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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
HATICE CENGIZ, WIDOW OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI: When they kill Jamal, they kill also my future. They kill also my hope.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Jamal Khashoggi’s widow keeps fighting for justice. We talk to Hatice Cengiz, who features in the new documentary about the
Saudi journalist’s murder. It’s called “The Dissident.” And its director, Bryan Fogel, will be with us.
Plus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a farewell visit to Israel. Journalist Ronen Bergman breaks down the foreign policy agenda of this
PATRISSE CULLORS, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: I don’t think it’s fair to blame us. And I think it actually is a distraction to blame Black Lives
Matter for the Democratic losses.
AMANPOUR: Politics and protests. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors tells our Michel Martin how the Democratic Party can embrace the
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
G20 leaders are getting ready for a virtual summit this weekend hosted by Saudi Arabia. And human rights organizations are calling once more for the
release of jailed dissidents and activists, especially women, of course, but also accountability for journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally
murdered for his calls for reform in the kingdom.
A new documentary, “The Dissident,” retraces his life and his career from insider to outcast. And his widow, Hatice Cengiz, features in the
documentary, and she has also called on world leaders to boycott the Saudi summit.
I have been talking to her about her continuing fight for justice.
AMANPOUR: Hatice Cengiz, welcome to the program.
CENGIZ: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Hatice, let me ask you. It’s just over two years since Jamal was so brutally murdered. I just want to know how you are doing and what you
are feeling right now today.
CENGIZ: I am feeling more hopeful, more powerful than before, and I’m doing well.
And I keep remembering Jamal, and I speak out with world, around the world. I’m going to speak at the parliaments and the people who care this issue
Let me ask you about the film, then, because you took part in “The Dissident,” as it’s called, and just several months after the terrible
murder. And there’s a scene where you are inside your apartment, the police have been there. All yours and Jamal’s stuff is all over the place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CENGIZ (through translator): What happened here? These black marks?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I just want to know how this film and speaking out has helped you.
CENGIZ: You can’t imagine how difficult was it.
But, at the same time, I am — look, Christiane, I was dreaming such a love and happiness that finally I found with Jamal. Then, suddenly, they took
away from me — it was taken away from me, so that’s why it was a very, very difficult time.
At the same time, it’s a very significant time in my life, because the film now talks about the story, and the film will make Jamal’s story and legacy
alive. So, that’s why the truth mostly or always painful.
So, and I decide to speak out, and then speak with the people. And then the world needs to understand what happened. I’m satisfied with that film. And
then Bryan did very, very good job.
And then we the whole people around him stayed with him, and then we helped him, and we helped Jamal — and it was a very, very, very good job with
AMANPOUR: You have been quite brave. You talked about speaking to parliaments. You have addressed, I believe, the German Parliament, you
addressed the British Parliament.
What are you telling them? What did you address them for?
CENGIZ: I am remembering what happened with Jamal. And I’m asking this question. Why you are doing like nothing happened?
And now the G20 summit taking place, and you are the partner of this summit. Why or how you are sitting at the same table with someone order the
killing of Jamal or what’s happening in their country unacceptable, and no one punished them, and there’s no trial in the country, and they covered
this crime, and you, as the partners, that you help them?
AMANPOUR: Just so that I get it clear, you want them to boycott the G20, which is happening this weekend virtually?
CENGIZ: Yes, of course. I am asking this.
I’m asking — it’s how we can expect this situation. Now you are gathering right now, as a G20 summit, at the same time they have trial in Turkey
against those guys, that administration in Turkey, at the same time in the USA.
And you guys, international community, doing something like nothing happened.
AMANPOUR: Of course, this G20 summit is hosted by Saudi Arabia. And that’s your issue. And it’s coming out of Riyadh.
AMANPOUR: You have also, and your group, DAWN, you are suing Saudi Arabia. You’re suing MBS, as he’s known. And you’re seeking damages and you want
AMANPOUR: They say they have put people on trial and they have convicted them.
What do you hope to get out of this?
CENGIZ: Yes, I hope I find justice after this struggle, because, already, they changed my life 100 percent. When they kill Jamal, they kill also my
future. They kill also my hope. They kill also my dreams.
So now, why we are — keep doing the same relation and business and the politics and friendship with those guys? So, the G20 summit will — if they
boycott or if they take — or give any statement at the same time at the beginning of the G20, it will be really big answer for them.
And, now, we will say with that we did not forget what happened to Jamal. And then, also, there have been other cases in Saudi Arabia, by the way.
I’m not talking about Jamal’s case — just Jamal’s case, because there’s no hope Jamal will — will not come again.
But there is some hope for the other guys in the jail right now. So that’s why I keep pushing them to boycott those killers.
AMANPOUR: Do you have any hope for a new president-elect in the United States, Biden and Harris? What do you hope they will do differently?
CENGIZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. I have hope, because, if you remember, when President Trump invited meet, White House, I refused because I did not
believe he will do something through justice and — or help me in this case.
And then now Biden has elected recently, and then there’s a new page, a new hope for us, and for all of us. And then so I am happy if I meet with Biden
administration and then talk about the issue again. And, already, he promised, he promised when he was in election campaign he will do
So, I am ready to meet with him. So, it’s a hope, of course. It’s a new page and new hope for all of us.
AMANPOUR: You know what? It’s so encouraging to hear you being optimistic after that all you have suffered.
And Jamal lives on. Hatice Cengiz, thank you so much.
CENGIZ: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, she is relentless in her pursuit of justice.
And my next guest is “The Dissident” director himself, Bryan Fogel. He explores the life, the murder and the dismemberment of Khashoggi. And the
powerful documentary is scheduled to be released in theaters on December 18.
Here’s a bit of the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jamal Khashoggi, prominent Saudi journalist and “Washington Post” columnist, has gone missing after visiting his country’s
consulate in Istanbul.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was last seen entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate seeking paperwork to marry his fiancee.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His fiancee saw him go in at 1:00 p.m. and was still waiting for him at 1:00 a.m.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He didn’t vanish into thin air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell me what happened to Mr. Khashoggi?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saudi Arabia now suddenly is admitting that Khashoggi did die inside that building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Fogel’s last documentary, “Icarus,” exposed the Russian doping scandal and won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in
And he’s joining me now from Los Angeles.
Bryan, welcome back to the program.
You have done some really amazing, game-changing documentaries. I wonder what made you want to do this one, tackle this issue, and how — how was
the relationship with Hatice, because it was so difficult for her so soon after this brutal murder?
BRYAN FOGEL, DIRECTOR, “THE DISSIDENT”: Well, I had followed this story, I think, as the rest of the world had in the days of following Jamal’s
disappearance within the Saudi Consulate.
And, as I read each day, I became more, I guess, spellbound by this horrendous crime. And when Saudi Arabia, in fact, admitted that Jamal had,
in fact, died inside that consulate, I believe that was on October 15 or October 16, I thought that this could be my next film.
And the variable for me was if I could build trust with Hatice Cengiz, with Omar Abdulaziz, and the Turks who were investigating this murder. I got in
touch with Hatice beginning of November. Obviously, she was grieving terribly at that time, but she invited me to come meet her in Istanbul.
And I stayed in Istanbul for the next five weeks, not shooting, without a camera, but just meeting Hatice for coffees, for lunches, for dinners, and
building a friendship with her, which ultimately begin filming together in February.
AMANPOUR: And she really has become this prominent figure for human rights and justice. And she’s not letting up, even knowing how dangerous it could
be to confront the Saudi government, the Saudi monarchy.
I want to just take you back a little bit, because you talked about the Turkish authorities. They provided you with amazing interviews and
firsthand evidence and film for the film.
But, also, you talk about Omar Abdulaziz.
So, we have a clip. And this is because he’s, I think, one of the dissidents that creates or is part of the circle around Khashoggi, who
moved from being a monarchy’s insider to a reformer. We have got a tiny little clip about Abdulaziz. Then we will talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAR ABDULAZIZ, SAUDI ARABIAN DISSIDENT: Beginning of September, Jamal told me that he’s planning to come to Canada. He said: “I have few things
to do in Turkey. Then I’m coming to meet you.”
And we set the plan of the Bees together. That was our strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, it’s pretty mysterious, the Bees, our strategy.
Explain what and Omar thought he was going to get from Khashoggi, who obviously never turned up because he was murdered in the interim.
FOGEL: Well, Omar is a young Saudi dissident living in self-exile in Montreal.
And, basically, the Saudis came to rendition him back to Saudi Arabia, much like they were planning to do with Jamal. And he was working with Jamal on
a program, basically, that they called the Bees, which essentially Saudi Arabia has taken control of Twitter in the country, and the vast majority
of the country gets their news, and they call it essentially the parliament of Saudi Arabia, because there is no free speech, there is no democracy,
there is no free press.
And what Omar and Jamal was working on is basically how to take over the Twitter narrative, that, essentially, the flies, the Saudi Twitter trolls,
I guess, as you would call them, have — had been successfully taking over Twitter with the pro-MBS narrative, but also suppressing freedom of speech
within that country.
And so the Bees was Jamal and Omar’s plan as to how they could take back the narrative on Twitter and bring freedom of expression and speech to the
AMANPOUR: And then — I mean, that was under way, and then the sort of momentum that you show building up in the film towards Jamal’s murder —
and let’s not forget, he never preached violence. He never preached any radical upheaval or overthrow.
He just wanted reform, as you say, particularly on freedom of expression and rights, human rights, and political rights.
Just what did you sort of discover, especially talking to the Turkish officials, of what led to that terrible day, October 2, two years ago?
FOGEL: Well, the reason I believe that they ultimately murdered Jamal is, as you will see in the film “The Dissident,” they had hacked both Omar
Abdulaziz and Jamal Khashoggi with software called Pegasus, which is an Israeli company that sells cyber-hacking software.
And by hacking their phones, they were able to actually have access to Jamal’s Twitter messaging, his text messaging, everything on his phone.
Same with Omar.
And the Saudis realized that Omar and Jamal were, in fact, working on this plan that they called the Bees, and that Jamal had actually really kind of
began to assert himself as a more vocal dissident of the kingdom and a very vocal criticizers of MBS.
And I think, because Jamal had such a huge following, he had 1.7.5 million followers on Twitter, and was such a respected voice in the region, they
viewed his criticism as a threat to the monarchy. And MBS has decided to run the country as a dictatorship.
And under a dictatorship, there is no freedom of speech. And Jamal, they viewed as a threat, but not a physical threat, a threat to influence
AMANPOUR: So, I have got to do due diligence here.
Pegasus, the hacking software that you’re talking about, is developed by arm — it’s called the NSA group. And they put a statement out saying that
their technology “is only licensed to government, intelligence and law enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of preventing and investigating
terror and serious crime. NSO’s governance framework sets the highest standards in the cyber-intelligence industry, and aligns us with the U.N.
guiding principles on business and human rights, embedding human rights, due diligence into everything we do.”
Saudi Arabia denies all of this. But you have sort of irrefutable proof that it was that technology?
And the part of that statement that you have to look at is that they say that they sell only to governments. And, yes, they sold to the Saudi
government. And that contract had to be approved by the Israeli Defense Ministry to sell these cyber-hacking tools.
But, in Israel essentially approving that sale, they’re also gaining intelligence into what, in fact, Saudi Arabia is interested in, and who, in
fact, they are hacking.
But if you research NSO, you will see there has been multiple cases, not just in Saudi Arabia, out of Africa, out of Mexico, and many, many other
countries around the world that have had dictatorships, autocratic regimes, where they have sold this technology, and this technology has been used to
go after dissidents or go after political opponents.
AMANPOUR: So, Bryan…
FOGEL: So, NSO’s state (AUDIO GAP) is a lie.
AMANPOUR: And we have tried over and over and again to get reaction to your film and to what you have laid out there from Saudi authorities. We
have approached several times the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., and they have not responded.
So, I’m just going to put out a little sound bite, an excerpt of an interview I did with then Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir about a year and
a bit ago on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We have made it very clear that this was a rogue operation that was not authorized. The king ordered
an investigation. The investigation led to exposing the truth.
That’s the fact that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi Consulate by officials who exceeded their authority and had no mandate to do so. Those
individuals were arrested, and they were charged and they’re facing trial as we speak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, bring us up to date with any kind of accountability that the foreign minister said was happening.
Remember, this was about 18 months ago.
FOGEL: I mean, the statement is absurd.
First of all, as Agnes Kalamar, the U.N. special rapporteur, and even the CIA and British intelligence have all basically confirmed, without —
beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt, that the order — that the order to murder Jamal was, in fact, approved by MBS.
When you look at a kingdom, nobody can make that high level of a decision without the approval of either the king or the crown prince. It’s
And when you look at the kill team that came there, and that they were using a private jets owned by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, traveling on
diplomatic passports, members of the team are part of MBS’ security detail, on and on and on — it’s an absurd statement.
But as to Saudi Arabia holding these individuals accountable, again, this trial was held in secret. Members of the press were not allowed into the
trial. And so we don’t even know exactly who was tried.
And it’s now been revealed that these death sentences about two months ago have been reversed for prison terms, as one of the members of Khashoggi’s
family have said that he has forgiven the killers, clearly under pressure from the kingdom.
AMANPOUR: So, Bryan, I need to ask you about the U.S., because the Trump administration has a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia. It all fits
into their Middle East policy, particularly against Iran, et cetera.
And this is what President Trump said about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi more than a month after he was killed: “The crime against Jamal Khashoggi
was a terrible one, one our country does not condone. Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an enemy of the state and a
member of the Muslim Brotherhood. It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event. Maybe he did, and maybe he
didn’t,” which became a very famous strategy by President Trump, to throw stuff out there and see where it stuck.
The interesting thing is that his National Security Adviser John Bolton then wrote about it and why that statement was made that day. He said it in
his book: “This will divert from Ivanka. If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”
What exactly does that mean, and where — what do you think the U.S. reaction to this has meant in these years since?
FOGEL: Well, I mean, to follow up on that, in Bob Woodward’s book, he has audio of Trump literally stating and boasting that he — quote — “saved
So, not only was the United States, the Trump administration aware of the CIA intelligence on this murder. The Trump administration made a deliberate
choice to help MBS push this murder under the carpet.
And I think what you saw is other members of the G20 take their lead from the United States, which was, if the Trump administration was going to not
enact sanctions, was not going to seek punishment in this murder, then it was OK for other countries to essentially continue to do business with
Saudi as planned.
And when you look at the amount of weapons sales and the hundreds of billions of dollars on the line, this comes down to a business decision,
rather than a decision doing right by humanity or human rights.
AMANPOUR: Well, we’re going to talk more about that aspect of it with our next guest.
But, Bryan Fogel, thank you so much.
And, again, the film comes out in just over a month.
Now, as we said, we reached out to the Saudi government for a response to this documentary, and they have declined to comment. And the U.S. secretary
of state, Mike Pompeo, will head to Saudi Arabia for that G20 summit.
But, today, he was in Israel, where he became the highest-ranking American official ever to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The Trump
administration’s strong support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a hallmark of its foreign policy. And, of course, the two share a
common foe, Iran.
Now, in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency come reports that he had asked for options for an attack against Iran, an idea that many foreign
policy experts viewed as disastrous and could prove a critical problem for a Biden administration.
So, let’s dig down into all of this.
And joining me now from Tel Aviv is “The New York Times” staff reporter Ronen Bergman.
Ronen, welcome back to the program.
RONEN BERGMAN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Hi, Christiane. Thank you for the invite.
AMANPOUR: So, look, let me ask you.
Today has been billed, or these last two days, as sort of a farewell trip by the American administration to Israel, particularly Mike Pompeo, maybe a
parting gift to Benjamin Netanyahu.
What do you think was the biggest conversation, the most important issue that they needed to sort of sort out and settle right now at this time?
BERGMAN: I think it’s — it will revolve — as Benjamin Netanyahu used to say, he will always speak about three topics, Iran, Iran, and Iran.
And these are the topics that are the most important ones. The U.S. — as you mentioned, the U.S. administration, the current U.S. administration,
and the Netanyahu government were holding a very, very close relationship.
And, in that context, they were thinking of new ways to enforce withdrawals, and disassemblement of the nuclear project on Iran. Israel, as
we reported in “The New York Times,” was able to sabotage the main facility for balancing of centrifuges in the nuclear site in Natanz just during the
summer. And there were other actions that were taking place.
We can assume that they were discussing possible actions, possible policies. Is there still a room for the administrations to do something in
the two months, less than two months that are still left, and exercise a tougher policy, much tougher than they believe the president-elect will
adopt once in the Oval Office?
AMANPOUR: So, you must have been across it — I mean, it came out of “The New York Times,” and you do so much work on this issue — this idea, as
it’s been reported, that President Trump had asked his officials for options to strike parts of the nuclear project in Iran, and that,
apparently, he was dissuaded.
Can you fill in any of those blanks?
BERGMAN: The prominent figures of both administrations during the last two years — and I think that Secretary of State Pompeo is clearly one of them,
if not leading this school of thought — started to believe that there is very little hope to bring regime change, even with economic pressure, even
with maximum pressure, as the former National Security Adviser Bolton phrased that.
And if there is no regime change, then the only way is to coerce the current administration to — in Iran, the current government, to do what
the West, what the United States and Israel wanted them to do, so to, again, take out much of their or disassemble much of their nuclear
facilities and do — diminish or cancel their support to insurgencies in the Middle East.
And they have started a new strategy that was calling to pinpoint operations way beyond enemy lines. I don’t think that overt aerial strike
is one of them, but trying to target again and again facilities and sabotage them is part of that strategy.
And I might believe that President Trump was not asking or was not seeking for options to bomb, but maybe two to options to plan to bomb. The result
is the same, but the method is very different.
AMANPOUR: So, we know that Vice President, president-elect Joe Biden has telegraphed that he would to get the United States back into the JCPOA,
otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposed.
Is this all about trying to box — create facts on the ground, including the sanctions that they have just talked about, and they just launched more
sanctions, to make that either impossible or more difficult?
BERGMAN: Well, I assume that President Trump, like any outgoing president, would like to leave a legacy, but there’s something more.
The — there was no secretary of state that was so friendly towards the Israeli government like Secretary of State Pompeo. People say that he’s
looking at the 2024 elections, where he might be presenting himself as candidate for presidency.
But the channel not just between Trump, President Trump, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, but also the channel, the secret channel, between Secretary of
State Pompeo and the chief of the Israeli Mossad, Yossi Cohen, who knew Mr. Pompeo from the times that he was the chief of the CIA, that channel, the
planning, the views, the common views on how to handle Iran, had a profound influence on the U.S. and Israeli foreign policy.
And I think what they are trying to do is to leave the situation as close as possible to what the U.S. administration would have done if President
Trump would continue to a second term.
AMANPOUR: You also talked — I mean, talking about this close — this close connection, you reported about, on the — at the behest of the United
States, Israel took out an al Qaeda figure who had been apparently under house arrest or in Iran.
Give me the details on that, sort of tightly.
BERGMAN: Right. So, together with my great colleagues at the “The New York Times,” Eric Schmidt, Adam Goldman and Farnaz Fassihi, we probably should
(INAUDIBLE) that Mossad was able to locate, trace down into Iran living under false identity the second in command of al-Qaeda, Abu Mohammed al-
Masri. The person who was directly in charge of the bombing of the two American embassies in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998.
On the day — the 22nd anniversary, on the day — almost on the hour of the bombings on the behest of the United States, Mossad agents killed him. They
were riding a motorcycle. He was sitting in his car with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden that was
supposed to inherit but died himself in American assassination in 2019. Two Mossad assassins on a motorcycle approached him. They knew that he’s not a
Lebanese history scholar as the documentation that the Revolutionary Guard gave him, but he’s in fact Mr. al-Masri. They pulled out a gun with
silencer, fired five bullets, one hit the nearby car, four their car, killing both of them.
The Iranians and al-Qaeda, and surprisingly, I must say, United States and Israel as well, kept it tightly in their safe and didn’t tell anyone. The
Iranians were highly embarrassed and knew this is going to create external and domestic rage. Why have they given shelter to someone they described as
Satan himself. So, a Sunai al-Qaeda senior commander.
AMANPOUR: And let me just talk — bring it out to what we just talking about with my previous guest, about the Saudi Arabia, you know, all this
business about Israel normalizing relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, et cetera.
As you know, some have suggested that these are not peace agreements, these are sort of arms deals. And to that point, the administration has announced
plans, as you know, to sell some $23 billion worth of sophisticated weapons to the UAE after the normalization. A group of U.S. senator, Republicans
and Democrats oppose it, saying that it will seriously destabilize an already volatile region and potentially put Israel at risk.
How is that sale, including these highly sophisticated — I think F-35s or something like that, affect the balance of power in that region and is
Israel going along with this? Do they mind?
BERGMAN: Well, first, I think we should not underestimate the recent achievement and the achievement belonging mainly to President Trump and
some of it to, as I mention, Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, they convinced three Arab countries to put
aside their main demand for normalization and for public relations with Israel, which was a significant advancement on the Palestinian/Israeli
peace accord before they do anything public. They decided to put that aside and they signed the peace accord with Israel.
Now, peace is a term that is usually used after you had war and there was no war between Emirates and Israel or Bahrain and Israel. But still, it’s
important. Benjamin Netanyahu as the Israeli paper, Yediot Ahronot, published hide — have hidden from the government and from the minister of
defense and his deputy, Benny Gantz, the fact that the United States promised the UAE to sell them F-35 if they signed the peace deal and there
are voices inside Israeli army, mainly inside Israeli air force who say Israel is losing the edge, the technological edge that it used to have upon
its enemies or upon other countries in the Middle East. And the question and the problem or the fear is that airplanes, F-35, might proliferate to
other countries who are less friendly towards Israel.
One word about Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States, especially the United States, Mr. Kushner and Mr. Pompeo, try to convince — Saudi Arabia
is the most important country, they are custodian of Islam. If they do that, this — that’s a real diplomatic breakthrough. They offered him a
deal they thought he would not be able to refuse, a visit to Washington. Even in spite of the serious charges about his involvement with the murder
of the late Jamal Khashoggi. And they said, even if Biden is elected, a visit to Washington and the meetings cannot be undo. You will be
And in spite of that, probably because of internal opposition, probably from the king himself, Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince said, I agree
with everything and I’m happy for the countries that did normalize, but Saudi Arabia is not yet there.
AMANPOUR: OK. So very, very quickly, then, many of your — certainly, in your military establishment and some in the diplomatic establishment
believe that the eventual existential threat to Israel is no peace with the Palestinians because of the demographics and, you know, the things we’ve
talked about many times before. What did Israel take from Mike Pompeo’s visit to a settlement in the occupied territories and does his —
BERGMAN: I am sorry, Christiane, but I’m very gloomy on that. What secretary of state has done today was an official recognition of Israeli
annexation even if the annexation is not yet formal. But being there, sort of protesting, defying any kind of Palestinian claim, that is just another
empowerment of any Israeli claim that there’s nothing pressuring Israel to sign the peace accord and go to the two-state solution.
I think that what we have seen today and the dessertment (ph) of the UAE, putting aside the Palestinian issue, I think this will get us close to,
unfortunately, another outburst of violence from Palestinians toward Israel.
AMANPOUR: Ronen Bergman, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, in the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement started long before this summer’s reckoning with racism, but months of protests after
the killing of George Floyd put racial justice front and center back into U.S. politics.
Patrisse Cullors is founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and she wants to meet the incoming administration. Here she is speaking to our
Michel Martin about how they mobilized the black vote in this election and what defund the police really means.
MICHEL MARTIN: Thanks, Christiane. Patrisse —
PATRISSE CULLORS, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLACK LIVES MATTER: Thanks for having me. I’m so glad to be back with you.
MARTIN: Thank you. Likewise. So, now, people know about Black Lives Matter as a movement, but I would like you to bring us up to date on how you sort
of solidified Black Lives Matter as an organizing tool. How would you describe your impact on the election? Like what do you think was the major
result of your efforts?
CULLORS: We played a very specific role in this elections cycle. We did not stand down. We actually stood up and we created a multimillion dollar
get out the vote campaign. Where we focused on black cities and black towns across the country, including swing states. We reached over 60 million
people in that effort, both by ads, phone banking, texting, and by doing drive-in events across the country.
I think our movement and I think our organization alongside black-led organizers across the country won this election. I do not think we would
have been able to have a Biden/Harris ticket if it weren’t for black-led organizations and black organizers. We played a really important role. From
the very beginning we understood that we were going to have to help get black people out to vote and we’re going to have to push black folks to
make sure that we voted for the Biden/Harris ticket. We did this under the Black Lives Matter pact. And so, we started a pact where we could do
political work. And that was very, very important for us.
MARTIN: So, the results of this election are mixed. Your preferred candidate, Joe Biden/Kamala Harris won the White House, that Democrats
increase their numbers in the Senate, but they lost ground in the House and in state legislatures. Republicans now control more state legislatures than
at any time in U.S. history. If you can claim credit to the victory, are you willing to take any ownership of the defeats?
CULLORS: You know, I don’t think we should take ownership of the defeats only because I think what we’ve seen specifically with the Republican Party
is a really savvy messaging campaign that demonizes Black Lives Matter and aligns the Democratic Party with that demonization. What I haven’t seen
from the Democratic Party in particular is that same sort of savvy response.
And so, I do think the Democratic Party should lean on groups like Black Lives Matter. You know, we made the effort to lean into the presidential
race, and we really do need the Democratic Party to reach out to us because we can, I believe, win these other races if they leaned on us just a bit
MARTIN: When I say — let’s talk about that for a minute because you know that there’s a big discussion about that right now among elected Democrats.
I know that you’re sort of familiar with one of the Democratic representatives, Abigail Spanberger, of Virginia who had a tougher race
than, I think, that perhaps, she was expecting. You know, now, I think the audio has emerged, there was a kind of conference call where some of the
Democrats who considered themselves centrists were saying that, you know, that part of the reason Democrats lost ground in the House was that they
leaned too far into language like defund the police and socialism and all this. So, how do you respond to that?
CULLORS: That’s not true. Most of the folks who lost did not lean into the fight around defund and did not lead into a more prerogative fight that has
been on the ground. And so, I think, you know, now is the time not to blame the people who helped get us a Biden/Harris ticket. Now is the time to lean
on those people and say, hey, how did you do it for this presidential election? Can you come help us do it here at our home and the local
elections? And I think that will benefit the Democratic Party way more than they actually understand.
MARTIN: So, I think her argument is she absolutely didn’t lean into defund the police and any of those issues when her argument was that they
basically hung those labels on Democrats who didn’t even embrace them. And in fact, as you said, I think they would agree that they demonized Black
Lives Matter. How do you defend against that? Do you?
CULLORS: I think it’s the wrong question. I think, you know, what we need from the Democratic Party is allyship right now and we need to actually be
working together. And I think the Democratic Party hasn’t always engaged our movement in a meaningful way.
So, of course, the Republicans are going to win if you don’t have any engagement with the real human beings who are leading the defund movement.
The moment someone hears me explain defund off of the — you know, outside of the slogan, away from the Republican Party rhetoric, they say, oh, that
makes much more sense. And so, if there were more alignment, think about AOC, you know, Ilhan, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Cory Bush, Jamaal
Bowman, this entire squad did not step away or push back against the movement, they leaned into the movement. They —
MARTIN: Except that they are — excuse me. Patrisse, these are Democrats in state democratic seats. These are Democrats who won their seats by
primarying other Democrats who they did not feel were doing the job and that’s where — so, you’re not talking about people in swing districts.
Look, 70 million people voted for the incumbent.
MARTIN: OK. 76 million people voted for the challenger, for Joe Biden. It could be as many 80 by time all of us are counted. But the reality of it is
70 million people voted for the incumbent and the Senate is going to be 50- 50 Senate. So, the question then becomes is, how do you make your case to half of the country that either doesn’t agree with you or has been
successfully persuaded to hate you?
CULLORS: So, we persuade folks to actually vote for us. This is what my argument is. My argument is, these Democrats did not actually lean into the
movement. So, they were — the movement was used against them. The movement was also used against us. But instead of aligning with us, sitting with us,
talking with us, they have rebuked us. That’s also not helpful. It’s not helpful to say, well, we lost because of this them, but you’ve never
actually sat with us to help us figure out if we can work together.
We don’t have that other option as part of the option because the only way that many of these Democrats have talked about us is also demonizing us,
and that’s what my argument is. We have to try something different. The Democratic Party can’t continue to just say that Black Lives Matter or a
movement is losing, is contributing to their losses without actually doing a deep dive into what made them lose.
Representative AOC said something really powerful. She said, I did a deeper dive into this argument that the Democratic Party lost because of Black
Lives Matter and defund rhetoric. In fact, she said she looked into those races where the Republican Party had a much savvier campaign plan than the
Democratic Party, both in the digital space but also in the ad persuasion space.
And so, I don’t think it’s fair to blame us. And I think it actually is a distraction to blame Black Lives Matter for the Democratic losses. I think
it creates more in-fighting when we don’t have to fight. We have to work together. We have many years, four years of just terrible policies that we
have to undo. And the Democratic Party cannot do it alone. They need all of us.
MARTIN: Not that you’re responsible for running all these people’s races, but what would have been the right way to address the demonization of Black
Lives Matter, the — kind of the weaponization of it, as it were?
CULLORS: The way we did it, the way Black Lives Matter did it, is we ran counter ads that actually look at the human beings behind Black Lives
Matter that reminded people everyone who wants to talk about, you know, MLK and everyone that wants to talk about the civil rights movement, that this
is the modern day civil rights movement.
Part of what this is the right has mass media in Fox. The right has all of their right-wing magazines and blogs that actually really purport the same
messaging. They’re very good at spouting out one to two messages and then hitting us on the head with it. We’re not very good at that. And so, we
have to do a better job of persuading people why we believe the things we believe. And how they’re not just going to benefit black people but how
they’re going to benefit everybody.
MARTIN: Before we move on to other subjects, because I do want to talk about the meeting you requested with the incoming administration is, is
there any space in the Black Lives Matter movement for disagreement over the slogan, defund the police?
CULLORS: Absolutely. Listen, I’ll say two things on this. Number one, when we came up with Black Lives Matter, the slogan, everybody told that it was
divisive. Everybody told us that the Black Lives Matter slogan is going to scare people away, that we were divisive, why are we saying black lives
matter, why don’t we say all lives matter? And we said over and over again, it is OK to specify the need for the black community. Every other community
gets to do it. Every other community gets to talk about their specific needs.
And now, in 2020, we have Netflix, Amazon and every other corporation saying Black Lives Matter on every screen. Defund the police is a very
similar slogan in that it elicits same kind of response. People are like, why would you say that? Why are you communicating that? Why don’t you use
another term? I don’t think that just because a term scares people that you don’t use it. I think you use a term and then you explain it. You explain
why a community is calling for defunding.
Because I’ll say this. We all know what defunding means. The right has defunded education. The right has defunded folks’ access to adequate
housing. The right has defunded and divested from health care. So, the defund slogan only elicits a kind of response, a fear response, because
it’s specifically about law enforcement. And nobody ever wants to challenge what law enforcement does because when they do it to black people, people
So, I think this conversation about defund needs to be — needs to have more nuance and people need to stop playing like they don’t understand what
it means. Because what we are asking for is a reallocation of dollars into a social service network that will actually care for the human beings that
have been uncared for for over 400 years.
MARTIN: You asked for a meeting with the Biden/Harris administration. What are you seeking specifically? Do you have some specific type of engagement
CULLORS: Absolutely. We’d love to sit with them as they are transitioning into elected office. We know what the base of black people want and need.
We’ve been working with black folks for years on many different issues. Our organization specifically wants to talk with them about the issues around
police violence and mass incarceration. We know that their administration has said they’re not interested in defunding. But their administration
hasn’t actually talked to the movement around what we mean by defunding and what we mean by reallocating funds. And so, we’d love to be engaged in a
meaningful way to talk about those issues.
And lastly, we want them to pass the BREATHE Act. We want them to look at the modern-day civil rights legislation that we created with the movement
from black lives to really make sure that the BREATHE Act becomes a reality.
MARTIN: And what does that do? What would it do?
CULLORS: The BREATHE Act is one of the first initiatives that will wholeheartedly look at divesting out of law enforcement and reinvesting
into our communities. And so, it’s 100-plus page document and bill that details all of the ways that our communities can have access to healthy
food, access to adequate education, access to jobs. And we believe that the federal government can help move that forward for us.
MARTIN: Do you have any fears, if I may put it that way, in that, you know, there are those, particularly in a progressive movement, who argue
that the Obama administration in a way laid the groundwork for the Trump administration for reasons that he couldn’t control, which is racism, but
some things he could have, perhaps, controlled, i.e., that people didn’t see enough change in their own lives, that made them believe change, in
fact, is possible? Do you have any fears?
CULLORS: I do. But my biggest fear is will the country, America, ever want to change? Will it truly want to transform out of being a racist, sexist
country? I don’t think that happens with one leader. I don’t think that happens with one party. I don’t think that happens with one president. It’s
why Black Lives Matter started under Obama. Because we didn’t see enough change. We didn’t feel the change. We were still experiencing so much of
the traumas of racism in this country.
And so, we have a lot of work to do. I do not believe Biden and Harris are saviors. I don’t think they’ll be able to undo 400 years. I don’t know if
they’re trying to undo 400 years. But our job as leaders, as movement leaders, is to push them. And it’s to also push our local electeds, our
statewide electeds because there’s so much more than just the presidential seat and the vice-presidential seat.
Here in Los Angeles County, we were able to get out D.A. Jackie Lacey, a D.A. that had been upholding racism, racist policies, racist ethics inside
of our county for so long. We replaced her with a progressive district attorney. And so, need all elected officials, we need all people to show up
for this moment. And it’s not just going to be the president and the vice president.
MARTIN: Do you ever, Patrisse, allow yourself to consider that some people don’t think Black Lives Matter?
CULLORS: I do.
MARTIN: And how do you deal with that?
CULLORS: Yes. I do. I get death threats every day reminding me that black lives don’t matter and that folks are willing to kill and maim and abuse,
you know, black people. How I deal with it is by being inside of the movement. How I deal with it is by fighting every single day, and sometimes
winning. You know, we have to claim our victories. We have to celebrate when we win. And reminding myself that I’m building a future not just for
me, but for my children and my children’s children and their children’s children.
MARTIN: There are people who really do believe that, you know, the expression of Black Lives Matter is anti-white. And do you have a message
CULLORS: Yes. I know that when white people historically have said they’re pro-white, it is meant they are anti-black. And so, it must be very
confusing to hear black people say, we are pro-black and that does not mean we are anti anything else. But the reality is that black people’s pro-
blackness is about the liberation not just of black people but everybody.
We deeply believe that when black lives actually matter, everybody’s lives will also matter. And so, that is my message to, you know, white folks in
particular who are — who really do rely on racism. That racism that you rely on, while it may benefit you in the short term, that is no way to
live. That’s no way to live your life and it’s no way to teach your children to live.
And so, there’s so much more room when we embrace an anti-racist philosophy. So much more room for humanity.
MARTIN: Patrisse Cullors, thank you so much for joining us.
CULLORS: Thank you so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: Embracing humanity, such an important thought.
And finally, tonight, we want to leave you with a little light and hope. This 70-year-old retired orchestra teacher, while battling the coronavirus,
wanted to also show his gratitude for health care workers. And so, he played the violin in the ICU, even while intubated and unable to speak. And
here’s some of that performance.
Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” and join us again tomorrow night.