Skip to main content

tv   Amanpour Company  PBS  October 23, 2018 12:00am-1:01am PDT

12:00 am
hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & co". within hours of saudi arabia admitting that jamal khashoggi was killed in his consulate that cover story falls apart. what does this crisis mean for the kingdom and for american national security? i speak with robert gates who served as cia director and secretary of defense under three presidents. also, a hollywood power couple fights climate change one meal at a time. james and suzy cameron say that if we want to save our planet, first we must change our diet. and comedian phoebe robinson confronts toxic masculinity and white feminism in her new book "everything's trash but it's okay." ♪
12:01 am
for more information visit uniworld.com. additional support has been provided by the cheryl and philip milstein family, judy and josh weston and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
12:02 am
thank you. welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in london. welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in london. saudi arabia has admitted that the killing of the journalist jamal khashoggi was a huge and grave mistake, but the kingdom's account of his death claiming that he died in a fistfight during a, quote, rogue operation in their consulate in turkey, has done little to blunt the international uproar and skepticism. new details of khashoggi's death highlight inconsistencies in the saudi story like this still image from security footage. it shows a saudi operative trying to pass as khashoggi apparently wearing khashoggi's clothes. he was leaving the consulate by the back door the very day that khashoggi was killed. meanwhile, turkey's president erdogan is promising to reveal the incident in all its naked truth. so what should the world do? what should the west do? the german chancellor angela merkel announced her government wouldn't approve new arm sales to the kingdom until further
12:03 am
notice and the u.s. and the uk must stop supporting the saudi war in yemen. all while president trump wavers between accepting the king of saudi arabia's latest explanation to saying it wasn't sufficient. so when and if the dust settles in both riyadh and washington, what will this mean for saudi arabia's place in the region and for america's national security ties? robert gates was cia director under the george h.w. bush administration, and he was secretary of defense under presidents george w. bush and president barack obama. robert gates, welcome to the program. >> thank you, christiane. >> i could have gone on and on. you have a massive portfolio and massive experience in intelligence, as being secretary of defense, and all other roles. so what do you make of saudi arabia's explanation in public for what happened to jamal khashoggi? >> well, i find the story that they've told to not be credible. just looking at the photographs
12:04 am
of mr. khashoggi, he doesn't appear to be the kind of person who would engage in a fistfight much less with 15 people. so i don't think that anyone finds the story credible. i think that holds true of the president himself. but i think the challenge that we face, and maybe i'm getting ahead of ourselves, i think the challenge is how do we thread o o o o the needle in terms of oo o protecting our interests in the o middle east and at the same time eye
12:05 am
standing up for the values that we have as a country. and i think that the administration could do worse than to go back and study carefully what the first president bush did after the massacre at tiananmen square in beijing in 1989. he was the first head of state to impose sanctions on the chinese government to show how much we disapproved of what they had done. but at the same time sent emissaries to the government, then deputy secretary of state larry eagleburger and brent scowcroft to talk to the leadership in beijing, tell them why we were doing what we were doing, why we had to do what we were doing, but that we wanted to keep the strategic relationship still on track. >> but is that really threading the needle, or is that trying to have your cake and eat it, too? how much punishment or sanctions did beijing get? just words? >> there were actual sanctions that were -- it wasn't just disapproval or a tisk-tisk. it was actual sanctions imposed. >> that was a massive, game-changing massacre there in tiananmen square, and the aftereffects have lasted practically until this day in one form or another.
12:06 am
and, of course, china was an opponent or an adversary or competitor even more so then than today. saudi arabia is meant to be an ally. the first and foremost question i suppose is, you know, jamal khashoggi was a journalist. he wasn't an operative mounting demonstrations or weapons or anything against the saudi government. he was employed as a columnist by a newspaper. a american number. he was a resident of the united states. he was able to live in the united states. there's a lot tying jamal khashoggi to the united states. what should president trump do in terms of defending that human rights case, that habeas corpus case, that sort of moral case right there? before we get to the strategic interests. >> my view is that there does need to be some action taken. >> like what? >> i'm not sure. the menu is long. you've mentioned the germans
12:07 am
were cutting off arms sales, the president has already said he's not going to do that. the former british foreign secretary saying they would take other action. >> to stop backing the war in yemen. >> maybe that's one option for us. there may be some others. i think we need to find a way to manifest our disapproval of what was, in my view, a huge blunder. >> do you think it's a blunder or an orchestrated hit? >> it was an orchestrated hit, but ordering it was a blunder. >> got it. >> and at the same time preserve the long-term relationship that we have with saudi arabia. >> can i just play for you some of the latest that's come from president trump and also from the saudi foreign minister. president trump, as you alluded to, there's been deception and there's been lies. their story is all over the place.
12:08 am
but he said prince mohammed bin salman is a strong person and he has very good control. a strong person and very good control? do you believe that? >> well, i think he is -- i think he clearly is in control in saudi arabia. i think the various actions he's taken from the very beginning demonstrate that he's quickly consolidated his power. >> and then the foreign minister who was a former ambassador to the united states was on fox news, and this is what he said. he's the only major saudi official who has come out in the 17 or 18 days since this crisis has been gone on and he spoke about the strategic relationship. >> the u.s./saudi relationship is a historic strategic one, we have great interests that we share together. we have a great trade relationship. we have issues important to us. we work very closely on combatting terrorism and
12:09 am
extremism, on containing iran's aggressive policies in the region, trying to bring peace and trying to bring peace to pakistan and afghanistan. the relationship is a hugely important strategic relationship for both countries. i believe when the investigation is over and the facts are revealed and people know who is responsible and see those individuals being punished and see procedures put in place to prevent this from happening the relationship will weather this. >> the relationship will weather this. do you believe that's true? >> i think that -- i think this will have lasting impact not only here in europe or in europe but in the united states as well. you have a pretty strong bipartisan consensus on the hill and in congress that some strong actions need to be taken to demonstrate our approval from
12:10 am
very conservative republicans to very liberal democrats. so i think that one of the things that has to be a consideration for the president is how can he keep control of the process without congress running away with it and probably taking steps that are actually not in our national interest that go too far. only the president can try and determine what are the kinds of actions that show our disapproval and what a terrible thing we think this is that's happened to a human being as well as to a journalist and someone who is a resident of the united states. but at the same time recognize all of those interests the saudi foreign minister was talking about. >> so the interests are sort of manifest. obviously the oil selling to the west, to the united states, the sharing of intelligence that by all accounts has been fairly -- you would know better than i do.
12:11 am
how effective, how much mayhem and death did it actually stop? >> i think particularly subsequent to 9/11 the intelligence sharing has actually been quite good. >> would have had to have been given 15 of the hijackers were saudi. >> particularly after the attempted attacks on oil facilities in saudi arabia really for the first time they began to take the terrorism problem seriously. >> and that was 2004, around 2003. that's when it really sort of shifted up again. so some have complained that president trump seems to be and has been sort of verbally anyway acting like saudi arabia's lawyer over this, much more trying to figure out a good story for them, as you say, to thread the needle or come out of this relationship without it being ruined but acting much more in deference to them than in deference to america's leadership role in this case. jared kushner's name comes up a lot. he spoke at a cnn forum. i want to play this because it
12:12 am
has a lot to do with the way this administration is actually dealing with this. >> we have to be able to work with our allies and saudi arabia has been, i think, a very strong ally in terms of pushing back against iran's aggression which is funding a lot of terror in the region, the houthis or hezbollah or hamas. we have a lot of terrorism in the region. the middle east is a rough place. it's been a rough place for a very long time. we have to be able to pursue our strategic objectives and deal with what seems to be a terrible situation. >> do you agree with that particularly the focus on iran? clearly iran has all sorts of activities that are anathema to the united states and in western europe. is there a cost benefit analysis or any kind of way to compare whether it's, you know, what jared kushner is correct that we have to almost forgive or look aside to anything saudi arabia does because the threat from
12:13 am
iran is so massive and that we can only do it by allowing the saudis free rein whether it's in yemen, in a consulate in turkey or wherever. >> i think you always have to be evaluating your interests and who is playing what role. i think as loathsome as this killing is, it does not pose a threat to american interests in the way that iran does throughout the region. >> you agree with kushner and al jubeir? >> we have very real interests we need to protect. and i go back to my earlier comments. how do you show that this is unacceptable behavior, that there are consequences that are real, and yet at the same time preserve our relationship in terms of dealing not just with the iran threat but, frankly,
12:14 am
instability throughout the middle east. we have -- there are multiple conflicts going on in the middle east right now from syria to yemen. the problems with iran, it's not just the saudi arabian relationship or our relationship with iran. there's a lot of instability in the region, and we have had a good relationship with the saudis trying to work at these problems. and there's been a mutual interest in this. i think you just can't throw that out the window, but i come back to the point you still have to do things that make it clear this kind of behavior is unacceptable. >> i guess the really sensitive question is how much faith do you have in the crown prince as a credible leader going forward? as you said, he's obviously got control, but control can have
12:15 am
positive and negative meanings, as we've seen. nobody believes this hit, as you've acknowledged was, would have ever happened without the highest levels of approval in saudi arabia. so there's that question dovetailed with what do you do to make this understand this is not acceptable? >> first of all, i think they're beginning to appreciate this has had an impact far beyond what they intended and, i mean, i think that the crown prince has suffered damage in this. it's hard to imagine him being welcome in the government offices here in europe. i think it would be difficult and awkward for him even in the united states at this point. this is a question the saudis have to consider.
12:16 am
what's in their long-term interests? and that's an internal matter for them. >> it's interesting because obviously when president putin was accused, again, no nerve agent like novichok could have been used and now they chase -- traced back, british intelligence and they've found they're high level, a decorated colonel in the gru. and there was a massive banding together, britain had its allies together. the united states, everybody -- australia -- expelled russian diplomats and added other sanctions and other kinds of things. none of this is being floated in this regard. this british foreign secretary who i mentioned, jack straw, said for 40 years they thought the shah of iran was the bulwark and nobody said boo to him for his successes. one day he was allowed to do so
12:17 am
much that there was a revolution. nobody is suggesting there's going to be a revolution in saudi arabia, but don't you think good friends and allies do need to stand up and rein in whether the shah of iran or crown prince salman, whoever it may be? >> the essence of a friendship is a willingness to tell others what they don't want to hear and to be brutally honest about the impact of what's happened. part of my message were i talking to the saudi government would be do you realize the magnitude of the damage that's been done to saudi arabia by this act? both in the united states but also in developed countries and democracies all around the world, and you all need to face the fact that this is not going away. to quote the foreign minister the relationship, i think, will probably weather it, but it will
12:18 am
be different and the attitudes in congress will be different and the debates over sales of arms to saudi arabia will be different and people have to realize individual members of congress and of the appropriate committees can delay arms sales and things like that. i think there are consequences to this relationship that have already happened and there may be more to follow. >> just a technical question before i move on to the inf treaty which got thrown up into the air today. president trump says it's $110 billion worth of sales and jobs for american people and that if it wasn't the americans selling to saudi arabia they would go to china and russia. is that really true? don't they have their military compatibility, really with the united states? a little bit with germany and the u.k. but really with the united states? they can't suddenly ditch all their u.s. systems and go take
12:19 am
russian and chinese ones, can they? >> actually they can. >> oh, okay. >> in 2011 on my final visit to saudi arabia, i met with king abdullah, and we sealed the deal to sell them $85 billion worth of f-15s. but he told me in that meeting a number of his most senior advisers and members of the royal family were urging him to buy those weapons, those planes, from france or russia instead. >> but would it have worked? they may have been urging them to. they might have bought them. >> oh, sure. >> okay. that clears that up then. >> it would be expensive but sure. >> okay. >> just like turkey is buying an air defense system. they've always bought their weapons in the west. now they're buying an air defense system from russia. >> and how do you assess turkey's role in this crisis? they've been leaking like a sieve. they've tried to get the story out by hook or by crook. >> there's no love loss between erdogan and -- >> but what do you think the
12:20 am
strategic aim is? >> first of all, beginning with the facts, saudi arabia made a huge mistake and they made it on turkish soil. erdogan is going to try to make it as painful for them as possible. >> do you see a rupture of relations? >> i don't. >> they're going to thread the needle as well? >> probably more creating problems. >> now the inf treaty, the intermediate nuclear forces. right? president trump wants to pull out of that. it's being negotiated with russia i think under the reagan administration with president gorbachev who today called president trump irresponsible and said this was an unnecessary move. let us play what president trump says about this. >> yeah, russia has violated the agreement. they've been violating it for many years and i don't know why president obama didn't negotiate or pull out. we're the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we've honored the agreement. russia has not.
12:21 am
we're going to terminate the agreement and pull out. >> have they been cheating and how disruptive is it to pull out or is that something you would agree with? >> christiane, when i first met defense minister, the russian defense minister in february of 2007, in our private meeting he said that russia wanted to end the inf agreement. he said we're the only two nations in the world that can't build these missiles now, these medium range missiles. he said we have no intention of deploying them in the west, but we want to deploy them to the south against iran and pakistan and in the east against china. i said no way. the united states will not leave the inf treaty. so the russians have been wanting to get out of this thing for a long time. just as they walked away from
12:22 am
unilaterally the conventional forces in the europe agreement. if they have cheated, as the administration says, and i have no reason to question -- it's a black and white kind of thing. either they've cheated or they haven't, and i suspect they have, then it seems to me that the u.s. has every right to say, okay, if you're not going to abide by it, then why should we remain constrained by it? under those circumstances i don't see an issue. both sides have pulled out of various agreements. we pulled out -- unilaterally pulled out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty in the bush administration and so on. i think if they have cheated and have no intention of carrying out their responsibilities, i don't see why we should stay in it. >> so after this conversation admittedly only a couple of issues, are you confident that america's place in the world, its foreign policy, strategic leadership role is in safe hands and foreign policy is in the direction you'd like to see it?
12:23 am
>> one of the biggest concerns i have, christiane, is i worry about the lack of appreciation in washington right now of the one unique advantage the united states has in the world compared to both russia and china. and that is our alliances. this has been a source of great strength for the united states for many decades now, and if we want to accomplish anything in the world but especially if we want to protect our interests, nurturing those alliances and we will have our differences. no one was more critical of the europeans for not spending enough on defense than i was. but we need to make sure everyone knows they are important to the united states, including our allies. >> an important note to end on. secretary gates, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. >> thank you, christiane.
12:24 am
so, moving now to the issue of climate change and many in the u.s. administration have clearly seen the dangers of climate change and the threat that it poses often to national security security. in fact, a dire report from the united nations says that global warming is transforming the world economy at an unprecedented scale. now hollywood director james cameron and his wife, suzy cameron, are on a mission to restore balance to our climate one meal at a time. cameron, of course, is the creative force behind iconic films like "titanic" and spoke with the camerons about suzy's new book called "omd or one meal a day." the simple plant-based program to save your health, save your waistline and, yes, save the planet.
12:25 am
they told me how small personal choices can have a big global impact. suzy and james cameron, welcome to the program. >> thank you for having us on. >> thank you. it's really an honor. >> look, it's to talk about something quite important if you take the latest u.n. climate and environmental report. to read a couple stats, we only have until 2030 to essentially save the planet. that was, to me, a very striking, very alarming way to put it. the u.n. hadn't been so stark. what about it grabbed you both? >> i think the recent report just was part of a continuing trend. every time they issue a new report it's worse than the last one. the handwriting is on the wall. i think the daunting thing the average person goes into denial
12:26 am
thinking what can i do about it as an individual? suzy and i have been concerned about this problem for years now and we're looking for ways to empower people to make a difference. >> you've started to make a real difference in your own lives and, suzy, you've written a book about it. >> exactly. i wrote a book called "omd." we had been plant based for about a year and a half and realized very quickly that the school that i founded with my sister, rebecca amos, is an environmental school. we couldn't call ourselves an environmental school and still be serving animal products. so we brought in doctors. we brought in climate scientists, authors, and athletes to help educate our community, our children and our families and that sort of thing and we had -- it was mutiny. it was full on mutiny. we had an enormous amount of pushback and one day our head of school got very frustrated and said, people, you can give them eggs and bacon in the morning and you can give them a burger at night.
12:27 am
it's one meal a day. it's omd. i think from that moment on omd stuck. i took that and started doing a lot of research with the doctors in the field and climate scientists and wrote all of the environmental benefits of eating plant based as well as health benefits. and then the book is a guide. it's a guide that takes you through -- i hold your hand so it takes you through having one meal a day -- one plant-based meal a day or two -- or blowing up your kitchen and going all in. the thing that stuck more than anything, one person having one plant-based meal a day for one year saves 200,000 gallons of water and the carbon equivalent of driving from los angeles to new york. >> i'm fascinated by that because you say and some of the scientists say actually changing your diet is even more effective
12:28 am
than changing the kind of car you drive. this report basically saying that livestock accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions and suggested people consume one-third less, one meal a day. >> 14.5% to put that in perspective, makes it the second largest sector for greenhouse gas emissions next to electrical generation. it puts it in front of all of transportation combined, all ships, planes, automobiles and everything. so while it's wonderful to buy an electric car and so on, you're only attacking a smaller part of the problem. changing our diet and nutrition is something we can do instantaneously if we choose to do it. and so it's the quickest way that we have for grabbing the thermostat of the planet and turning it down. all it takes is the will, the
12:29 am
desire to do it. that's where i think a book like suzy's comes in very handy. >> remind everybody what it is about meat and the raising of meat to be eaten that causes environmental damage. >> oh, gosh, all the way around the world. so if you have biodiversity loss, deforestation, ocean, dead zones, climate change, glaciers melting. you can connect the dots from all of those environmental issues back to animal agriculture. >> it sounds crazy but it's true. it's the single -- like they're cutting down rain forests in brazil to make crop land to grow feed for animals, for livestock, and it's ridiculously inefficient compared to just humans just eating the plants directly. it's like cutting out the middleman in a business deal. >> you did mention glaciers which brings me to the greatest glacier of all time which is the one that the "titanic" plowed into.
12:30 am
>> that's a little bit of a thin transition. >> but it's good, right? it's good. i could be a scriptwriter. just kidding. seriously, you met on that film and many of your films, james, are -- do have the environment somewhat tied into the narrative whether it's "titanic" or "avatar." tell me how you met and what brought you to the environmental part of your relationship? >> well, i cast suzy in "titanic," i didn't realize i was casting her in my life as well. we shot together only for a couple of weeks. we got along quite well, and then we just started seeing each other afterwards, i would like to say, completely professional
12:31 am
while we worked together. >> we like to call the "titanic" the love boat. >> i'm -- well, that and your other film "the avatar," the highest gross of all time. i will see if i can stretch the connection between film and the environment. one of the issues, james and suzy, is that the positive narrative seems not to get as much airing as it should and the skeptics tend to have an equal voice in this debate on climate and i wonder as an actress, as a director, you have a thought as to how to change the narrative. i know you both saw a documentary together about it, but what more can be done to infuse ordinary people with optimism and empowerment on how to change the narrative over saving the environment? >> one of the things comes back to omd more than anything because i know certainly for
12:32 am
myself and probably for you, too, you watch these documentaries on the environment, you read the stories and it's devastating and it's actually paralyzing and you think what can i do as an individual to really make a difference. some people can afford solar or an electric car. the fact that everybody eats every single day, it's a simple elegant solution, it's nonjudgmental. you can just dip your toe in it and what you're putting on your plate actually makes a huge difference towards not only climate change but your health as well. >> just the health of the planet. the quickest and easiest way for an individual to feel empowered and to make a difference and to be able to look at their face in the mirror in the morning and
12:33 am
think i'm making a difference, i'm doing something positive not just for myself, my own health and my family's health but for the health of the planet is to change how we eat. >> i want to play a clip from "avatar." even if you didn't understand the planet and the climate, it was a beautiful, beautiful depiction of what's at stake and, of course, often our culture has stories of doom and gloom and the hard news is there's a lot of doom and gloom. what you thought of the impact of the beauty. i will play it and then you can answer me. >> you must choose your own and he must choose you. >> when? >> when you are ready. ♪ >> so it was obviously really beautiful and had climate as its central theme, right? >> i think we can't protect that
12:34 am
which we don't respect and love, and i think that all people are born with a certain connection to nature and as we live in a more urban environment and the world is going much more urban, we tend to lose it. "avatar" was a connection to that child-like state of seeing the beauty in nature and feeling a personal connection to it. and we quite consciously made the film beautiful. movies tend not to be beautiful. they tend to be spectacular often but there's not an emphasis placed on beauty, just immersive, i want to be there in that world beauty, and i thought this is the way to get people to care about the natural world not by beating them over the head with some kind of message and some sense of blaming or call to action. i think the best call to action is when you believe in something and you want to make a difference. >> do you use technology as not just a visual and a movie thing but also as something to help with the environment?
12:35 am
what kind of environmental rules and regs do you have on your shoots, for instance? >> well, thanks for asking that. we put in a one megawatt system solar pou -- power on the roofs of the sound stages to offset all the power consumption of our computers and so on that we use for the computer animation, so we're definitely net carb and negative from an energy perspective. but i also took inspiration from suzy's one meal a day program, and i convinced our crew, which is about 200 people, to eat plant-based during the day while they're on the production. so we serve only plant-based meals on the production. our caterer, our restaurant there, serves only plant-based meals. and everybody -- i don't know that everybody is loving it every meal.
12:36 am
some go off campus to eat at a restaurant. if they want to, they have that choice. people have accepted it. they've accepted the wisdom of it, and they like the idea we're the greenest set -- probably the greenest set in history. we make all our own power and eat nothing but plants. >> that's really interesting. suzy, you both consciously say plant based and that is kind of the new term for what used to be called vegan, right? was vegan a little bit alienating? >> you know, it's starting to make a shift certainly, but initially it was really a word that revolved around becoming plant-based for ethical reasons. >> animal cruelty. >> animal cruelty. and there are a lot of rules and regulations around that. now i'e seen it just over the last three years they're using it a lot, the word vegan on a lot of -- for marketing, vegan and plant-based. people are starting to realize that actually sells products. >> people leaning forward that are curious about it or want to make a change for their own health or for environmental reasons don't quite know where to start or they feel like it's too much.
12:37 am
oh, i couldn't do that. i could never do that. then they find out how easy it is and how good the food could be. it makes a difference. >> and dipping their toe in just doing one meal a day and typically they feel so great they end up doing two. it's an easy way into that world. >> that's good. that's encouraging. i want to ask you what is it with you, james cameron, and strong women. you have married a couple strong women. there's one sitting right there by you. there's the director kathryn bigelow, who was once your wife and your characters are very strong. let's play this "aliens" clip and we'll talk about strong women on the other side. [ screams ]
12:38 am
>> get away from her you b iitc! >> i mean, that says it all. >> that was two strong women, equally matched opponents. >> people are saying women really are going to change the world. is that what you're trying to say? >> i put my faith in women to change the world. i think men approach the world in a certain way that tends to be dominative and aggressive. it's just how men have been wired since the dawn of time and it's expressed throughout our entire kind of western colonial that we dominate nature. and we're going to have to change that world view. and i think we need a more female kind of goddess-based perspective that we have to nurture life, we have to care for it. the great conflict of the future
12:39 am
is going to be between the takers and the caretakers. so the takers are male energy and the caretakers are female energy. i've always respected that and celebrated women in the films that i've made. i'm lucky enough to be married to a very strong, powerful caretaker warrior. >> suzy, you wrote the book, there's a new report from the climate accountability institute that says only 100 companies have produced more than 70% of the world's carbon emissions since 1988. so basically, you know, we can do all we can to change our diets and things but we can also just boycott these companies, right, and force them to change. >> we can, absolutely. being able to do that but, also, we really can't meet our paris accord numbers without addressing animal agriculture. i think that's one of the biggest messages. >> that's a critical piece of it. i agree that we can vote with our wallets.
12:40 am
we can boycott the companies that are the biggest carbon polluters. we're all carbon polluters if we're eating animal products. i don't mean to bang on about this, but our biggest ability to change things is by simply what we buy and what we put on the end of our fork. >> right. >> actually, even the terminator, your own arnold schwarzenegger, said one of the greatest producers of methane are natural emissions, shall we say, by cows. >> right. it's mostly belches, by the way. everybody likes to make fun of cow farts but it's mostly belches because they have this five-part stomach. it emits methane all day long. and methane is a forcing gas that is 20 to 30 times more powerful than co2. >> thank you both very much for
12:41 am
bringing this into even more of a public debate. james cameron, suzy cameron, thanks very much. >> thank you, christiane. >> thank you. we turn to another artist making a significant splash. the comedian and author phoebe robinson. her new book "everything is trash but it's okay" tackles the fallout of the 2016 election, sexual harassment in comedy, and being a black woman in today's america. she's best known as one half of hbo's stand-up show two dope queens, and for her podcast so many white guys, she's on a mission to change the comedy demography as she told our alicia menendez when they met in new york. phoebe, your first book was a "new york times" bestseller. "you can't touch my hair." y now?about this book. it's >> i was always playing a writer -- planning to write another
12:42 am
book but i think after the 2016 election i know myself and a lot of my friends were feeling that's not how we thought the movie was going to end, you know? i felt defeated and bummed out. i was inspired on social media and in real life how people were doing rallies and donations and getting so involved with politics in a way i hadn't seen. people are talking about midterm elections like on college campuses. new york is very involved in politics. and we never talked about midterm elections. i sort of was feeling down, but then i was like, there's so much good that's also happening right now. that's how the title came about. everything is kind of terrible, it feels like, but we're going to be okay, i hope. >> there's a section of your book that i would love for you to read for me. >> thank you. maybe i shouldn't have been so rocked by the election results. i mean, once homeboy launches an improbable campaign which got more successful in spite of his around the clock blunders,
12:43 am
seeing him for what it was, an upgraded version of a bigoted bat signal. the original projected an image of the kkk's david duke. that was a call to action for people of trump's ilk. therefore, i couldn't help but wonder isn't the fact i've never fully believed trump could be number 45 a sign that my stubbornness and naivete kept me from seeing america for what it truly is? who wrote this? i did. >> so my question as i read that section of the book, so what is america truly? >> i think america has a very complicated history and past and i think we tend to kind of brush a lot of the inequalities, whether it's racial, class, or gender under the rug, we're so great and rah-rah-rah and do the fourth of july and all the holiday stuff. there's a lot of ugliness in our past that we need to address. that's why things are the way
12:44 am
they are currently. so i think america is a great idea that we haven't quite figured out yet how to execute in a way that i think will be representative for everyone that lives here. >> did writing this book help you reconcile your ambivalence around feminism? >> that's a great question. here's what i will say. when the women's march was happening, i think a lot of us were feeling the rah-rah of it all. yes, women are rallying together. you're very excited about that. we did a show and raised money. it was really a great, exciting moment. and there was ambivalence on the part of black women, even though there was supposed to be diversity and leadership that fundamentally there would be white turnout. >> right. the lack of representation for queer women, not treating
12:45 am
trans women as women. i think online when that was happening i was so excited but it wasn't the only thing i was feeling. i think by writing this essay, i was conflicted about going. there still are problems with feminism and the lack of intersectionalty, of white women showing up for issues. it's great that everyone came out for the women's march, but i saw almost none of those women do any sort of, yeah, let's do black lives matter or let's talk out immigration or let's talk about trans lives. i think when they felt ready to mobilize, they wanted everyone to get onboard with them. you also have to get onboard with us. so i think that's still where feminism is kind of lacking but i'm feeling hopeful. >> you write about it in the book about white women and white women not feeling they have an access point for conversations about race. how do you bring white women into the fold? how do you extend that invitation so they show up when you want them to show up? >> anything that you're interested in, if you really, truly care, you'll do the
12:46 am
research. you'll reach out to people. you'll talk to people. i personally don't buy the whole, how do i get involved? are you not listening to all different sorts of women around who are saying this is an issue, this is important to me. this is a problem. there needs to be not waiting for everyone to teach you and being proactive and saying i want to learn. you're a curious person. i'm a curious person. if i want to know when beyonce's going to be on tour, don't i google it? you can do the same thing, okay, why are trans women being murdered at a much higher rate than other women? how can i get involved? how can i help? i think it's the same sort of thing. these are tough conversations and really depressing issues to talk about sometimes. by not talking about it, we're allowing it to continue. >> you're perhaps best known for being one half of two dope
12:47 am
queens which was started as a podcast show and is now on hbo. can you tell us about it for someone who may not have seen it. >> it started four years ago, 2014. jessica williams was on "the daily show" and i did background on a piece about black women in the military. and we sort of just hit it off. we were hanging around on set. she said she always wanted to try to do stand-up. well, we can do a random one-off show together as a goof. we had so much fun. we got on stage, and i think we really sort of captured the way a lot of people talk. i think especially the way a lot of black women talk when people aren't looking. i think people could sense that friendship and relaxed nature and then we kept doing it. i think this is an hbo thing. >> like each strand of gray hair that comes in, oh, one step closer to a black history month stamp. it feels very -- >> i love variety shows and i
12:48 am
feel they're trying to come back and i think we just found the secret way of doing a comedy show, we have our funniest friends on and interviewing celebrities in a way that doesn't make them feel pressured and they could just have fun and be themselves. we found this secret formula that worked. >> i don't want you to say that. i feel like you just said it on an hbo special! >> i didn't. i didn't say that. >> stay forever young for the industry, okay. >> don't hit all the cameras we're sharing together. how dare you. [ laughter ] >> i have this camera and i have this camera back here. so -- [ laughter ] >> and you've used the show to be a launching pad for other women of color. >> absolutely. jess and i both started out at improv.
12:49 am
so many of our friends are funny women, colored, queer people and don't necessarily see them on late night shows, even the writing opportunities or acting opportunities. why don't we have a show where we book our funny friends and they can have this platform, too. i think it resonated with people who maybe aren't huge stand-up people and be like, oh, there are people out there who are funny who look like me, who sound like me and i can relate to this. >> right now we're in a moment we are seeing harassment exposed and misogyny exposed in every industry, comedy is one of those industries. part of what you call out in the book is really interesting is that it's an industry wide problem. somebody could go to an hr department and say, hey, someone is being creepy with me. you can't do that when you're not inside an organizational structure. when it's an industry wide problem, how do you bring about change? >> at a certain point we hold comedy clubs accountable, festivals accountable, the sort
12:50 am
of gatekeepers and have them be like this person has been doing sexually inappropriate things in the work place. we're not just going to welcome them back with open arms, not be like if this person drops in on the show, you can leave if you want. no, i think it's not having that person perform there anymore. a stand-up show is the work place. if someone is behaving inappropriately at a stand-up show, at a hotel where a festival is happening, it's just like, well, i don't think that person can be trusted to be in this space again. i think it makes a lot of female comedians feel uncomfortable. i don't want to come back to this club if i think a guy will show up who has been really inappropriate and sexually abusive to women. >> what are the subtle forms of misogyny that people contend with? >> everyone starts out doing stand-up and you're a baby in the way your jokes aren't that good but you have that belief,
12:51 am
so you can coast on personality. i see it a lot where you see a female comedian get really good in the way the comedian knows how to crush a show. and you see the women crush and none of the guys in the lineup will talk to her, or you'll show up to a show and no one will talk to me and i'll have a good set. the guys will be like, hey, what's up? it's this hazing that happens, am i funny? no one is talking to me. does this mean i suck? there's a lot of mind games. >> how are those experiences further complicated for women of color? >> i think racism makes it so difficult. a tendency to be like, oh, well, if i have this asian girl on it's a charity thing or this black girl, she's okay because she's not like the other black comics. there's this sort of, like, separation that happens or where you have to feel you have to fit in a certain way, and i think that once i've been inspired by people like tiffany haddish and
12:52 am
ali wongs and women who are staying true to their own voices. i think that's what i've done and jessica has done. i think, for me, it took a lot of i'm still working on the not feeling inadequate when i'm in a room of mostly -- >> really? >> yes. if you're on a show, i tend to be the only woman of color on a show and it's all these white guys and i just do standup a little bit differently. i can just sense sometimes there's a little bit, you don't do it the way we do it. i don't know, it's tough. i just think that women of color really have to sort of because your story is different and your voice is different doesn't mean it's not valid. it's more valid because we need to have different points of view think i learned through ould tt writing the book to be more
12:53 am
self-aware and to sort of analyze the experiences that happen to you like the essay i wrote about size stuff and doing a lot of photo shoots, high-class problem. i would just always be like i would tell people i'm a size 10/12, which i think is a very regular, average joe size. and they would bring me a size 4 or a 6. and i couldn't fit into it. oh, i'm so sorry. and i just kept always apologizing instead of being like, no, i showed up to this. i gave you my sizes. i'm not going to feel bad that i'm not a size 2 or a 4. so i think there are so many times, with women especially in life, you take the brunt of responsibility for something that's not your fault. you know what i mean? with this book i learned to speak up for myself more whether it's size, clothing issues, or a guy making a sexually inappropriate comment to me
12:54 am
because sometimes i've been oh, haha, we're taught to smile or just laugh it off. don't make the guy feel uncomfortable. i think we're all in this time period right now we don't have to do that anymore. >> now that you feel empowered to do that, there are things you look back on, i wish i would have shut that down a lot sooner? >> yeah. i think what i look back on is comedy is very much you don't make a lot of money for a really long time. you put up with sort of not great conditions. and i think being in comedy for ten years and having the success i'm starting to have, i'm now willing to ask for what i think i deserve instead of being like i'm just happy i got an offer. now, no, if you want this quality work from me, you have to pay me what i know you're paying a white guy. you just have to do it. and i'm okay asking it. i find that, like, i haven't had any problems being this is what i think i deserve.
12:55 am
and so i'm glad that i'm learning that lesson now in my early 30s and i hope it carries through. yeah, that's something to look back on. i've done a lot of work for free or $50 i'll write something and it's just like you don't have to accept that anymore. >> thanks so much. >> thanks for having me. >> phoebe robinson talking about how comedy can be a harsh place for women. we discuss that and other issues in our exclusive interview this week with john stewart and dave chappelle. you do not want to miss that. that is it for our program. thanks for watching. join us again tomorrow night.
12:56 am
uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those dreams were on the water -- a river, specifically -- multiple rivers that would one day be home to a uniworld river cruises and their floating boutique hotels. today that dream sets sail in europe, asia, india, egypt and more. bookings available through your travel agent. for more information, visit uniworld.com. >> additional support has been provided by rosalind p. walter, bernard and irene schwartz, sue and edgar wachenheim iii, the cheryl and philip milstein family, seton wellston, and by contributions to your pbs statio
12:57 am
12:58 am
12:59 am
1:00 am
[ theme musisic plays ] ♪ -♪ i think i'm home ♪ i think i'm home ♪ how nice to look at you again ♪ ♪ along the road ♪ along the road ♪ ♪ anytime you want me ♪ you can find me living right between your eyes, yeah ♪ ♪ oh, i think i'm home ♪ oh, i think i'm home ♪ -today on "cook's country," bryan makes julia a midwestern favorite, detroit-style pizza. adam reviews rasp-style graters and ashley makes bridget an updated version of a classic dish,

1 View

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on