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Interview with The New School Professor of International Affairs and Russian Historian Nina Khrushcheva; Interview with Columbia Journalism School Professor of Journalism Ari Goldman; Interview with Columbia Journalism School Adjunct Assistant Professor of Journalism Gregory Khalil; Interview with The New York Times Opinion Columnist David French. Aired 1- 2p ET

Aired June 26, 2024 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

The trial of American journalist Evan Gershkovich begins in --


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: My son died before my eyes and I couldn't do anything, she says.


AMANPOUR: A special report on the Palestinian family caught in the middle of a hostage rescue operation in Gaza.

Also, ahead --


CROWD: Free, free, free Palestine.


AMANPOUR: -- after anti-war protests divided Columbia University, I'm joined by the Jewish and Arab professors teaching students there how to

disagree while also seeing each other.

And --


DAVID FRENCH, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The fact that I had turned against Donald Trump and had criticized Donald Trump was a bridge

too far for them and they turned on us in our own church.


AMANPOUR: -- New York Times columnist David French tells Michel Martin how turning against Trump got him canceled by his own church.

Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. After 15 months in a Russian prison on trumped up charges of espionage, the

American journalist Evan Gershkovich is finally facing trial.

His family, his paper, "The Wall Street Journal," and the U.S. government all express outrage, calling the charges false and cynical.

The 32-year-old reporter faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted. Gershkovich has appeared in a court in a remote part of Russia where

proceedings got underway behind closed doors. Apart from a brief photo op today, Gershkovich is unlikely to be seen again until the process ends.

Matthew Chance has the details.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first glimpse of Evan Gershkovich for months. Cameras briefly

allowed into the courthouse about a thousand miles from Moscow, where his trial for espionage is finally underway.

His head shaved, the 32-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter looked calm, but he faces a sentence of up to 20 years if or likely when he's found

guilty. In a statement, the editor-in-chief of "The Journal" wrote, this bogus accusation of espionage will inevitably lead to a bogus conviction

for an innocent man.

CHANCE: Hi. Matthew from CNN. You holding up all right? No questions.

CHANCE (voice-over): For nearly 15 months, Gershkovich has been held under tight security in Moscow's notorious Lefortovo Prison.

He, his employer, and the U.S. government all vigorously deny the spying allegations against him. But Russia appears determined to press ahead

despite official U.S. objections. A new statement from the U.S. embassy in Moscow says Evan did not commit any illegal acts and should not have been

arrested at all. This trial isn't about the presentation of evidence, due process, or the rule of law, we're talking about the Kremlin using American

citizens to achieve its political goals, the statement adds.

With the conflict raging in Ukraine, Russia began a crackdown at home on free speech, silencing dissidents or forcing them into exile. It's against

this backdrop that Gershkovich was arrested on a reporting assignment in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

This is video from the website of the tank factory there, where Russian prosecutors allege Gershkovich acted "on the instructions of the CIA to

collect secret information." Although, no evidence has been made public. The trial will take place in the city, which is about a thousand miles from

Moscow amid an outcry.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: Journalism is not a crime.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Journalism is not a crime.


CHANCE (voice-over): Some of the most prominent journalists in the United States are calling for his release. And Tucker Carlson even appealed

directly to Putin in his recent sit down.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: And I just want to ask you directly, without getting into the details of it or your version of what happened, if, as a sign of

your decency, you would be willing to release him to us and we'll bring him back to the United States?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have done so many gestures of goodwill out of decency that I think we have run out of




CHANCE (voice-over): But they're not running out of Americans in Russian prisons. Far from it.

PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I'm in innocent of any charge from a political kidnapping.

CHANCE (voice-over): Former Marine Paul Whelan is serving 16 years in what U.S. officials say were trumped up spying charges.

Dual citizen Ksenia Karelina, an amateur ballerina from L.A. and journalist Alsu Kurmasheva are also in custody. As are Gordon Black, a staff sergeant

in the U.S. Army and U.S. school teacher Mark Fogle. Critics suspect the Kremlin is collecting U.S. citizens as bargaining chips for a future deal.

And with his trial for espionage now underway, Evan Gershkovich is one of the most valuable in the Kremlin's hand.


AMANPOUR: Matthew Chance reporting there. Now, let us get more on this with Nina Khrushcheva, a Russian historian and author who also is the great

granddaughter of the 20th century Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. And she's joining me now from New York. Thank you for being back with us on the


You know so much about the dynamics and what happens there. This is the first time, Nina Khrushcheva, that an American journalist has been accused

and now put on trial under these specific charges since the end of the Cold War, since the end of the Soviet Union. Give us just, at this point, the

context of what makes this so unique and why now?


Cold War. Unique. It's the beginning of the process of complete animosity because, well, it's 15 months. So, it's not really unique at this point. It

is 20 years in prison. He's facing 20 years in prison. I don't want to predict, but I would imagine that Evan Gershkovich may get 20 or even more,

just because he needs to be very valuable person to potentially get exchanged. And so, he would be as much prosecuted as possible.

But I think, at this point, we cannot really talk about uniqueness anymore. I think they are, as Matthew Chance pointed out, I think correctly, the

Russian State is taking prisoners of all kinds and Americans, particularly just because the Russians or Putin feels that if America is all out hybrid

war with Russia, helping Ukraine, arming Ukraine, maligning Russia all over the world, damaging Putin's reputation at all times, talk to him and as he

always says, inappropriate terms.

So, all bets are off. So, the Russians can do whatever they can do. But let's remember that Putin also, a descendant of the KGB former operatives,

he himself as a former KGB operative. So, he does act in this kind of tough nosed national security way, national security agenda when they collect as

many prisoners and they don't really -- they're not apologetic for that in any way possible.

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, even, you know, more sort of directly, I'm going to play you another clip of Putin in that conversation with Tucker Carlson,

in which he basically outlined the parameters, I mean, of a swap. So, let's just play this.


PUTIN (through translator): There is an ongoing dialogue between the special services. This has to be resolved in a calm, responsible, and

professional manner. They're keeping in touch. So, let them do their work.

I do not rule out that the person you refer to, Mr. Gershkovich, may return to his motherland. By the end of the day, it does not make any sense to

keep him in prison in Russia. We want the U.S. Special Services to think about how they can contribute to achieving the goals our Special Services

are pursuing. We are ready to talk. Moreover, the talks are underway.


AMANPOUR: Nina Khrushcheva, there's --I mean, there's just no doubt he's just laying it out. This is a bargaining chip, as we've all said. Now, he

also, Putin, implied that the person they want back in return for Gershkovich is Vadim Krasikov, an FSB operative who is serving a life

sentence in Germany for having been convicted of killing a Chechen emigre. That was back in 2019.

Do you know anything about this type -- this fellow? I mean, is he the worst of the worst? Why would Putin be holding Evan, a very highly valuable

American for this person?


KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, and Vadim Krasikov has been mentioned numerous times and Putin himself talked about him because -- and Putin basically -- you

know, basically he said that Krasikov is a hero because he was avenging the motherland. He was avenging Russia and that person -- that Chechen emigre

who he killed was the one who was going with the tanks over the Russian bodies during the war in Chechnya. So, he was one of those Islamic

fundamentalists that, of course, were supposed to -- were bringing harm to the Russian land.

So, Putin was quite explicit about that Krasikov is a hero. And if America wants Gershkovich back, they really need to discuss it with Germany and

they know -- we know they did. In fact, when Alexei Navalny, whom you and I spoke a lot about his death and his life, when there was information that

Alexei Navalny perhaps could be exchanged, Krasikov was also mentioned. And when Navalny died in February, then apparently, the conversation sort of

stopped. But I think Krasikov will come out.

And one last thing, Sergei Ryabkov, one of the ministry of foreign affairs officials, in fact, yesterday or today said very pointedly that the

conversation about exchange is going on. So, that was a message in relation to Evan Gershkovich's trial is that we are eager to do that, we, the

Russians, are eager to do that, but we need to have good conditions from the other side.

AMANPOUR: In the meantime, they're going through with this process, and Gershkovich, who is not going to be seen, we understand, it's now in

secret, can't get American consular officials into the court, can't get family or others in, certainly not his own bosses.

What is it going to look like, do you think? Because the statistics show that there doesn't seem to be a presumption of innocence in a Russian

trial, unlike in the west, and that there's a 99 percent conviction rate, according to certain figures. What do you think this process will look


KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, I mean, it's a closed process because it's an espionage case. And we see more and more that Russian trials are being closed, not

even espionage, just, you know, any trial they can close saying that, you know, those who accuse -- well, the -- those who accuse the criminals, the

technically criminals, they're being threatened because they speak the truth.

So, they can do anything. And there was really no legal system in Russia. So, that's not even an understatement. There's just no such thing. It is a

closed trial. We don't know how long it will last. We don't know what the decisions would be. I would think that Gershkovich is going to get as much

as much prison sentence as possible, because that would make him even more of a valuable target. I cannot really not know what's going to be, but it's

going to be tough precisely because it is a message to the Americans.

AMANPOUR: And because this one is directed at the Americans, it's slightly different than the other broader crackdown on dissent that seems to be the

war that is going on in Russia, particularly since the war.

I want to ask you to respond and to talk about yet another first of its kind since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that is the arrest and

trial of two women who are in theater, the director and the playwright of a popular play that apparently was approved by all the authorities that was

on stage, and I think got an award before the war started.

And now, these two women have been rounded up. They're in jail for the better part of a year. What is that about?

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, and that's another kind of when I mentioned, the closed trial. Actually, their trial -- this is the theater director Yevgenia

Berkovich and the playwright Svetlana Petriychuk, who was originally from Belarus. And they -- the play that they put on stage is called "The

Finist,", the Falcon. It's actually -- I haven't seen it, but I read the play, and it's really very interesting, is how women who are disillusioned

and (INAUDIBLE) they end up in Syria and fighting for terrorism. And then because the disillusion then in that kind of life, they go back to Russia

and then being tried as criminals.

So, it's a very tragic, tragic and beautiful story against terrorism. And in a very Russian fashion, they got two awards, very, very popular awards

called the Golden Mask Awards. This play was written -- was read in prison and female prisons all over Russia -- because it was supposed to prevent

this kind of terrorist or disillusioned actions out of spite to the state.


And so, suddenly, in a complete reversal, these women are now deemed as terrorists. They promote terrorism. They've been testimony of every

important theater related, literature related person in Russia in their defense. And there's one horrible person who's -- who is a secret, secret

informer who said, oh, that seemed to be a Russian manner presented in bed light. And therefore, this play is against Russian men.

And so, that the trial was closed. So, we are not going to see how it's going to develop and play out. But this is sort of the Russia today, is

that, you know, the foreign agents. We also discussed this topic. I think there is about 800 foreign agents in Russia now.

And even a year ago, two years ago, for sure they were people who were supposedly getting money from western states and potentially maligned

Putin. Now, it's anybody who disagrees with Putin. So, it is going to increase. As long as Putin stays in power, the more totalitarian state it's

going to become.

AMANPOUR: Well, you've wrapped that up very cleanly and clearly for us all. So, on the one hand, this crackdown on dissent and creeping

totalitarianism. And on the other hand, our colleague Evan is a -- as a political pawn in a cynical game of swapping operatives. Nina Khrushcheva,

thank you so much indeed for joining us.

Now, we turn to the war that continues to rage in Gaza. Early this month, the Israeli military rescued four Israeli hostages there. It's been hailed

as a daring success for the IDF. But now, the dust has settled. Another perspective is emerging. In this report, Correspondent Paula Hancocks

pieces together the evidence to see how the military's rescue operation had a deadly impact on some civilians. And one Palestinian family facing

further unbearable loss.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the time Israeli forces leave this house in Central Gaza, one woman and three children have been

shot. A 12-year-old boy clings to life. This is the story of one Gazan family caught up in the June 8th rescue of four Israeli hostages being held

in Nuseirat.

When Abdul Raouf (ph), the grandfather and owner of the house, saw tanks and special forces arrive on their street, he says his family of 14 hid in

one room in the top floor apartment. What happened next has been relayed to us by seven members of the same family in multiple interviews.

Mohammed Mata (ph), father of four, says he heard the soldiers screaming, shooting, and throwing stun grenades downstairs. CNN has verified that this

IDF video shows troops inside the house. It appears heavily edited, but you can hear what sounds like shots fired.

They came up to the apartment, the father adds, shooting and saying, who's here? We told them we are civilians. Children and women are in this room.

The boy's aunt says, the Israelis came and started shooting at us. I heard someone groaning in pain.

This is the blood of my son, Yaman (ph), says Rasha (ph). He was bleeding here. As soon as the Israelis entered, they shot him. There were bullets in

his leg and stomach.

Twelve-year-old Yaman (ph) later died from his wounds.

My son died before my eyes and I couldn't do anything, she says. He was looking at me, saying, mom, hold me, I'm bleeding.

Rasha says another son, Mooman (ph), 16, was shot in the shoulder and stomach. She wanted to help, but she says the soldiers threatened to kill

them if she did. Another shot grazed the third son, the bullet striking his arm and the leg.

CNN has geolocated the buildings the hostages were rescued from. The family home is over a kilometer away, on a likely evacuation route the Israeli

military used to extract the hostages from Gaza. The IDF says the battalion was there to secure the area during the operation.

Inside the house, the grandfather says he and Yaman's (ph) father were taken to the corridor, hands tied behind their back, gagged and

blindfolded, pointing out the plastic head cover left behind.

The father says, a soldier warned him, tell me where the resistance fighters and weapons are or I will break your heart for your children? And

he did it. He went to the room a minute later, and I heard the gunshots.


It's not clear if any of the family members were hit in the second round of shooting. CNN has reached out to the IDF, but they have not responded to

the specific allegations. The family's testimony matches evidence CNN saw at the scene. We've shown images of the bullet casings on the ground to

weapons experts who confirm they are Israeli manufactured.

The grandfather points to multiple bullet holes in walls, doors, and furniture on different floors of the building. The family says Israeli

troops were in their home for around 45 minutes. One soldier applied a dressing to Mooman's (ph) shoulder wound. before they left.

Outside, the grandfather tries to call an ambulance. He's told they cannot reach him. So, the boys are loaded into a car and rushed to hospital, where

Yaman (ph) is pronounced dead.

Gaza health officials say more than 270 people were killed that day. No breakdown of fighters versus civilians, but this hospital footage shows

women and children in every corner. Israel says the death toll is far lower, blaming Hamas for hiding hostages within the civilian population.

One family's story, one small window into a day of hell for the residents of Nuseirat.


AMANPOUR: Paula Hancocks reporting there. In the United States, President Biden has condemned what he called a violent attack on a Palestinian-

American child in Texas, where a woman has been charged with trying to drown a three-year-old girl at a neighborhood pool. This is the kind of

rank hatred that has caused such turbulence around the world that since the savage events of October 7th in Israel and the ensuing war on Gaza.

Campus demonstrations at American colleges got out of hand after the Columbia University president called in the cops, which brings us to our

next guest, two Columbia University professors, one Jewish, one Palestinian who are co-teaching a course on religion in the region. It's part of the

journalism schools program where crucially students are learning how to disagree while also seeing each other.

Ari Goldman and Gregory Khalil, welcome to the program. It's really good to have you here. And I want to know, given everything that, you know, we've

been -- sense of over the past nine months, what is it that brought you together? How did you meet? How did you decide and why to teach this

particular course? Let's start with you, Ari.

ARI GOLDMAN, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM SCHOOL: Sure, sure. Well, I've been teaching this course for decades. And I just want to

get down that the core principle of the course is empathetic objectivity. Journalist's prize objectivity, right?

We look for facts, we look for maps, we look for data, look for history. We want to know what happened. But that takes us only so far. We need empathy.

We need to be able to hear the other person. And in particular, when it comes to covering religion.

I can give a very quick example. The -- if you walk into a Catholic church and people are taking communion and you say, they're having bread and wine,

objectively, you've told the truth. That's what they're having. However, if you are empathetic and you try to see it from their point of view, they're

taking the body and blood of Christ.

So, the idea that objectivity takes us only so far is my core principle in teaching this course. We all come to teach and we all come to -- into life

with our own perspectives. I've been teaching this course. I'm an American Jew. I have strong ties to Israel. I have many family members in Israel. I

love Israel. I support Israel.

And I've been teaching this course from pretty much from my perspective. And then, six years ago, I had a guest in the class, Greg Khalil, who my --

a friend had told me it was a good -- would be a good guest to talk about Christianity in the Holy Land. And I said, let's do this together, because

I want to be sure that not only my perspective is reflected with my students, but yours is too.

And we've had a very fruitful partnership. I really enjoy working with Greg, even though we disagree all the time. We have a different --

AMANPOUR: Let me ask him. Yes. I mean, it really does sound so interesting because you have different perspectives, as obviously, we know, you both

have huge numbers of family. You in Israel, Ari you in -- I believe, in the West Bank and even in Gaza, Greg Khalil. Tell me what you take from this

co-teaching course? Do you also -- you hear and see Ari, and you also, I guess, feel seen and heard?



the reason why I'm doing this course, we do have a strong friendship that lasts six years, is because I think what's missing in the public square is

an ability to talk about really difficult issues, in particular Israel- Palestine.

As somebody who's Palestinian, and I was born and raised here, but I lived there, I have a huge family there. Some of them are experiencing absolutely

atrocious realities right now. Palestinian perspective is never heard. It's rarely heard. I think, you know, on your last segment about the hostage

rescue, of course you have to be happy for hostages who are rescued, but 270 Palestinian civilians killed. There's a different value of life here.

Because imagine if those hostages were held in Tel Aviv or in New York, there's this reality that for Palestinians, it's like, well, you're human

shields. That means you're legitimate human targets, and that's not fair. That's not right. So, my objective is not simply to platform Palestinian

perspectives, rather, it's something larger than that. I don't think my story is the only story. Ari's story isn't the only story. If we want to

deal with complex issues in the world, we have to be able to understand the multiplicity of deep truths that exist at the same time and be held

accountable to the actual facts. The facts on the ground.

So, when teaching this course together, we're hoping to allow for a better, more robust debate about reality and not slogans in the public square.

AMANPOUR: So, to that end, did your -- because I believe you have a friendship. You're not just co-teaching for the last six years. So many

people were shaken, family friendships broke up, you know, just there -- everybody was in their own corners after October 7th and what's happened

since. Did that affect your friendship?

KHALIL: I think it made it much deeper actually. You know, one of the components of our class that's so critical is we take an immersive trip.

So, it's not just talking about a multiplicity of perspectives, it's not Ari's story, my story, flattening everything out, it's holding it

accountable to shared set of facts and uncomfortable experiences.

So, Ari and I have actually grown quite a bit together over the years and being in places that have made us and our students quite uncomfortable. So,

after October 7th, we already had -- he knows where I stand on a variety of issues. We're radically transparent with each other. We're not mean when we

disagree, but it's important for us to speak proactively what we think about particular issues.

And so, I think our class, after October 7th, strangely, in some way, while I was being quite active and will continue to be in the public square, I

mean, this has to stop now, I think it provided a safe haven both for us and our students.

AMANPOUR: I think that is so -- yes, Ari, go ahead. I was going to ask you, yes, how also the students see you agreeing on some things,

disagreeing on other things, particularly in this incredibly heightened environment?

GOLDMAN: So, this idea of empathetic objectivity, of having being -- using your journalistic tools, but having empathy is something that I use and I

teach as a reporting tool. In other words, you should go out and you're talking to someone who has a different point of view, listen to them, try

to get and understand the world from their perspective.

I'll give an example. Even someone saying, from the river to the sea, Palestine should be free, may sound innocuous to some people, but to other

people, it is offensive and antisemitic. So, you may not think it is, but try to understand the other perspective. And that's really what we've tried

to do.

And it started as a reporting tool. In other words, this is a great way to report, but we soon realized that it was a human relations tool. That we

relate to each other and understand each other when we say, OK, what does this mean to you? And all too often people speak and they wait, and then

they speak again. What we're trying to teach our students is to speak, listen, and then speak again.


GOLDMAN: So -- and -- take in their experience and try to reflect their humanity.

AMANPOUR: I love the fact that this is part of the journalism school because many journalists in the United States and around are really

struggling with how to do this right. So, it's a very, very valuable course, I think, for young people who want to be journalists.

I just want to ask you because, you know, you are on Columbia. It -- we all know what happened on campus with the protest. You mentioned some of the

slogans, Ari. And you say, Greg, that you're in the public square. How do you think the university handled the protest? In the fullness of 2020

hindsight, Greg, how would you have done it differently? Did you agree with what happened?


KHALIL: No. I think the university made a number of failures and it's on a long and growing list, but I think 20 years from now, the story isn't going

to be about the university's failures or the student protesters breaking a couple rules even two years from now, it's going to go back to the

Atrocious realities on the ground in Gaza.

There is no good future for any Israeli or Palestinian without a good reality for every Palestinian and Israeli, and we are moving over the brink

on the ground there. And as long as this continues to escalate out of control, this could go -- this could have large regional implications.

Things won't be calm on our campus right now.

So, I think the story with the protesters and the students, I think the administration will look very bad in hindsight. This didn't happen with the

encampments, and the administration failed the university community, I think, for many months, even before October 7th. The students were saying

long before October 7th, hey, we don't want our $14 billion to -- endowment to be invested in what they and most human rights organizations, including

many Israeli organizations, see as apartheid. We don't want them profiting off of what many call an active genocide today.

And I think sadly -- or not sadly, but they will be looked on as being on the right side of history, despite the very many problems that we saw on

our campus. And sadly, we'll see again.

AMANPOUR: And what sort of view do you have, Ari?

GOLDMAN: OK. Well, I disagree with the use of those words, apartheid, genocide. I feel that these are not fair accusations to make against the

Jewish State. The Jewish State is far from perfect, but it's also not a genocidal state.

I feel that we have to -- but I also want to go to the campus before I talk about the facts of -- on the ground. And the campus -- I am sympathetic to

the administration of Columbia. Minouche Shafik, the president, became president, I think, on October 4th, and then she had a face this on October

7th. She has addressed the problem of antisemitism on campus, and she's done some good things, even though she's -- I have trouble with the

presence of police officers on the campus, especially initially.


GOLDMAN: But I need to -- I'll let Greg push back.

AMANPOUR: Yes, yes, yes. I like the fact that you're disagreeing and agreeing. You know, agreeing to disagree, so to speak. But I also want to

know what other conflicts do you teach? What other places have you taken your students? Is there a context in which you can put what's happening

now, Greg?

KHALIL: Absolutely. I mean, I think these are universal principles. I -- this year we had to pivot. We could not go on -- take the students on the trip to Israel-Palestine as we planned. We still taught Israel-Palestine

because of our expertise and our backgrounds, but we also taught Ireland- Northern Ireland. And the same principles apply there. And interestingly, in Ireland, so much of this conflict, like in the United States, has been

local culture and politics. So, we didn't leave Israel and Palestine far behind.

I do just want to push back a little bit, Christiane, if I might, on sort of what Ari said. You know, there was an environment on the campus that was

really quite toxic for some time, and I don't -- I think the administration did a poor job at fighting antisemitism, but also, they weaponized it. And

there was a lot of anti-Palestinian speech and bigotry.

But there were some important stories that were missed out there. I remember one day, the third night of Passover, I was at Pulitzer Hall where

we teach. The encampment was right next door. I heard the faint call of Muslim -- a call to prayer from the encampment. I walked over. I saw about

20 students standing in a large rectangle holding up bedsheets, protecting fellow Muslim students from the prying eyes of cameras.

Just an hour and a half later, it was the start of Passover, the third night, and there was an interfaith meal hosted by a number of Jewish

students, a sizable minority there. And so, something important is happening with the young people.

And I can empathize with your discomfort with the charged terms of apartheid and genocide. Those are very powerful terms, but the reality on

the ground in which one people is ruling over another, what I said is the opinion of human rights organizations around the world. And so, it's

important, if we are practicing empathetic objectivity, to root it in that reality, not just sort of our reactions to this terminology.

And I think increasingly --

AMANPOUR: I hear you. I hear you, and I hear you both on this, and I really understand appreciate the explanations from both perspectives.


But particularly, Ari, and I've only got time for one more question. One of you said to one of my colleagues that -- you know, that too many students

who come in with too many exclamation points and should have more question marks. In other words, your students come in with certainties or with what

some people call clicktivism and not enough curiosity and intellectual investigation.

Ari, what are you seeing? Are you able to combat that, even by your partnership?

GOLDMAN: I hope so. That is a problem. I think it's rooted in social media. You've got to take a position on every issue. And then you get stuck

in that position and then you're at a rally and you're on one side and you don't listen to the other side.

So, I'm very much in favor of the question mark. And I think people in college, you know, in graduate school should be in a questioning mode, not

in a such certainty.

I will say, myself, even watching the video that you showed earlier, I have all these questions. I have a lot of -- I'm -- my position isn't certain on

any of these issues except that I love Israel and I want Israel to survive. You have a lot of guests on who can debate apartheid or genocide or

anything else, we're not here to do that. We're here to say that it's important for us, for society, and especially for young people to stop and

listen and try to understand the other. Otherwise, there's no future.

AMANPOUR: I agree with you. And we try on this platform to do that as best as we can. So, I really appreciate you both, Ari Goldman and Greg Khalil,

for being with us and for doing that course at the Journalism School at Columbia. Really important. Thank you so much.

And as U.S. voters gear up for the election in an increasingly divided country, the merging of faith and political identity often contributes to

further polarization. It's something our next guest has personally experienced. New York Times columnist David French was recently dismissed

from an engagement for the Presbyterian Church in America after facing backlash for his criticism of Donald Trump.

He joins Michel Martin now to discuss his latest article, "The Day My Old Church Cancelled Me Was a Very Sad Day."


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: David French, thank you so much for talking with us.

DAVID FRENCH, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

MARTIN: So, David, just for people who just don't know your sort of full biography, I'd just like to ask you to start by how you came to identify as

a conservative. And what does that mean to you?

FRENCH: Yes. Right. Well, you know, I'm a Cold War kid. I was born in '69. I came of age really politically in the Reagan era, and I came of age sort

of as that Reagan, Republican, Cold War conservative. More libertarian leaning in my outlook. Very much interested in America's global role. Very

immigrant friendly, for example. You know, the, Reagan was famous, and a lot of people forget this about his legacy, that he was famous for

welcoming immigrants and showing that the attraction and appeal that America had to people abroad was a symbol of, for example, our superiority

to the Soviet system.

So, I really came up as a Reagan Republican. That would be my story. And I'm also evangelical. I was raised in the evangelical church. So, I was an

evangelical Reagan Republican, and fit very well culturally, both within the Republican Party and within the evangelical church.

Basically, my whole adult life, until June of 2015, when Donald Trump came down the escalator, who signaled a break from all kinds of Republican

traditions that I had appreciated and respected, not merely a break with Republican -- with Reagan ideology, but also a break with Reagan's

character in any -- really, any emphasis on personal character at all.

MARTIN: Do you remember when it is that you started to see not just Donald Trump as a candidate, as a figure himself, but his effect on the party and

the conservative movement on the whole? Do you remember when you saw that and what was the -- yes?

FRENCH: Oh, I can get it down to the month. September of 2015 is when I began to see -- and there was a Republican debate at that time in which not

just Donald Trump, but also some of his fans online were echoing white nationalist alt right talking points.

And so, I remember I was writing at the time for National Review and I vividly remember writing just a very short post where I was condemning

these white nationalist talking points. I was condemning their presence and saying they have nothing -- they have no place in the Republican Party.

They have no place in the conservatism that I know and love.


And then, what happened next was we received a hurricane, just a hurricane of online harassment directed at me. But far worse than that, directed at

my youngest daughter, who at the time was seven years old. She was adopted from Ethiopia. And the racist attacks on her were, A, deeply disturbing

and, B, terrifying in some ways.

They were, you know -- at one point, some people put pictures of murdered black Americans in the comments section of my wife's blog. She was a writer

for a religious website called Patheos at the time. Clearly, you know, clearly threatening, photoshopping pictures of my daughter into gas

chambers online. Horrible stuff. Horrible stuff.

And so, it was disturbing. It was terrifying. And we turned as we've always had in our history and in our lives back to our church community for

support and for comfort. And to be sure, there were pastors who supported us, there were close friends who supported us. But all of a sudden, for

some people, the fact that I had turned against Donald Trump and had criticized Donald Trump was a bridge too far for them. And they turned on

us in our own church. And this is something that began in 2015 and just kept continuing.

MARTIN: For some people, politics is like sports. You know, they go there to yell at people, right?

FRENCH: Right.

MARTIN: They go there to boo at people. Like, you know, I don't -- you don't have to love it. You might think it's stupid. But church is

different. So, I'm just thinking, just what's your take on what happened there? Like, what happened?

FRENCH: You know, I will just speak personally, I'll say I underestimated two things, when I was thinking through the state of Republican politics in

2015 and evangelical politics specifically in 2015 and 2016.

Number one, I underestimated the antipathy that existed toward Democrats. I underestimated how much there was this raw hatred and/or fear of Democrats

on the part of so many Christian Republicans.

I -- even though I was a Republican active -- I was a Republican delegate to the 2012 convention, a Mitt Romney delegate. I was a long-time religious

liberty lawyer and prolife lawyer, but I always had close friends who were Democrats. I never saw politics as that deal breaker on matters of faith

and friendship, but I underestimated how much many of my co-religionists had real raw antipathy for Democrats, and I also underestimated how

fundamentalist so many of them had become.

And by fundamentalist, I mean, where there's this zone of absolute religious certainty, they had extended into politics so that if you were

not going to support the Republican standard bearer, that was not seen as a political mistake, that was not seen even as an honest mistake, it was seen

as a sign of apostasy, as departing from the Christian faith itself. And that blindsided me. That took me totally by surprise.

So, it was the combination of antipathy and rising fundamentalism that ties the politics of conservative Christianity to the faith itself so closely

that I didn't see that coming. And that's what blindsided me. And both of those trends have only gotten worse in the ensuing, you know, eight, nine

years since Trump came down the escalator.

MARTIN: So, then, here you go and you're scheduled to speak at an event, being sponsored by your church, which you have loved, and has loved you,

and your family, what happened?

FRENCH: So, what happened is that my wife and I had been members of a church called Presbyterian Church in America for a long time, more than 15

years. And it had become -- but unfortunately, over the course of the eight or nine years of the Trump era, it had become not hospitable to us.

Now, again, not everybody, our pastors were with us, close friends were with us, but we kept having deeply disturbing confrontations at church. I

mean, people would say -- remake grotesquely racist remarks. People -- an elder said to me about my own wife, keep -- can't you keep your wife under

control about her opposition to Trump, when she was kind of -- when they were having a post-church discussion. I was confronted at communion table

by somebody who's a Trump supporter. And this is just a very, very partial list of the things that happened.

Now, again, when I say my pastors kept supporting me, the church actually took disciplinary action against this person to prevent them -- to try to

prevent them from doing this ever again. But one of the things that happened is people just kept confronting us. And even the most well-meaning

pastors could not shield us from the sense that if we're arriving at church, there's a good chance, when we get there, that somebody's going to

confront me or my wife or one of my kids over Donald Trump.


And so, we began attending a multiethnic church in Nashville that has no trace of, you know, that kind of MAGA Christianity in it. But my prior

denomination did reach out to me and invite me to come speak at a panel at the annual General Assembly of the denomination. And the reason why they

reached out is precisely because I had confronted so many opponents, and there had been so many people. And the whole purpose of the discussion was

for me to help people navigate polarized times.

I've gotten criticism from left and from right. And I was going to talk to people who also get criticism from both sides about how to navigate that.

MARTIN: Right.

FRENCH: But then as soon as my name was announced, the really hardcore MAGA wing of the denomination just rose in outrage. They printed articles

that were deeply misleading, you know, tweeted vicious things about me, calling me names. Somebody even wrote a silly parody song insulting me.

And so, the next thing you know, the denomination starts to get cold feet and decides to cancel the panel and then they issue a statement throwing me

under the bus where an official basically says, well, had I known about David French's prior writings or the way people had interpreted them, you

know, then the clear implication was he never would have issued the invitation. But had he known, it's not like I'd kept my opinions under a


MARTIN: What they said was that, the concerns that have been raised about the seminar and its topic have been so significant that it seems wisest for

the peace and unity of the church not to proceed in this way.

Well, how do you -- what do you make of that?

FRENCH: You know, let's just be really clear when they talked about peace and unity. People got very angry and made personal attacks against me. They

had personal attacks against my wife. They published misleading and sometimes outright false things about the things that I've written and that

I've said. They engaged in just the most gross personal insults. And then, they turned around, the administrate -- the denomination turns around and

says, well, for peace and for unity, we have to yield to those people and exclude me.

And so, the price of peace, what peace was, was actually capitulation to the loudest and angriest voices. Not to the majority of the denomination,

certainly not to the majority of the denomination, but to the people who are the angriest faction. And that's not peace, that's capitulation, that's

exclusion. And this is one of the reasons why so very many people right now don't even feel welcome in many of the churches that they grew up in.

MARTIN: You think this is a minority of churchgoers who have been engaging in this conduct?

FRENCH: Yes, I do believe strongly it's a minority of churchgoers engaging in this conduct, because the majority of church goers are not that -- to be

honest, that are not that politically engaged. Most people, politics is very downstream from the daily rhythm of their lives. But for the small

minority for whom politics really is an extension of their faith, they have really adopted Trump with an extraordinary zeal.

And what they've been very, very effective at is telling -- is using personal insults to warn the majority away from dissenters. So, rather than

dealing with my arguments, they'll call me a heretic. They'll say that I'm a wolf. They'll say that I'm demonic.

And so, then when somebody says something, I read this from David French, they'll say, well, he's a heretic. And the immediate recoil is, oh, I don't

want to read something from a heretic. Or he's a wolf in sheep's clothing or he's demonic. And so, the passivity of the majority is really enabling

that minority, because they don't do any additional work to determine whether or not the accusation is true.

And that's one of the things most dispiriting, again, about this cancellation from the PCA. There was a hurricane of misleading and cruel

commentary about me into the public square. And the good people -- and the "good people" did nothing to determine the veracity of it all, or wouldn't

even really evaluate the morality of the way in which people attacked us. They just wanted the pain to stop. They wanted the controversy to stop. And

so, that meant capitulation. And this is a pattern that is repeating itself in institution after institution after institution within American


MARTIN: You know, there are a lot of people that say, well, how could you have missed that strain of intolerance before? Is it because it wasn't

directed at you or anybody who was important to you, and therefore you missed it?


Because it -- you know what I mean? I mean, there's a part of you that thinks, well, didn't come out of nowhere.

FRENCH: Well, right.

MARTIN: You dismissed it?

FRENCH: I mean, you're correct. I mean, so first, there is an element of this that is just mea culpa. There's stuff I should have seen that I didn't

see. And I have been feeling guilt about that for years, quite frankly. And so, some of that is absolute mea culpa. Part of it is also a very human

reaction when you're very happy in a place and where it seems loving and warm and embracing to you, it doesn't -- you're not exactly looking for

reasons not to like it. You're not out there searching for all the reasons why this is actually bad, right?

MARTIN: Right.

FRENCH: And then when things turn bad, then all of a sudden, often the scales fall from your eyes. It's very human. It doesn't mean it was right,

it doesn't mean that's the way it should have been. But that's the way that I was.

MARTIN: There's another writer. He's written for "USA Today." He's written a bunch of books. He's written for "The Post." His name is Steven Petrow.

Basically, a lot of his public work has been about helping people understand each other, right? So, one of the things that he wrote when

Trump was first elected, which is, it's not that I think that everybody who voted for Trump is a racist, is that his racism doesn't bother them. OK.

FRENCH: Or they're in denial about it. They're in -- they're absolutely in denial about it. So, what's just happened is you have an entire community

of people who've been sort of conditioned to believe that any accusation of racism is false.

MARTIN: Right.

FRENCH: And so, they will deny -- and often because their consumption of media is entirely right-wing media, entirely. They don't hear -- know about

some of the worst things that Trump has said. And so, they live in denial. They're often protected by their own trusted media figures from the truth

about Trump.

So, they -- you know, there is a moment in my church that's very indicative when a woman -- an older woman in the church came up to me and -- with

sincerity and kindness said, David, I don't understand why you oppose our president. Can you tell me? And this is during Trump's term. And, you know,

I didn't have time to give the whole brief against Trump. And I just tried to very nicely say, I just wish he lied less. And that was just my first

answer. And she looks at me and with 100 percent sincerity says, you mean Donald Trump lies?

It's very difficult to sort of understand if you're outside of MAGA country, how much the vision of Donald Trump as a human being that has been

created within that MAGA bubble is so contrary to fact. It is so contrary to reality. They see him as sort of a heroic and virtuous figure in a way

that the rest of America is mystified by, just mystified.

MARTIN: So, I'm going to ask you to predict and say, where do you think this goes? Like if you and I were -- are to talk again in, I don't know,

five years or so, what do you -- what kind of conversation do you think we'll be having?

FRENCH: You know, to be quite frank, I think a lot depends on what happens this November. I don't think people who are of evangelicalism understand

that if Trump wins in 2024, the zeal of evangelical support for him will be even greater than anything that we've seen, because it would have been seen

as a -- as divine intervention, as a miracle that this man subject to all of these indictments and now a conviction and a sexual abuse finding and

all of fraud findings and all of this, that it will be interpreted as the world came against him, but God protected him and made him prevail.

That will be a narrative that will lock into a big chunk of the church in a way that will lead to zeal that I think is on a scale that's even greater

than we've seen, and will also create, I think, a model going forward. This is how you win elections, is with Trump like figures.

If Trump loses, I'm not so sure that we would have a fever break moment, so much as a fever fade moment. You know, people forget that a lot of

Republicans still really liked Richard Nixon when he was forced out in 1974. They did. And then, what ended up happening was there was sort of

this fade, not so much a fever break, but often a fade. And so, I think you would see more of a fade.

But that MAGA populist reactionary element isn't going anywhere. It's perpetuated not just by Donald Trump, but by people with giant social media

platforms. And their 5 million, 6 million followers are not just going to disappear into the ether if Trump loses. This is a movement that I think is

going to be relevant and dangerous in many ways in American politics for a long time to come. But nothing compared to the danger of if Trump wins

again 2024.

MARTIN: David French, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

FRENCH: Thank you so much for having me.



AMANPOUR: And finally, religious extremism in Afghanistan comes in the shape of misogyny. Women and girls there love cricket, but they have been

banned from playing any sport since the Taliban seized back power from the United States in 2021.

But Afghanistan's men's cricket team has brought joy to a beleaguered nation, reaching the World Cup semifinals for the first time ever, beating

Bangladesh and knocking out the favorites, Australia, in the process. They picked up the game amid a war. And now, they have made history playing it.

And that is 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, our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.