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[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
After the French president blasted nationalism and the policy of putting “our interests first,” I speak with historian Timothy Snyder about that
thinly veiled good view of President Trump and resurgent nationalism across the democratic world.
Then, on Dr. Leana Wen’s first day as president of Planned Parenthood, I talk to her about America’s biggest women’s health provider and a big
Also, forensic pathologist, Judy Miller, knows a bullets power over our bodies. Now, she has a prescription for changing gun policy.
Finally, living with epilepsy, why journalist and author, Kurt Eichenwald, is now contemplating leaving the U.S. over his insurance fees.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour back in London.
President Donald Trump was literally out of step with world leaders on Sunday as his peers marched in solidarity to a World War I memorial at the
Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The president and first lady though were dropped off separately and by their own car.
Then, in a memorial address, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called out President Trump and the European nationalist worldview for helping to
awaken the old demons of nativist conflict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Patriotism that is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is betrayal. By saying,
“Our interest first, who cares about the answers,” we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is the most
important, it’s moral values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, on this commemoration of the end of World War 1 100 years ago, President Macron’s warning comes as a growing wave of leaders tap into
these us first politics all across the globe, in countries like Hungary, the Philippines, Brazil, as well as Donald Trump’s America.
Historian, Timothy Snyder, knows all about the brutal consequences of authoritarianism from his work studying the roots of two devastating World
Wars. His recent books like “On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the Twentieth Century” and “The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America” they are
stark warnings for today. And Timothy Snyder joins me now from Vienna, the heart of what was the old Austria-Hungarian empire.
Welcome to the program, Professor Snyder.
TIMOTHY SNYDER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, YALE UNIVERSITY: Very glad to be with you.
AMANPOUR: So, what went through your mind? I mean, I’ve laid out all the books you’ve written, the warnings that you have, you know, broadcast far
and wide. What went through your mind as you heard Macron sort of echo those warnings as sort of the body language between the need is at the
SNYDER: Well, it seems to me that that a centenary, a commemoration is a good opportunity to renew some kind of an agreement about values. It’s a
great shame that we even have to discuss the basic points that President Macron is trying to make, namely that putting yourself first is a way to
disable order or that we should be remembering the past at all.
So, I was very struck as a historian by something which I’m struck by all too often, namely that although we commemorate the past, we don’t really
seem to take it seriously.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s talk about serious because this is 100 years since World War I, it’s 70-plus years since the World War II and these are the
things that our forefathers died and gave their lives for so that, A, we wouldn’t forget and B, we wouldn’t repeat.
How serious, in your view, is the threat of a repetition of the kind of authoritarianism, fascism, nationalism that could severely constrict
SNYDER: Well, let’s — I’ll start with the basics. I think it’s important to remember just how horrible these wars were. These were wars in a place
which at the time was thought, at least by the people who live there, to be the leading civilization in the world, these were wars which brought tens
of millions of casualties one after the other.
And so, when we commemorate these things, when we try to remember these things, we’re trying to remember what human beings who are not so very
different from us can do to other human beings.
Now, the risk now the risk with history is not that it will repeat itself, the risk with history is that we forget why it was that we made the good
decisions that we did make in the past, we forget why we have arms control, we forget why we have international law, we forget why we have treaties, we
forget why we have the habit of what Winston Churchill called jaw-jaw rather than war-war.
So, the risk today is that because we’ve set history aside, because we told ourselves these things couldn’t ever happen again, we’ve forgotten just why
we have the checks and just why we have the institutions we do. Big important countries like America or Brazil or Russia can say, “We come
first.” But as soon as you come first, as soon as you say, “Our interests come first,” you lose track of what those interests actually are.
In order to think seriously about interest, you have to be able to think seriously about other people’s points of view.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, it’s really it’s really interesting pouring all over this right now, you as a historian, myself as a journalist, we’re
trying to make sense of this disruptive nature of, I guess, what many of us believe to be many linear progress in democracy, in human rights, in
lifting people out of poverty, opportunity and the like.
But what would you say to those who say that there is inherent weakness in liberal democracy, that at times of maximum strength is sort of the fittest
survive, people go back to their basic instincts and it sort of starts to potentially break down, calling itself democracy, as all these countries
that I’ve mentioned do but themselves attacking from within rule of law and all the other institutions that we hold so dear?
SNYDER: I think that the basic important point that you’re suggesting is that liberalism and democracy don’t defend themselves. Liberalism and
democracy, that is to say freedom and the right to choose your own leaders are things that you have to care about, you have to value them in wartime
and in peacetime.
It’s certainly right that they don’t automatically defend themselves. Every major way that democratization in history has been met by a
counterwave and we’re in one of those counterwaves now. That just raises the question that President Macron was raising about values. When he says
that patriotism is different from nationalism because patriotism is about values, he’s making a crucial point, if we want there to be freedom, if we
want to have the right to vote and choose our own leaders we have to care about those things, we have to make our nation by caring about these values
and in turn, our nation can make the world better by being concerned about values such as this.
So, I think the crucial issue here is that if you want things to go well you can’t depend upon history, there is no historical inevitability,
economic growth doesn’t necessarily bring about democracy. If you want — if we want to have progress, we have to decide what progress means and
bring about that progress ourselves.
AMANPOUR: So, Macron, did say a lot of things that go to exactly what you’re speaking about right now. And yes, he also talked about France and
Germany’s role. Angela Merkel was there. In fact, the German president was here in Great Britain for — and the very first time for Armistice Day
Germany is also, of all countries, fracturing a little bit at the moment, there’s a major threat with AFD and a major threat to the stability of
Angela Merkel’s leadership. Let me just play this little bit from President Macron’s speech and we’ll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACRON (through translator): On our continent, this is represented by the ties of friendship between Germany and France and the desire to build a
bedrock of common goal. This hope is called European Union, a union freely entered into never before seen in history, a union that freed us of our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, there you are in Vienna, the heart of the old Austria-Hungarian empire, the beginning of World War I you could trace from
right there. What do you make of the of the threat to the European project or the European unity right now which has staved off war for 70 years?
SNYDER: I would — I push the point even further. The big story of the 20th century in Europe is how do you get from empire to integration. As
you say, I’m in Vienna. Vienna is the capital of a small state called Austria. Austria is very prosperous within this bigger unit called the
European Union. It was also fairly prosperous within the older unit, Austria-Hungary, the Hausberg monarchy.
The tricky part is trying to be a small nation state. What Europeans learned in the middle of the 20th century is that it’s very difficult, in
fact, impossible for a small nation states to make it on their own. What the European Union succeeded in doing was bringing together a whole bunch
of fragments of empires, empires that last overseas holdings, like Britain or the Netherlands or France, and also fragments of empires when the Soviet
Union fell apart into the largest economy in the history of the world into a very important zone of continuous democracies.
The European Union isn’t just about France and Germany coming together, although it’s very important for that reason, it’s also about finding a way
to have order and prosperity among a whole lot of disparate states without one of those states subordinating or dominating the other. That’s a very
important lesson that goes beyond France and Germany.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s talk about America first. And President Trump who, I suppose, banks on what he thinks the American people want, which is not to
overextend themselves around the world, maybe not to get involved too much around the world and certainly, not to provide the kind of leadership and
support that would cost the U.S. more than it gets back, those are his words.
What do you make of the Europe and certainly, Angela Merkel in the wake of President Trump’s election has said, you know, we may not be able to count
on the very America who saved us in World War I and in World War II?
SNYDER: Well the two world wars are very interesting from American point of view because, of course, despite what we might remember, we didn’t win
them alone, we won them as important but not the most important parts of larger coalitions. And we went into both wars, whether it was Wilson in
the first or Roosevelt in the second, with the idea of some kind of post- war legal order, which would make war less likely. Those are the things that are worth remembering and that’s what Chancellor Merkel is referring
to when she talks about the American commitment to Europe.
Our idea after the second World War was that by way of economic and legal and political means we would act to make sure that things happen that were
in the interest of both the Europeans and Americans over the long run so that war would be less likely.
The traditional American position was that rules were good things because as a big power you get to help them make the rules. America first says,
“We’re going to withdraw into ourselves not pull our weight in international relations and let other people make the rules or just let the
rules fall apart.” This can be gratifying because you get to do what you feel like doing but it seems very unlikely that letting other people make
the rules ends up being in your own interest.
AMANPOUR: So, it’s banking on a proposition that the American people are isolationists and they don’t want to get involved. And certainly, I’ve
read that since 1992, every successful presidential candidate used that terminology, we will not, you know, go out and sort of spread ourselves
thin all of the world.
The problem is that Americans are not isolationists and there’s a whole new poll done by the Chicago Global Affairs Council, which says that by a large
margin they want to still be involved with, you know, other countries and in a leadership role. So, I think that’s possibly very, very important to
understand at this moment, don’t you think?
SNYDER: I think the good way that Americans can think about this is that an American leadership role would be Americans thinking about what kind of
world we want to have together with others and helping to establish rules that make sense for the 21st century as we sometimes constructively did in
the 20th century.
You can’t lead by saying me first. If you say me first, other people simply don’t follow you. So, I do think it’s encouraging that Americans
want to be engaged in the world because American prosperity depends upon engagement in the world. I do think there’s a proud tradition of Americans
thinking sensibly and creatively about future international order and I think it’s reasonable to hope that at one point will return to that.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s use — let’s go back and explore just a couple of the terms that are being used, certainly popularized by the president of the
United States, fake news, enemies of the people.
You know, you write and you go all the way back to the 1930s when, and I’m going to get it probably wrong, but Lugenpresse, lying press, that was an
accusation in Germany of the 1930s. And also, enemy of the people. I mean, the great modern deployer of that was Joseph Stalin.
Tell me about the importance of these two phrases being used in the most powerful democratic nation on Earth.
AMANPOUR: Well, this is one of the places where President Macron was right in his speech when he says that the demons of the past are being awakened.
He is referring precisely to leaders such as Mr. Trump who use phrases from some of the worst regimes that we have ever seen.
Enemy of the people was a favorite of Stalin and of Stalinist regimes. We forget that although we once thought that we were against Stalinism and
against the Soviet Union. Enemy of the people was used against various groups to set them outside the law so that they could be bullied,
mistreated and very often separated completely from the law and exterminated.
Lugenpresse is very interesting because Lugenpresse is a perfect example of something which was used in the 1930s and very similar circumstances.
Lugenpresse, it means the lying press. It literally means fake news, that is to say Germans or Austrians today when Mr. Trump says fake news, they
understand it as Lugenpresse.
Lugenpresse was used by Hitler and Goebbels (ph) other Nazis in the 1930s to attack the journalists who were actually trying to track down the news.
It was interestingly a situation not so different from ours where the actual reporters were under economic pressure, media was too centralized
and the Nazis came in and tried to land a killing blow by talking about fake news, by talking about Lugenpresse.
So, this is an excellent example of how an idea and even a phrase, a tactic from the most terrible moment of the European 20th century has come back.
So, we should all notice this.
SNYDER: The only reason we don’t is that we don’t pay serious enough attention to the history.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, one person, a lot of people are paying serious attention, including Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, French and German couple
who were Nazi hunters. And Beate recently — said she recently said, “Hitler built hate against the Jews. Now, it’s against immigrants.” And
Serge Klarsfeld who investigated Nazi crimes said, “If we had died five years ago, we would have felt all that was — all of that was over. Now,
that people live so long, we see the world change.”
So, back to sort of the cyclical nature of history and we see history repeating itself as the hatred of the Jew being replaced, not even
replaced, but expanded to the hatred of immigrants right now.
SNYDER: The dangerous point is when politics becomes about us and where then can be the people who are part of some kind of supposed conspiracy or
them can be the people who come — want to come to our country and take what we have.
The smartest Nazi theorist, Carl Schmidt, said that politics has to begin with us and them. And once you can get politics into us and them, then you
can do whatever you want. The other tradition, the tradition of law or the tradition of democracy says, “We don’t start from us and them, we start
from a contract, like a constitution, we start with a project for how things are going to be different in the future.” I think this is the basic
divide in politics now.
AMANPOUR: It’s really fascinating. Thank you so much, Professor Timothy Snyder, joining us from Vienna tonight.
Now, President Trump’s Europe trip came as tensions at home, in the United States, rise over a midterm election where votes still being counted that’s
happening in some states. And yet, what is clear is that Republicans did take a bit of a drubbing in the House and that health care was a major
driver of success and gains for the Democrats.
Through 10 years of bitter health care debates, planned parenthood has been a political punching bag to foes of both Obama’s Affordable Care Act and
Roe versus Wade. This despite the fact that the organization provides a whole range of essential health care to women of all races and
socioeconomic backgrounds all across America.
Today, Dr. Leana Wen, 35-year-old emergency physician and public health official takes over as the new president of Planned Parenthood and she told
me that she sees a state of emergency for women’s health across America.
Dr. Wen, welcome to the program
LEANA WEN, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Thank you it’s an honor to be here with you today on my first day on the job as the president of Planned
AMANPOUR: Well, there you go. It’s a big day. And I said doctor for a reason, you are the first doctor in nearly half a century to run this
organization. First of all, what does that mean to you and what might that mean for your role as head of Planned Parenthood?
WEN: Being here today is deeply personal to me. As a doctor, I am honored to lead an organization that’s done more for women’s health than any other
for the last 100 years. We provide lifesaving medical care to two-and-a- half million people every year.
It’s also deeply personal on another level to. My mother was a patient of Planned Parenthood when we first immigrated to this country, I was a
patient of Planned Parenthood, my sister was a patient of Planned Parenthood, just like one in five women in America.
AMANPOUR: So, Dr. Wen, just lay that out for us because people might not fully understand what you mean by being a patient of, because today,
Planned Parenthood, I think for a lot of Americans has become incredibly politicized and it just means reproductive health. it means contraception,
abortion those kinds of things.
So, I know that you turned — your family turn to Planned Parenthood, but in what capacity?
WEN: For so many of the patients that we serve we are their only source of health care. Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings, breast
cervical cancer screenings, we provide birth control, reproductive health services. We actually do more every year to prevent unintended pregnancies
than any other organization in the U.S. And we provide lifesaving, life changing care, high blood pressure screenings, diabetes screenings, all of
these things that make people healthy.
And I think it’s important for people to know that women, men and all people are welcome to come and see us at are over 600 health centers in the
U.S. that we provide lifesaving and life changing care.
AMANPOUR: We’ve seen the Trump administration want to reduce funding for all sorts of issues. And I think you’ve taken a major stand on trying to
prevent the reduction of funding on, for instance, preventing teen pregnancies. Tell me about that aspect.
WEN: I recently finished my tenure as the health commissioner in Baltimore City where I oversaw health services for a city. And the Trump
administration cut our teen pregnancy prevention program, which provides sex education, a comprehensive sex education for youth, for young people.
We’ve actually reduced infant mortality and teen birth rates in our city to record lows as a result of our sex education and reproductive health
service programs. And to see a program like that being cut for no reason, except politics, was extremely shocking and disappointing.
So, we sued at the Trump administration and we won and now we have our funding back for the 20,000 youth who will continue to get services.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that seems to me really, really important because no matter what side of the abortion, Roe versus Wade debate, you land on,
surely prevention is the biggest thing a doctor could do. And I’m absolutely confused as to what reasons they give for wanting to cut funding
for the prevention of teen pregnancy. Because you mean preventing them getting pregnant in the first place, right?
WEN: That’s exactly right. We believe in providing science based medically accurate information so that people can make the best decisions
for themselves. As a doctor I trust my patients, I trust women, and that’s what Planned Parenthood does. Over 90 percent of the work that we do is
So, if the goal is to reduce unintended pregnancies, we shouldn’t be trying to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, we should be investing in the work
that Planned Parenthood does.
AMANPOUR: I want to play a soundbite from President Trump on the issue of abortion and it happened last week right after the midterm elections. So,
let’s just play this and then I want to read out a tweet that you responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: What am I going do? I won’t be able to explain that to you because it is an issue that is a very divisive
polarizing issue. But there is a solution, I think I have the solution and nobody else does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I’m not sure what he’s solution is. But you tweeted in response, yesterday the American people overwhelmingly said that health
care was their number one concern. Not even 24 hours later, Trump is attacking our reproductive rights, hoping that by denying birth control he
can gut the ACA, the Affordable Care Act. We won’t let him. And then a series of hash tags.
So, what is your plan, Dr. Wen? What can you do to maintain the provisions in the Affordable Care Act and women’s basic rights under established and
WEN: Well, let’s talk about what President Trump did not even 24 hours after the midterm elections when women, particularly women of color, stood
up and voted in favor of reproductive rights and access to health care. President Trump issued new rules saying that employers are allowed to deny
women birth control coverage, birth control coverage. It’s 2018 and we’re still debating birth control.
And imagine the outrage if this were anything else, if we were now restricting access to vasectomies or we were preventing people from getting
insulin for their diabetes. We’re seeing that voters across this country are voting for more health care and not less. Solidly red states like
Utah, Idaho, Nebraska voted to increase Medicaid expansion. We, the people, believe that health care is a fundamental human right.
AMANPOUR: So, you’ve talked about having dues the Trump administration in regards to the funding for the prevention of teen pregnancies. Now, what
do you think and how will you mobilize to protect women’s health against a potential legal challenge to women’s rights like Roe versus Wade. I’ll
play you what Judge Kavanaugh said about this issue during the appointment battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, THEN-U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the question was, first, was this substantial
burden on the religious exercise? And it seemed to me quite clearly it was. In that case, they said filling out the form would make them
complicit in the provision of the abortion inducing drugs that they were as a religious matter objected to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I don’t know how you read that statement but what you think might happen given all the evidence that there’s so many challenges to Roe
versus Wade, there are 13 cases or more pending right now at a state level, what do you think is a woman’s fate regarding this crucial decision in the
upcoming months and years?
WEN: We are a state of emergency for women’s health in this country. We’re facing a situation where in the Supreme Court we could see Roe versus
Wade overturned or further eroded. There have been 400 laws passed in states over the last seven years that directly restrict a woman’s right to
her own body and her health. And these laws were passed not based on medicine. Actually, medical groups and public health leaders oppose these
laws. These are passed based on politics.
And we know that the American people oppose this. We don’t want the government, politicians in the exam room to making decisions about our
personal health, but this is what’s happening. We’re facing a situation where 25 million women, which is a third of women of reproductive age in
this country, could be living in states where abortion is banned or criminalized.
We also are seeing that in the U.S., we are the only industrialized country where the rate of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth is increasing,
that African-American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than White women.
These are profound health disparities.
And as a doctor, I believe that it’s my moral imperative, it’s our moral imperative to provide health care to everyone, fight these disparities.
That’s what Planned Parenthood has been doing for over 100 years and that’s why our country needs Planned Parenthood now more than ever.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Wen, I’m curious to know what, if any, influence the nature of your own country, where you came from, China, in this regard has on your
on your thoughts right now as a physician and particularly when it comes to women’s care, the laws that had forced abortions, forced sterilizations,
feticide, infanticide in China was so draconian that I wonder if that is spilled over into your consciousness and how you take that memory or
knowledge into the job that you do right now?
WEN: Very much so. I left China with my parents just before my eighth birthday. We are fortunate to be able to stay in the U.S. on political
asylum. My father was jailed in China for being a political dissident. And China has laws that deprive women of their bodily autonomy. The U.S.
has laws that deprive women of their bodily autonomy, and this is what I will fight with every last breath. I believe that all people should have
the right to something as basic as our bodies and our health.
Look, you could have your own beliefs about what you want to do about your health but don’t impose it on other people. I believe this deeply as a
person, as an immigrant, as a woman and as a doctor.
AMANPOUR: When the opposition in the United States, opposition to Roe versus Wade, talks about religious freedom being a reason for their
opposition to abortion, what do you say to that?
WEN: I say that we should all have the freedom to exercise our own choice. Recognizing that that choice is predicated on privilege. And that’s why we
need to move beyond these labels of pro-choice or pro-life. Because pro- choice implies that everyone has equal access to choice when we know that that’s not true, that wealthy people of privilege have been able to make
choices while communities of color, communities that are low income have faced systematic barriers to care and systematic racism.
And I’ll also reject the term pro-life. I’m a doctor. I went to medical school. I trained to save lives. I am pro-life, I’m for women, I’m pro-
family, I’m pro-patient. And it’s important for us to go beyond these labels to talk about what it is that we want to the end of the day, which
is the we are, as society, that trust women.
AMANPOUR: And let me just make a quick switch to another big life issue and that is the right not to be mowed down by guns in your nightclubs or in
your Synagogues or in your churches or in your music festivals and schools.
[13:30:00] You have had to deal with the gun epidemic as Commissioner of Health in Baltimore. What do you — what is your commentary today on
what’s going on and how that needs to be addressed?
WEN: In the E.R., I’ve treated victims of gun violence. I’ve seen young kids die from stray bullet wounds. And I know undeniably that gun violence
is a public health issue. That’s what I know from being a doctor, a scientist, and a public health leader. This is an issue that we must treat
as the crisis that it is.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much today on your first day as the President of Planned Parenthood.
WEN: Happy to join you. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So with that, we turn now to America’s doctors. Some of them joining the gun debate in droves. After yet another intervention by the
National Rifle Association in the wake of the latest spate of mass shootings in the United States, one doctor who has gone public is forensic
pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek and she’s joining me now from San Francisco. Welcome to the program, Dr. Melinek.
JUDY MELINEK, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Thank you for inviting me.
AMANPOUR: So forensic pathologists, in other words, you do a lot of autopsies. What do you — what — yes. I mean what was your thinking when
all of a sudden in the last two weeks there were two mass shootings, two more?
MELINEK: It isn’t really just the mass shootings. For us working in the trenches in America’s hospitals and morgues, we’re seeing the day to day
carnage that occurs as a result of gun violence. So when the NRA tweeted out that doctors should stay in their lane, I was just incensed.
We are the ones who have to counsel the grieving families. We are the ones who testify in court to the damage that bullets do to the victims’ bodies.
And it is completely inappropriate for the NRA to tell doctors to be quiet about gun violence.
AMANPOUR: So let me read you these tweets in question because they are quite extraordinary. So the first one that you refer to is from the NRA.
“Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun
control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted no one but themselves.”
Before I ask you and read to you your response tweet, I want to first ask you about this. Self-important anti-gun doctors. I know he said stay in
your lane but first and foremost, how do you respond to that, self- important anti-gun?
MELINEK: Well, first of all, it shows a complete ignorance of what physicians do in this country when it comes to gun violence. We are there
to patch up the victims. We are there to hold the hands of those who are suffering when they have lost a loved one. And the tweet storm that
erupted as a result of this is a testament to that.
More importantly, it shows that they don’t really understand who the experts are on gun violence in the United States. It’s the doctors. We’re
the ones who are actually qualified in court to testify to the injuries to the bodies. And most importantly, we have a role to play in recognizing
that we can do research. We can do investigations to find out what the root cause is for all this violence.
Your previous guest Dr. Wen talked about the fact that this is a public health problem. And just like doctors and scientists in the United States
spoke out against the auto industry when they refuse to put in seatbelts, doctors can also speak out against the NRA. Many of my colleagues, many of
my fellow forensic pathologists are responsible gun owners. What we want to see is less death —
AMANPOUR: Well —
MELINEK: — and that can be studied.
AMANPOUR: I mean they have an issue with the study as you saw because they think it’s stacked against them which is fascinating. But you also
responded. You said, “Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane, it’s my effing highway.” I mean
you were incensed. And I can kind of understand it.
MELINEK: I was angry.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean I understand it. Just give a description of what happens when you’re, you know, performing an autopsy or as you say in the
trenches in gun wounding situations?
[13:35:00] MELINEK: I’ve performed over 300 autopsies today on gunshot victims. Those include both homicides and suicides. That’s the other
thing that people don’t recognize is that suicides have to be discussed as part of the debate. Specifically, legislation like extreme risk protection
orders can be used to take guns away from people who are actively speaking about harming themselves or others. There are ways of intervening without
interfering with the legal rights of responsible, mentally competent gun owners.
AMANPOUR: And that is what they apparently refuse to accept that there are ways of having gun reform controlled or whatever you want to call it and
people’s legal rights to consistently be respected. But I want to ask you though, what do you see when it comes to AR15 assault rifle wounds, you
know, compared to pistols and the kind of guns that may have been used in the past?
And let me just put this figure out. Children are being more and more affected. Between ’06 and 2014, gunshot wounds put 8,300 children in the
hospital every year, 40 percent of them were shot unintentionally, 6 percent die in hospitals. And let’s just point out while we’re at it that
in 2018, 49,500 gun-related incidents, more than 300 mass shootings, more than 12,500 gun related deaths. So those are the facts. What are the
effects of the AR15s?
MELINEK: The effect is when you’re dealing with a high powered rifle, there is more velocity going through the body. And the velocity is parting
what we call kinetic energy to the organs so they’re much more damaged. Surgeons have a much more difficult time saving patients who are shot with
high-velocity rifle as opposed to handguns.
Now that said, even a small handgun can kill somebody if it hits the right spot if it goes through the brain. So really the issue that we need to
address is not just that of what types of weapons, whether it is an AR15 or a handgun but it’s also the issue of access. Any time you have a lot of
guns around, day to day interactions, frustrations, anger can escalate quickly into a lethal situation.
Even my colleagues in law enforcement tell me that they are concerned because they know how many guns are out there on the street. And so even
though they are law-abiding gun owners themselves, many of them are members of the NRA, they are not happy about the situation with regards to easy
access to guns in this country.
AMANPOUR: So just to check that, you said many of your colleagues or at least a good number of your colleagues, doctors are members of the NRA,
responsible gun owners?
MELINEK: That is correct —
AMANPOUR: So why is the NRA treating them as enemies then?
MELINEK: I don’t know. I think that we would be better off working together. And I think that there is an opportunity for bipartisan
legislation. I implore our leadership to work together. I’m just in shock now in the current century that I can’t operate my iPhone without my
fingerprint unlocking it, has a GPS attached to it so I can find it anywhere in the city even if I lose it. And yet we’re still using ancient
technology when it comes to our guns.
We can change things. We can fund research into changing things. And I don’t see the NRA as necessarily being the enemy in this. They can benefit
too but we have to work together to solve this problem.
AMANPOUR: I wonder whether you think that’s even possible. You know, you’ve mentioned seatbelts. I mean there was a whole outpouring of
scientific and factual and medical evidence over seatbelts. The same over smoking. The same over other issues that did actually change. I mean can
you see how you all — you doctors could try to change this without getting everybody’s political nose out of joint?
MELINEK: I think we have tremendous power with regards to social media. I have to say that the fact that this tweet storm erupted is a sign that we
touched a nerve. And it made me realize as a physician and scientists that we have a tool here to spread the word with regards to public health.
Social media is a way to spread information about public health and to coalesce people.
If we look at how the students after the Parkland massacre came together and started pushing for legislation, I think that we doctors, can come
together and help them as well to put together commonsense gun laws so that we could stop this death.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Melinek, thank you so much indeed for joining us tonight.
Turning now from doctor to patient, specifically Americans with pre- existing conditions whose protections are now on the Affordable Care Act [13:40:00] chopping board as 20 states try to repeal them. And that would
drastically affect our next guest.
Journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was in college. His new book A mind unraveled recounts his battle against
the brain disorder from discrimination and medical incompetence to being sexually abused after a seizure. He told our Hari Sreenivasan that he’s
considering drastic remedies now.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR: Set this up for us. How did you find out that you had epilepsy?
KURT EICHENWALD, AUTHOR, A MIND UNRAVELED: That was in my first year of college. What’s interesting is I had symptoms as far back as I could
remember but I didn’t know what they were. I would have these staring spells where I would basically disconnect from everything that was
happening and come back and be dazed and have trouble understanding where I was or, you know, having, you know, been peeling at my shirt for some
reason which apparently is common but I didn’t understand what it was. I was in denial about it.
Then when I was in college, I had a night where I woke up on the ground next to my bed. I had been asleep. I hadn’t just fallen out of bed,
something had happened, and I could tell something had happened. I was not completely coherent. I was having trouble getting off the floor. I had
injured my hand.
And it’s hard to explain a post-seizure, what it feels like. It’s called Postictal. You know as a description, a seizure is like the brain catching
fire. Everything is going off at once. All the neurons are firing. And the body has — the brain has inhibitors, chemicals that, you know, put the
fire out but it also puts out everything. And so when your brain is full of inhibitors, it is very hard to reconnect. It is very hard to speak. It
is very hard to do a lot of things.
But after I woke up on the ground next to the bed, I called home and I said something’s wrong. And the next day, I called home and said something’s
wrong, I need to see a doctor. And then came my first meeting with a neurologist and I got diagnosed that day.
SREENIVASAN: Tell us how severe this was. You described passages where you’re having very very frequent seizures and your friends are left to pick
up the pieces.
EICHENWALD: My roommates in college, Karl Moore and Franz Pasha were amazing. When the seizures got worse and worse, I was having convulsions
four or five times a week. I was having what I call these drop attacks which are far worse. I mean people won’t necessarily understand this where
you’d drop like a ton of bricks without warning but you don’t lose consciousness. And so —
SREENIVASAN: So you’re walking down the street and you collapse?
EICHENWALD: Yes. This is instantaneous. All the muscles release and you drop. And the problem with that is you’re standing next to a piece of
glass, you’re walking down the stairs, you’re, you know, anything. Look around your life and think at any second I could hit anything. I hit a pot
of boiling water and burn this part of my arm and it was terrifying.
And when I got that sick, it was very very difficult for my roommates because it had escalated to the point where the doctors didn’t know what
they were doing. I hadn’t found the doctor who saved me yet and they were dealing with all of this and they were in their 20’s.
SREENIVASAN: You had several stories about doctors who [13:45:00] not only misdiagnosed you but misprescribed medications that really drove you almost
inches away from death if you had continued following their advice. How did you tolerate and deal with the trauma just from that idea that these
are the people, these are the experts, these are the people who are supposed to help you get better and yet for varying reasons they were doing
EICHENWALD: I knew particularly the first doctor was doing a terrible job. I mean my seizures were escalating. And it was when I met the doctor who
saved me, Dr. Alan Naarden where I learned how a neurologist is supposed to be. I kind of challenged him. I’ve been told twice, “We’ll stop the
seizures” and I knew that wasn’t right by then.
And so when he said, “Oh, we’ll do this and this”, I just snarkily said, “And then the seizures will stop, right?” And his response changed
everything. He said, “I don’t know.” And he said, “But we will keep working to get the best control you can get with the lowest side effects.”
SREENIVASAN: You wrote a recent article but you also wrote eloquently in the book about how you’re essentially a walking billboard for pre-existing
conditions, that your employers, your early employers, this was the crucial factor in whether and where you were going to work.
EICHENWALD: That’s the thing when people talk about the whole pre-existing condition issue, they seem to have no understanding of what it means. You
know, we have a system of private insurance. OK, whatever you think of that, that’s what we have. If you then turn around and say, “Well, if
you’re not perfectly healthy when you’re signing up for insurance, you don’t get private insurance.”
I’m a fortunate person. I grew up with a family, you know, my father was a doctor. We had means. I was college-educated. But if I had no insurance,
I would be bankrupt overnight.
SREENIVASAN: Are you concerned that these protections are going to get stripped away whether it’s on a state by state basis or nationally?
EICHENWALD: It’s impossible not to be terrified by that. The biggest reason to be terrified by that is, you know, there are people who are
relentlessly trying to tear down the ACA while simultaneously saying, “We’re committed to keeping people with pre-existing conditions covered.”
Well, what are their answers? The same things we were doing when I couldn’t get insurance.
You know, these things didn’t work and telling people like me next time they will. They won’t. If the attempt to tear down the pre-existing
conditions clauses goes through, my wife and I have decided for her to retire and for us not to have the risk. We’re going to have to leave the
United States. And we’re already looking at getting citizenship elsewhere because we have to.
SREENIVASAN: You’ve been a writer for a long time. You’ve tackled big, messy subjects. How was this experience different?
EICHENWALD: It’s a lot different to write about yourself than to write about, you know, other people’s experiences. I mean I revealed basically
my entire life. I mean when my agent heard about this, his first response was, “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Because people did not know.
SREENIVASAN: What were the fears of you stepping up and saying that?
EICHENWALD: Well, the fears when I was younger was not being able to have a job, not being able to stay in school. And I revealed it and eight weeks
later, I was thrown out of school. And when I had a job, within hours of them finding out I had epilepsy, and this was on my first day of work, I
lost my job. And so you get sort of drilled into you. Be afraid you don’t know how people will react.
SREENIVASAN: You also described kind of the worst case scenario where you wake up once and really it’s doctors at a hospital telling you that — and
bringing to light that you might have been raped.
EICHENWALD: That — obviously, that’s a little difficult to talk about. [13:50:00] I woke up and I was bleeding and the bleeding was bad. And I
went to the hospital, had been some time after a seizure. I didn’t remember anything. Well, I remembered — I can’t explain it, a McDonald’s
sign, a bridge, something blue that was metal, somebody putting me in a car. And I ended up at the hospital and that’s — that, you know, they
were inspecting what was causing the bleeding. And that’s when I was told that I had been raped.
SREENIVASAN: You talked publicly about the rape incident in the context of the Kavanaugh hearings recently. Why was this so difficult to report it
then? Right. What was the — what was stopping you at the time?
EICHENWALD: I could have reported it. I wanted it gone. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to deal with it. And so even though people
in the hospital were urging me to call the police, the emotional torment that was going on, I had to get away from it. I couldn’t face the fact
that I was that vulnerable, post-seizure. I knew it intellectually but emotionally, I didn’t want to deal with it.
So when I sat there seeing all these people who have never gone through this kind of experience, using this Sherlock Holmes analysis of how people
react to being sexually assaulted, there’s a reason why I understand. I’ve been through it. And most of these people, perhaps all of these people who
think it’s so simple, who think that “Oh, why didn’t she tell anybody right away?” have no idea what they’re talking about.
Is what Dr. Ford is reporting the truth? I don’t know. Based on my experience and based on how I saw her behave when she talked about it, do I
believe her? Absolutely. And those who don’t, those who make fun of her, those who have the simplistic ideas of what sexual assault victims go
through, I pray they never experience this kind of harm. But I know that if they do, they’ll be ashamed of themselves because then they will
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that I admire is your resiliency through all this. But what is it that kept you going? What has the disease taught
EICHENWALD: That we only have one life. That if we get ourselves wrapped up in the negative aspects of our life, that we’re just throwing time away.
Everything has to have a purpose. And if you’re always pursuing that purpose, whatever it may be, life is intensely rewarding. I didn’t want to
lose that and I could have lost that.
And there were times when I was not — I felt I was reaching the end that I couldn’t fight the fight anymore. And yes, I did contemplate suicide. I
had constant traumatic experiences. And in the end, it gave me strength. And that’s really the message of the book, that confronting trauma can give
you strength. You can only become a victim to the extent that you allow yourself.
SREENIVASAN: Kurt Eichenwald, thanks so much for joining us.
EICHENWALD: Thank you
Such important insight into the often desperate nature of health care and insurance.
And that’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching ‘Amanpour & Company’ on PBS and join us again tomorrow.