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Ronan Farrow: From Pulitzer Prize Winner To Author. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 11, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, does Ronan Farrow ever sleep? His non-stop, groundbreaking reporting on sexual assault by powerful men has
earned him this year's Pulitzer Prize for public service.
And his new book, "War on Peace" is a timely look at the decline of American diplomacy. I speak with Ronan Farrow at the height of his
journalistic productivity and at a time of great need.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Ronan Farrow is a one-man reportorial whirlwind. A one-time child prodigy, he is a 30-year-old journalist whose game-changing scoops have helped
launch the #MeToo movement, bringing down powerful and abusive men, from entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein to New York Attorney General Eric
All this, while putting the finishing touches on an essential new book, "War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American
As the United States lives its America first moment, Farrow chronicles the nation's unilateral retreat from the indispensable field of diplomacy and
global leadership. Managing to get every living former secretary of state on the record, including an extraordinarily candid exit interview with pre-
defenestrated Rex Tillerson.
On a 24/7 book tour, Farrow dropped into our studio here in London to talk to me about how America's new direction is playing out around the world
from Iran to North Korea, from climate change to trade tariffs and about his personal insight into sexual abuse as the son of Woody Allen and the
Ronan Farrow, welcome to the program.
RONAN FARROW, AUTHOR, "WAR ON PEACE": It's a pleasure to be here, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, let's first talk about your amazing productivity. I mean, every time we turn around, there's another Ronan Farrow scoop, there's a
Ronan Farrow book, there's literally the world according to Ronan Farrow.
How on earth do you manage it, first of all? Such disparate subjects. The whole #MeToo revelations, this which is all about America's role in the
world and diplomacy, very different subjects.
FARROW: You know, I've been really fortunate to have leads come my way and brave sources turn whistleblower as they did in this book, "War on Peace",
as all these brave women did as part of the #MeToo movement, and present hard truths that I really have had no choice, but to work around the clock
to ferret out.
AMANPOUR: You've won the Pulitzer. You've got the Pope. You've got a whole load of awards coming your way. Does it feel like a victory? Does
it feel like vindication for you?
FARROW: It feels like a relief, Christiane. There were so many obstacles arrayed against some of these stories, particularly the Harvey Weinstein
story, which we easily forget came at a very different time in our history.
Already there's been all this analysis and all these brave people coming forward, but as I was reporting on this, I was very, very fearful that this
story was going to be fully shut down and these women would never be heard. So, I'm relieved.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you were essentially - you didn't know whether you'd ever get this #MeToo story out. The network that you were working for
spiked it. The press had a role itself in suppressing some of these stories for a long, long time. Tell me about it.
FARROW: Absolutely. Yes, the questions about the role of the media over the years of silence around the Harvey Weinstein story are absolutely
And one of the ways in which I've conducted this reporting is to focus on the systems that it exposes, the way in which law enforcement became an
avatar for the interests of powerful men and this revolving door between the DA's office in New York and high-priced private investigation firms
that do the work of influencing the DA's office. Media entities became a force for suppression.
AMANPOUR: How do you think the media entities - I mean, our DNA is to be investigative. What was it about the media that wanted you not to tell
FARROW: I have to be careful about what I say at this point. I think there will be more to come later and I've been very focused on the
underlying allegations because I don't want to distract from what these women did and said.
But you're absolutely right to suggest that what happened here is contrary to the spirit of investigating the truth, and that's a real problem.
[14:05:02] AMANPOUR: Well, we are going to come back to that. But let me get to your book first because this is "War on Peace", a very aptly titled
book. And your subtitle is, the end of diplomacy and the decline of American influence.
And that is a huge topic right now with the presidency of Donald Trump. What do you think, for instance, is the result of pulling out of the Iran
deal, will be for American influence?
FARROW: A significant tract of "War on Peace" is devoted to the inside story of how the Iran deal was brokered. And the sweat and blood and tears
and literal broken bones in some cases that went into that deal, but also the acknowledgment -
AMANPOUR: What do you mean broken bones?
FARROW: Wendy Sherman, a senior career diplomat, broke both a finger and a nose somehow, slamming into doors and falling down stairs, rushing from one
negotiation to another. And John Kerry broke a femur.
AMANPOUR: He was hobbling around in a plaster.
FARROW: Going around these negotiations, right, as you know from covering them. This was a high-stakes gambit.
And all of those architects of the Iran deal are the first to acknowledge it is incomplete, it is imperfect by design because the feeling was, yes,
Iran is a rogue state in any number of other ways, the non-nuclear missile tests, the kidnappings, the human rights abuses, but you aren't better
positioned to address all those issues if you also have on the table that they are on the verge of becoming a major nuclear power.
And in one narrow respect, Christiane, as you know, all of the world powers arrayed around this and behind this deal agreed that Iran was compliant.
And it was at least temporarily working.
So, there is great concern from the experts whose stories I tell in this book that the withdrawal from this deal will drive a wedge between the
United States and all those other allies and also sends this incredibly troubling message to North Korea at a time when we so desperately want them
to come to the table and stick to any commitments they make.
AMANPOUR: So, let's unpick that a little bit. In terms of the deal, it wasn't perfect, but it was a good deal. And in the aftermath of President
Trump's withdrawal, in fact, technically, the violating the deal, the IAEA has again come out and said that Iran is 100 percent supporting it.
FARROW: And what that means is that the United States is, as you say, violating the terms of the deal, unilaterally sabotaging it. That is how
it will be seen. That plays into Iran's hands.
And this is not a universe in which we have withdrawn from the Iran deal to go to some mythical better deal. The president talks about this idea that
there's a perfect deal out there that we can get. But we don't have that on the table.
And some of the best diplomatic minds we have went to work trying to get the best deal we could at that moment in history at a point at which we had
already sabotaged earlier opportunities. And there were too many centrifuges going to get a perfect deal. This was the best we had. And
now, we've left it for no alternative.
AMANPOUR: You talk about whistleblowers in the State Department who were brave enough to talk to you. I mean, the one thing the world has got to
know about America, certainly from the very beginning, when you had - I don't know - Benjamin Franklin, right, who was a great American diplomat.
George Kennan many decades later.
That seems to be going by the wayside in this administration particularly, but was it already a trend that was happening? Fewer people signing up for
the foreign service, gutting of the State Department, fewer experts able to ply their important trade?
FARROW: Everything you just described is absolutely happening and happening to a vast new extreme right now. There is a purge of the State
Offices devoted to crafting policy in some of the most dangerous and important places on earth for American interests are empty, are being run
by lower-level acting officials. Embassies around the world are empty.
There are precedents in our past, though. The Clinton administration slashed and burned diplomacy in a very significant way. We shuttered a lot
of embassies. We surrendered a lot of influence. And we ended up actually shuttering two government agencies devoted to information and arms control
priorities we could use more experts on right now. And therefore, went into the post-9/11 world already badly handicapped in this respect.
We have not learned the lesson of the past. Indeed, we're doubling down on those mistakes.
AMANPOUR: To the idea that the president of the United States has a right to try to seek a better deal and that he campaigned on ripping up this
deal, so to speak, how credible is it to you that a presidential campaign is run on Americans thinking he's going to do something about the Iran
deal? I mean, is that even credible?
FARROW: Donald Trump, like many politicians before him, invoked a strain of nationalism that is often set against the work of diplomats and the work
of foreign policy. And that is profoundly damaging and also unfair and abusive towards public servants who are brave men and women doing life-
There is the stereotype of the dusty bureaucrat who doesn't get anything done. And this book prominently describes the problems that need reforming
at the State Department.
[14:10:00] It doesn't give a rosy picture, but it also highlights the way in which that's a misunderstanding, the way in which, in fact, these are
not dusty bureaucrats.
These are men and women at the frontlines of all of our conflicts around the world, screening the dangerous people trying to get into the United
States, saving the Americans who are kidnapped or otherwise abused, crafting the high-level deals that hopefully keep our brave servicemen and
women out of the line of fire.
AMANPOUR: Secretary of State Tillerson was the last of the great slashers and burners. Is that something that the State Department believes or you
believe will continue under Mike Pompeo, the new secretary of state, or is he going to try to rebuild this vital bureaucracy?
FARROW: Rex Tillerson is on the record, like all of the former secretaries of state, in "War on Peace" and he's really as candid as he's ever been
before. He says for the first time that he may have just been too inexperienced for this job, that he didn't know how to do budget advocacy,
placed a lot of blame at the feet of the White House. It's a pretty extraordinary set of confessions from him.
Look, Mike Pompeo is less likely to be out of his depth in precisely the same way because he is a politician and a Washington operator. And it's
apparent from the first rounds of back and forth in his confirmation hearing that he knows how to say the right thing.
That said, there was a lot of excitement about the opening salvo statements from Rex Tillerson too. And while the rhetoric sounds good now, we have to
wait and see if Mike Pompeo will pull out of this nosedive as so many career officials hope that he will.
AMANPOUR: So, you mention so many vital areas being bereft of the correct terms, foreign service personnel. I mean, North Korea is one of them -
North and South Korea.
Mike Pompeo has come back to the United States with the three detained Korean Americans in North Korea. That, obviously, is a goodwill gesture on
the brink of a summit between the two leaders.
Where do you think this could lead based on all that you've learned from the State Department and in the wake of President Trump pulling out of the
FARROW: This book confronts in frank terms the prospect of this leader to Leader meeting on the North Korea issue. There are very legitimate reasons
why we have said no as a nation to that kind of meeting before.
You really run the risk of legitimizing North Korea as a nuclear power. History shows us - and a lot of this history of negotiations around North
Korea is laid out in "War on Peace". This is a slippery diplomatic opponent.
They lie. They speak out of both sides of their mouths. They don't live up to commitments. And the problem, Christiane, is not that it's
intrinsically wrong to run this as a diplomacy by tweet operation and to saber rattle and to go in there and have the meeting, but all of the
experts agree you need a core of individuals steeped in the history, knowledgeable about the pressure points and the pitfalls, to steer those
kinds of conversations. And that is just not happening right now.
AMANPOUR: The Iran deal, obviously, was to hard negotiations between John Kerry and Javad Zarif, his Iranian counterpart. And Kerry basically said,
when the deal was signed, he used the occasion to reflect on his service in Vietnam, you write, saying I learned in war the price that is paid when
And that is essentially the guts of your book. The military-industrial- surveillance complex takes over when diplomacy is on the back foot.
FARROW: And nobody in this book is arguing that the soldiers and spies doing important work to advance American interests aren't needed, but there
needs to be a balance.
Madeleine Albright is also in this book saying, in really incendiary terms, the balance is out of whack. And especially in the years since 9/11, there
has been less and less space for diplomats in the room.
And the consequences of that are exactly as John Kerry says. We give up opportunities to end and avert war.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that if this deal dies and the European somehow can't manage to save it along with Iran because of US pressure that we are
back to a - what President Obama said, either a nuclear-armed Iran or a much higher likelihood of another war in the Middle East?
FARROW: There is an extraordinarily high risk of that. The Obama administration - and this isn't just partisans. These are top military
officials who have, in some cases, survived multiple administrations of both parties looking at the options on the ground.
And tactically, what they concluded was the ability to strike Iran to reduce their nuclear capacity was woefully limited. They can put things
underground. They can rebuild.
Once they have the technical know-how, they can always, in a few months, get back to where they were. And you're at the very real risk of a
perpetual cycle of strikes. This is a very dangerous footing that we've put ourselves on.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, part of the big issue right now is Syria and America's role there. And the Obama administration sadly will be
remembered for having failed in Syria.
AMANPOUR: And you use Syria as part of your case study.
FARROW: Syria was one of the many examples of the chaos of not having a concerted, unified diplomatic effort with empowered diplomats at the helm.
[14:15:04] On the ground, for some time, as the Obama White House vacillated and talked about redlines and then didn't react to the crossing
of redlines, as you know and have done extraordinary report on, Christiane, what was happening in the background was the Pentagon and the CIA were
running amok and arming and supporting factions on the ground that often were each at other's throats. It was complete chaos.
And I tell the story of members of those various actions going to American command centers on the ground and talking to an American official who would
say, oh, no, no, I'm with the CIA, not the Pentagon, you've got to talk to the other guys.
And these are factions fighting each other. This is the chaos that results in the absence of diplomacy.
AMANPOUR: So, let's get back to your own story because no one can avoid the fact that Ronan Farrow is also embroiled in one of the big #MeToo
stories of the last couple of decades.
How much of your experience, your writings about your own father, Woody Allen, have informed your zeal on this issue?
FARROW: Only in a very attenuated way, Christiane. And I want to be careful to point that out because this idea that there was some kind of a
deeply-rooted personal vendetta was an attempted weaponization of that happened by Harvey Weinstein. And there's just no truth to it and any
journalist that looked at it immediately saw.
I was an ambitious reporter on a huge lead and I was dogged as a result. I had only lovely feelings about Harvey Weinstein going into this.
FARROW: You and I were at many events that he was at together. Just polite interactions. Nothing but - members of my family had worked with
him in a totally productive and positive way.
AMANPOUR: So, was it then risky for you? I mean, your mother is an actress. Again, your father is a director. As you say, members of your
family, was it risky for you to take on Harvey Weinstein.
FARROW: It turned out to be profoundly risky. Really, for a time, my television career ended when I refused to stop reporting this story.
He made devastating personal threats. I had some unsavory characters following me and staking me out. None of that is at all commensurate with
the tremendous trauma that these women, these sources, went through.
But it was a set of obstacles -
AMANPOUR: What sort of threats?
FARROW: I want to be careful to not become the story. And again, that that falls into the category of, I think, that there'll be time to look
behind the scenes. It was not an easy process.
And the personal links to it that kept me driven were simply that I had experienced what happens to a family when this devastating issue of sexual
violence hits it.
It was an emotional understanding of the broad strokes of how important it was to tell these stories, not a personal feeling about Harvey Weinstein.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And I'm not even suggesting a personal vendetta. I'm suggesting what might motivate and inform a human being when you're taking
on an issue.
But, particularly, I think you even said to your sister, Dylan - Dylan, really, do you have to keep writing about this stuff.
FARROW: I think I had an acute understanding of the conversation we all went through nationally in the United States of initially grappling with
why is this worth it.
And then, over time, reviewing how incredibly well corroborated my sister's story was and hearing her anguish, understanding that, as painful as it was
to dredge that up, her determination to have those allegations see the light of day was actually a brave and important thing.
And, certainly, that informed my conversations sometime later with accusers of powerful men that I was reporting on.
AMANPOUR: And then you came out and defended her.
FARROW: So, I had to go through a complicated process after my sister insisted on speaking out and really review the evidence carefully and then
conclude, almost grudgingly at first, that this was so serious and so credible that I had an obligation to respond to these questions that I was
then besieged with and say, yes, actually, my judgment as a brother, but also as a reporter and an attorney who has reviewed the evidence is, this
is really serious and she should be heard.
And I did that only one time in a "Hollywood Reporter" column that they asked me to write. And I said, yes, because I felt that sense of moral
obligation. And since then, she has been more than equipped to raise a very loud voice herself.
AMANPOUR: And you did that. But that also, I think you write, it sort of empowered or encouraged the women who you then were able to break their
story, to come to you because they knew that you would be open to their story.
FARROW: Well, I was quite badly attacked and smeared for writing that. And it wasn't particularly convenient for my career, but I have no regrets
about it. I'm very proud to have been able to support my sister as she did a brave thing.
And I do think that for some of the accusers of Harvey Weinstein who did this incredibly courageous act, speaking out about this and did it at so
much personal risk, it was probably a helpful precedent that they knew I had spoken in a forthright way about this issue when so many others refused
[14:20:06] AMANPOUR: Just this week, as you're promoting this book, you also had another big scoop about the attorney general of New York. He,
obviously, denies these allegations, but you had women come up and tell you about issues of domestic abuse and violence. Tell me about that one.
AMANPOUR: These are terrifically serious allegations of violence being raised about Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, now
former attorney general since the publication of this story.
Woman after woman describing beatings essentially, slapping, choking, punching. And part of his response, Christiane, has been to say this was
consensual role-playing. And indeed, it appears in his sexual activities, by the accounts of these women that there was a proclivity for that kind of
But they went to pains to say this was not role-playing that they are raising these allegations about and that they wouldn't have raised the
allegations if it was simply that, that this was a set of physical attacks that transpired when they were closed off often.
In one case with a woman who was simply a colleague of his, a professional contact, who he came onto a party allegedly and when she rebuffed him, he
began hurling terrible misogynistic epithets and then slapped her in the face multiple times. Hard enough to leave a mark.
And I looked at that photo of that mark afterwards and heard all of these stories and looked at medical records. And my Jane Mayer and I know really
worked hard to make sure we knew that this was dead right.
And all I can say is these are both serious and very, very credible claims.
AMANPOUR: And I wonder what you make of the latest verdict, the result in the latest Bill Cosby case. And remembering that books have been written
about him that never even broached the subject of the sexual abuse that many of these women alleged against him. I mean, this was years ago.
You go into that as well. Again, it's part of, I think, what you describe as the conspiracy of silence around powerful actors. And I just mean
players, not just theatrical actors.
FARROW: I remember just a few years ago, being on air and interviewing one of Cosby's biographers and having fights in the newsroom about whether I
could ask about the absence of these allegations in what was supposed to be the definitive biography of Cosby, which, obviously, has not aged that
well. And there was a lot of pushback.
There were a veteran journalist and television producers who just said this is salacious, these women have been discredited; it's not in the headlines
right now, why would you want to raise that.
And we kind of wound up with a compromise where I was allowed to ask one final question about it as a kicker to the rest of the interview, but that
really illustrated just how hard it was to cover these issues only a few short years ago.
So, I am so grateful for every reporter that's banged their head against the wall, trying to change that culture.
AMANPOUR: And just to end with the diplomacy part of this, you also this week revealed Black Cube, the Israel-based intelligence operation -
FARROW: Private investigation.
AMANPOUR: Private investigation arm had actually been contracted to dig up dirt on Obama administration officials who had entered the Iran nuclear
FARROW: That's right. We were able to expose, for the first time, that this was - this firm, Black Cube, there had been reports that were just
beginning to emerge that there was some kind of a campaign by private operatives targeting the proponents of the Iran deal.
I've reviewed internal materials that show how those undercover agents were directed. They were using false identities. They were using front
companies. In some cases, the very same front companies that were used to pursue and smear Weinstein's accusers because Black Cube had Weinstein
through his attorneys as a client and was doing work on that case too.
Here, with respect to the Iran deal, they used the very same tactics. Going after people's personal lives, smearing them, looking at whether they
had had extramarital affairs. This was an all-out campaign to discredit the Iran deal.
AMANPOUR: On behalf of who?
FARROW: Well, that remains an outstanding question. The language in these materials, Christiane, is very politically targeted. It closely resembles
conservative rhetoric, some of it used by people around Trump, linking specific officials within the Obama administration, talking about the Obama
echo chamber and the influence of Democrats on the media. So, there is certainly a political element.
Now, I should point out as well, we were not able to document the direct client involved was a Trump official as has been speculated. And, in fact,
one source near Black Cube said this was a private client that there was potentially a powerful commercial interest that wanted to dismantle this
deal in some way.
[14:25:07] AMANPOUR: And finally, Richard Holbrook was a mentor to you, is somebody who I've followed throughout his entire Balkan experience as well.
You said once to Hillary Clinton, he was like a father to you. What did you get from him personally and professionally?
FARROW: You knew Richard Holbrooke well and he had so much respect for you. And he suffered few fools. So, that's saying something.
He was a profoundly difficult man as we all knew. He had a larger-than- life personality. I see pictures (INAUDIBLE).
The counterpoint to that was, as many bridges as he burned and as sharp as his elbows were, he was the most devoted and loyal mentor. And I think
every single person on that Afghanistan and Pakistan team would agree that he would've taken a bullet for anyone of us.
And he was also, of course, one of the last great examples of a celebrity diplomat, someone who used the force of his ego and his persuasion to
wrangle people into deals that advance the interests of the United States.
And his last days were spent decrying in secret memos that I release for the first time in this book the lack of space for any of that work, the
fact that he couldn't even get a meeting with the president at the end to make the case for peace in Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: It really is a shocker. And it's incredible stuff that you've unearthed. And everybody should have a look and read this book, "War on
Ronan Farrow, thanks so much. I think now more needed than ever, particularly at this crucial time. Thanks a lot, Ronan.
FARROW: It is more timely than I hoped it would be. Thank you, Christiane. It's good to be here.
AMANPOUR: That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at Amanpour.com and follow me on
Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.