance of precision
bombing. Ground troops, by the way, are about the most precision way to execute a war because you have people on the ground and not just in the
air. But this is going to take some time as well.
And I think the administration did not see the -- I don't think any -- look, I'm blown away that there's the pushback that there is. When I just
look at October 7th and how evil that day was and now say that there are people that are blaming Israel for all of this. Look, you can disagree with
how Israel is executing a war. I'll remind you, as you well know, when we fought ISIS, the entire City of Mosul was destroyed. The difference is the
people in Mosul had a place to go.
Right now, Egypt and Jordan have shut the borders to Gaza. And so, their people don't have a place to go. There's a lot of issues here. I'm going to
tell you if the United States was attacked like they were on October 7th, we wouldn't be talking about a ceasefire until this was done.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, how -- then this demands a follow up. How -- what does that mean, until this was done? And you also, as a former Air Force pilot,
know that often you can't do what you're trying to do just from the air.
So, there seems to be negotiations underway now, serious, to have a truce or have a pause or whatever, and do a whole new round of mega hostages for
Palestinian prisoner swap.
KINZINGER: Yes, that's a good thing. Look, all wars end in negotiation. I mean, even the end of World War II, when Germany was occupied, there was a
version of negotiation to end that. And so, negotiations are good. And I think it's important if Israel can negotiate a ceasefire or end the
hostilities on a place where it feels that it can defend itself. That's the key.
The danger in any kind of a war, whether you started or you didn't, is putting out a goal that's unachievable. The entire destruction of Hamas, I
would love to see that. But as long as there's one person that self- declares themselves Hamas, you can't necessarily destroy all of Hamas. So, the ability to degrade Hamas prevent, you know, attacks and try to bring in
a different government to Gaza would be important.
So, negotiations are good. This meant this current situation may not lead to anything, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't stop -- that they
should stop negotiating. They should continue it because inevitably that's how this has to end.
AMANPOUR: On another major war that really has an even bigger existential, you know, component to it, Ukraine, Russia, right? Russia is threatening
democracy around the world. And killing so many people in Ukraine.
And I know you support aid to Ukraine. You also support -- you're in Texas now, you know, toughening up on the border. I know that you were down
there, deployed there in 2019. But what do you make of your party linking these two issues, and then the leading candidate to be your party's next
nominee scuttling the whole thing, just as it seemed to be on the verge of producing some bipartisan agreement?
KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, it's a joke. The whole party has become a joke in terms of what it's going for. It pretends to be a party of policy.
When I was in there the -- I was in Congress 12 years, the early part of my congressional career, yes, we were focused on policy that mattered. Just
four or five months ago, the GOP kind of sadly, you know, "tanked Ukraine aid" in order to get a border change because they needed a change in policy
Now, President Biden has come forward and said, OK, I'm basically going to give you everything you've asked for. And now, the Republican position --
after Donald Trump said he wants this issue politically, the Republican position has been, we don't need to change policy. The president can do
this on his own already. It's not a serious party.
Linking the issue of Ukraine and the border is very bad and very wrong. They're very different issues. Regardless, they were linked. Former -- the
current president gave them a lot on this and they're walking away. This is an opportunity for the Democrats. They're not going to be able to change to
flip the script against the GOP in just 10 months on the border issue, they can make some real gains on it. They can be out there calling for border
security and saying the Republicans are unwilling to work with us.
And I think it is so important to continue to talk to the American people about Ukraine. This is an existential threat, not just to Ukraine, but to
the American people, and that needs to be better explained.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Now, the regional tensions worsen amid the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Two weeks ago, the U.N.'s aid chief, Martin Griffiths, told me that
hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are starving, even now. And now, a physical therapist displaced to Rafah tells CNN that people in Northern
Gaza "eat grass and drink polluted water" to survive.
The desperation is especially grave for pregnant women and newborn babies, as Correspondent Jomana Karadsheh reports
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARADSHEH (voice-over): Born into this world, all alone, no parents by her side. Only a stranger's touch for the baby with no name, delivered by C-
section last month to a mother already gone, fatally injured in an explosion. She's been in an incubator since. Stable now, but still fragile,
She's one of the nearly 20,000 born into this war. Every 10 minutes, a baby is born in Gaza, the U.N. says. Gaza is where the blessings of life are now
a curse. Umm Yazan (ph) is five months pregnant. Like most Gazans, her family is homeless. This -- the toilets of a school-turned-shelter is where
This is our life in the toilets, Umm Yazan (ph) says, we lay our mattresses and sleep here.
Umm Yazan (ph) and her husband can hardly feed their children. There's not enough for their unborn child.
I'm in my fifth month, craving foods, but there's no food, no flour, nothing, she says.
She's not had her iron supplements, not even a checkup in months.
We wanted to check if there is a heartbeat, but there are no hospitals. They're only dealing with emergencies, she says. There are no scans to see
if the baby's alive or not. Life is non-existent for pregnant women.
Gaza's few remaining hospitals are overwhelmed with the seemingly endless flood of war casualties. There's no chance of carrying out routine care.
And the estimated 50,000 pregnant women and their unborn babies are left out in the cold, their already precarious situation before the war now,
About 40 percent of all pregnancies are now high-risk, aid groups say. Miscarriages, still births, preterm labor, and maternal mortality are much
For first-time mothers like Hiyam (ph), excitement is overshadowed by this miserable existence that's now her life, soon to be her baby's.
Being pregnant with your first child should be nice. You eat, you rest, you sleep, but I didn't get any of that, Hiyam says.
Instead, she's had to flee several times, taking shelter in overcrowded hospitals, walking miles, searching for safety.
After walking for many hours, I was exhausted, she says. The baby was very weak. They told me I should be staying in the hospital. But there was no
room, so I had to leave.
She's now in this tent, sleeping on the sand floor.
How will I give birth in war, when I have nothing for the baby? No formula, no diapers. We're in a tent, and it's very cold for us. What would life be
like for a tiny baby born into these conditions?
It's how this burnt-out classroom in what's left of Northern Gaza is the only shelter Nujood (ph) could find. She barely made it through the
bombardment and labor. Now struggling to keep her newborn healthy, clean, and warm.
We want to clean the classroom, but there's no disinfectant, Nujood (ph) says. There's no health care, no clinics, no vaccinations for the baby.
War has separated Nujood (ph) from her husband. She's only been able to reach him once when she told him they had a baby girl, Habiba (ph).
Nujood's (ph) mother spends her days trying to find what she can to feed her daughter.
This is my first grandchild. It's supposed to be happiness, she says, but I couldn't celebrate. I wanted to prepare so many things for her to celebrate
her rivals. My precious first granddaughter, she didn't even get the new clothes I bought her.
It's never been harder to be a mother in Gaza. All you can do is hold your baby tight and hope you both survive this nightmare.
AMANPOUR: Jomana Karadsheh there. And certainly, the civilians in Gaza and the Israeli families who are waiting for their hostages to be reunited with
them want some kind of progress in these negotiations that are happening right now.
Now, extremism affects almost all religions in that region, and in the United States. A key part of Former President Trump's base isn't just
evangelical voters, but more specifically, what our next guest would call Christian nationalists, who are in fact a political movement.
A little remarked fact since the January 6th Capitol insurrection was the presence of so much Christian iconography and biblical references as the
mob inside claimed to be defending Christian supremacy in America.
The celebrated film director Rob Reiner has explored this phenomenon in his documentary, "God & Country." Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSELL MOORE, PUBLIC THEOLOGIAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Christian nationalism uses Christianity as a means to an end. That end
being some form of authoritarianism.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being a Christian is about the values of inclusion. Christian nationalism is certainly not based on the values of the gospel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God Wants America to be saved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're told over and over and over again that you're in danger. You need to fight if you don't want to lose your country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a civil war between good and evil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a movement about Christian values, this is about Christian power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Rob Reiner is best known for directing such classics as "A Few Good Men," "When Harry Met Sally," and "This Is Spinal Tap." Indeed, he's
filming the long-awaited sequel now in New Orleans, where he joined me to discuss his other passion, trying to understand to warn Americans about a
rising nationalism masquerading as true faith.
Rob Reiner, welcome to the program.
ROB REINER, FILMMAKER: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: What inspired you to do "God & Country" about Christian nationalism as a documentary? Because obviously you're really, really,
really well known for your fantastic films.
REINER: Well, you know, I've kind of known about this movement for quite a while. I mean, back in the late '70s, early '80s, Norman Lear launched an
organization called People for the American Way, which focused on this idea that the Christian right was going to dictate what we should listen to,
what we should not listen to, and it was very disturbing to him.
And as time went by, I saw this movement grow, but I didn't realize how powerful it was and how well-organized and well-funded it was until I read
this book called "The Power Worshippers" by Katherine Stewart. And I then realized. That this has taken root far more deeply than I had ever thought.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned Norman Lear, just for our international audience, I just want to point out, he was the great TV pioneer, creator of
all sorts of things, including "All in the Family." And he recently died at the grand old age of 101. He was -- that was your breakthrough series, that
But back to this, because we'll talk about him in a little bit. You know, we've all known about the power of America's, you know, right-wing fringe,
its Christian evangelicals, how they helped propel Trump, of all people into the White House. But I think, for me, what was so new about what you
did was the notion of nationalism, and particularly how that really was on display at the insurrection at the Capitol.
I'd never focused on all those imageries that you show and you focus on, all those people waving crosses and speaking bible verses and the like.
REINER: Yes. Well, you know, the interesting thing is that it -- you know, they go into the guise of a religious movement, but it really isn't. It's a
political movement. It's all about gaining power. It's all about forcing your way of thinking on others.
And you're right. I mean, most people didn't focus on the fact that there was this Christian nationalist undercurrent to the insurrection on January
6th. But if you look closely, not only are there -- that the images that you point out, but there was an organizing tool. They organized the buses
that got there. We're not saying that every person who stormed the Capitol was a Christian nationalist, but it was the foundation for the movement on
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, what then is the proportion or the distinction between American Christians and American Christian
nationalists? Do they work together? Do they work in opposition to each other?
REINER: Well, that's a great question, because when you see the documentary, you'll realize that we're not bashing Christianity at all.
It's the exact opposite. As a matter of fact, we have some of the most conservative Christian thinkers, theologians, people who are devout to
their faith talking about the danger of Christian nationalism, not just to democracy, but to Christianity itself.
And unfortunately, you have a lot of well-meaning Christians who do practice their faith and are devout in what they believe getting swept up
in this Christian nationalist movement, which is essentially, as I pointed out before, a political movement, not a religious movement.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And frankly, if I could paraphrase that, it's about power not religion. And one of your experts in the film says, if democracy gets
in the way of Christian power, democracy has to go.
So, I am going to play one of the clips. Because you have so many, you know, really distinguished Christian experts. Here's a clip of Russell
Moore. He's the editor of Christianity Today. Now, he left a position, a senior position at the Southern Baptist Convention to protest this
denomination's, you know, power politics. Here's what -- here's a bit of the soundbite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOORE: The Bible does depict a warrior Jesus just with a very different kind of warfare. The warfare takes place spiritually through the means of
the gospel, not through physical violence.
In the New Testament, Jesus repudiated that when his own disciple, Peter, pulled out the sword to defend him from being arrested. And Jesus said, put
away your sword. Those who live by the sword will perish by the sword.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Rob Reiner, why do you think it is that Christian nationalists overlook that biblical teaching and, you know, they really get
vociferous about all the sort of culture wars, whether it be abortion, LGBTQ, even, even women's rights?
REINER: Because I think, you know, when you look at the teachings of Jesus, that gets in the way of this political movement, because they have to
resort -- you should resort to persuasion, to using your faith. And there's nothing wrong with using -- having your faith and form the way which you
think about policy. That's OK.
When you take it the next step and say you are doing something in the name of Jesus, you're acting violently in the name of Jesus, that's when you are
going far afield from the teachings of Jesus. And these people are -- like we've said many, many times, it's a power movement. It's a political
movement and it's their way or the highway.
And unfortunately, it can cause the exact opposite of what you -- what the founding fathers intended, which is to have religious freedom, to have the
Constitution, which by the way, they don't believe in the separation of church and state. They believe that it's not in the Constitution and that
America was founded as a Christian nation and they want it to remain and -- or to become.
And, you know, in contrapuntal to the fact that we are a melting pot of society, we are more diverse than we ever have been. They want this to be a
white Christian nation. They believe it's their right. And they're doing anything in their power, in the name of Jesus, to make that happen.
AMANPOUR: And we have to say here, yes, America historically is the great melting pot. But right now, you're seeing that the idea of immigration is a
major motivator, certainly for the Republicans, certainly for Trump, who's called, you know, immigrants. You know, poisoning the blood of Americans.
So, I'm sure that plays into all this white Christian nationalist supremacy.
But I do want to ask you, particularly about the separation of church and state, because they grab onto that as a reason for it. So, the Constitution
does not. say it, right? That is true. But what -- you know, where it does appear is in 1802, in a letter by Thomas Jefferson, the First Amendment, he
calls a wall of separation between church and state. The First Amendment, as we know, says that there should be no law establishing religion. Article
5 says no religious test ever for high office, et cetera.
How does one convince in this era of not only fake news but supremacy minority politics that actually they're not right by the Constitution, by
the laws of the land?
REINER: Well, you're exactly right. The words separation of church and state, they themselves do not appear in the Constitution. But there are
three references. There are three indications. And we have a Constitutional scholar in the film walking you through it. Three times it is mentioned in
the Constitution that the government will make no religion.
In the First Amendment, it gives you the free right to practice religion however you please. They said there'll be no religious test to hold office.
And we know based on all of the writings of the founding fathers that the reason they wanted that was because they were breaking away from religious
And our Constitution is the only one in the world that starts with, we the people. It gives the power to the people, not to a deity. And there is a
clear separation of church and state in the Constitution is throughout.
AMANPOUR: Just for people's knowledge, when did all this sort of God stuff appear on coins and in schools and in God We Trust and all of that kind of
REINER: Well, in -- I remember very distinctly, because I was in grade school in 1954. They added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It used to be one
nation indivisible. They added one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all. And that was added in 1954. And the coins, I
can't remember exactly what dates the coins were.
REINER: But the point is, that's OK. In God we trust is OK. But we're not saying what the God is. We're not saying it's a Christian God, it's a
Jewish God, it's a Muslim God. They're saying in God we trust. In other words, it's OK to have God in your life and have a religion in your life.
You just can't specify which religion this is.
And that's what Christian nationalism, they say, they believe that this is a white Christian nation and it has to be -- it is prescribed, it is
ordained by God that this is the case, and it's just not so.
AMANPOUR: Let me just divert a little bit because, you know, a Muslim God, a Jewish God, a Hindu God, you know, all sorts of different gods, Christian
God. You know, there is a fear of a rising nationalism, again, not just Christian nationalism, but rising, you know, fascism, far-right extremism,
we've got a lot of concerns about what might be happening in Europe, which may reflect themselves in upcoming E.U. elections.
Your wife and yourself recently visited Auschwitz. Your wife, Michele's, mother is a Holocaust survivor, and her entire family was lost at
Auschwitz. I wonder, was that at all part of your concerns? Reflect on that given the work in this nationalist -- on this nationalistic politics that
you've just done.
REINER: Well, as a Jewish person, that -- it's never very far from your thinking in terms of how things can very quickly move. We've heard that
expression a never again. And as a Jewish person, not only did my wife's mother's family -- she lost her entire family, my aunt, who was also in
Auschwitz, lost her whole family in the Holocaust. So, it's never very far away from you.
And you can see the earmarks of how this nationalism can take hold, and can take hold very quickly. I mean, we in America, you know, we blanch at or we
recoil at the idea of, oh, they're going to institute Sharia law, as if we can't have that. Well, you know, Sharia law is a version of religious
nationalism, and the same as we're going to be a white Christian nation, it's the same.
And you're right. We're seeing that spread throughout the world and it's very dangerous. Right now, America is right at the crossroads of whether or
not this world starts evolving into an autocratic world as opposed to holding on to democracy. We're the oldest democracy in the world. We've
been around for 249 years. We've had that many years of self-rule, and the election that you're seeing coming up in 2024 is going to be a referendum
on whether or not we want to maintain and hold on to our democracy, or do we want to give it over to autocracy, fascism, or theocracy.
AMANPOUR: So, you referenced Norman Lear, and I just wanted to ask you about him because, you know, he created "All in the Family." That was your
breakout role. You were the son of the famous Archie Bunker. And that was a different America. I mean, that was decades ago.
I wonder whether you can reflect on what Archie's generation might have thought of Christian nationalism and this rise of autocracy. And by virtue
of that, Norman Lear, what he meant to you in his incredibly pioneering creative ideas.
REINER: Well, Norman, you know, he recently passed away, as you said. He was 101. We did a tribute to him at the Emmys this past year, Sally
Struthers and myself. And I talked about him, I used the Yiddish phrase, I said he was a kochleffel. And a kochleffel is a ladle that stirs the pot,
and that's what Norman did.
He stirred the pot. He changed the landscape of how we receive television. He talked about real people, real issues. He had political opponents going
at each other. And I learned from him not only how to make great and funny television and great funny movies, he was a supporter of mine, and he was
like a second father to me.
I loved him. I loved him dearly. And it's sad to me that he had to go, but he left a tremendous legacy, which is that we can -- we should fight. We
should fight for this freedom of religion, of speech, of our independence, and protect the rule of law. He was a great man and I miss him terribly.
AMANPOUR: I want to just ask you about what you're doing now. I think in New Orleans you're filming the sequel to your legendary film, "This Is
Spinal Tap." So, how did you get all the band people together again?
REINER: Well, it's very difficult. It's like herding cats. It's like the -- you know, it's like the House of Representatives. No, but we've been asked
over the years to, you know, do a sequel, do a sequel. And we never wanted to do it until we had an idea that I think is going to work. And hopefully
it does. If not, you know, they'll stone me or something.
AMANPOUR: Well, we'll wait to see. And I just want to end on your documentary again, because the premiere was at the U.S. Capitol. That's,
you know, not a so subtle place to have it, given what it focuses on. It's obviously coming out in a couple of weeks from now.
What was your intention by holding it there and actually releasing this at this time now?
REINER: Well, the holding of the Capitol was a great idea by our distributor and our publicist, Dan Berger, who from oscilloscope, because
we wanted to get the conversation started. We've also had a -- recently had a screening in Dallas. We had one -- we'll have one in Florida, in
Providence. We have screenings around the country.
We want to get the conversation started. And particularly for the Christian audience, which, like I said, we're not bashing Christianity, it's the
exact opposite. We want people to start talking about it and see what this idea of Christian nationalism is and how to define it, and to see that you
might be swept up in something that you may not agree with. So, we want people to start talking to each other. And that's why we have the screening
at the Capitol.
AMANPOUR: Amazing. Rob Reiner, thank you so much indeed.
REINER: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And "God & Country" premieres in theaters on February 16th.
Now, when art meets activism. Exiled Chinese dissident and renowned artist Ai Weiwei is known for challenging authoritarian politics through his work,
and was even detained in China for 81 days on charge of state subversion back in 2011. But has not deterred his fight for intellectual freedom. A
noble pursuit passed down to him by his late father, a celebrated poet.
Now, Ai Weiwei is exploring that relationship and his own life story in a new graphic memoir, "Zodiac." He tells Hari Sreenivasan how those memories
connect to stories of Chinese astrological signs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Ai Weiwei, thank you so much for being here.
Your latest book, "Zodiac," is a graphic memoir. And I'm wondering, it's not just a comic book. We're talking about part art history, part
expression of your life. Why a graphic novel?
AI WEIWEI, ARTIST AND AUTHOR: When I grew up in communist society, probably the only chance to have some images in your hand is a -- we call it a
little people's book. It's about the size of your palm and you read page by page. It's all about the revolutionary stories, which is very touching. And
I still kind of memorize all the images.
So, I think the graphic novel, it comes very handy because -- you know, because of the images. And the less language. That's also important. I give
people a lot of space for imagination.
SREENIVASAN: So, if there's a young person that picks up this book today, similar to what the graphic novels of your generation might have had, is
there a purpose? Is there a point? Is there something you want a young person that might be reading this to take away?
WEIWEI: I think the book -- actually, I didn't do -- read so much graphic novels in the West. But this book, I think, I have a lot of mixed
information about personal experience about the father and the son, and also about the mystical images about Zodiacs, which can relate to human
character and also even relate to political situation.
Like this year is going to be a year of the dragon in China. And the year of dragon supposed to be something very unpredictable, can be quite a big
change or can be very -- you know, very dangerous or harsh.
So, you know -- but, you know, why you have 1.4 billion people believe in those things and not it's made it a little bit accountable.
SREENIVASAN: Yes, for those of our audience members who don't know, your father and your family was basically exiled because he was a poet. And as
you point out in the book, he wasn't really writing horrible things about the state or challenging the Chinese government, but you were still, at one
point, living underground in the Gobi Desert, is that right, for five years as a kid?
WEIWEI: That's true. He exiled for 20 years. I was born the year he was exiled. So, we leave the underground. You know, dug out in Gobi Desert for
five years. And that he's claim (ph) public comments.
So, he still today being considered as the most popular poise, very patriotic. You know, they later, they give him, you know, honor back to
them. But still the kind of extreme situation one authority do not like your voice, or do not like your -- even just the attitude, then you're
dead. You're not possible.
But we see this sense also happens in the -- in U.S. or in the West. Certain sense is unspeakable. Certain sense you cannot talk about. Even you
believe the facts, the truth still -- that will endanger your life.
And that is scary. You know, we have one life. And why we have to be kidnapped by certain kind of beliefs, which we know is wrong. We know --
you know, the facts and -- the facts is obvious. We can easily think this, we cannot allow it to happen to our family or to our kids or to our
neighborhood or to the people we know, but we cannot speak out what is about, how do we look at ourself?
SREENIVASAN: What do you think that early experience of living with the consequences of how your father was treated? Do you think there's a
connection between that and how you're living today? And I wonder if that also transmits down to your son.
WEIWEI: I think my situation, even my father would not exactly agree, but I think my life is an extension of his life. It's about pays the price to
speak out the truth, inner truth, or to stay on the -- you know, on the factual side. And that means you have to pay for that. That means you know,
the so-called freedom is never come for free. It's really, you. Someone would have to pay for your freedom.
And I hope I did this, and it can change the situation a little bit better for my son. I don't want him to repeat my experience or his grandfather's
SREENIVASAN: So, what is the world that you wish your son can grow up in? I mean, do you think that he can grow up in China as the son of Ai Weiwei and
the grandson of your father, practice art, be free in his expression?
WEIWEI: My son's first English sentence is, no more, I wouldn't be. I was very proud of the first sentence. And I -- for that moment, I understand
that he's very -- it will be a very good son. And that he will live a normal life, as he said, you know, he wants to be a normal life. He doesn't
really agree with stuff that I'm doing.
And I think the independency is the true power, power for every individual. But that's real (ph). If you talk to someone, you can see the ideas or
judgment, very often, it's not a really independent judgment.
SREENIVASAN: You know, you didn't talk about your father much earlier in your career, and you mentioned him a lot more in this book. And I'm
wondering, has something changed? Is it age? Nostalgia? How come you're being a little bit more open about it now?
WEIWEI: Thank you for asking that. I always avoid to associate myself with him, because we all know he's the enemy of the state. Even I don't agree
with that, but still, I don't want to know what he's really struggled for.
You know, life -- it's just -- it's so much burden. And but -- I was arrest sitting in this -- in front of our interrogators, and I realized eight
years apart, we come back to a full circle. So, we still have to recognize as a human being, it doesn't matter how advanced a technology or how much
comfort that we have, still, we are in a very questionable or crucial condition. And that they have to defend those very essential rights, you
know, individual rights, human rights, and freedom of speech.
SREENIVASAN: You had recently put out a tweet about the situation in Israel and Gaza. And I want to read a little bit of it. It said, the sense of
guilt around the persecution of the Jewish people has been, at times, transferred to offset the Arab world. Financially, culturally, and in terms
of media influence, the Jewish community has had a significant presence in the United States. The annual $3 billion aid package to Israel has, for
decades, been touted as one of the most valuable investments the United States has ever made. This partnership is often described as one of shared
Now, you have since deleted that tweet, but it had a ripple effect on art shows that you were about to have in major European cities, in London, in
Paris. And I wonder, what did you think of that effect? I mean, the galleries that signed up to host your work, they know who you are. They
know that you are politically challenging the status quo in almost every case.
WEIWEI: Well, it's not about me. You know, it's about today, we cannot allow any idea or voice, which is different from someone who would like
those to be. So, that even not as a factual, that is truth. They cannot accept the gray area. They would ask you yes or no. They cannot say --
otherwise, it's not possible.
So, it may come to stage, which is really about not allowed freedom of thinking and the freedom of expression. So, that is a very troublesome time
because they lost the foundation of -- to have a civilized society to really have patience, even to have compassion for someone being different
and to think differently or to have a different voice. So, I think this is very a troublesome time.
SREENIVASAN: Do you see this as something that's happening the world over? I mean, yes, there's your opinion on this specific conflict. But are you
concerned that there is a chilling effect on freedom of expression, not just in China, but in the West as well?
WEIWEI: I used -- we used to think it's in authoritarian states, China or North Korea, or probably Cuba, you know. But now, we see what happens in
the West can be even more surprising. It can be something we can never imagine. Universities has -- can be questioned by government and that can
be dismissed. This is absolutely a very bad sign for so-called the liberal world or free world, and not only shows the weakness of our beliefs and
that we don't have this kind of -- you know, how we look at ourselves if we cannot allow any argument. And that is very troublesome.
SREENIVASAN: You know, you were in the United States in the '90s as a young man and you were going to school. And I've read that you were so fascinated
by the Iran-Contra hearings that you were actually watching the government kind of publicly display this sort of house cleaning and being transparent
And I wonder now, a few decades later, what do you think of sort of the American state of our ability to be open? Because we see challenges here in
how our democracy is moving forward. Do you?
WEIWEI: I see -- when I first time hear Iran-Contra hearing, I was pretty surprised. And -- but I still think the society still holds justice and
open, you know, transparency very high.
But today, not only the media, but also the just so-called judicial system and all become a partisans (ph) and that they all are -- they -- what they
did is really beyond surprising, really.
And, you know, I'm only making China and the Russian laughing about the West. You cannot -- yes, everybody would laughing. You know, China, people
want to talk about the U.S. is no longer to see as a land for the brave and the liberals, but rather a bigger corruption on both sides.
So, that is -- it's such a backwards. And the question is, what we're trying to establish as a modern society for years and will collapse at the
SREENIVASAN: You know, you write in the book that there -- any artist who isn't an activist is a dead artist. And I wonder, in the climate that
you're describing, if there is this kind of increased scrutiny on expression and freedom. How should an artist proceed when their work or
their views might be in greater danger?
WEIWEI: Well, artists basically is a human being who is not very practically functioning. And that's why their voice are very important,
because they don't have to say something which against their intuition or their sensitivity. But today's artists are very corrupted, because of
education, because of the market, because of the, you know, capitalism, and made everything measured by price.
So, there's a very few artists willing to openly just give out their opinions or to express it successfully to -- you know, to communicate with
artistic way. You know, to give a unique position. And so, that's the condition.
SREENIVASAN: What's your relationship to China now? Is there still a longing for, I don't know, a sense of home or, you know, you're not living
WEIWEI: I'm not living there anymore. I don't have this kind of nostalgia feeling about China because I always been seen as someone who is anti-
revolution. So, I've always been pushed away when I was in China, even before I understand what exactly they mean.
But still, I'm a Chinese. I speak Chinese. I hold a Chinese passport. I never changed my nationality. That means I'm a bit of a stubborn person. I
used to say, I'm not -- I don't want to leave. They should leave. But now I left. And I wish them well. And I still pay attention to what's happening
there. And, you know, I just wish them well. So --
SREENIVASAN: You have made art, whether it's life vests to talk about the migrants that are coming on shore in Lesbos or a snake made of backpacks to
think about the children who were killed in the earthquake in China. How do you conceptualize a work to try to distill a big idea into something
WEIWEI: As artists, you need certain materials and form to carry out your expression or even argument. You know, I visited 20 nations and 40
different camps, interviewed hundreds of, you know, refugees. It's just preparing myself to know better.
Then if I give a simple conclusion, I think all those effort is trying to give integrity to human conditions, you know, trying to recognize they are
the same, you know, even they look different.
WEIWEI: So, I recognize that they should be kind to each other or to -- at least to be -- have a compassion. And you know, otherwise, we are still
living in a very barbarian society as there's no hope.
SREENIVASAN: Ai Weiwei, thank you so much for your time.
WEIWEI: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, uncovering one of the world's greatest mysteries. Deep Sea Vision's CEO, Tony Romeo, published sonar images of
what appears to be a plane deep below the Pacific Ocean. And he's convinced that it is the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's final flight, after she took
off to become the first woman to fly around the world in July 1937, only to completely disappear.
This new discovery is part of an $11 million expedition founded by Romeo to solve the decades-long mystery. But experts say that clearer images are
required to determine whether the lost aircraft has indeed been found. So, the quest continues.
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-across social media.
Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.