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Trump Supporters Insists on Right to Maximum President Power; "William Barr, Trump's Sword and Shield"; David Rohde, Executive Editor for News, NewYorker.com, is Interviewed About Trump; "Little America," A New Mini Series About Immigrants; Humanizing the Backbone of America, Immigrants; Emily V. Gordon, Executive Producer, "Little America," and Kumail Nanjiani, Executive Producer, "Little American", are Interviewed About "Little America.". Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 7, 2020 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Unfortunately, over the past several decades, we have seen the steady encroachment on executive authority by the
other branches of government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: All the president's men, at the end of a trial for a week, we explore the attorney general's come what may defense of executive power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where we will live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see the rock, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see a rock. I see an opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Making immigrants human, my conversation with the producers of the groundbreaking new show "Little America".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISABEL ALLENDE, AUTHOR: No. I just want to tell a story and then I realize after the book is finished that I have been exploring some part of myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Award-winning Chilean author, Isabel Allende, on how her life as a refugee shaped her latest book.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
A roller coaster week for President Trump, saw theatrics take center stage at his State of the Union address, and disorganization set the stage for
the Democrats' race in Iowa. The president emerged triumphant as the Senate, as expected, voted to acquit him on impeachment charges. The only
Republican to break from the herd was Mitt Romney, and he spoke of how his faith played a role in that decision. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the
president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, indeed, Romney is now taking abuse from Trump supporters for speaking his conscience.
Throughout the trial, those supporters insisted on the right to maximum presidential power and perhaps none more so than Trump's own attorney
general, William Barr. Veteran journalist, David Rohde, is an executive editor at the NewYorker.com and he joined me to talk about this defense and
why so far it, appears to be working for Trump. His latest article is "William Barr, Trump's Sword and Shield."
David Rohde, welcome to the program.
So, we are at the end of a pretty momentous week for American politics and President Trump, acquitted by the Senate after being impeached and then his
State of the Union address which we'll come to in a second. How do you explain -- of course, you've done a lot of work on this in your recent
article -- his endurance and his Teflon quality, if I can put it that way?
DAVID ROHDE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR FOR NEWS, NEWYORKER.COM: I think, first, he's very clever, he's very cunning. People talk about him as being crazy
or sort of making up all this stuff, there's a strategy of what he's doing. And I think a big appeal to conservative is this narrative, Trump has
created that they're under siege in this country, that the elite is sort of sneering at them, they're going to take away their rights. You heard a lot
of that in the State of the Union address and that narrative is very appealing to people and he's very consistent about putting across, and it's
very purposeful, do not underestimate Donald Trump.
AMANPOUR: You say that he sorts of raised this idea of the Republican Party being under siege. A lot of people have done that in the past and a
lot of these people who now believe him and stand up and applaud, you know, and his poll numbers are going up, obviously, it's sort of like a pretorian
god, if you like, and then many of them weren't in his camp before he won the nomination and the election. What happened? What changed? Why is he
suddenly so good for conservatism?
ROHDE: I don't -- well, I don't know if he's good in a long-term, but I think he's very effective. And I think the second part is, frankly, the
lengths of misstatements and lies and exaggeration that he will engage in.
And what's happened in the Trump era is that he's made this astounding number of claims. The Washington Post just concluded that he's lied 16,000
times since he came into office, dozens of times per day, and it's working. I mean, not for the entire country but for his base they believe this
narrative of record economic growth. You know, this amazing, you know, cadre of new judges and then again, this fear that, you know, they're going
to take way your health care, they're going to persecute you if you follow your religion.
And so, it's a combination, I think, of a clear strategy and a willingness to, frankly, lie like no other modern American politician has done.
AMANPOUR: He is a very accomplished performer, and I say that not in disparagement. He was a reality television star. It was a very successful
program. And everything is about communication in our world right now. He's very adept.
ROHDE: Yes, and it's good messaging. It's a good consistent message. And what he's done with impeachment, I think, is sort of make himself into the
victim as well.
Instead of, you know, this unprecedented number of investigations, a giant investigation by Robert Mueller into this astounding idea that an American
presidential candidate might have worked with Russia, he turns that around where he's the victim. Again, he's caught making a phone call to Ukraine,
an unbelievable use of $400 million in American taxpayer money, he flips it around, he's a victim. There's an audacity to it that sort of astounds
people and they don't quite know how to respond.
AMANPOUR: And according to your, you know, article that we're talking about, which is of course "William Barr, Trump's Sword and Shield," it's
him but all the others. This wouldn't happen unless there was a solid wall of establishment party faithful who supported him.
ROHDE: In Barr's mind I get the sense from people that are close to him that this is about protecting the presidency more than it is sort of
personal loyalty to Donald Trump.
AMANPOUR: And yet it is about protecting the person, given the investigations we've just talked about. But let's just go to a soundbite.
This is William Barr shortly after being named attorney general. He was at Notre-Dame. He is, himself, a very religious conservative Roman Catholic.
He goes to the seat of Catholic education. And he gives this speech about presidential power. Let's listen to this excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: First, is the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on organized religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay. This is
organized disruption. Secularists and their allies have marshalled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry
and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Give us an insight into Barr's early years. How did he come -- because he was meant to be a very respected legal scholar.
ROHDE: He was respected and he is, you know, very good as a lawyer, but he's always been deeply conservative. He sort of saw the '60s as judicial
activism with -- coming in in terms of affirmative action and he's very much against abortion rights. A person that's close to Barr said that the
viewpoint is sort of, yes, Donald Trump is unorthodox, but he delivers.
AMANPOUR: But you know what, it's not just that he delivers, it's that he does it in a way that's not necessarily religious. I mean, these are
religious conservatives. You kind of get it. They are a big force in this country. But they have chosen to hitch their wagon to somebody who is not
religious. He may be doing what they want him to do politically, judges, taxes, abortion rights.
AMANPOUR: What is it that allows them to say the means justifies the end?
ROHDE: I believe it was Jerry Falwell Jr. said this about Donald Trump, he's a street fighter. And there's this feeling, and you hear it again in
Barr's rhetoric about siege that you need a street fighter to stop this elitist assault, which I don't think exists, but that's what Bill Barr
believes and that's what, you know, people -- conservatives feel. So, you need Donald Trump to, you know, keep you -- to help you survive, keep your
values, your family and live, you know, your life the way you want to.
And this is the broader polarization of our politics. It's not about disagreeing. It's that the other side is going to destroy you and your way
of life if you don't fight back.
AMANPOUR: Another part of clever message, Alan Dershowitz, very canny lawyer, very successful lawyer, on Trump's side pushed the envelope as to
why the president shouldn't be impeached over this. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY ON TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And
mostly you're right, your election is in the public interest. And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the
public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So again, very clever messaging. On the day the verdict came, Mitt Romney is one Republican senator who voted to convict. So, not many
people moving out of the party dogma.
ROHDE: Essentially, it's clever messaging and as Dershowitz is saying that this isn't an impeachable offense and this is what many of the Republicans
have adopted, which is it was wrong or questionable, it's not enough to throw him out of office.
But what's so scary is the sort of precedent of what Dershowitz is saying. So, if the president thinks what he is doing is right and he thinks it's
good for the country that he or she be re-elect, then they can break the law. And that's what's so scary and strange about this moment in American
You have Donald Trump sort of violating all these norms, arguably, you know, violating these laws, and, you know, a third of the country that's
very loyal to him saying, you know, it doesn't matter. And he says, I didn't do anything wrong. There's this kind of black is white thing, his
response is, no, it was a perfect phone call.
The kind of fear that you'll be held accountable if you lie too much that's existed since Nixon has disappeared under this president.
AMANPOUR: Has evaporated completely.
AMANPOUR: In fact, it's become, to quote a phrase, the art of the deal.
AMANPOUR: As you know, Laurence Tribe, the scholar, has said about Barr's ideas of presidential power, if those views take hold, we will have lost
what was won in the revolution. We will have a chief executive who is more powerful than the king. How would Barr respond to that kind of criticism?
ROHDE: What's sort of extraordinary about Barr and the speeches he's given -- and he's said this throughout his life, I want to be fair to him, is
that he has always thought that -- to keep this country together, you needed a president that was strong and could act decisively. If there's a
9/11 style attack, the president does what's needed, doesn't have to consult Congress.
And what we learned from sort of Nixon and Watergate is that you need an equal division of powers. You know, it's very cumbersome but you need the
executive branch fighting the legislative branch and the judiciary there also. Those three branches hold each other in check. And you do see with
the acquittal of President Trump, the presidency is gaining tremendous power. I think it recouped what it lost from Watergate after 9/11. You
know, George Bush and Dick Cheney took a lot of power there and I think the president, you know, is even more powerful now.
AMANPOUR: Let's go back to sort of the religious theme that sort of unites quite a few of the president's men, again, incredibly, people wouldn't
believe it if they didn't see it in front of their eyes, because also Mike Pompeo is a conservative Evangelical Christian. He apparently, according to
Susan Glasser who has profiled him for The New Yorker, he actually has an open bible on his desk. What does Trump see in them?
ROHDE: I think he sees people support, he sees people who embrace him and welcome him and I think he's committed to kind of defying the elite. It's
this sense that Donald Trump has always had that he's the outsider and he's persecuted. And I think they share that. I think that, you know, religious
Americans feel that way. And they -- you know, there's a feeling I get -- and I hear this from sort of moderate Republicans, will herd, you know, as
a member of the House, that there's a sense that liberals are all overreacting to Donald Trump.
AMANPOUR: Otherwise known as Trump derangement syndrome.
ROHDE: Yes. That, you know, he's kind of amateur-ish, this phone call is an amateur-ish thing to do, the phone call with Ukraine, and all the
liberals are sort of overreacting to the president. And again, there's -- and this is the broader problem of the kind of, you know, disintegration of
our politics. I think Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr and other religious conservatives do feel that they're under siege, that this cultural elite
is, you know, persecuting them for following their religion.
I don't think that's -- I hope that's not true, but this is how our politics has gone about like playing to the base, conspiracy theory, you
know, my side is under siege and this is just an all-out war.
AMANPOUR: It's the victim. So, anyway, Barr, as the top law enforcement officer of this land, has made a lot of interventions to the federalist
society, a conservative legal society, as the impeachment hearings were going on, he made this comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: The fact of the matter is that in waging a scorched earth, no holds barred war of resistance against this administration, it is the left that
is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that's a real challenge, the chief law enforcement officer is saying --
AMANPOUR: -- president's political opponents are undermining and shredding the rule of law.
ROHDE: It's -- again, I respect Bill Barr. He's a very serious lawyer and a very effective one. But this is effective messaging. Your side is out of
line, you know, you're destroying the norms, when clearly factually, though, it's been President Trump and his administration that is limiting
information, it's never happened before.
And one thing that Barr has said since he launched the investigations, he's investigating the FBI officials and intelligence officials who have said
that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump investigate the investigators. So, there's a real fear that there's a chilling effect, that
this is saying to FBI agents or intelligence analysts, don't investigate this president, don't question anything he says publicly, because you,
yourself, will be investigated if you do that. And it is a very dangerous precedent that Barr is setting up.
And Barr might believe that there are these conspiracy theories. And what's so unnerving about this is, where does it end? Barr thinks he's besieged,
you know, these FBI people under investigation think they are besieged and everyone is sort of believing their own conspiracy theory and that
frightens me and I worry sometimes about violence in this country.
ROHDE: I think as we go through a very heated 2020 election, there were bombs, you know, sent to journalists and some public officials.
I don't want that to happen. I hope it doesn't happen. But when you look at the level of rhetoric, opponents of Trump saying, he's destroying
democracy, supporters of Donald Trump saying, no, you're destroying democracy, you're trying to force him out of office in a coup, that's very
AMANPOUR: What does a very earnest Democratic Party do, sticking to the facts and being, you know, rigorous about the truth of the matter in terms
of facts and figures and trying to win a fair fight at an election? They've obviously not managed an impeachment or with the Mueller investigation.
What do they do? What is the tactics that they should employ?
ROHDE: It's very difficult. I think there's a level of substance, you know, what's happening in terms of inequality. Health care was a huge issue
in 2018. Climate is a tremendous issue among young Americans. And it's to focus on those issues. It's also counter-punching because Donald Trump is
so good at defining them and whoever the nominee is, he will define them as he defined Hillary Clinton. And there was a sense that maybe this wasn't
sticking on Hillary Clinton, but it actually works.
So, it has to be someone who mixes those two things. I think Trump is cleverly sort of trolling his political opponents, members of the press,
and there's a tendency to overreact to the trolling. So, it's kind of push back, define yourself and focus on issues.
AMANPOUR: I want to engage you as a foreign correspondent again. You know, in this post-truth world, even something as legally, you know, strong as a
criminal trial against genocide, as the conviction of war records and leaders like in the Balkans, now languishing, you know, for life in jail
because of crimes against humanity, perpetuating genocide, even that can be questioned in this post-truth world.
We've got Peter Hankey having been awarded the Nobel prize for literature and he in the past has questioned the notion that there was a genocide at
Srebrenica, which you've written about. He's questioned, you know, Slobodan Milosevic's involvement in all of this. And now, we have an American
journalist, Jessica Stern, who has visited Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb henchman, responsible and judged and tried and convicted for crimes
against humanity. She's visited him in prison and has written sort of a touchy-feely book about "My War Criminal." I mean, where does this end?
ROHDE: It's a strange thing. And the tactic too is that all sides committed atrocities, in Bosnian and it's about -- you know, everyone's
AMANPOUR: Which we know is not true.
ROHDE: And that is not true. The vast majority of the crimes were committed by Serb radicals, not by all Serbs. And -- but there's a tendency
to kind of muddy the truth and, again, this kind of counternarrative. And it does grow. It's appealing to people and it's -- I think it's easier for
people, maybe for Serbs, to think, my people didn't do this, and you don't want to think your group is guilty. And here's a quick and easy answer
from, you know, Jessica Stern saying, actually, no, everyone was bad, you know, your group wasn't particularly bad.
So, there's an appeal to that. I don't know where it ends and it's just all this history being changed for people to feel better about themselves or
people to score political points, again, it's all very dangerous to me.
AMANPOUR: And everything is at stake.
ROHDE: Everything. It's an incredibly important election. But I think people are listening. The U.S. is deeply divided. It's very unclear who
will win. And it's a real test for journalism and democracy and we just have to stick to the facts and our traditional jobs as journalists to try
to get it right and be fair.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. David Rohde, thank you very much, indeed.
ROHDE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Let's turn now to some much-needed light and hope in our divided times. "Little America" is a new series on Apple Tv Plus and it's based on
true stories which tackle the immigrant experience in all its complexity. Take a look at this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 50 cents for one, but for you, my friend, I'll give you two for $1.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell, yes. We'll take a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like a dozen. We'll give you a discount.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We totally needed this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, yes. And 12. Get the money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that staying on your head right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: African magic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon are writers and producers on the show, and the real-life duo behind the auto biographical
rom-com "The Big Sick." They wanted to talk about their mission to humanize the backbone of America, its immigrants in today's political climate.
Emily, Kumain, welcome to the program.
EMILY V. GORDON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "LITTLE AMERICA": Thank you to the program.
KUMAIL NANJIANI, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "LITTLE AMERICAN": Thank you.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, this is really an amazing story. It's about immigrants, you know, in a time when, you know, it's like a hot topic and it's about
hope. It's not about the sort of massive tragedy, or some of it is quite sad. Just tell me why you thought of doing this.
GORDON: Well, we thought that -- the idea was brought to us by a friend of ours and we -- immediately, Eisenberg (INAUDIBLE), we immediately kind of
fell in love with the idea. It should exist. Like those are the best kinds of ideas, are the ones that when you hear them, you're like, yes, of course
it should exist.
And I think for us we wanted to show a variety of experiences that immigrants have. That's why the anthology series was important to us.
There's no one immigrant experience, there's no one monolithic experience. And I think you and I both kind of traffic in hope a little bit. I think,
in general --
AMANPOUR: So, I was wondering where that was going, trafficking.
NANJIANI: Hope, it's a new drug we've got.
GORDON: It's a great new drug.
NANJIANI: Very addictive.
GORDON: I think we both are somewhat optimistic and I think also there are plenty of things that focus on the very real struggles that immigrants have
and the --
NANJIANI: Well, this show has struggles too.
GORDON: A lot of struggles. But it's not struggle porn is the only term I can think of. It's not -- I think where we're highlighting, look how much
GORDON: Isn't it important? We wanted to show these people as full human beings.
AMANPOUR: Well, and that in itself is a radical concept. You are an immigrant.
NANJIANI: I am. That's right.
AMANPOUR: Is that why you were attracted to it or what?
NANJIANI: Certainly, part of why I was attracted to it. I feel like there's a sense that immigrant stories are only -- no matter what side of
the political debate you're on, that immigrant stories are only worth telling if they're full of tragedy.
NANJIANI: Yes. And so, my immigrant experience has been different from every other immigrant's experience, just as, you know -- as Emily was
saying, there's no monolithic immigrant experience. And generally, when you hear the word immigrant in America you conjure the same image, whatever
side of the political debate you're on. So, we just wanted to tell stories that were different from that, that did have a little bit more hope.
AMANPOUR: Both of you have used the word human, to humanize immigrants. I mean, it's kind of extraordinary that we actually even have to say that
because people are people and they're human beings. But in this atmosphere, it is a radical concept.
GORDON: It shouldn't be.
NANJIANI: I mean, it's weird, you know. We really did not want our show to have any political messaging within the show, but it's very existence just
saying immigrants are human beings is now a radical political statement. There's an episode where there's an undocumented girl from Mexico.
AMANPOUR: What's that one called?
NANJIANI: It's called the jaguar.
GORDON: The jaguar.
NANJIANI: And she finds out she's very good at squash, true story.
AMANPOUR: They're all true stories.
GORDON: They're all true stories.
NANJIANI: They're all true stories.
AMANPOUR: This is what's amazing, actually.
AMANPOUR: You've cultivated and you've gathered these amazing true stories, which makes it even doubly authentic.
AMANPOUR: But sorry, carry on.
NANJIANI: Yes. And I've heard people saying, oh, they're trying to say that undocumented immigrants are people, yes, they are. It's such a radical
thing to say right now.
AMANPOUR: And (INAUDIBLE) good at certain things.
NANJIANI: Yes, I know.
GORDON: But by the way, they don't have to be to be worthy of being here.
GORDON: But, yes, absolutely. We like the idea of telling a sports story. And I grew up in a very homogenous small town in the south. And I think if
you don't have access to human beings that are different from you, art is the next best thing if they're not in your immediate vicinity. And I think
we wanted to make art where -- that people would see and possibly empathize -- be entertained, number one, but possibly be -- get a window into someone
that they didn't know before.
AMANPOUR: So, as we've said in the introduction, you two have an amazing personal story. You've made it into the film "The Big Sick". You have been
in "Silicon Valley," you're now in the new Marvel thing. We'll talk all about that. and I want to talk about your story in a second because it's
vital to this.
But I want to first play a little clip from one of the episodes called "The Rock", you profile an Iranian immigrant family. And to be honest with you,
they possibly might be amongst the most demonized international groups, certainly now in international politics. And this is a very sweet and
affecting story about a father and a mother who just want to do their best for their now growing up kid, who kind of wants to be American and move off
campus, so to speak, off his family's property.
GORDON: He just wants to be in a band. Yes.
AMANPOUR: He just wants to be an American boy and in a band. And this is the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I can write up a business band, so the band can become profitable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know who is a massive artist and massive businessman? (INAUDIBLE). Yes. He owns lots of castles and he invests in
Yale and makes great music.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, are you coming to our show next week?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You joking me? Your first concert? I'm going to be in the first-row videoing everything. Now, you have your foot in the door and
soon you will have two feet in even a bigger door. You're the bono, and you're the H and you're one of the other members of U2. And so, it begins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You know what's really interesting about that, the immigrant parent wanting to make everything the son does, even art, into a business
AMANPOUR: So, you two wrote this one.
GORDON: That's correct.
AMANPOUR: This is the one you were intimately involved in.
GORDON: With Lee Eisenberg.
NANJIANI: With Lee Eisenberg.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So, why did you choose this one to put your writing and --
NANJIANI: It just felt like I had never seen a story of an Irany guy trying to get rid of a massive rock on his property so he could build a
AMANPOUR: And that's what the story is about. Obviously, he's trying to build a nicer house for his family. He buys what he can afford, which is a
piece of land with a massive rock.
GORDON: Massive rock.
AMANPOUR: And that's true.
AMANPOUR: And when we see a massive rock, it's like 8,000 square feet of rock.
GORDON: I mean, massive.
NANJIANI: It's like a small mountain.
NANJIANI: It's a modest mountain.
GORDON: It's basically a -- and I think, too, it felt like a -- it's a small story in some ways, not small to him, obviously, 8,000. A small
story. And also, one that kind of metaphorically is just kind of perfect.
GORDON: We all kind of have these obstacles in our way and the idea is are you going to defeat our obstacle, are you going to learn to live with it,
are you going to make it a little bit smaller. And that's what I liked about this character is that he doesn't give up.
NANJIANI: Yes. And we also felt like it was a good metaphor for the American dream, you know, which is what a lot of this show, I think, tries
to look at. And so, to us the idea of this guy trying to defeat a massive rock that he may never be able to really defeat is a good metaphor for the
AMANPOUR: Yes. And, I mean, for me, it resonates particularly because I also share the immigrant experience and I can see, you know, all these
things flashing through my mind and my memory goes back to, you know, when I first started in this country.
But I want to ask you about you guys, because your story is also quite phenomenal. I mean, you came here as a young person, you had seen America
on your TV screens and movies and then you end up in Iowa, which obviously is very resonant these days.
NANJIANI: Yes. I want in the news.
AMANPOUR: I mean, what did you think?
NANJIANI: Well, I was a little surprised because I had not seen Iowa. Because I hadn't seen "Field of Dreams," which is the only piece of
American pop culture that really gets into Iowa. I've seen it since then.
GORDON: Would you have still gone to Iowa had you seen the movie beforehand?
NANJIANI: I don't know. I don't know. I expected it to be like New York or L.A.
AMANPOUR: Iowa like New York?
NANJIANI: And it's really very much not.
AMANPOUR: It is not.
NANJIANI: So, I was very surprised. But in a way, it was good that I went to a place that was very quiet. And so, the culture shock wasn't as intense
as it would have been in a place here. And also, I was one of very few Pakistanis in that town and people were genuinely curious and had questions
they wanted to ask about.
AMANPOUR: And friendly?
NANJIANI: Generally, very friendly. I mean --
AMANPOUR: Because the way you say the culture shock wasn't intense, I like sit back because in New York, the culture shock might not have been so
intense because you see people from all nationalities. But in Iowa, is not a diverse state.
NANJIANI: It's not a diverse state but I went to a very, very sort of hippy school called Grinnell. And so, it was very much about, you know,
we're all the same, we're all equal. That kind of stuff.
AMANPOUR: That's good. How did you two meet?
GORDON: We met at a comedy club when I heckled him during a stand-up session.
NANJIANI: That's true.
GORDON: That is accurate.
AMANPOUR: And that was -- I mean, that was hot?
NANJIANI: Well, only because she did it? I saw her and I was like, oh, she's cute, I'll have love to teach her not to heckle.
GORDON: It's not going to heckle.
NANJIANI: By the way --
GORDON: It's not into heckle.
NANJIANI: -- she was very embarrassed.
GORDON: I was.
NANJIANI: And she -- I looked for her after the show and she was -- she had left because she was so embarrassed.
GORDON: That's the thing we fudge in the movie is that we didn't connect that night, we connected maybe a night or two later. But --
AMANPOUR: And this is what you fudged, in "Big Sick"?
GORDON: Yes, that's correct.
NANJIANI: Yes. And I saw her a couple of nights later at a different place.
AMANPOUR: And just talk to me about -- I mean, it was an extraordinary thing. You met and then you were diagnosed with a very serious condition.
GORDON: That's right.
AMANPOUR: They put you into an eight-day coma?
GORDON: That's correct.
AMANPOUR: And you -- obviously, you stood by her. Were you planning on getting married before the coma happened?
GORDON: Oh, I went into the hospital with a very casual boyfriend.
NANJIANI: And then, within two months of the coma, after the coma we were married.
GORDON: We were married.
NANJIANI: Yes. No, we had not really talked about anything serious. But I do remember thinking, you know --
GORDON: There you go.
NANJIANI: I was like if she comes out of this, we're going to get married. I remember thinking that.
AMANPOUR: Oh, that's so nice.
GORDON: Yes, that's beautiful.
GORDON: And I thought, like we haven't said that before. But, yes, the -- yes. I remember I kind of knew he was going to be there. I think that's
like his mouth was saying, oh, we're not that serious. We're not that serious. But I think I must have known that we were, because no part of me
expected him no tot be there when I woke up.
AMANPOUR: And what did your parents think? What did your American parents think? What did your Pakistani parents think?
NANJIANI: Well, initially --- you know, Emily is not the wife that they had imagined for me. But after she was sick, I think they saw how much I
cared for her and I think they understood that there was no talking me out of this. So, to their credit, they adjusted. And now, you know, they love
NANJIANI: We're all very close.
AMANPOUR: That's good.
GORDON: Yes. And my parents loved him from the start.
GORDON: They see him as my like --
NANJIANI: I'm very charming.
GORDON: -- my lion and my caretaker and they know that like I'm going to be OK because I have you to take care of me.
NANJIANI: Because I saved your life.
GORDON: OK. All right. That was the hospital more, but the--
NANJIANI: The hospital helped.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me, I'm obviously going to show you pictures that you know.
AMANPOUR: This is the gentleman you fell in love with.
GORDON: That's absolutely true.
AMANPOUR: And this is the gentleman who is now the ripped bod who is standing right in front of us now.
GORDON: Hey, guys. I mean, that's--
AMANPOUR: And for what reason did you put on all this absolutely and -- because you're now a Marvel hero.
NANJIANI: Yes, a movie called -- a movie called "Eternals" coming out later this year that we just finished shooting a couple weeks ago.
And I got the part a year before we started shooting. And I was like, I'm going to be the first South Asian -- first Pakistani South Asian superhero
in a mainstream Hollywood movie, in a Marvel movie, so I wanted to make sure that this was a guy who looked like he could stand up to Thor or
Captain America or any of them.
So that's why I decided I had to get into shape.
GORDON: So selfless. It was a very selfless thing to do.
AMANPOUR: And does it make a difference in your everyday life?
NANJIANI: Honestly, I have a lot more energy.
AMANPOUR: You do?
NANJIANI: I'm a lot less anxious. I sleep better.
GORDON: He's warmer physically.
NANJIANI: Yes. I just -- I sweat more all the time.
GORDON: A little heat vectoring.
NANJIANI: It does make a difference in my life.
AMANPOUR: Do you feel stronger?
NANJIANI: Not really. I mean, I'm sure I am. But physical strength isn't really something that comes up in my life a lot.
GORDON: Jars, which you're still not great at.
NANJIANI: I'm not great at opening jars.
AMANPOUR: Just to get the male perspective of being ogled at, usually, ladies are objectified. Now you are being objectified.
GORDON: So objectified.
AMANPOUR: How does it feel?
NANJIANI: It feels very new.
GORDON: You felt uncomfortable with it after the initial--.
NANJIANI: When I first -- so, I posted those pictures.
Basically, I took these pictures before Christmas because I was like, I don't know if I will ever look like this again. I don't know how Christmas
is going to go. We had all these cakes at home.
And then I saw the pictures. And I was like, I think the world should see this. And so I posted them. And I was on set. I was shooting. And within
the first hour I looked, and there were some likes. I was like, fine.
And then I looked two hours later, and it was -- it seemed like it was the only thing people were talking were talking about.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, it was around the world.
GORDON: Yes, for a couple of days.
NANJIANI: It was on CNN. I couldn't believe it.
AMANPOUR: It was. I'm just joking. Was it?
NANJIANI: It was on the Web site and it was on air. It got way bigger than I--
AMANPOUR: Is he tolerable at home?
GORDON: Yes. The only thing that's changed is that he talks -- he has -- your hobbies are a bit more boring now.
So he's very into talking about specific workouts or why this works or like why you're eating this way as a specific -- yes.
NANJIANI: And I also -- this is true. I'm pretty much the same, but I do around the house not wear a shirt every day.
GORDON: Constantly naked, constantly, comes in, takes everything off immediately. I'm not complaining at all.
AMANPOUR: OK, we're going to reel this in now, just in case, and go back to "Little America," where you make a point of having people of color,
people of different diversities do every episode.
AMANPOUR: How important was that for you? That was obviously conscious.
GORDON: Yes, very much so.
I think, yes, we were making a show of immigrants from different countries. And, as much as we could, we got writers for each episode that were -- had
a connection to that country, directors for each episode that had like a specific connection, and actors that could authentically play these roles,
rather than just someone we found in L.A. that could do an accent.
It was really, really important to us that we be as authentic as possible, not just because it's important. Made the show better. The actors were able
to kind of contribute. The writers and producers kind of poured themselves into this because they were telling a story that they felt connected to.
AMANPOUR: And I heard one of the actors -- it might have been Syrian -- couldn't get into the United States and you had to film--
NANJIANI: Yes, a Libyan.
AMANPOUR: Oh, a Libyan. I'm sorry, yes.
GORDON: For the Syrian episode. You're right about that.
AMANPOUR: Syrian episode.
AMANPOUR: That's right, Libyan actor.
And just to be clear, he is fleeing Syria because he's gay and obviously there's a war, right?
GORDON: The character is fleeing -- the character that this is based on--
AMANPOUR: Sorry, the character, yes.
GORDON: -- and the actual person had to flee Syria because his family was threatening him because he was gay.
So, we were filming that episode, and the actor who was playing a queer Syrian man was not able to get into the country to film the episode about
how welcoming this country is to people who are fleeing hardships.
NANJIANI: So, Apple was kind enough to move production of one episode to Canada. So, we shot one episode. Seven are shot in America. One is shot in
Montreal, just so we could get the actor we wanted.
AMANPOUR: And let us just pay some tribute to Canada, which has been incredibly generous in the acceptance of refugees--
AMANPOUR: -- particularly from the Syria war. And it's important to point that out.
What kind of reaction have you had? This is on the new streaming service Apple TV+.
AMANPOUR: You just said you have a second series -- season commissioned.
GORDON: We are, yes.
AMANPOUR: And what is the popular reaction? What do people say about--
NANJIANI: It's been great.
GORDON: It's been lovely.
NANJIANI: Yes, the reviews have been very good.
And what surprised me was, more than anything that I have ever worked on, I see people in different languages talking about the show. People will tweet
at me from different countries.
I thought, because it's a show about people coming to America, that it might have a very specific focus. But I have heard from people all over the
world on Twitter. I see conversations going in different languages. It's been really, really exciting to see that and people hearing themselves or
people hearing characters speak a language that--
AMANPOUR: It's empowering.
NANJIANI: -- that you don't see in American pop culture. So it's been a great side effect.
GORDON: We're happy to usher that in, absolutely. It's been beautiful, yes.
NANJIANI: Yes, and people hadn't seen stories.
A lot of the Middle Eastern actors we used on the show have played terrorists in various different movies and TV shows. And now they get to
play a version of themselves, play people with families just trying to get a house built on a rock.
GORDON: The lead of the baker -- Kemiyondo is the actress' name -- said she was told by an acting teacher she would never be able to be the lead of
anything because of her accent.
AMANPOUR: And that's also a very poignant story.
It's about a Ugandan girl who did very well. Her father gave her education. And she came to America, and her dream sort of, kind of -- she was a
biology major at something.
GORDON: That's right.
AMANPOUR: And she ended up being a cookie seller, but doing well.
AMANPOUR: But she had told, the -- was told, the actress, that she would never play anything.
GORDON: The actress was told by an acting -- and she said this on Twitter, was told by an acting coach that she would not ever be able to be the lead
of anything with her accent.
NANJIANI: And if you watch her, it's stunning that anybody told her that, because she is--
NANJIANI: -- an amazing performer.
NANJIANI: Well, it's great. It's opening a lot of people's eyes.
Both of you, thank you very much, Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, thank you very much, indeed, for being here.
NANJIANI: Thank you for having us.
GORDON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, refugees and the immigrant struggle are also at the heart of our next conversation.
Award-winning author Isabel Allende was forced into exile after her uncle, the former Chilean President Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a coup.
Her new historical novel, "A Long Petal of the Sea," tells the story of a couple fleeing the 1930s Spanish Civil War on an old cargo ship. It was
arranged by the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
Allende tells our Walter Isaacson about how writing helps soothe her own experience as an exile, and also the pain of losing her daughter.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Isabel Allende, thank you for joining us.
ISABEL ALLENDE, AUTHOR, "A LONG PETAL OF THE SEA": Well, thank you for having me, Walter.
ISAACSON: I had a wonderful time reading "A Long Petal of the Sea."
And it has a theme that you have in so many of your novels, which is people escaping oppression and trying to find liberation.
Tell me, in some ways, near the end of the book, you talk about making an assessment of life at age 80 or so. Are you making an assessment of your
life with books like this?
ALLENDE: No, I just want to tell a story.
And then I realize, after the book is finished, that I have been exploring some part of myself, but that's not the intention when I start writing.
ISAACSON: But you have the polite of the migrant yourself. You're somebody who had to leave Chile when your relative, Salvador Allende, was
overthrown. You become a refugee.
ALLENDE: I went to Venezuela with the idea that I would stay there for a little bit and go back to Chile. But the dictatorship lasted 17 years.
And the number is very interesting, Walter, because, according to statistics, the time a refugee spends away from home is between 17 and 25
years. And those who return usually return to a country that they don't recognize, where they have no place, and they go back without their
children or grandchildren, who belong in another place.
ISAACSON: But in this book, your wonderful characters Victor Rosera, they go back to Chile, right?
ALLENDE: They go back first to their own land. They go back to Spain after Franco's death.
ALLENDE: And this is what happens to them. After 40 years, they don't belong there. There's nobody there that knows them.
So, eventually, they return to Chile, realizing that their roots are now in this other place, Chile.
ISAACSON: It sort of reflects your own life as a refugee from oppression.
Would you say, more importantly, it reflects our time?
ALLENDE: A time.
ALLENDE: I think it's in the collective consciousness, like environment -- environment, refugees.
These are things that are in the air that affect us.
ISAACSON: Except for the refugee situation is so fraught, so politicized. I mean, Trump wants to build a wall. Others want to accept refugees.
I mean, you are trying to sort of help people understand the plight of refugees?
ALLENDE: I'm not trying to deliver a message, but I know that if you know the person, you know the story, you know the name, you know why that person
is seeking asylum, then it's not a number anymore.
Then it's not a number that you can stop with a wall. It's a human being that needs something that you can give.
ISAACSON: What do you think when you hear Trump's rhetoric about build a wall?
ALLENDE: Well, whatever Trump says makes me sick. So, when he says that he wants to build a wall, is it -- do they want to build walls all over the
world, so that the poor and the desperate are left out? What kind of world do we want?
Do we want a world for the privileged and another separate world for everybody else? No, I think we need to find global solutions. The problem
of immigration and refugees is going to grow with climate change also, plus violence, plus poverty.
And I think that, first, we need to find the causes, why people would leave everything they love, everything that is familiar to them, and go to
another place in an adventure that probably ends badly and be received with hostility, if they are received at all? Why? Because they are desperate.
So to put oneself in the place of that person would really help. Find the causes in the places of origin, why people have to leave, and try to solve
that. They were no Syrian refugees before the war in Syria. And the situation in Central America, the desperate situation of people who are
subject to narcos, gangs, corrupt government, failed governments, and we don't remember that the CIA is responsible for many of those governments,
for genocides in Central America, because they have supported the wrong people.
ISAACSON: Do you think that's true of the CIA and your relative Salvador Allende?
ALLENDE: Well, of course the CIA was involved. But the CIA alone would not be able to do something like that without the support of the forces inside
They work with what is in the country already.
ISAACSON: But put yourself in the position around the world these days, whether it's in the United States, or Britain, or in Europe or whatever.
People are saying, wait, we can take all of these refugees that keep flooding in. What do we do about that?
ALLENDE: I think that we can find ways of incorporating them and trying to facilitate things, so that they can go back to the places of origin.
Every refugee wants to go back. I mean, the situation of refugees is different from migrants. People who emigrate to another place usually are
young. They are people who are looking for a better life. And they see the future. They have a vision of themselves in the future.
And they usually contribute enormously to the places where they go. The United States is the best example of a country built with migrants. The
refugee is someone who has been expelled from the -- his place of origin, who's looking back, who never quite adapt, because he's hoping to go back
and lives in the past.
ISAACSON: Does that describe you?
ALLENDE: It describes both moods, the mood of me as a political refugee and the mood of me as a migrant, because I am an immigrant in the United
States. And when I came here, I came to stay and to contribute and to give something back.
So it was a very different state of mind.
ISAACSON: Tell me the story when you were young and you are a translator translating--
ALLENDE: People have asked so much about that.
ISAACSON: But you get fired as a translator because?
ALLENDE: Because I changed a little bit the dialogue and sometimes and a little bit the ending. These were romance novels.
ISAACSON: But you changed the end of "Cinderella" to make it better.
ALLENDE: Well, because Cinderella was such a stupid character.
ALLENDE: She would put up with everything. Why? No, I wanted more feisty heroines.
ISAACSON: And you were influenced back then by reading the feminist writers of the '70s. Did that help inform your writing?
ALLENDE: I don't think it informed my writing when I was translating, because I have had this way of thinking since I was 5.
There was no feminism in Chile when I was already a feminist. My mother thought that I had some mental problem and, probably, I needed some
treatment, there maybe was something wrong with me.
It was so rare to have someone thinking that male authority had to be questioned.
ISAACSON: Did becoming an exile change the way you were a writer?
ALLENDE: It made me a writer.
I wouldn't be a writer today if I had not left my country. I would be a journalist. I may be a lousy journalist, but still a journalist. I would be
retired by now.
I became a writer, I think, as an exercise in nostalgia, trying to recover the world I had lost, get back the people who were dispersed all over, the
memories that were beginning to fade.
ISAACSON: And one of the most wrenching lines is when you do that with your daughter who died. Describe that process.
ALLENDE: My daughter had a rare condition called porphyria that should not be fatal. She was in Spain. There was neglect in the hospital. She ended up
in a coma first and then with severe brain damage.
And, first, the hospital hid the whole thing for months. And when , finally, they gave me back my daughter, she was like a -- almost like a
corpse. This was before 9/11. And I was able to bring her in a commercial United flight all the way from Spain to California, where I live, and I
took care of her at home.
And after she died, I wrote a book that is a memoir. And the reason why I wrote the book is because that year of my daughter in a coma was like a
long night. I couldn't differentiate one day from the other.
It seemed that it was all one big sorrow. And writing the book, I wrote the book with 180 letters that I had written to my mother that she returned to
me, and some notes that I had taken in the hospital, so I could go day by day.
And then I understood what had happened. I could see the journey and realized that the only way out for my daughter was to death, and accepted
and mourn in the -- with the writing. That helped me a lot.
So this happened many years ago. And I still get letters, many letters, from people who read the book and connect to Paula because everybody has
losses. And it could be different losses. But we connect to some -- to the pain and the loss of another person if we get to hear the story intimately.
That's what I try to do with my books. When I have two protagonists that are refugees, I'm not trying to preach .I'm just trying to connect these
people, you, to the reader.
ISAACSON: When you do a historical book, like this one, it's based on a Pablo Neruda, who was a great poet, who I think was a influence on you
growing up in terms of being a wonderful poet, from there.
He decides to get a ship called the Wilmington to--
ALLENDE: The Winnipeg.
ISAACSON: Winnipeg -- sorry -- to bring people from the fascist takeover during the Spanish Civil War as refugees to Chile.
How much of this is historical reporting? And how much of it is sort of the fiction you put around it?
ALLENDE: Well, all the historical facts are true. They are not alternative facts. They are facts.
ALLENDE: And I have written several historical novels.
And if I get my documentation, my research well done, then that's the foundation where I can build the fiction .But all the basic, the theater
where my characters will move, is very well-researched.
So, Pablo Neruda convinced the government of Chile to receive the migrants, against the public opinion of the right wing and the church, who didn't
want them, although the people in Chile were very -- they really were following the civil war. And they really accepted these immigrants with
ISAACSON: By the way, that sort of feels like today here, where--
ALLENDE: The narrative is the same, Walter, the narrative of the right wing and the church in Chile in 1939, 80 years ago, the same, that the
migrants were communist, anarchists, rapists, criminals, thieves, that they will take away the jobs, that they would profit from welfare, exactly the
ISAACSON: Is that part of the reason you wrote it?
ALLENDE: No, I didn't know that until I read the newspapers of Chile of the time, and what? We're repeating exactly the same thing 80 years later.
ISAACSON: When you see that in your historical research, do you sort of say, how can I make people today understand this emotion that's been going
on for all refugees?
ALLENDE: Walter, what is the reach of a book?
Do you think that I can change anybody's mind? The press, television, politicians, those are the people who can really change people's minds. How
many people read a book? How many people read a book with an open heart? Few.
ISAACSON: Well, let me answer that question, which is 75 million copies of your book.
ALLENDE: Well, but that is 30-something years.
ISAACSON: You have quite an influence.
You're probably the bestselling author in the Spanish language. Is that--
ALLENDE: That's what they say.
ISAACSON: Well, let's--
ALLENDE: Who can prove that?
ISAACSON: Yes, I don't know.
ISAACSON: But let's say it.
Do you think, sometimes, you get pushback from the intellectual elite because you're actually so popular and such a bestseller?
ALLENDE: Yes, and -- probably, but it doesn't matter.
I mean, everybody gets bad reviews. Everybody gets -- there is an element also of, I would say, the fact that I'm a woman writer also makes me --
forces me to do double the effort of any man to get half the recognition. And that is in every field, science, business and also, of course, art.
ISAACSON: Do you think being a woman helps you understand that theme of oppression and liberation that goes through all your books?
ALLENDE: No, I think a man can understand it also just as well.
I think that I can relate better to -- what I think I'm good at is relationships, is the relationships between the characters. That's my
forte, I think, and that's why I have so many following -- I mean, such a great following among women, because, for us, for women, relationships are
very important, much more than a career or a place in the world or legacy or -- those are male ideas.
We -- for us -- I'm generalizing, of course. But, for us, it's how we connect.
ISAACSON: The relationship in this book between Victor and Rosera--
It's an odd relationship.
ALLENDE: Very odd, because it's exactly the opposite of how most love affairs are.
It begins with a great passion, and then it turns into -- in the best scenario, it turns into a long, good relationship that is more friend --
like a friendship. And, usually, it ends in a marriage of convenience, because why would you divorce? Everything is OK. It would be worse to be
This is exactly the opposite. They marry for convenience, because they have to get on the ship. Then they have years and years of this friendship that
is what I described as being companions. And, at the end, they fall madly in love.
And some people have asked me, do you think that it's possible to fall madly in love when you are old?
Well, I'm 77, Walter, and I'm madly in love.
ISAACSON: You just got married.
ALLENDE: Yes, I just got married. So, it's possible.
It doesn't -- it's not different from falling in love when you are 20. The only difference is that you don't have time. So--
ALLENDE: No. And it's important because you realize that you have a sense of urgency, that you can't waste any time. You have no time to wait.
You get married, and you try to make it work. And there's no time for pettiness, for little quarrels, for jealousy, for impatience or
intolerance, for all the things that ruin relationships.
ISAACSON: What do you think? People could read your books. Everybody in America could read it.
What do you think would come away in their heart that would make this country better?
ALLENDE: Walter, I think that the reader sees in the book what they already have inside.
And I can say this because I get so much mail, and for so many years. And I -- when I read the letter, I realize that when the person says, well, you
changed my mind, you made me think this way, you made -- I realized that that person always had that in their heart or in their mind, and the book
just brought it out.
And that's the connection. If the person doesn't have that inside, nothing that I write, nothing that I say will change their minds.
ISAACSON: But your books tend to appeal to the better angels of our nature--
ALLENDE: Because they are there. The better angels are already inside, Walter. I can't create them. I can just remind people that they have them
ISAACSON: Isabel Allende, thank you so very much for being with us.
ALLENDE: Oh, thank you, Walter. Thank you. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, Christina Koch has become the latest astronaut to add her name to the history books, completing the longest ever single
spaceflight by a woman, an incredible 328 days on the International Space Station, surpassing the previous record, which was held by fellow American
Koch returned to Earth on Thursday after performing six space walks during her mission. Three of them were all female. She's crossed thresholds that
earns her place among the men in space history, and, of course, opens doors to even more female space explorers.
And that's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from New York.