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Interview With Pulitzer Prize Winner, Ronan Farrow, Discussing The Me Too Movement
Aired August 13, 2018 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Coming up, we're looking back at some of our favorite interviews this year. In this addition, does Ronan Farrow
ever sleep. His non-stop ground breaking reporting on sexual assault by powerful men earned him a Pulitzer Prize for public service.
And his new book, "War on Peace," is a timely look at the decline of American diplomacy. I spoke with Ronan of the height of his journalistic
productivity, which comes at a time of great need.
Welcome to this special edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Ronan Farrow is a one man, reportorial whirlwind. He's a 30-year-old journalist who's game changing scoops have helped launched the "Me Too"
movement, bringing down powerful and abusive men, form entertainment mogul, Harvey Weinstein to New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.
All of this while putting finishing touches on something completely different, an essential new book called, "War on Peace, The End of
Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence."
As the United States lives it's America first moment, Farrow chronicles the nation's unilateral retreat from the indispensible field of diplomacy and
world leadership, managing to get every living former Secretary of State on the record, including an extraordinarily candid exit interview with the
hapless Rex Tillerson.
On his book tour Farrow dropped into our studio here in London to talk about America's new direction is playing out around the world, from Iran to
North Korea, from climate change to trade tariffs and about his own personal insight into sexual abuse, as the son of Woody Allen and Mia
Welcome to the program.
RONAN FARROW, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Pleasure to be here Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, let's first talk about your amazing productivity. I mean, literally, every time we turn around there's another Ronan Farrow scoop,
there's a Ronan Farrow book, there is literally the world according to Ronan Farrow.
How on earth to you manage it, first of all? Such disparate subjects, the whole "Me Too" 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 whistle blower, as they did in this book, "War on
Peace," and as all these brave women did as part of the "Me Too" movement and present hard truths that I really have had not choice but to work
around the clock to fair it out.
AMANPOUR: You've won the Pulitzer, you've got the Pope (ph), 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, you know there were so many obstacles arrayed against some of these stories, particularly the Harvey
Weinstein story, which, you know, 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 "Me Too:" 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, you know, the question about the role of the media over the years of silence around the Harvey Weinstein story are
absolutely correct and one of the ways in which I've conducted on this reporting is to focus on the systems that it exposes.
The way in which law enforcement became an avatar for the interest of powerful men and this revolving door between the D.A.'s office in New York
and high priced private investigation firms that do the work of influencing the D.A.'s office. Media entities became a force for suppression. And,
you know, there were .
AMANPOUR: Why 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: Well, you know, I have to be careful about what I say at this point. I think there'll 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
happens here is contrary to the spirit of investigating the truth and that's a real problem.
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
What do you think, for instance, the result of pulling out of the Iran deal will it 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?
[14:05:00] FARROW: . Wendy Sherman, a senior career Diplomat broke both a finger and a nose somehow. You know, 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 .
FARROW: Hobbling around these negotiations, right, as you know, from covering them. This was a high stakes gambit and all of those architects
at 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
And in that one narrow respect, Christiane, as you know, all of the world powers raid 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 who's stories I tell in this book, that the withdraw 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 withdraw, in fact, technically 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
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
AMANPOUR: You talk about whistle blowers in the State Department who are brave enough to talk to you. You know, I mean, the one thing the world has
got to know about America, certainly from the very beginning when you had Admiral Benjamin Franklin, right, was a great American diplomat.
George Cannon, 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 apply their important trade?
FARROW: Everything you just described is absolutely happening and happening to a vast new extreme right now. There's a purge of the State
Department, offices devoted to crafting policy in some of the most dangerous and important places on earth for
American interest are empty, are being run by lower-level acting officials.
Embassies around the world are empty. There are precedence 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 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 American's thinking he's going to do something about the Iran
deal? I mean, is that even credible?
FARROW: You know, Donald Trump, like many politicians before him, evoked 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 this 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. 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 front lines of all of our conflicts around the world
screening at 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 or brave service men and women out of the line of fire.
AMANPOUR: Secretary of State Tillerson was the last of the great flashers 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 to inexperienced for this job, that he didn't know how to do budget advocacy.
He lays 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, you know, 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 (inaudible) 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 nose dive as so many career officials hope that he will.
AMANPOUR: So you know, you mentioned so many vital areas being breathed 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 good will 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 Iran deal?
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, you know, 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 - the Iran deal obviously was down to a 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're right (ph) saying I learned in war the price
that is paid when diplomacy fails.
And that is essentially the guts of your book. The military industrial surveillance complex takes over when diplomacy is on the - on the back
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, you know. Madeline Albright is also in this book saying in, you know, 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, you know, 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 Europeans somehow can't manage to save it along with the Iran because of U.S. 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 you know, this isn't just partisan, you know, these
are top military officials who have, in some cases, survived multiple administrations of (ph) 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, they have the - once they have the technical knowhow, 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. 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.
On the ground for some time as the Obama White House vacillated and talked about red lines and then didn't react to the crossing of red lines.
As you know, and I've done extraordinary reporting on, Christiane, what was happening in the background was the Pentagon and the CIA were running amuck
and arming and supporting factions on the ground that often were at each other's throats.
It was complete chaos, and I tell the story of, you know, members of those various factions 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 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 me too
stories of - of the last couple of decades. How much of your experience, your writings about your own father, Woody Allen, have informed your view
(ph) on this issue?
FARROW: Only in a very attenuated way, Christiane. And I want to be careful to pint that out, because this idea that there is some kind of a
deeply (inaudible) personal vendetta was an attempted weaponization 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
(inaudible) as a result, I had only lovely feelings about Harvey Weinstein going in to this.
FARROW: You and I were at many events that he was at together, and just polite interactions, nothing but members of my family had worked with him
in a totally productive and (inaudible) way-
AMANPOUR: What is then risky for you? I mean your mother's an actress, again your father's 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 person threats. I had some unsavory characters following me and staking me out. And none of that is at all commensurate with the
tremendous trauma that these women, these sources went through.
But it was--
AMANPOUR: What sort of threats?
FARROW: A set of obstacles-
AMANPOUR: What sort of threats-
FARROW: I want to be careful to not become the story. And again, that falls in to the category of I think there will 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's - it was an emotional understanding of the broad strokes of how important it was to tell these stories. Not a - not a
personal feeling about Harvey Weinstein.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And I'm not even suggesting a personal event, 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 Dillon, "Dillon really, do you have to keep writing about this stuff?"
FARROW: I - 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 and 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 that 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 diseased with.
And say yes, actually, my judgment as a brother but also as a reporter and an attorney who's 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 f empowered or encouraged the women who you then were able to write their
story; you 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 abut this and did it at so much
personal risk, it was probably a helpful president that they knew I had spoken in a forthright way about this issue when so many others refused to.
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 his allegations, but you had women come up and tell you about issues of domestic abuse and violence. Tell me about that one.
FARROW: 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,
you know, 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 violence. 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.
But this was a set of physical attacks that transpired when they were closed off often (ph) in one case with a woman who was simply a -- a
colleague of his, a professional contact who he came onto at a party, allegedly, and when she rebuffed him, he began, you know, 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, you know, heard all of these stories and looked at medical records. And my colleague Jane
Mayer and I, you know, really worked hard to make sure we knew that this was dead to rights. And all I can is these are both serious and very, very
AMANPOUR: And I wonder what you make of the -- 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 is was years
ago. You go into that as well. Again, as part of, I think what you describe, is the conspiracy of silence around powerful actors.
And I just mean players, not just theatrical actors.
FARROW: Well, I remember just a few years ago, you know, 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. You know, and there was a lot of pushback. There were a lot of veteran journalists and then television producers who just said
this is salacious, you know, 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: You also this week revealed Black Cube, the Israeli-based intelligence operation --
FARROW: Private investigation firm (ph).
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 operative targeting the proponents of the Iran deal. You know, 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 the Iran deal, they used the very same tactics. Going after
people's personal lives, smearing them, looking at whether they've had extramarital affairs. This was an all-out campaign to discredit the Iran
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 that the direct client involved was a Trump official, as has been speculated.
And in fact, at least one source near Black Cube said this was a private client, that there was, you know, potentially a -- a powerful commercial
interest that wanted to dismantle this deal in some way.
AMANPOUR: And finally, Richard Holbrooke was a mentor to you, is somebody who I'd 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 of us together there. And you know, 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 would agree that he would've taken a bullet for any one 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 released 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 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
Peace." 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 nice to be here.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. See us online at www.amanpour.com and
follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.