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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
Within hours of Saudi Arabia admitting that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in its consulate, that cover story falls apart. What does this crisis mean
for the kingdom and for American national security? I speak with Robert Gates who served as CIA director and Secretary of Defense under three
Also, a Hollywood power couple fights climate change one meal at a time. James and Suzy Cameron say that if we want to save our planet, first we
must change our diet.
And comedian Phoebe Robinson confronts toxic masculinity and White feminism in her new book “Everything’s Trash but It’s Okay.”
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Saudi Arabia has admitted that the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a huge and grave mistake, but the kingdom’s account of his
death, claiming that he died in a fistfight during a “rogue operation” in their consulate in Turkey, has done little to blunt the international
uproar and skepticism.
New details of Khashoggi’s death highlight inconsistencies in the Saudi story like this still image from security footage. It shows a Saudi
operative trying to pass as Khashoggi apparently wearing Khashoggi’s clothes. He was leaving the consulate by the back door the very day that
Khashoggi was killed.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is promising to reveal the incident in all its naked truth.
So, what should the world do? What should the West do? The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced that her government wouldn’t approve
new arms sales to the kingdom until further notice. And the former British Foreign Secretary says the U.S. and the U.K. must stop supporting the Saudi
war in Yemen. All while President Trump wavers between accepting the king of Saudi Arabia’s latest explanation to saying it wasn’t sufficient.
So, when and if the dust settles in both Riyadh and Washington, what will this mean for Saudi Arabia’s place in the region and for America’s national
Robert Gates was CIA director under the George H.W. Bush administration, and he was secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and
President Barack Obama.
Robert Gates, welcome to the program.
ROBERT GATES, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, I could have gone on and on. You have a massive portfolio and massive experience in intelligence in — as being secretary
of defense, and all other roles. So, what do you make of Saudi Arabia’s explanation in public for what happened to Jamal Khashoggi?
GATES: Well, I find the story that they’ve told to not be credible. Just looking at the photographs of Mr. Khashoggi, he doesn’t appear to be the
kind of person who would engage in a fistfight much less with 15 people. So, I don’t think that anyone finds the story credible. I think that holds
true of the president himself.
But I think the challenge that we face, and maybe I’m getting ahead of ourselves here, But I think the challenge is how do we thread the needle in
terms of protecting our interests in the Middle East and at the same time, standing up for the values that we have as a country.
And I think that the administration could do worse than to go back and study carefully what the first President Bush did after the massacre at
Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. He was the first head of state to impose sanctions on the Chinese government to show how much we disapproved
of what they had done.
But at the same time, sent emissaries to the government, then Deputy Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger and National Security Adviser Brent
Scowcroft to talk to the leadership in Beijing, tell them why we were doing what we were doing, why we had to do what we were doing, but that we wanted
to keep the strategic relationship still on track.
AMANPOUR: But is that really threading the needle or is that trying to have your cake and eat it too? I mean, in order words, how much punishment
or opprobrium or sanctions did Beijing get? Just words?
GATES: No, they were actual sanctions that were — but I mean, it wasn’t just disapproval or a tisk-tisk, it was actual sanctions that were imposed.
AMANPOUR: That was a massive, game-changing massacre there in Tiananmen Square and the aftereffects have lasted practically until this day in one
form or another. And of course, China was an opponent of an adversary or competitor even more so then than today.
Saudi Arabia is meant to be an ally. The first and foremost question, I suppose, is, you know, Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist. He wasn’t an
operative mounting demonstrations or weapons or anything against the Saudi government. He was employed as a columnist by an American newspaper. He
was a resident, thanks to the immigration service of the United States. He was able to live in the United States. There’s a lot tying Jamal Khashoggi
to the United States.
So, what should President Trump do in terms of defending that human rights case, that, you know, habeas corpus case, that sort of moral case right
there? Before we get to the strategic interests.
GATES: Well, my view is that there does need to be some action taken.
AMANPOUR: Like what?
GATES: Well, I’m not sure. The menu is long. You know, you’ve mentioned the Germans were cutting off arms sales, the president has already said
he’s not going to do that. The British foreign secretary is saying they would take other action. They —
AMANPOUR: Stop the war — to stop backing the war in Yemen.
GATES: Stop backing the war in Yemen, maybe that’s one option for us. There may be some others. But I think we need to find a way to manifest
our disapproval of what was, in my view, a huge blunder.
AMANPOUR: Do you think it’s a blunder or an orchestrated hit?
GATES: It was an orchestrated hit, but ordering it was a blunder.
AMANPOUR: Got it.
GATES: And at the same time, preserve the long-term relationship that we have with Saudi Arabia.
AMANPOUR: Can I just play for you some of the latest that’s come from President Trump and also from the Saudi foreign minister. So, you know,
President Trump, as you alluded to, obviously, there’s been deception and there’s been lies. Their story is all over the place. But he said Prince
Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, is a strong person and he has very good control.
OK. First and foremost, a strong person and very good control? Do you believe that?
GATES: Well, I think he is — I think he clearly is in control in Saudi Arabia. I think the various actions that he’s taken from the very
beginning demonstrate that he’s quickly consolidated his power.
AMANPOUR: And then, the Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, who was a former ambassador to the United States was on Fox News, and this is what he said.
He’s the only major Saudi official who has come out in the 17 or 18 days since this crisis has been gone on and he spoke about the strategic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: The U.S.-Saudi relationship is a historically strategic one, we have great interests that we share together
and we have a great trade relationship. We have security issues that are strictly important to both of us. We work very closely on combatting
terrorism and extremism, on containing Iran’s aggressive policies in the region, on trying to bring peace to the (INAUDIBLE) and trying to bring
peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The relationship is a hugely important strategic relationship for both countries. I believe that when the investigation is over and the facts are
revealed and people know who is responsible and see those individuals being punished and see procedures put in place to prevent this from happening,
that the relationship will weather this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The relationship will weather this. Do you believe that’s true?
GATES: I think that — I think this will have lasting impact not only here in Europe or in Europe but in the United States as well. You have got a
pretty strong bipartisan consensus on the hill and the Congress that some strong actions need to be taken to demonstrate our approval from
conservative Republicans to very liberal Democrats.
So, I think that one of the things that has to be a consideration for the president is how can he keep control of the process without the Congress
running away with it, and probably taking steps that are actually not in our national interest that go too far.
Only the president can try and determine what are the kinds of actions that show our disapproval and what a terrible thing we think this is that’s
happened to a human being as well as to a journalist and someone who is a resident of the United States. But at the same time, recognize all of
those interests the Saudi foreign minister was talking about.
AMANPOUR: So, the interests are sort of manifest. I mean, obviously, the oil selling to the West, to the United States, the sharing of intelligence
that — by all accounts has been fairy — you would know more than I do. How good was there sharing of intelligence, how effective, how much mayhem
and death did it actually stop?
GATES: Well, I think particularly subsequent to 9/11, the intelligence sharing has actually been quite good.
AMANPOUR: And which — it would have had to have been given 15 of the hijackers were Saudi.
GATES: And particularly after the attempted attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, really for the first time they began to take the terrorism
AMANPOUR: And that was 2004, around 2003.
GATES: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: That’s when it really sorts of shifted up again. So, you know, some have complained that President Trump seems to be and has been sort of,
verbally anyway, kind of acting like Saudi Arabia’s lawyer over this, you know, much more trying to figure out a good story for them, somehow to, as
you say, thread the needle or come out of this relationship without it being ruined, but acting much more in deference to them than in deference
to America’s leadership role in this case.
So, Jared Kushner’s name comes up a lot. And he actually spoke at a CNN forum today. I just — I want to play this because it has a lot to do with
the way this administration is actually dealing with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have to be able to work with our allies and Saudi Arabia has been, I think, a very strong ally
in terms of pushing back against Iran’s aggression, which is funding a lot of terror in the region, whether it’s the Houthis in Yemen or it’s
Hezbollah or Hamas. We have a lot of terrorism in the region. The Middle East is a rough place. It’s been a rough place for a very long time and we
have to be able to pursue our strategic objectives but we also have to deal with, obviously, what seems to be a terrible situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Do you agree with that, particularly the focus on Iran? Clearly, Iran has all sorts of activities that are anathema to the United
States and in Western Europe. Is there a cost benefit analysis or any kind of way to compare whether it’s, you know, what Jared Kushner is correct,
that we have to almost forgive or look a aside to just about anything Saudi Arabia does because the threat from Iran is so massive and that we can only
do it by allowing the Saudis free rein, whether it’s in Yemen, whether it’s, you know, in a consulate in Turkey or wherever?
GATES: I think you always have to be evaluating your interests and who is playing what role. I think as loathsome as this killing is, it does not
pose a threat to American interests in the way that Iran does throughout the region.
AMANPOUR: So, you agree with Kushner and Adel al-Jubeir?
GATES: I won’t go that far. But I will say, we have very real interests we need to protect. And I go back to my earlier comments. How do you show
that this is unacceptable behavior, that there are consequences that are real, and yet at the same time, preserve our relationship in terms of
dealing, not just with the Iran threat but, frankly, instability throughout the Middle East?
I mean, we have — there are multiple conflicts going on in the Middle East right now, from Syria to Yemen, the problems with Iran. It’s not just the
Saudi-Iranian relationship or our relationship with Iran, there’s a lot of instability in the region, and we have had a good relationship with the
Saudis in trying to work at these problems. And there’s been a mutual interest in this.
I think you just can’t throw that out the window, but I come back to the point you still have to do things that make it clear this kind of behavior
AMANPOUR: And I guess the really sensitive question is, how much faith do you have in the crown prince as a credible leader going forward? As you
said, he’s obviously got control, but control can have positive and negative meanings as we’ve seen. Nobody believes that this hit, as you’ve
acknowledged was, would have ever happened without the highest levels of approval in Saudi Arabia. So, does that question dove tails with, so, what
you do to make them understand this is not acceptable?
GATES: Well, first of all, I think they’re beginning to appreciate that this has had an impact far beyond what they intended. And, I mean, I think
that the crown prince has suffered damage in this. It’s hard for me to imagine him being welcome in the government offices here in Europe. I
think it would be difficult and awkward for him even in the United States at this point.
So, I think this is a question that the Saudis have to consider. What’s in their long-term interests? And that’s an internal matter for them.
AMANPOUR: You know, it’s interesting because, obviously, when President Putin was accused, again, no nerve agent like Novichok could have been used
here on foreign soil in Britain without the highest levels of authority, and now they’ve traced back British intelligence have found who those
people were and they’re high level, at least one of them, a colonel, a decorated colonel in the GRU.
And there was a massive banding together, Britain had its allies together, the United States, you know, everybody, Australia expelled Russian
diplomats and added other sanctions and other kinds of things. None of this is being floated in this regard.
And it’s interesting because, again, this British foreign secretary who I mentioned, Jack Straw, said that, you know, for 40 years the West thought
the Shah of Iran was, you know, the bulwark and nobody ever said boo to him for his successes. And then, one day, you know, he was allowed to do so
much that there was a revolution. Nobody is suggesting there’s going to be a revolution in Saudi Arabia. But don’t you think good friends and allies
actually do need to stand up and rein in whether the Shah of Iran or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or whoever it may be?
GATES: Well, the essence of a friendship is a willingness to tell others what they don’t want to hear and to be brutally honest about the impact of
what’s happened. So, I mean, part of my message were I talking to the Saudi government would be do you realize the magnitude of the damage that’s
been done to Saudi Arabia by this act, both in the United States but also in developed countries and democracies all around the world? And you all
need to face the fact that this is not going away.
To quote the foreign minister, the relationship, I think, will probably weather it, but it will be different and the attitudes in Congress will be
different and the debates over sales of arms to Saudi Arabia will be different. And people have to realize, individual members of Congress and
of the appropriate committees can delay arms sales and things like that. So, I think there are consequences to this relationship that have already
happened and there may be more to follow.
AMANPOUR: Just a technical question before I move on to the INF Treaty, which have got thrown up into the air today. President Trump says it’s
$110 billion worth of sales and jobs for American people and that if it wasn’t the Americans selling to Saudi Arabia they would go to China and
Russia. But is that really true? Don’t they have their military compatibility with the United States, a little bit with Germany and the
U.K. but really with the United States? I mean, they can’t suddenly ditch all their U.S. systems and go take Russian and Chinese ones, can they?
GATES: Actually, they can.
AMANPOUR: Oh, okay.
GATES: In 2011, on my final visit to Saudi Arabia, I met with King Abdullah, and we sealed the deal to sell them $85 billion worth of F-15s.
But he told me in that meeting that a number of his most senior advisers and members of the royal family were urging him to buy those weapons, those
planes, from France or Russia instead.
AMANPOUR: But would it have worked? They may have been urging them to, they might have bought them.
GATES: Oh, sure.
AMANPOUR: It would have been fine. Okay. Well, that clears that up then.
GATES: I mean, it would be expensive but sure.
GATES: I mean, just like Turkey, is buying an air defense system. They’ve always bought their weapons in the West. But now, they’re buying an air
defense system from Russia. So —
AMANPOUR: And how do you assess Turkey’s role in this crisis? They’ve been leaking like a sieve, they’re tried to get the story out by —
GATES: I think there’s no love lost between Erdogan and —
AMANPOUR: But what do you think Turkey’s strategy aim is?
GATES: Well, I think they’re trying to make things — I mean, first of all, beginning with the facts, Saudi Arabia made a huge mistake and they
made it on Turkish soil. Erdogan is going to try to make it as painful for them as possible.
AMANPOUR: Do you see a ruptured relation there or no? They’re going to —
GATES: No, I don’t.
AMANPOUR: They’re going to thread the needle as well?
GATES: Probably more on creating problems.
AMANPOUR: Now the INF Treaty, the intermediate nuclear forces, right. President Trump wants to pull out of that. It’s being negotiated with
Russia I think under the Reagan administration with President Gorbachev, who today called President Trump irresponsible and said this was an
unnecessary move. Let us play what President Trump says about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President
Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement but Russia has not unfortunately
under the agreement. So, we’re going to terminate the agreement, we’re going to pull out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Have they been cheating and how disruptive is it to pull out or is that something you would agree with?
GATES: So, Christiane, when I first met Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Defense Minister, in February of 2007. In our private meeting,
he said that Russia wanted to end the INF agreement. He said we’re the only two nations in the world that can’t build these missiles now, these
medium range missiles. He said we have no intention of deploying them in the West, but we want to deploy them to the South against Iran and Pakistan
and in the East against China. I said no way. The United States will not leave the INF Treaty.
So, the Russians have been wanting to go get out of this thing for a long time. And they — just as they walked away from — unilaterally from the
conventional forces in Europe agreement. If they have cheated, as the administration says, and I have no reason to question, it’s a black and
white kind of thing, either they’ve cheated or they haven’t, and I suspect they have, then it seems to me that the U.S. has every right to say, “OK,
if you’re not going to abide by it, then why should we remain constrained by it?
So, under those circumstances I don’t see an issue. We — you know, both sides have pulled out of various agreements. We pulled out — unilaterally
pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty early in the second Bush administration and so on.
So, I think if they have cheated and have no intention of carrying out their responsibilities, I don’t see why we should stay in it.
AMANPOUR: So, after this conversation admittedly only a couple of issues, are you confident that America’s place in the world, its foreign policy,
its geostrategic leadership role is in safe hands and foreign policy is in the direction you’d like to see it?
GATES: One of the biggest concerns that I have, Christiane, is I worry about the lack of appreciation in Washington right now of the one unique
advantage the United States has in the world compared to both Russia and China, and that is our alliances.
This has been a source of great strength for the United States for many decades now, and if we want to accomplish anything in the world, but
especially if we want to protect our interests, nurturing those alliances and we will have our differences. I — No one was more critical of the
Europeans for not spending enough on defense than I was. But we need to make sure everybody understands that those alliances are important to the
United States, including our allies.
AMANPOUR: Important note to end on. Secretary Gates, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
GATES: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, moving now to the issue of climate change and many in the U.S. administration have clearly seen the dangers of climate change and the
threat that it poses often to national security.
In fact, a dire report from the United Nations says that global warming is transforming the world economy at an unprecedented scale. Now, the
Hollywood director, James Cameron, and his wife, the actress and author, Suzy Cameron, are on a mission to restore balance to our climate one meal
at a time.
Cameron, of course, is the creative force behind iconic films like “Titanic” and “Avatar.” Together, the couple is promoting a simple
message. As commercial livestock pump greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere at an alarming rate, we can all make a major difference to the
environment just by watching what’s on our plate.
I spoke with the Camerons about Suzy’s new book, it’s called “OMD,” or one meal a day. The simple plant-based program to save your health, save your
waistline and, yes, save the planet. They told me how our small personal choices can have a big global impact. Suzy and James Cameron, welcome to
JAMES CAMERON, FILM MAKER: Thank you for having us on.
SUZY CAMERON, AUTHOR, “OMD: CHANGE THE WORLD BY CHANGING ONE MEAL A DAY”: Thank you. It’s really an honor.
AMANPOUR: Well, look, it’s — to talk about something quite important if you take the latest U.N. climate and environmental report, to read a couple
stats, we only have until 2030 to essentially save the planet. I mean, that was, to me, a very striking, very alarming way to put it. The U.N.
hadn’t been so stark. What about it grabbed you both?
J. CAMERON: Well, I think the recent IPCC report just was part of a continuing trend. Every time they issue a new report it’s worse than the
last one. So, the handwritings on the wall, I think that, you know, the daunting thing as the average person kind of shuts down, they into denial.
I think, well, what can I do about it as an individual?
And so, you know, Suzy and I have been concerned about this problem for years now and we’re looking for ways to empower people to make a
AMANPOUR: You’ve started to make a real difference in your own lives, right and, Suzy, you’ve written a book about it.
S. CAMERON: Yes. Exactly. I wrote a book called “OMD.” And we had been plant-based for about a year and a half and realized very quickly that the
school that I founded with my sister, Rebecca Amos, is an environmental school. And we realized we couldn’t call ourselves an environmental school
and still be serving animal products.
So, we brought in doctors, we brought in climate scientists, authors and athletes to help educate our community, our children and our families and
that sort of thing. And we had — it was mutiny. It was full on mutiny. We had an enormous amount of pushback.
And one day our head of school got very frustrated and said, “People, you can give them eggs and bacon in the morning and you can give them a burger
at night. It’s one meal a day. It’s OMD”. And I think from that moment on OMD stuck. So, I took that and started doing a lot of research with the
doctors in the field and climate scientists and wrote all of the environmental benefits of eating plant-based as well as health benefits.
J. CAMERON: Yes.
S. CAMERON: And then the book is a guide. It’s a guide that takes you through. I hold your hand. So, it takes you through having one meal a
day, one plant-based meal a day, or two or blowing up your kitchen and going all in.
And the thing that stuck more than anything is that one person having one plant-based meal a day for one year saves 200,000 gallons of water and the
carbon equivalent of driving from Los Angeles to New York.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I’m fascinated by that because you say and some of the scientists say that actually changing your diet is even more effective than
changing the kind of car you drive. And also, this report —
J. CAMERON: Yes.
AMANPOUR: — basically saying that livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse emissions and it suggested people —
J. CAMERON: Yes.
AMANPOUR: — consume, as you say, 30 percent less, in other words, a third less, one meal a day.
S. CAMERON: That’s correct.
J. CAMERON: Absolutely. So, 14.5 percent, to put that in perspective, makes it the second largest sector for greenhouse gas emissions next to
electrical generation. And it puts it in front of all of transportation combined. So, all ships, all planes, all automobiles and everything.
So, while it’s wonderful to buy an electric car and so on, you’re only attacking a smaller part of the problem. But changing our diet, our
nutrition is something we can do instantaneously if we choose to do it. And so, it’s the quickest way that we have for grabbing the thermostat of
the planet and turning it down. All it takes the will, the desire to do it. And that’s where I think a book like Suzy’s comes in very handy.
AMANPOUR: And just remind everybody what it is about meat and the raising of meat to be eaten that causes environmental damage.
S. CAMERON: Oh, gosh, all the way around the world. So, if you have biodiversity loss, deforestation, ocean suffocation, dead zones, climate
change, glaciers melting.
J. CAMERON: Yes.
S. CAMERON: You can connect the dots from all of those environmental issues back to animal agriculture.
J. CAMERON: Yes. It sounds crazy but it’s true. It’s the single — like they’re cutting down rain forests in Brazil to make crop land to grow feed
for animals, for livestock, and it’s ridiculously inefficient compared to just humans just eating the plants directly. It’s like cutting out the
middleman in a business deal.
AMANPOUR: Now, you did mention glaciers, which brings me to the greatest glacier of all time which is the one that the “Titanic” plowed into.
J. CAMERON: OK. That’s a little bit after thin transition.
AMANPOUR: But it’s good, right? I mean, it’s good.
J. CAMERON: It’s very good.
AMANPOUR: I could be a scriptwriter. No, just kidding.
J. CAMERON: Yes.
AMANPOUR: But seriously, you met on that film and many of your films, James, are — do have the environment somewhat or very much tied into their
narrative, whether it’s the “Titanic” or “Avatar.”
J. CAMERON: Yes.
AMANPOUR: But first of all, tell me how you met and a little bit of what brought you to the environmental part of your relationship?
J. CAMERON: Well, I cast the “Titanic.” I didn’t realize at the time that I was casting her in my life as well. But we shot together only for a
couple of weeks because it was really just the present day wrap around scenes at the beginning and the end of the film. We shot together for two
weeks and we got a long quite well and then we just started seeing each other afterwards, I’d like to say, strictly professional, while we were
S. CAMERON: We like — we like to call the Titanic the love boat.
J. CAMERON: Yes, the love boat.
AMANPOUR: Well, that and your other film, “Avatar,” among many, but those two are the highest grossing of all time. They remain the highest grossing
of all time.
I’m going to see if I can just try to stretch a little bit of the connection between film and the environment.
One of the issues, James and Suzy, is that the positive narrative seems not to get as much — as much airing as it should do. And the skeptics tend to
have an equal voice in this — in this debate on climate. And I’m wondering whether, as an actress, as a director, you guys have a thought as to how to
change the narrative. You know, I know you both saw a documentary together about it. But what more can be done to infuse ordinary people with optimism
and empowerment on how to change the narrative over saving the environment.
S. CAMERON: Well, I think one of the things comes back to OMD more than anything because I know certainly for myself, and probably for you to,
that, you know, you watch these documentaries on the environment, you read the stories, and it’s devastating. And it’s actually paralyzing. And you
think, what can I do as an individual to really make a difference. And, you know, some people can’t afford solar or an electric car or things like
So the fact that everybody eats every single day, it’s as simple, elegant solution. It’s nonjudgmental. You can just dip your toe in it. And what
you’re putting on your plate actually makes a huge difference towards not only climate change, but your health as well.
J. CAMERON: Yes, just the health of the planet. I mean the — the quickest and easiest way for an individual to be — to feel empowered and to make a
difference and to be able to look at their face in the mirror in the morning and think, I’m making a difference, I’m doing something positive,
not just for myself, my own health and my family’s health, but for the health of the planet, is to change how we eat.
AMANPOUR: So I want to play a little clip from “Avatar” because, you know, even if you didn’t really understand the planets and the climate, I mean it
was such a beautiful, beautiful depiction of what’s at stake. And, of course, often our culture has stories of doom and gloom and the hard news
around climate is a lot of doom and gloom. So I wonder, when you were making this film, whether you thought about the impact of the beauty. I’m
just going to play it and then you can answer me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) on you hunter (ph). You must choose your own eclan (ph) and he must choose you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you are ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So it was obviously really very beautiful and it had climate as its — as its central theme, right?
J. CAMERON: Well, I think — I think our — we can’t protect that which we don’t — we don’t respect and love. And I think that all people are born
with a certain connection to nature. And then as we live in a more urban environment and the world is going much more urban, we tend to lose it. And
I think “Avatar” was a reconnection to that kind of child-like state of seeing the beauty in nature and feeling a personal connection to it.
And we quite consciously made the film beautiful. Movies tend not to be beautiful. They tend to be spectacular often, but not — but there’s not an
emphasis placed on beauty, just immersive. I want to be there in that world beauty. And I thought this is the way to get people to care about the
natural world, not by beating them over the head with — with some kind of message and some sense of, you know, blaming or, you know, call to action.
I think the best call to action is when you — when you believe in something and you want to make a difference.
AMANPOUR: And do you use technology as not just a visual and a movie thing, but also as something to help with the environment? I mean what kind of
environmental rules and regs do you have on your — on your shoots, for instance?
J. CAMERON: Well, thanks for — thanks for asking that. We put in a 1 megawatt solar power system on the roofs of the soundstages to offset all
the power consumption of our computers and so on that we use for the computer animation. So we’re definitely net carbon negative in our — from
an energy perspective. But I also took inspiration from Suzy’s One Meal a Day program and I convinced our crew, which is about 200 people, to eat
plant-based during the day while they’re at — while they’re — while they’re on the production. So we serve only plant-based meals on the
production. Our caterer, our restaurant there, serves only plant-based meals. And everybody’s — I don’t know if everybody’s loving at every meal.
Some people go off campus to eat at a restaurant if they want to. They have that choice. But people have accepted it. They’ve accepted the wisdom of
it. And they like the idea that we’re the greenest set — probably the greatest set in history. We make all our own power and we eat nothing
AMANPOUR: That’s really interesting.
Suzy, you both cautiously say plant-based, and that is kind of the new term for what used to be called vegan, right? Was vegan a little bit alienating?
S. CAMERON: You know, it’s starting to make a shift, certainly. But, initially, it was really a word that really revolved around becoming plant-
based for ethical reasons.
J. CAMERON: Animal cruelty.
S. CAMERON: Animal cruelty.
J. CAMERON: Yes.
S. CAMERON: And — and there are a lot of rules and regulations around that.
Now I’ve seen it, just over the last three years, they’re using it a lot, the word vegan on a lot of — for marketing.
J. CAMERON: Yes.
S. CAMERON: Vegan and plant-based. So people are starting to realize that that actually sells products.
J. CAMERON: There are a lot of people leaning forward that are curious about it or want to make a change for their own health or maybe for
environmental reasons. They don’t quite know where to start or they feel like it’s — it’s too much. Oh, I couldn’t do that. I could never do that.
And then they find out how easy it is and how good the food can be and it makes a difference.
S. CAMERON: And dipping — yes, and dipping their toe in just doing one meal a day and typically they feel so great they end up doing two. So it’s
an easy way into that world.
J. CAMERON: Right.
AMANPOUR: So, that’s good. That’s encouraging. Now, I want to ask you, what is it with you, James Cameron, and strong women. You have married a couple
of strong women. There’s one sitting right there by you. There’s the director, Kathryn Bigelow, who was once you wife, and your characters,
whether it’s “Aliens,” whether it’s “Terminator,” I mean, these are very strong — let’s just play this “Aliens” clip and we’ll talk about strong
women on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (screaming).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get away from her you bitch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean — I mean, you know, that says it all.
J. CAMERON: Yes.
AMANPOUR: So —
J. CAMERON: Well, that was two strong women there, (INAUDIBLE) and Sigourney Weaver, equally matched opponents.
You know, people are saying that women really are going to change the world. Is that what you’re trying to say?
J. CAMERON: I put my — I put my faith in women to change the world, I think. I think men approach the world a certain way that tends to be
dominative and aggressive. It’s just how men have been wired since the dawn of time and it’s expressed throughout our entire kind of western colonial
culture that we expand through the world and we dominate nature. And we’re going to have to change that world view. And I think we need a more female,
you know, kind of goddess-based perspective that, you know, we have to nurture life, we have to care for it.
I think that the great conflict in the future is going to be between the takers and the caretakers. So the taker is the male energy and the
caretakers is the female energy. So I’ve always respect that and I’ve celebrated women in the films that I’ve made and I’m lucky enough to be
married to a very strong, powerful caretaker warrior.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Suzy, because you wrote the book. There’s a new report from the Climate Accountability Institute that says only 100
companies have produced more than 70 percent of the world’s carbon emissions since 1988. So basically, you know, we can do all we can, you
know, to change our diets and things but we could also just boycott these companies, right, and force them to change.
S. CAMERON: We can. Absolutely. I mean, you know, being able to do that, but also we really can’t meet our Paris Accord numbers without addressing
animal agriculture. I think that’s one of the biggest messages.
J. CAMERON: Yes, that’s a critical piece of it. But I agree, that we can — we can vote with our wallets, we can boycott the companies that are the
biggest carbon polluters. But we’re all carbon polluters if we — if we’re eating animal products. I don’t mean to bang on about this. But — but our
biggest ability to change things is by simply what we buy and what we put on the end of our forks.
S. CAMERON: Right.
AMANPOUR: Well, actually, even the Terminator, your own Arnold Schwarzenegger said at Paris that one of the greatest producers of methane
are national emissions, shall we say, by cows.
J. CAMERON: Right. Yes.
S. CAMERON: Yes.
J. CAMERON: They — they — it’s mostly belches, by the way. I just want to — just want to —
AMANPOUR: Oh, belches. OK. OK.
J. CAMERON: Yes, no, no, I — everybody likes to make fun of cow farts, but it’s mostly belches because they — they have this five-part stomach called
the rumen and — and it’s basically it emits methane all day long, all day long. And methane is a forcing gas that is somewhere like 20 to 30 times as
powerful as CO2. So we’ve really got to wrangle methane as much as we have to wrangle CO2.
AMANPOUR: Well, thank you both very much for bringing this out into, you know, even more of a public debate.
James Cameron, Suzy Cameron, thanks very much.
S. CAMERON: Thanks so much.
J. CAMERON: Thank you, Christiane.
S. CAMERON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Who knew about those cows five-part stomachs?
Anyway, we turn now to another artist who’s making a significant splash. The comedian and author Phoebe Robinson. Her new book, “Everything’s Trash
but It’s Okay,” tackles the fallout of the 2016 election, sexual harassment in comedy and being a black woman in today’s America. She’s best known as
one half of HBO’s standup show “2 Dope Queens” and for her podcast “So Many White Guys.” She’s on a mission to change the comedy demography, as she
told our Alicia Menendez when they met in New York.
ALICIA MENENDEZ: Phoebe, your first book was a “New York Times” bestseller, “You Can’t Touch My Hair.” And now you have your new
book, “Everything’s Trash But It’s Okay.” Tell me about this book. Why now?
PHOEBE ROBINSON, AUTHOR, “EVERYTHING’S TRASH BUT IT’S OKAY”: Yes, I think – – I was always planning on writing another book, but I think after the 2016 election, I know like myself and a lot of my friends were just kind of
feeling like, oh, well, that’s not how we thought the movie was going to end, you know? And I felt defeated and kind of like bummed out.
But then I really was like inspired by on social media and also in real like how people were doing rallies and donations are getting so involved
with like politics in a way that like I hadn’t seen. Like people now are talking about midterm elections, especially like on college campuses. And I
went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and, you know, New York is very like involved in politics and we never talked about midterm elections.
So I sort of was feeling down, but then I was like, there’s so much good that’s also happening right now. So that’s how the title came about. Like,
everything is kind of terrible, it feels like, but we’re going to be OK, I think, I hope.
MENENDEZ: There’s a section of your book that speaks to it that I would love for you to read for me.
ROBINSON: Thank you. OK. Ah, ah, ah, ah. Just kidding.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so rocked by the election results. I mean once homeboy launched his improbable campaign, which got more successful by the
week in spite of his around-the-clock blunders, shouldn’t I have seen it for what it was, an upgraded version of a bigoted bat signal. The original
one was a spotlight shining in the sky and projecting an image of the KKK’s David Duke. That was a call to action for people of Trump’s ilk, the
racists, the sexists, the homophobes, the transphobes, et cetera. Therefore I couldn’t help but wonder, isn’t the fact that I’ve never fully believe
Trump could be number 45 a sign that my stubbornness and naivete preventing me from seeing America for what it truly is.
Oh, who wrote this? I did.
MENENDEZ: So my question as I read that section of the book —
MENENDEZ: Was, so then what is America truly?
ROBINSON: I think America has a very complicated history and past and I think we tend to sort of like kind of brush a lot of the inequalities,
whether it’s racial, class, or gender under the rug and be like, we’re so great and rah, rah, rah, rah, and like do the Fourth of July and all the
like holiday stuff. But I’m like, there’s a lot of ugliness in our past I think we need to address because that’s kind of why things are the way they
are currently. So I think America is a great idea that we haven’t quite figured out yet how to execute in a way that I think will be representative
for everyone that lives here.
MENENDEZ: Did writing this book help you reconcile your ambivalence around (INAUDIBLE)?
ROBINSON: That’s a great question. Here’s what I will say. When the women’s march was happening, I think a lot of us were feeling the rah, rah of it
all and like, yes, women are rallying together and you’re very excited about that. And, you know, Lana Glazer (ph) and I did a show there and
raised money. Like, it was a really great, exciting moment.
MENENDEZ: And there was ambivalence on the part of black women.
ROBINSON: Yes. Yes.
MENENDEZ: It was — even thought that there was supposed to be diversity and leadership that fundamentally there would be white turnout.
ROBINSON: Right. And, you know, the lack of representation for queer women, especially like not treating trans women as women. And so I think, on
online when that was happy, I was so excited, but it wasn’t the only thing that I was feeling. And I think by writing this essay, being like, I was
conflicted about going and like there still are problems with feminism and like the lack of intersectionality, the lack of white women showing up for
issues. Like, it’s great that everyone came out for the women’s march, but I saw almost none of those women like do any sort of like, yes, let’s do
Black Lives Matter or let’s talk about immigration, or let’s talk about trans lives.
So I think it’s like when they felt ready to mobilize, they wanted everyone else to get on board with them. And it’s like, well, you also have to get
on board with us. And so I think that’s still where feminism is kind of lacking, but I’m feeling hopeful.
MENENDEZ: Let’s unpack that a little because you write about it in the book about white women and white women feeling like they don’t have an access
point for conversations about race.
MENENDEZ: So how — how do you bring white women into the fold? How do you extended that invitation such that they show up when you want them to show
ROBINSON: Right. I think there’s part of it is, like with anything that you’re interested in, if you really, truly care, you’ll do the research.
You’ll reach out to people. You’ll talk to people. So I personally don’t guy the whole like, well, how do I get involved? And I’m like, are you not
listening to the Asian (ph) women, the queer women, the black women, all different sorts of women around you who are saying, this is an issue, this
is important to me, this is a problem?
And so I think that there needs to be a little bit of — not waiting for everyone to teach you and sort of just being proactive and saying, I want
to learn. Like, you’re a curious person. I’m a curious person. If I want to know when Beyonce is going to be on tour, don’t I Google it? You know, you
can sort of do the same thing where you’re like, OK, why are trans women being murdered at a much higher rate than other women? Let me look into
that. How can I get involved? How can I help?
SO I think it’s the same sort of thing. And I think these are tough conversation and really, you know, depressing issues to talk about
sometimes, but by not talking about it, we’re allowing it to continue.
MENENDEZ: You’re perhaps best known for being one half of “2 Dope Queens,” which was originally started as a podcast show and is now on HBO. Can you
tell us a little bit about it for someone who may not have seen it?
ROBINSON: It started four years ago, yes, 2014, Jess was on the — Jessica William, I should say, Jessica Williams was on “The Daily Show” and I just
did background on a piece she did about black women (INAUDIBLE) in the military. And we sort of just like hit it off. We were just hanging around
on set. And she said she always wanted to try and do standup. And I was like, oh, well, we can just do a random like one-off show together as a
And we had so much fun. And we just like got on stage and I think we really sort of captured the way that a lot of people talking. I think especially a
way that a lot of black women talk when people aren’t looking. And I think people could really sense that friendship and that sort of relaxed nature.
And then we kept doing it. And I was like, I think this is an HBO thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBINSON: Like each — like strain of gray hair that comes in, I’m like, oh, one step closer to a Black History Month stamp. Like it feels very —
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBINSON: I really love variety shows and I think they haven’t been — they’re trying to come back and I think we just found this secret way of
like doing, you know, a comedy show where we have our funniest friends on and interviewing celebrities in a way that doesn’t make them feel pressured
and they can just have fun and be themselves. And we just really found this like secret formula that worked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don’t want you to say that. I feel like you just said that on HBO special.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did it. I did it. I didn’t say that on the spesh (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to stay forever young for the industry, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) all of our cameras that we’re sharing together.
How dare you.
I got this back camera and I got this camera back here. So —
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: And you’ve also used the show to be a launching pad for other women of color.
ROBINSON: Absolutely. I mean Jess and I both started out at improv. You know, we just saw — we’re like, so many of our friends are funny women,
people of color, queer people and we don’t see them like necessarily on late night shows or giving the writing job opportunities or the acting
opportunities and we’re like, well, why don’t we just have a show where we book like our funny friends and they can have this platform too. And I
think it just really resonated with people who maybe aren’t huge like standup people to be like, oh, there are people out there who are funny who
look like me, who sound like me, and I can relate to this.
MENENDEZ: Right now we’re in a moment where we are seeing misogamy and harassment exposed in every industry.
MENENDEZ: Comedy, one of those industries. But part of what you call out in the book that I think is really interesting is that it’s an industrywide
problem. It’s not an organizational problem. So someone who works in the office, they could go to an HR department and say, hey, someone’s being
really creepy with me. You can’t do that when you’re not inside an organizational structure. And so I wonder then, when it’s an industrywide
problem, how do you bring about change?
ROBINSON: At a certain point we need to hold like comedy clubs accountable, comedy festivals accountable. The sort of gatekeepers and have them really
be like this person has been doing sexually inappropriate things in the workplace. We’re not going to just welcome them back with open arms. You’re
not going to just be like, oh, if this person drops in on this show, you can leave if you want. It’s like, no, I think it’s not having that person
perform there anymore because, you know, a standup show is the workplace. If someone’s behaving inappropriately at a standup show, at a hotel where a
festival is happening, it’s just like, well, I just don’t think that person can be trusted to be in this space again.
And I think it makes a lot of female comedians feel uncomfortable. It’s like, well, I don’t want to come back to this club if I think that some
guys is going to show up who’s been really just inappropriate and sexually abusive to other women.
MENENDEZ: What are the more subtle forms of misogyny that female comics contend with?
ROBINSON: I think there’s a lot of — I remember when I — because everyone kind of starts out doing standup and you’re kind of like a baby in the way
that your jokes aren’t really that good but you have that belief, you know, so you can kind of like (INAUDIBLE) personality.
And I’ve seen a lot where you see a female comedian start to get really good in the way that comedians just like know how to like crush a show and
you’ll see the women crush and like none of the guys on the lineup will talk to her. Or like you’ll show up to a show and like no one will talk to
me and then I’ll have like a good set and the guys are like, oh, hey, what’s up? And so it’s all this sort of like hazing that happens where
you’re kind of like, am I funny? No one’s talking to me, does this mean I suck? So there’s a lot of mind games I feel like.
MENENDEZ: How are those experiences further complicated for women of color?
ROBINSON: I think racism makes it kes ON: How are those experiences further complicated for women of color?
‘s that good but you have that belief, you know, soso difficult. So there’s a tendency to just be like, oh, well, if I have this Asian girl on
then it’s just like a charity thing or this black girl, she’s — she’s OK because she’s not like the other black comics. So there’s a lot of this
sort of like separation that happens or where you have to like fill you have to fit in a sort of — a certain way and I think that what — I’ve
been inspired by people like, you know, Tiffany Hattish (ph) and the Ally Wongs (ph) and just women who are really staying true to their own voices
and I think that’s what, you know, I’ve done and Jessica has done.
And I think, for me, it took a lot of I’m still working on the like not feeling inadequate when I’m in a room of mostly —
ROBINSON: Yes. I mean if you’re on a show and you’re the — I tend to be either the only woman or the only person of color in a show and it’s all
these white guys and, you know, I just do standup a little bit differently. And I can just sense that sometimes there’s a little bit like oh you don’t
do it like the way we do it. And, I don’t know, it’s tough and I just think that women of color really have to sort of like just because your story is
different and your voice is different doesn’t mean that it’s not valid. It’s more valid because we need to have different points of view in order
to all laugh and exist on this planet together.
MENENDEZ: If people take one thing away from this book, what do you want it to be?
ROBINSON: I think the one thing would be to be more self-aware. I think I learned through writing the book to be more self-aware and to sort of
analyze the experiences that happen to you. Like the essay I wrote about size stuff and how doing like a lot of photo shoots, which, again, high-
class problem, but I would just always be like, if — I would tell people, hey, I’m a 10-12, size 10-12, which is, I think, a very kind of regular
average joe size, and then they would just bring me like a size four or a six and I couldn’t fit into it. I’d be like, oh, I’m so sorry. And I just
kept always apologizing instead of being like, no, I showed up to this. I gave you my sizes. I’m not going to feel bad that I’m not a size two or a
And so I think there’s so many times, with women especially in life, you just sort of take the brunt of responsibility for something that’s not your
fault, you know what I mean? And so I think with this book I learned how to like speak up for myself more, whether it’s size, like clothing issues, or
like a guy making a sexually inappropriate comments to me because sometimes I’ve just been like, oh, ha, ha, like we’re taught to sort of like smile or
like just laugh it off. Don’t make the guy feel uncomfortable. And I think we’re all in this time period right now being like, we don’t have to do
that anymore, you know.
MENENDEZ: Well, so now that you feel empowered to do that, are there things you look back on that you say, I wish I would have shut that down a lot
ROBINSON: Yes. I think what I look back on is comedy is very much, you don’t make a lot of money for a really long time. You kind of put up with
sort of like not great conditions. And I think being in comedy for 10 years and having the sort of success that I’m starting to have, like I’m not
willing to ask for what I think I deserve, instead is just being like, well, I should just be happy that I got an offer. Now I’m like, no, if you
want this quality work for me, you have to pay me what I know you’re paying a white guy. You just have to do it. And I’m OK asking it. And I find that
like I haven’t had any problems being like this is what I think I deserve. And so I’m glad that I’m learning that lesson now in my early 30s and I
hope that carries thorough. But, yes, I think that’s a thing I look back on, it’s just like, I’ve done like a lot of work for free or like $50 I’ll
write something. And it’s just like, you don’t have to accept that anymore.
MENENDEZ: Thank you so much.
ROBINSON: Thanks for having me.
Phoebe Robinson talking about how comedy can be a harsh place for women.
We discuss that and other issues in our exclusive interview this week with John Stewart and Dave Chappelle.
You do not want to miss that. Thanks for watching.