Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Takes Questions from "New York Times" Reporters; Turkish Journalist Honored at Press Freedom Awards; Lessons from the Jewish Ghetto of Venice. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 23, 2016 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:01] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the future for American journalism in the Trump era. A "New York Times" correspondent at

the much-discussed meeting with the president-elect joins us.

And a Turkish reporter, (INAUDIBLE), on his country's crackdown on the media.

And later, the dangers of division in the face of rising intolerance around the world, a lesson from the past. The Venice ghetto of 1516, where Jews

were forcibly segregated.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

And President-elect Donald Trump is already in Florida with his family for the Thanksgiving holiday. But Midtown Manhattan yesterday was the scene of

an extraordinary face-off between him and one of the world's most respected journalistic institutions, the "New York Times." After a stormy meeting

with network news bosses and anchors the night before and after constantly calling the "New York Times" failing, Trump reversed course, calling it a

jewel, and finally sitting down with reporters, answering questions for the first time since the election.

"The New York Times" has released some audio excerpts of that meeting including this one of Trump complaining about their coverage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I've been treated extremely unfairly in a sense. A true sense. I wouldn't only complain about the "Times," I would

say the "Times" was about the roughest of all.


AMANPOUR: Well, he also then went on to walk back or at least seem to some of his key campaign rhetoric. And today, the paper's editorial has

written, "It was alarming to confront how thinly thought through many of the president-elect's stances actually are."

But it is Trump's hostile stance towards the American media in general that is ringing alarm bells here in the world's leading democracy. And joining

me to discuss all of this is Michael Grynbaum, who reports on media, TV and politics for the "Times" and was in yesterday's meeting.

Michael, welcome.


AMANPOUR: So tell us first what the mood was when Donald Trump walked in and how it changed over the course of that conversation.

GRYNBAUM: We didn't know which Donald Trump was going to arrive at the "Times" yesterday, whether it was the one who laced into television news

executives at a private meeting just 24 hours before, or if we would get a smoother Trump. A Trump more in salesman-like mode.

When he walked into the room, he went around the table shaking hands. Immediately he was speaking in moderate, quieter tones and we could tell

that this would be a more civil encounter between the president-elect and a journalistic organ that he had called failing just a few hours earlier.

AMANPOUR: And then he was calling it a jewel, a real American jewel. But let me ask you, because one of the very, very frightening bits of rhetoric

from his campaign was when he was talking about the despicable and dishonest media and when he was threatening to revisit libel laws to make

it much easier to sue and punish journalists.

Did you ask him about that? Where did he end up on that issue?

GRYNBAUM: We did. And I think this really speaks to Trump's chameleon- like quality where the person that you get is often contingent on the audience he's speaking to. We asked him point blank, are you committed to

the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He first joked saying, I hoped you weren't going to ask me that question. And then he said, I think

you'll be happy. I think you'll be happy. And even made a joke that if he were to loosen up the libel laws in the United States, he may be more

liable to be sued as a result of that.

So he seemed to offer some reassurance that, that the free press as we know it in the U.S. would continue apace. But as Trump does, it was not truly a

definitive answer. He sort of phrased it in joking terms. He didn't quite give a totally serious response which I think leaves open the possibility

that the relationship between the president and the American press corps could be changing fundamentally.

AMANPOUR: Well, in that way, yes. And the fundamental I think sort of thing on the horizon for the press corps is what's already happened during

the campaign. And that is that Donald Trump basically bypassed the press corps and went straight to his voters through social media. Do you get the

sense that this is what's going to happen during the presidency?

GRYNBAUM: I do, actually. Just this week -- well, first of all, I should say it's been about two weeks since Donald Trump was elected president.

He's yet to give a formal news conference which really breaks the precedent of the last three or four decades of newly elected presidents.

[14:05:01] And furthermore, his campaign put up there -- I should say his transition team put out a YouTube video just a couple of days ago where

Trump was laying out some of his policy priorities for the new administration. That's a one-way street. That's a way to go above the

heads and shoulders of the American press. And offer his plans without any scrutiny, without having to answer questions from skeptical reporters in

real time.

I think we're going to see Trump be a different kind of politician. One who knows the power of social media, who wields his Twitter account really

as a political weapon. And who realizes that Americans trust in the traditional organs of the free press, the "Times" included, has fallen to

record low levels. And he's going to try to take advantage of that.

AMANPOUR: Michael, though, is "The New York Times," for instance, preparing to, you know, hold anybody's feet to the fire who tries to do an

end-run? Most particularly, what if it there are issues that need to be held accountable? Obviously there will be, like in any presidency. How do

you feel your organization, of course is a question we're all asking, will be able to fulfill the traditional role of an established, credible,

longstanding media organization?

GRYNBAUM: You know, in the U.S., this feels like a bit of an existential moment for the free press. At the "New York Times," I would point to just

the circumstances of how this interview with Trump happened. The "Times" insisted that it be on the record. A day earlier, Trump had met with

representatives of leading television networks for an off-the-record meeting where the participants were not allowed to then turn around and let

the public know what their president-elect had to say.

The "Times" insisted that Trump speak for the record in a forum where he would be subjected to skeptical questioning from columnists, editors and

reporters. And furthermore, he came to our office. It wasn't a situation where in terms of the stage management of it, of reporters kind of going to

Trump Tower to greet the new leader. Donald Trump came across town, he came to the "Times" building up to our board room. And I think just that

context helped set a different tone and a different tenor for the discussion.

AMANPOUR: Well, in that regard, also some interesting substance came out of it. I want to play another little bit of the audio recordings that the

"Times" has released. This one, about his answer to the issue of torture, which he had talked loudly about and that waterboarding was OK during the

campaign. This is what he said to you all.


TRUMP: I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said -- I was surprised. He said, I've never found it to be useful. He said, I've

always found give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.


AMANPOUR: I omitted to say obviously that he was telling you about his conversation on this issue with General James Mattis who we all think is

going to be tapped as the next Defense secretary. What did you take from that? That walking-back of that issue?

GRYNBAUM: It was one of many head-turning moments during the interview where Donald Trump seemed to back away from some of the most strident

campaign promises that we heard from him on the trail. It struck me again that many Americans don't quite know the man who is going to be occupying

the Oval Office come January. His views on such major policy issues like this, like the use of torture, seem to shift, seem to morph depending on

the audience he's speaking to. Depending on the context.

Just as he spoke about -- he told us that he did not have much interest in prosecuting Hillary Clinton. That the Clintons had been hurt enough. That

it's time to move on. I don't have the taste for that. Contrast that with what he was saying in rallies about Hillary for prison. Allowing the

chants of "lock her up" to echo around the heartland of America from his supporters.

It feels like Donald Trump is changing some of his opinions in real time. And it's not quite clear where he's going to come out on these things.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about something that's really causing a lot of worry amongst minority groups. For instance, the issue of Steve Bannon and

Breitbart, the alt-right site that he owned and that he was responsible for the content. And of course on the context of this very extreme right, I

think, white supremacist meeting, you could call it, in Washington over the weekend, where they had the whole "heil victory, heil Trump" thing going on

there. He was asked by you all about Breitbart and this is what he said about the site.


TRUMP: Breitbart really is a news organization that's become quite successful and it's got readers and it does cover subjects that on the

right but it covers subjects on the left, also. I mean it's a pretty big thing and he helped build it into a pretty successful news organization.


[14:10:02] AMANPOUR: So to me it seems that -- I mean, left really? There's stuff on the left on there? And he was dealing with it as a

successful business proposition. Do you think he knew really what it did or was he trying to shield his top aide, Steve Bannon?

GRYNBAUM: Well, you know, the discussion of Breitbart came during some fairly intense questioning about Steve Bannon's views and whether he's fit

to have a high-ranking position in the White House. Donald Trump said he'd never experienced Bannon to be anti-Semitic, to express negative sentiments

about minorities. And then there was a peculiar moment. He turned to the room and he said, if you hear anything, if you know of something that I

should know, please tell me. I'd love to hear about it. Almost soliciting the journalists in the room to keep him apprised of his own staff members.

It was a moment that was both solicitous, somewhat disarming, I suppose in a bit of a bizarre way, and also strikingly odd to hear from the next

commander-in-chief, given the -- given the huge amount of coverage about Mr. Bannon's views. So can we say that he's being disingenuous? Can we

say that he's being evasive? I think all we can say is look at the words and we'll have to come to our judgments moving forward.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. OK, Michael Grynbaum, thank you so much indeed from "The New York Times" being with us today. And --

GRYNBAUM: Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, Michael.

When we come back, the Turkish journalist who has done jail time for just doing his job. My colleague Can Dundar joins me next. He was honored at

last night's Annual Freedom of Press gala here in New York where I also spoke out about defending fact-based reporting in the era of false news

sites which are spreading like wildfire through social media.


AMANPOUR: I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth. We have to be prepared to fight, especially

hard right now for the truth because this is a world where the Oxford English Dictionary just last week announced its word for 2016, and that is,




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. We've just heard about the increasing concerns over press freedom here in America. But Turkey has

become one of the world's biggest jailer of journalists according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and my next guest was sentenced to six

years in prison after his newspaper Cumhuriyet published photos purporting to show that the government was sending weapons to Syria.

The CPJ honored Chan Dundar last night and the audience gave him the longest ovation of the evening.


CAN DUNDAR, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CUMHURIYET: Thank you. As this headline says, we will never give up. We will never give up. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Can Dundar, welcome to the program.

DUNDAR: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: So you were awarded last night. What does it feel like to be free and rewarded here in the United States. It's a different experience

than you have at home.

DUNDAR: Of course. But at the same time I'm upset because my friends in jail, so I was there on behalf of them, you know, defending their rights

and our rights, of course.

[14:15:03] But at the same time of course it's a big support and, you know, backing by our colleagues here.

AMANPOUR: Let's get to your case because it was about a story that you had written on the front page of your newspaper about Turkish arms going to the

rebels in Syria and you broke that story and obviously the government didn't like it.

When I asked President Erdogan about your case, he told me that you could be a spy. He told me that you could have done illegal things. What was

your response? And what did the court say?

DUNDAR: Court say the other thing. You know, they said it's not an act of terrorism. It's an act of journalism. That's why we were released by the

decision of the constitutional court.

I watched that video. And I don't know how can a president blame a journalist. Being a spy without any evidence in it. So, I mean, what we

had to do.

AMANPOUR: In response to the EU saying it has a red line on press freedom when it comes to Turkey's accession, the prime minister yesterday said,

"Brother, we don't care about your red line. It's the people who draw the red line. What importance does your line have?"

That's your prime minister about press freedom.

DUNDAR: Unfortunately so. Yes. I mean, they don't see any red line anymore and they don't care about the reaction of the EU anymore. In fact,

this is the -- partly the result of the EU's policy towards Turkey. Unfortunately they were not that enthusiastic to criticize the government

from the beginning because of the refugee deal. And the deal was, I mean, Erdogan keeps the refugees in Turkish soil and didn't send them to Europe.

And in return, they bought their silence, I guess. And they didn't -- they were not vocal in that sense.

AMANPOUR: So you think this is coming back to bite Europe in the back side?

DUNDAR: Exactly. And now another danger, that's they're pushing Turkey, kind of isolation, which is another danger because it won't be a punishment

for Erdogan, who is not a believer of European values. But it would be a punishment for the modern side of Turkey who was, you know, believe in the

European values.

AMANPOUR: What about the new president of the United States? Here we are in America, Donald Trump, president-elect, he's naming his Cabinet. One of

the people who we know he's named is Michael Flynn, retired general for national security who has said some pretty explosive things about Muslims.

Fear of Muslims is rational. Islam is -- what did he say? Islamism is a - -

DUNDAR: Islamism is a disease?

AMANPOUR: Is a disease.


AMANPOUR: How is that going to reverberate with President Erdogan who quite welcomed Trump's victory?

DUNDAR: Yes, he did so. And he was very, he seems very happy with the election. But I don't think that the new administration would be very

welcoming the Islamic tendencies in the government. I don't think that Islamism is a disease. But, you know, invading countries like Iraq and

Afghanistan, you know, created if there's a disease. So I mean, this is not the way that we can solve the problems.

AMANPOUR: Let's go back to your personal situation. So you're accused, you were put on trial. They even tried -- a gunman tried to assassinate


DUNDAR: That's right, yes.

AMANPOUR: Tell me about that, and I think your wife sort of batted him away.

DUNDAR: Yes. Exactly. We were waiting for the decision of the court. And that very moment we were in front of the court and someone, you know,

approached us and told me, shouted at me like traitor.

AMANPOUR: Traitor.

DUNDAR: Traitor. Yes. That was the word the president used for us. So I mean --

AMANPOUR: So that incites that kind of violence.

DUNDAR: Yes, he was inspired by those, you know, accusations, I guess. But he was trying to shoot me, but my wife jumped on him and, you know,

protect my life. You know, she saved my life. But you know what, he's free now and can travel outside Turkey. But my wife is not allowed to go


AMANPOUR: She's not allowed to leave Turkey. Why?

DUNDAR: They confiscated her passport while she was trying to get out of Turkey.


DUNDAR: Without any reason.

AMANPOUR: Are they just trying to get to you?

DUNDAR: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: The event where you were honored last night showed the threats that many of our colleagues around the world are under, and yourself

included. Does it surprise you that the United States, I mean, the free press in the United States, is having to battle for its rights and safety

with this new president-elect?

DUNDAR: It's so surprising. I just want to say welcome to the club, to you, really.


DUNDAR: Fighting against those kind of oppression in Turkey. And now it's unbelievable to see our, you know, American colleagues, trying to save

their rights.

[14:20:02] And it was a good solidarity message for us, not only for me. But all Turkish journalists in jail. Turkey is the biggest jail for

journalists in the world. So it's really dark times.

So it was a message to them that they're not alone and I guess it was a message to the Turkish government that it's doing wrong.

AMANPOUR: Really difficult times ahead. But challenging ones, and maybe, maybe somewhere a silver lining. We'll see for our profession.

Chan, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

DUNDAR: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And in these polarizing times, there was an especially poignant moment in the UK today when Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered British

MP, Jo Cox, spoke after her killer was sentenced to life in prison.


BRENDAN COX, HUSBAND OF KILLED BRITISH MP: We hope the country will also take something from this. That Jo's death will have meaning. That those

in politics, the media, and our own communities who seek to divide us will face an unassailable wall of British tolerance, and the articulation of

Jo's belief, that we hold more in common than that which divides us.


AMANPOUR: Courageous indeed.

And after a break, lessons from the past. We travel back half a millennium to the Jewish community in Venice, swept up on a tide of intolerance and


That's next.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, here in America and in Europe, we're seeing a worrying rise of populism and nationalism with racial and anti-Semitic

overtones. Just this week the so-called alt-right held a rally in Washington, D.C., complete with "heil Trump" cheers, raising Nazi salutes

and "heil our people."

And by the way, the man leading the salute, one Richard B. Spencer, has called for a peaceful ethnic cleansing of America.

But now we imagine a world where a rich culture blooms even in the shade of intolerance. Our Ben Wedeman delves into a fascinating past of the Jewish

people and their survival in one of the world's first-ever ghettos.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kids on a field trip enter the Jewish ghetto of Venice. Today the ghetto is clean,

calm and quiet. Once it was crammed and chaotic. With thousands of Jews forced by law to live within its walls.

The rulers of Venice created the ghetto, Europe's first, 500 years ago. This year is a bittersweet remembrance for a people who managed to flourish

while living in prison, says historian Simon Levis Sullam.

SIMON LEVIS SULLAM, HISTORIAN: We commemorate segregation, exclusion, separation, and we celebrate the fact that Jews were brought together and

flourished in cultural terms. And also met and exchanged culture and knowledge and information.

[14:25:15] WEDEMAN: A trading super power, Venice attracted Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition, wealthy Jewish merchants from the Ottoman Empire

and Jewish craftsman and artisans from Germany and elsewhere in the Italian peninsula.

"It was like New York City," Rabbi Shalom (INAUDIBLE) tells me. "Politically it was an important city because it was a crossroads between

East and West."

But it was a city where Jews struggled under severe restrictions. Hundreds of Hebrew books were published here, but Jews were banned from owning

printing presses.

(On camera): Under the system imposed on the ghetto in 1516, the gates were shut every night. They used to be here. There was, however, an

important exception to that rule. Doctors, Jewish doctors were in great demand all over the city, were allowed to come and go as they pleased.

(Voice-over): Narrow canals formed the ghetto's boundaries, boundaries that seem even more restrictive at night.

(On camera): And after the gates were shut at night, Christian guards patrolled the canals around the ghetto to make sure nobody got out or in.

And adding insult to injury, the inhabitants of the ghetto were compelled to pay the salaries of their guards.

(Voice-over): The system of segregation came crashing down in 1797 when Napoleon conquered Venice and abolished anti-Semitic laws. The Jews of

Venice were quick to move out and move up until the Second World War.

SULLAM: 250 Jews were died in the holocaust, they were tracked and arrested in Venice by Italians and by Germans. And they were of all age.

WEDEMAN: Today, around 400 jus live in Venice, compared to more than 10 times that when the ghetto was at its height. Jews and non-Jews alike have

moved away as the economy of Venice has become dominated by tourism.

Psychotherapist Dura Salam (PH) looks at the ghetto with mixed feelings.

DURA SALAM, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: For us the ghetto has a completely different meaning. When I was a little girl, the ghetto for me was the place where

there were the synagogues. And we would go mainly only to go to the synagogue. And it was not a very nice part of the town. It was quite a


WEDEMAN: Today it's undergoing something of a revival. Attracting Jews from outside Italy.

SALEM: Now I think we really feel it's the heart of the Jewish life.

WEDEMAN: A heart that still beats despite it all.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Venice.


AMANPOUR: Ben with important lessons from history and that is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching, watch us online, good-bye from New