Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Suggesting Injecting Disinfectant into Body and Using UV Rays; Outcry from Medical Community; Autocracy Rising During Coronavirus; David Rohde, Executive Editor, New Yorker Online, and Anne Applebaum, Author, "Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism", are Interviewed About Trump and Authoritarianism; "Crip Camp," a New Netflix Documentary; Interview With Directors Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 24, 2020 - 14:00 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.
A disaster for many, opportunism for many. Nations creeping towards authoritarianism amid the battle against coronavirus. I speak to two
Pulitzer prize winners, Anne Applebaum and David Rohde, about the threats to democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember being at my grandmother's listening on the transistor radio and saying, I wish I could go, I wish I could go, I wish I
could go. And then, when I went to Jened, it was like, and there I was. I was in Woodstock.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How a camp for teens launched a disability revolution. I speak with the filmmaker, Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht, on their new
documentary "Crip Camp."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
If you're going to reopen, you better have certain amount of testing, you better have a certain amount contact tracing. It would be really good to
make sure that everybody's wearing masks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A pioneering geneticist, Eric Lander, speaks to our Walter Isaacson about filling the coronavirus testing gaps and the tough decisions
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
Outcry from the medical community today around the world, after President Trump suggested injecting disinfectant into the body and using UV radiation
as possible treatments for coronavirus. As the medical community and disinfectant companies warn that the president's ideas could have fatal
Look here. This is Dettol also known as Lysol in the United States. The makers of this, among other makers, have come out and said on no account
must these substances be ingested any way at all. Read the instructions. They are just for external use. That is the message that's also being told
on radio shows and deejay stations, to warn people not to use this, and we want to repeat that warning because it is very important.
Now, a journalist at the White House briefing had yesterday questioned whether his remarks, Trump's remarks, could spread dangerous disinformation
to Americans and others around the world. President Trump now says he was being sarcastic, but there was no sign of any sarcasm when he said it. Just
take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I see the disinfectant where knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that?
By injection, inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So, it would be
interesting to check that. So, that you're going to have to use medical doctors. But it sounds interesting to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was last night. The message from him today is that he was being sarcastic. The message from everyone is on no account ingest or
inject any disinfections.
Now, amid the battle against coronavirus the head of the United Nations warned about a pandemic of misinformation and reminded us all that facts
and science must lead the way at all times. And while many people are suffering from the health and economic devastation caused by coronavirus,
some governments are seeing an opportunity to grab more power and erode fragile democracies.
Here to talk about autocracy rising under coronavirus is executive editor of "The New Yorker" online, David Rohde, whose new book "In Deep: The FBI,
the CIA, and the Truth about America's Deep State," looks at whether a shadow government exists in the United States. And joining us from Poland
is staff writer for "The Atlantic" and historian, Anne Applebaum, with an expertise, of course, in Soviet history in totalitarianism in Central
Thank you very much, both, for joining us. I mean, it really does seem the perfect opportunity to talk about what some countries, some governments are
doing sort of undercover of coronavirus.
Let me just ask you both what you make about President Trump and disinfectant and the ongoing rumors and fake science and other things that
he's been dispersing from that all-powerful bully pulpit in the White House.
David, you in the U.S. and then we'll talk to Anne about how it's being viewed overseas.
DAVID ROHDE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, NEW YORKER ONLINE: Well, I think this is the culmination of years of Trump sort of undermining the public's trust in
experts and the news media. And on the Lysol comment is just, you know, sort of a stark example.
But it's amazing, the FDA, top U.S. drug administration, issued a warning trying to tell people not to take Lysol, it will kill you, and it's amazing
that they're countering something that the president of the United States said. But the United States is so divided, conspiracy theories are so
widespread that there is a chance some people could try do this, the Lysol or hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug he's also been urging people
AMANPOUR: So, again, we just have to keep saying it, don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it.
Anne Applebaum, do you think people around the world will, you know, risk listening to this latest instruction from the White House? We know that
some tried chloroquine.
ANNE APPLEBAUM, AUTHOR, "TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY: THE SEDUCTIVE LURE OF AUTHORITARIANISM": Yes, well, chloroquine is a legitimate drug. You know,
it's -- and people are testing it at hospitals. I think the warnings are just against people trying to use it at home by themselves.
I mean, look, disinformation is a tactic and it is one that Trump has used to great success in his political career, starting with using it against
President Obama, accusing him of having been born outside the United States. It's also a tool that many other leaders had used frequently and
regularly as a way of distracting their populations, as a way of dividing them. And also, as a way of undermining real news and undermining real
facts. So, that when they are accused of being corrupt or when unflattering stories about them appear, all they have to do is say, oh, that's the fake
news media, you know, we don't believe in it.
We'll all got rather used to this in the United States but, of course, this is a tactic used around the world by many leaders, you know, it's not just
Trump alone. And in many ways, it's Trump's prime borrowing from the authoritarian playbook, it's the main tool that he has used. You know, he
has borrowed it from President Putin, he's borrowed it from leaders of Turkey and other places.
And now, we are seeing what the real impact of it is. Look. You know, in a terrible pandemic situation, where we need facts and science, a part of the
population is no longer willing to listen to real news.
AMANPOUR: Let me just go back to David quickly about his book, "The Deep State," then I want to come back to you, Anne, about the central thesis of
what we are trying to get to, and that is, you know, this sort of increasing grab and slouching towards authoritarianism.
Your book "Deep State," Anne mentioned, you know, that, of course, what you have written and what everybody knows that Turkey has -- it's been used
about Turkey, about Egypt, the military shadow parallel government. Why did you feel the need, David, to write it about America today?
ROHDE: Oh, it's extraordinary and for decades it was an obscure term. But since Trump took office, it's become, you know, part of the Trumpian
lexicon, it's a very commonly used term and appears in the news all the time. The president increasingly uses it. And I agree with Anne, it's a
very effective tool.
Look. He -- and it's about -- it is a simple playbook. President Trump discredits other sources of information, rival sources of expertise and
authority and then he simultaneously is making less and less transparence about what he is doing in his own White House and it's working. You know,
people make fun of his mental stability. It's a clear strategy. He's incredibly good at staying on message and communicating.
And, you know, so deep state is essentially political rhetoric. It's a term that instantly discredits whoever he is declaring part of the deep state.
He did the same thing with witch hunt, which was, you know, a systemic effort to discredit the Mueller investigation and he's done it with, as
Anne, said fake news to discredit the news media.
ROHDE: And so, it's a huge issue and it's -- he has succeeded in using the deep state to discredit government officials who contradict or question
AMANPOUR: OK. So, discrediting government officials, that means, what, hoovering up more power into the executive, David?
ROHDE: Well, yes. Essentially, he's -- of any officials who -- I mean, it started out as the FBI was part of the deep state and then it was the CIA.
When he was pardoning an American special forces soldier and some current Pentagon official questioned that, he declared the Pentagon part of the
deep state. And it is. It's accumulating and centralizing power because he becomes the only sort of source, an honest source of information and
everyone else is part of sort of a secret cabal.
And look, the FBI and the CIA have long records of abuse, they're extremely powerful agencies, they're more powerful now in the digital age. They need
tremendous oversight. But I found no evidence whatsoever of a politically motivated, you know, widespread coup being carried out by, you know,
officials in the CIA and FBI. Current members of the Trump administration agreed with me that that statement was an exaggeration.
AMANPOUR: Gosh, that's so interesting. So, Anne, you are sitting in the sort of belly of the beast, if I can put it that way. You're in Poland.
Nearby is Hungary. Hungary is being under huge criticism of E.U. and from other democracies for suspending Parliament, for ruling by decree since the
end of March with a no sunset clause, they say it's just for this emergency but it doesn't delineate what they can do, when, what, how to whom and it
certainly doesn't have a timeline for Parliament to be able to sit back as normal.
We have seen in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu has closed down the courts. Some say because he didn't want to have his own trial run through the courts at
this time. We have seen in the Philippines, President Duterte is threatening to now extend the state of emergency, the lockdowns, the
curfews, he even threatened to shoot people who don't listen to him. What is going on, particularly in the E.U., in the region you are in right now?
APPLEBAUM: So, you know, look, this is a very old problem. When people are afraid, and when they fear for their lives, they are willing to trade
freedom for a sense of security or safety. And, you know, this goes back to the middle ages. You can look at how people reacted when the plague spread
all over Europe at the time.
And we see lots of governments where there's -- which have created a lot of consensus around this. You know, nobody in Italy is worried of
authoritarianism because the Italian government is telling people to stay inside. Everybody understands why that's happening and it's been -- you
know, it's been -- it's part of the -- of an accepted political process.
What has happened in a few places, and Hungary is one of them, is that governments have used the situation or sought to use this moment of fear
and disruption in order to do other things. And Hungary is a very odd case. So, it is not quite true that they have suspended the Parliament. What they
have done is made Parliament irrelevant. So, they have given the prime minister the right to rule by decree and to disobey any law that he feels
like disobeying on the books. And I am not aware of another country which is doing that.
And in his case, it seems that he's, for example, already used the power to take some money away from local councils and local governments that are --
that -- you know, that are not controlled by his political party. You know, so, he's deliberately using this tactic as a way to garner more power for
himself. And he may well get away with it, as I said, because this is a moment of great fear and worry. And one of the things that he's doing is
treating his critics as if they were pro-virus. You know, you're criticizing me, that's because you want to spread the virus.
AMANPOUR: Right. Well, one of his own -- well, his spokesperson, the main spokesperson has said that any criticism of Hungary is "political
lynching." And when I brought it up to the foreign minister a couple of weeks ago when this first happened, he also told me that we were just, you
know, repeating nonsense and that many other countries -- he named four other European country that is he said were doing the same thing. I'm just
going to play what he said and what the Hungarian government defense is in this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER SZIJJARTO, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: One of this fake news is that it says that the government has an uncontrolled and an unlimited
possibility to make decrees, which is not true. The law says very clearly that we can make decrees only in accordance with protecting the country,
the people and the economy from the challenges related to the virus. And we definitely have to make such kind of decisions, but we are not the only
one. All countries in the world I guess make that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, break that down, Anne, and why does it matter? Again, he said other European countries are doing this. He named four. I want to know
if that's true and just break down how he said the Parliament could work.
APPLEBAUM: So, when I saw the original clip, he said -- he mentioned Poland I think, Estonia, Malta and Slovakia maybe one other.
APPLEBAUM: I mean, I am not sure what he's talking about because in Poland there's no such emergency law. In Estonia, I looked it up, there are very,
very specific, you know, listed things that the government is and isn't allowed to do, you know, which border crossings they're allowed to close.
You know, there's no open-ended, you're allowed to break any law that you want. I genuinely don't know what he means. And certainly, I'm in Poland
right now. There is -- there are other issues here but that's actually not one of them.
You know, there are also -- he's also seeking to evade the main point. I mean, the main point, of course everybody has lockdown laws, of course
everybody has restricted their citizens' freedom. You know, and it's a big argument and discussion in every country. But, you know, some of the steps
that the Hungarian government has taken seem to have very little do with the virus.
As I said, taking money away from local councils that are controlled by opposition political parties, you know, in the name of fighting the virus.
I mean, this is something that is clearly a political move and that they have allowed themselves to do under cover of the pandemic. So, you know,
just be very careful when they speak because they do try to use language that hides what they do.
One point that is fair to make is that, you know, Hungary has progressed so far already down the road towards liberalism and even authoritarianism that
a lot of the checks and balances that have been dismantled weren't really working anyway. So, the Hungarian Parliament is already a kind of a
fiction. It does -- you know, it does whatever the prime minister tells them to do.
The -- you know, the court system is now fully under government control. The media -- a lot of the media is actually -- literally directly owned by
the states. So, the lot of the checks and balances have already disappeared in a way this situation just kind of, you know, makes that even more clear
than it was before.
AMANPOUR: David, in the United States, you have had Vice President Biden, the nominee for the Democrats, basically say several times, but lately he
said, mark my words, I think he, Trump, is going to try to kick back the election. That is the November presidential election. There's a lot of
So, in the framework of what you've been talking about, the deep state, the -- you know, using COVID and in this crisis to seize more powers often
without, you know, proper debate in Parliament, no sunset clauses on any of these decrees, what do you see as any dangers to democracy ahead in the
ROHDE: Well, you're right to focus on the election issue because Trump was, you know, declaring in the last few days that voting by mail was, you
know, rivet with fraud. This is a long running talking point of his after Hillary Clinton won the 2016 popular vote. He falsely stated more than a
million illegal immigrants illegally voted in California. That was completely false.
And so, it's already -- and this is really dangerous for the United States and sort of unprecedented that he is calling into question the validity of
the voting process. Again, this is a systematic thing he's done over many, many years. And the issue, as we saw, in the Wisconsin presidential
referendum -- or sorry, presidential primary, was, you know, how -- if there are and there will be, I think in the fall, still a possibility of
coronavirus circulating in the United States, you know, if you don't allow voting by mail you're suppressing the vote.
Democrats generally believe that the more -- the fewer people that are voting, the more it aids Republicans or, you know, you -- if you do allow
mail voting, he questions those results. So, he's laying the groundwork for questioning the outcome of the election. And, again, there's a -- he has
been so effective at it over the years. He's so effective at discrediting every institution, from the media to medical experts, that it shows -- I'm
worried about division in the country and people not accepting the results of the election.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask -- we're sort of running out of time a little bit, but I want to ask what you think, Anne, and then very quickly to get back
to David, what will we see once this pandemic is over, politically? I just want to remind everybody that we are sitting here in the United Kingdom
which has, you know, Westminster, Parliament, the Houses of Commons, a coronavirus bill was rushed through Parliament here allowing government
ministries to detain and isolate people indefinitely, ban public gatherings, including protests, shutdown ports and airports all with little
You know, this is a big deal what's going on. How do you see the world emerging from all of this, Anne?
APPLEBAUM: Well, I think, you know, the question is how people -- you know, we are in early days as you say. The question is how people react to
it down the road. I can imagine two very different outcomes. One, I can imagine this crisis resulting in a big transfer of power to the state in
every country, democracies and dictatorships. As leaders try to hold on to those powers that they have gained. And after this crisis is over.
I can also imagine people rebelling against them. And I would not be surprised to see, even in some very strict authoritarian countries, a kind
of backlash against these control efforts. We are seeing a little bit of that already in Wuhan.
AMANPOUR: OK. And just quickly to David. And it's more of a deep state question. This idea of a deep state, I mean, President Trump gets to -- any
president gets to nominate his political appointees at the top of the level of every ministry, every department. The rest is sort of, I guess, career
civil servants, foreign servants -- foreign service.
So, essentially, it's not Trump the deep state himself? Is any president himself not the deep state, so to speak, if you're going to actually use
ROHDE: What he is -- if you -- to me, a deep is sort of a consolidation of power and more power is -- and the processes, the decisions are kept secret
and you see that increasingly in the Trump White House. You had Rudy Giuliani carrying out a sort of private foreign policy in Ukraine. Sean
Hannity, the Fox news host, is sort of constantly talking to the president every night by phone and acting as like a private communications arm of the
White House. And we -- it's not clear. He's visiting the White House. So, that's the danger.
Trump -- it could be because he fears these leaks and fears everyone around him. I don't know if it's fear or calculation. But he is creating in
essence a deep state of his own where his loyalists are behind closed doors, he's rejecting all congressional subpoenas, he's stopping everyone
from the White House from testifying before Congress. You know, are making the decisions. There's no democratic process, there's no standards, that's
no transparency, and that's very dangerous.
I found in researching the book, the more concentrations of power you have, the less transparency you have, the more possibility for abuse. And in a
crisis like that, I agree with Anne, that's when this can happen.
AMANPOUR: So, much more to talk about. We will have you both back. David Rohde, Anne Applebaum, thank you so much for joining us this evening.
And now, deaf Americans have been urging the White House to use sign language and to have those interpreters at the coronavirus briefings. A
reminder of the challenges for many who want to access any information.
Now, a new documentary on "Netflix" looks at a historic summer camp for the disabled community, which was not only fun but also launched a generation
of activists. Here's a clip from the extraordinary and inspiring "Crip Camp."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, when Woodstock was happening, I remember being at my grandmother's listening on the transistor radio and saying,
wish I could go, wish I could go, wish I could go. And then, when I went to Jened, it was like, there I was. I was in Woodstock. The music and the
people. I just feel like these people are crazy. You know, I mean, in a good way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come to Camp Jened and find yourself, you know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was so funky. But it was a utopia. When we were there, there was no outside world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That is extraordinary archive footage and an extraordinary story. And the film is the latest to be acquired by the former first
couple, Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground Productions.
And to discuss it are co-directors, Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht. They join me now.
This is really amazing. Thank you for being with us. And it is a really great subject to talk about.
James, I just want to ask you because, you know, you were so instrumental in the camp and you've become an activist, obviously. Can I just ask you
about the name, because it's quite, you know, a controversial name? You take -- you know, you call it Crip Camp. Tell me what made you, both, all
of you, decide that that was the right name?
JAMES LEBRECHT, PRODUCER AND CO-DIRECTOR, "CRIP CAMP": I think that the use of the word crip is very indicative of how I feel about identifying as
culturally as somebody with a disability. And that it was certainly an indication that this wasn't going to be your average documentary about a
bunch of kids in wheelchairs at a summer camp.
You know, with -- Not everybody likes this term but it is a -- I think that my community has used this as a way to reclaim the word cripple. And so,
kind of when, you know, you meet somebody else and you -- you know, (INAUDIBLE), who is in the movies, said to me years ago, hey, Jim, did you
go to Crip Camp? And it was just -- it's shorthand but it also says that, you know, I have this sense of identity within the community.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about it. This camp, Camp Jened, was created, I think, in 1951. Lasted for more than 20 years in the Catskills in New York.
Just tell me a little bit about it. That clip was really amazing. People were able to have fun, enjoy themselves and not feel, in any way, you know,
discriminated or sidelined. Tell me how it came about.
LEBRECHT: Well, I think that the time that I was at Camp Jened, you know, it was really a product of the times. So, it had been started by these two
sisters. And over course of time, they managed -- or the word of the camp went into different hands.
But on the late '60s, early '70s when Larry Allison started to run the -- was the camp director, one has to remember Woodstock that has just happened
a couple of years before. There were all these liberation movements going on, black power and women's lib and such. And, you know, this was not a
camp that sheltered us from anything. They were not overprotective. They really wanted us to really be teens and young adults there.
And, you know, there was this sense that no one ever talked down to us. We were talking about what was going on in the world. We could talk among each
other and say, you know, it isn't fair that we can't get on buses or that we are not able to get into buildings. And we were looking at these other
movements and saying, why not us?
AMANPOUR: It is amazing. Nicole, what brought you to it? And frankly, I mean, did you know that there was going to be so much archival video, so
much, you know, real, sort of, documentation that you could look back at?
NICOLE NEWNHAM, PRODUCER AND CO-DIRECTOR, "CRIP CAMP": No. I mean, Jim is a long-time colleague of mine, he's a brilliant sound designer and he had
been the sound designer on my three previous documentaries. And luckily, he took me out to lunch one day and pitched me a bunch of ideas around
disability because he was really advocating for increased representation and more stories about disability in our documentary world.
And kind of offhandedly, he mentioned this camp and I asked him questions about it. And when he started to describe it, I realized we don't have a
way of even recognizing kind of -- I mean, many of us who are nondisabled that there even is a disability community or that there is a disability
culture and that the -- even the still photographs of these, you know, incredible kids, just like having the time of their life and being wild and
raucous and all of this was just shifting my perception around disability.
And so, as a documentary filmmaker, I felt like there was an incredible opportunity to not only tell one of the great kind of untold civil rights
stories of our time, the Disability Rights Movement, but also, to just shift the way people perceive people with disabilities.
And so -- but we didn't know there was all of this footage. So, we thought perhaps we would cast young actors with disabilities and recreate the camp
and we were trying to figure out how could we do it. And then we found this real treasure trove of archival from a group called the "People's Video
Theater," which was a radical hippie video coalition that had stumbled into the camp at one point, just really kind of by a chance encounter and had
spent days there filming the kids.
And what's so extraordinary is that they just let the kids, including Jim, you know, have the camera for himself and it just -- everything plays out
in this very organic, beautiful way. So, you really see the coming together of this community of young people and you see how they are finding their
own way to kind of empowerment and liberation.
AMANPOUR: And because you talk about civil rights movement and empowerment and liberation, I want to play another clip because it does actually show
how protests were held and how they actually did, you know, use everything at their disposable to be able to make statements. And just so that we can
tell our audience, there are according to the official statistics, 1.3 billion people living with disabilities worldwide. That is a lot. I want to
play this clip about the protests and talk about the results of that afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The (INAUDIBLE) action decided to have a demonstration in New York City, in front of Nixon headquarters. We decided
that we were going to sit down in the street. We were going to stop traffic. So, at 4:30 in the afternoon, we formed this huge circle. We cut
off four streets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You get the call to action, to the barricades. You know, Judy would call it. I remember being on the ground with these big
trucks coming at you. Going, whoa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very unusual demonstration. I mean, people are not used to seeing a whole lot of folks in wheelchairs. And you had to back
up. I mean, you had to back up if you were on the wrong side in front of that young woman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were announcing, paraplegics stop traffic in Manhattan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were only 50 of us. Basically, with the one street we were able to shut the city down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Powerful stuff, Jim.
What did the movement achieve? And do you believe that it's achieved enough?
LEBRECHT: Well, I think that that sit-in, which forced the Carter administration to sign regulations that ensured that anybody with a -- any
organization that was getting money from the federal government had to be accessible to people with disabilities.
And that's a lesser-known story than the passage of the ADA, the Americans With Disabilities Act. So, that was really a major stepping-stone towards
what we now have. Certainly, there's great improvements in the United States since the 30 years of the ADA, but there is still very, very much
left to do.
The stigma around disability really gets in the way of people really participating in society. And, you know, at the end of our film, Denise
Jacobson say, you can pass a law, but until society really comes on board, nothing's really going to change that substantially for people.
AMANPOUR: Well, I wonder whether, you know, a wider distribution of the film might sort of get rolling impacts.
So, I want to ask Nicole, from your perspective, as a filmmaker and obviously trying to get it out there. You did win the audience award at
Sundance. But, of course, you both hoped to unveil this, also, at all the European festivals, the film festivals.
Just tell me what -- how's that affected getting this message out? Or, because it's on Netflix, and everybody is at home, is -- are you getting
the viewership that you want or hope or expect?
NEWNHAM: The film is just like a really powerful, beautiful film to see in a theater full of people, because it is a story about people coming
together and different -- you know, even different groups coming together to try to make change.
There's a moment in the film where the Black Panthers show up to provide food for the protesters during this sit-in, and different other groups are
coming in. And we have had audiences cheering.
And so we really are sad to miss out on that kind of level of people kind of coming into this story and feeling like they're a part of it. But at the
same time, we recognize that this story is also a critical story for this time. I think it provides a much-needed sense of hope about how people can
come together to try to make the world a better place and how, even though that's a long, hard fight, it's possible to win.
And so we're -- we actually, you know, feel very grateful that it is on Netflix reaching a worldwide audience, and it's sparking a lot of
conversation that we are seeing in social media, you know, all over the world, including countries where, you know, people are sort of saying like,
well, we need a movement like this, or we need to stage a sit-in like this when this is all over.
So it's exciting to see those fires sparking. And I think, ultimately, we feel grateful that the film is being delivered the people in this time.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Again, it is really an extraordinary thing to watch.
James Lebrecht, I want to ask you, because, you know, there are a lot of people having issues with lockdown and social distancing. But I have been
reading, obviously, in all the research for this that many in the disabled community are saying that, actually, they have had a lot of experience with
being isolated or locked down in their -- maybe their own bodies, in the restrictions of dealing, you know, in the world as it is.
And now they feel that they can cope, and the able-bodied world is having to learn how to cope.
Just put it into perspective, whether there's something that your community, some strength that you -- you're able to draw on right now.
LEBRECHT: I think that so many of us in the disabled community know how to improvise, and that, every day, you're basically given things that you have
to adjust to, because the world really isn't built for us in a lot of respects.
So -- and I think that we are -- we have this culture of really interdependence, that we all kind of look out for each other. And you can
see that in our film.
So, this whole notion of, gee, we're going to have to do all of these meetings from home, this is something that people in the disabled community
have been asking for from employers for a long time, saying, you know, let me work from home. Oh, no, we can't do that. That doesn't work.
And now we are all doing it.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean -- yes.
LEBRECHT: Yes. Go ahead.
AMANPOUR: Sorry. I'm just having, you know, Skype issues in my ear.
But, listen, you're talking about work from home. So, people of working age with disabilities have an employment rate that's 28.6 percent lower than
people without disabilities.
So, again, I wonder if this moment that we are all living through might positively impact the work opportunities for your community coming out of
But, also, I just want to say that, because so much socializing is going on online, you have got a quote from one woman in the newspaper saying,
"Having the opportunity to visit virtually, whether it's magazines" -- sorry -- "museums or performances, has given me back something that I
resigned myself to not being able to do within my limitations. I hadn't realized how much I had missed it."
LEBRECHT: Well, I think that we -- you know, there's been people organizing from literally their beds for, you know, a long time, especially
in the chronic fatigue syndrome/M.E. community.
And so, certainly for me, you know, getting online has enabled me to connect with people I never had the opportunity to. And, in fact, for
someone like me, who's a wheelchair user, traveling is not the easiest thing in the world. I can't be in my wheelchair on an airplane.
I can't even use the bathroom in an airplane. So, this newer acceptance that it is OK to be distant and talking to each other through our computer
monitors is going to be helpful. And I think it will open up opportunities in employment. At least, I really hope so.
AMANPOUR: We all do.
Thank you. This is an incredible insight. Thank you very much for "Crip Camp."
James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham, thank you so much, indeed.
Now, our next guest is helping Massachusetts fight against COVID-19. After New York and New Jersey, Massachusetts is one of the worst affected.
And Eric Lander is a mighty brain to have on board. As a pioneering mathematician and geneticist, he helped lead The Human Genome Project. And
now he's transformed the renowned MIT and Harvard Biomedical Research Lab, which he runs, into a mass testing facility in just two weeks.
And he tells all Walter Isaacson what it's going to take to scale up the testing that is essential for safely exiting our severe pandemic
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Eric Lander, welcome to the show.
DR. ERIC LANDER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDING DIRECTOR, BROAD INSTITUTE: Great to see you, Walter.
ISAACSON: You wear two hats.
You run the Broad Institute, which is a great institute of MIT and Harvard. And you're also chair of Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts' task
force on what to do about COVID-19.
Let's start with the Broad.
Back in February, when this was coming down the pike, what did you all decide to do in order to contribute to the effort to fight the spread of
LANDER: Well, as we were shutting -- preparing to shut down the institute for most things, one of our infectious disease faculty, Deb Hung, a
wonderful physician also who is working at a hospital, called up the head of the large-scale genome sequencing platform.
It's the place where we had worked on The Human Genome Project. It's an old beer and popcorn warehouse for Fenway Park. And, today, we were sequencing
a new human genome every nine minutes.
They were going to be shutting that down. And Deb Hung caught Stacey Gabriel on her way to yoga class and told, Stacey: You have everything you
need. You have a clinical approval to run diagnostics labs, because we were doing that, and you have large-scale automation. Could you turn this into
Three days later, the team had COVID testing up and running. They needed about a week to get the formal approvals and protocols in place. And then
ISAACSON: Isn't this something that -- we normally expect the government to be in charge of testing. And yet all these academic institutions feel
they have to run into the breach.
LANDER: Well, look, it's great that we have institutions in the country able to do it.
It's true, it would be great if it was really coordinated right now, but I think, in the absence of more coordination, it's wonderful to see
institutions stepping up to the plate.
ISAACSON: If you were to coordinate it better, what type of things, what type of data, what type of standardization would you use to coordinate
better the national testing effort?
LANDER: Oh, goodness.
I mean, look, in fairness, there are a lot of complexities with spinning up national testing to a high level. The first was just getting those swabs,
the nasopharyngeal, long swabs you stick way back up somebody nose. They were in short supply.
And when you do that, you need to be dressed up in the protective equipment, PPE, as they say, and there were shortages of that. And so, at
the beginning, places, like hospitals and others, really were confining testing to the most severe cases, because they had to treat it like a super
Then, at the same time, institutions were trying to spin up more capacity. And many of them were starting without a real playbook. It would have been
great to have coordination on playbooks, so best practices, cooking tips, coordination of supply chains.
But it's sort of rumbled into place slowly. And I think people are beginning to share a lot more. And we have a lot further to go. Today, the
whole country is doing only about 150,000 tests a day. And at the Broad, we're doing about 4,000 a day. We could increase to 10,000 a day with a
couple days' notice.
But we need to be doing a lot more than that. And there isn't yet a plan for doing it.
ISAACSON: One of the things that Broad did was step in and decide to do the nursing homes all over the Cambridge and part of the Boston area. Tell
me about that.
LANDER: Well, we began talking to the state about how important it would be to do not just firefighting at nursing homes that were known to have
frank outbreaks, where people were dying, but trying to do fire prevention by figuring out which nursing homes had high infection rates, and then
ideally surveil every nursing home in the state for the residents and the health care workers.
So, the state was beginning to prepare a plan to do that. And we reached out to the city of Cambridge and proposed to do all nursing homes and
assisted living facilities and all the homeless shelters.
And, remarkably, the city mobilized quickly, and we were able to launch such a program, and, within a week, we had made a pass on every resident,
health care worker, homeless person in all of those facilities.
And it was eye-opening, because in the nursing homes, infection rates were sometimes 25 or even 50 percent, lower in assisted living facilities where
people living separately.
But it then opened everybody's eyes to the fact that we had to be surveilling lots of nursing homes. And so the state of Massachusetts has
opened the lens, and is now sending out teams to do surveillance at many, many nursing homes.
ISAACSON: One of the bottlenecks seems to be the need to use nasal swabs, to stick these long swabs back into the nasal passages all the way to a
person's throat, while the person doing the testing is in full protective gear.
It's not something that I think people are going to want to do all that often. But if we need widespread testing, we are going to have to test
people pretty regularly.
Is there a way out of this mess?
LANDER: So, people are beginning to look at saliva. Viral loads are detectable in saliva, as well as in these deep nasal swabs, and they're a
lot easier to get.
So, a number of groups, including ours, have been getting people to spit in a tube -- they make the special spit tubes -- and comparing them to the
levels that are found in the nasal swabs.
And I think we will see over the next couple of weeks people being able to bring up saliva. Then you could actually imagine, if you wanted to, testing
everybody every day, in theory. At least there wouldn't be a bottleneck with the saliva. The testing downstream becomes a bottleneck, but the
collection doesn't become a bottleneck.
And I think that will be very important. But every step of this chain has to get simplified.
ISAACSON: The Broad Institute put up a paper to share that shows how you could do perhaps a next-generation test, one that directly detects the RNA
perhaps with just a little pinprick of blood.
I know Berkeley and others put up a similar one. They're called things like detector and Sherlock.
Explain what you think those next-generation tests might be, why they might be better and when they're going to come.
So, there's a wide variety of needs for testing. There's some places in the United States where you might need a 15-minute test, because you have got
somebody in a hospital, you're concerned that they are infected, and you have to treat them as a COVID case, which requires lots of PPE and other
things. And so you want to quick answer.
There are some things where you need an answer in 24 hours, and it would be great to collect 50,000 samples across the city, get them run overnight,
and get answers back.
But there are a lot of settings in the world that are very resource-poor. I think all of us are tremendously worried about what will happen in Africa.
The spread initially was slower in getting to Africa because of less international travel.
But in a very resource-poor setting, we're going to need tests that are able to work in simple ways. Some of these tests, based on a technology
called CRISPR, which you and I both know and love and involves genome editing and all that, those CRISPR-like proteins can be repurposed to
detect the RNA of viruses.
And some of these things have been converted into simple paper strip tests, for example, that could be done anywhere.
Now, I don't think it will necessarily be the optimal way to do it in large scale in a city like Boston. But I do think there will be a really
important use for these kinds of Sherlock tests in many settings, some in the United States, certainly in other places abroad.
So I think it's really important in all of these to say there's not one uniform solution. We need a whole portfolio even of these testing
ISAACSON: The governor, Charlie Baker, of Massachusetts, a Republican governor, wants a dashboard to figure out, when do we reopen the state? How
do we reopen?
Tell me what you're doing to help him make these decisions.
LANDER: You know, the problem for any virus is one thing: reduce R.
R is this replicative number. If you have one case, gives rise to three cases, nine cases, 27 cases, 81 cases. And a month later, you have 250
cases, for example.
If R is bigger than one, it keeps growing exponentially. Everything we have available today is designed at reducing R, so it's less than one. A
governor needs a dashboard to say, what is the state of the state today with regard to COVID? And what tools do I have?
If you're going to reopen, you better have a certain amount of testing, you better have a certain amount of contact tracing. It'd be really good to
make sure that everybody's wearing masks, and then that you're monitoring, are you bringing down R. Are you keeping it down?
That's what happened in Wuhan. The R was big and it kept growing exponentially. They did social distancing. It kind of flattened out. Then
they really went with aggressive contact tracing. It went down, so low that the virus fell exponentially.
Now, we're not Wuhan. We will do things differently in Massachusetts and different states. But we need a portfolio of strategies for every state
that's reopening that says, how do we keep R down?
ISAACSON: Do we even know what R is at this moment for, say, Massachusetts?
And the reason we don't know is, you would, in principle, measure it from the number of new cases each day. The problem is, we don't have an accurate
case count, because we're only testing people with the more severe symptoms.
It is a lab problem and an information problem.
ISAACSON: So, what is preventing us, as a nation, from getting more tests out to the public?
LANDER: It's a whole set of things.
We need to ramp up much larger testing labs, labs that have capacities, not to do 1,000, 10,000. We'd ideally like to see testing labs can do 100,000
samples a day, for example. I think that's totally doable with automation. But it also means that supply chains have to be there to be able to supply
So, the manufacturers that make the reagents, the chemicals to do that, or, frankly, even to make the machines that you put in those labs need to be
ramping up, and they are ramping up. But there's a whole bunch of pieces that are -- and then you need folks who can run those labs.
And then you need systems to collect samples, just plain old logistics, shoe-leather. Do you ask everybody to come into a clinic if they think
they're infected? Do you have mobile testing sites? Do you go out to them? Should some of this be done at work sites, where we're protecting our
front-line workers, and every day or a couple of days or something, they can be giving spit samples?
You need to bring in place the logistics of how you're going to identify who needs testing and how you're going to get it to them and how you can do
it at the requisite numbers.
And I'm watching -- at least in Massachusetts, I'm watching the state come together, I think in a bipartisan way, across the academic world, medical
world, the commercial world, to think about just, how, do we ramp up all those pieces?
We're all frustrated we don't have the pieces today. On the other hand, we're pleased that, in the state, we have a lot more testing than we used
to. But we know we're just en route to where we need to be to feel -- for the governor to feel comfortable that he and his team have all the
information they need, and can stay on top of these things.
ISAACSON: When we started this strategy of sheltering at home, everybody said we had to do it because we wanted to flatten the curve to give some
breathing room to hospital workers and all, and by flattening the curve, we'd be safer.
You have said that we're now starting to flatten the curve.
ISAACSON: So, how do you tell the governor, now we need to reopen things?
LANDER: Well, I think the question -- look, it's not my job to tell the governor it's time to reopen things.
I think what scientists can do is help the governor know what tools are available to know and what capabilities have to be in place, the dashboard
of information, what you want to monitor.
The governor, I'm sure, is going to want to be monitoring daily rates of infection across the state in many sentinel communities, in addition to the
lagging indicators, like death rates or new hospitalizations.
I'm pretty sure the governor, because Massachusetts has been the most forward-leaning state on contact tracing, is going to want to be sure that
he's got contact tracing able to follow up on every single new case, so that the curve has come down to the point where every case could be
followed up in two days, and all those contacts could be tested.
It's a bridge. The curve starts coming down, you have these other tools to limit the spread. You're substituting distancing for other tools. And the
government -- governor has to have the information flow and has to have those tools in place, because, if you don't, it's just going to go back up
again, not instantly.
Exponential things go down, and then they start coming up, and then they come up, and then they go really fast. And so you don't want to just start
seeing that. You want to be monitoring that and keeping it down.
So, I think that's what a governor has got to do. And I think what's incumbent on the scientific community and industry and academia and
hospitals is to make sure the governor has the information and the tools to deploy as part of an overall strategy.
ISAACSON: You talk about the overall strategy for opening up carefully.
I remember sitting with you in the stands of Fenway Park, drinking a beer, whatever. Do you think we're able to get back this year to big gatherings,
like going to Fenway Park for the Red Sox?
LANDER: Well, I sure would love to have a game at Fenway Park. It's one of the great pleasures of living in the city, best ballpark, I think, in the
United States and best team in the United States too many years.
But I'm not really sure that we're going to have an in-person game at Fenway Park, because if you ask about opening, you ask about R, well, small
gatherings, you have a small number of people you could transmit to.
Fenway Park, my recollection is the seating is 35,000 people in a pretty compact space going to get beer and popcorn. It's a fantastic way to spread
And so my guess is that we're not going to open up really dense, big events until the end of the strategy, because it takes only one wonderful, as they
say, super spreader to spread coronavirus in the grandstands at -- in center field at Fenway Park, and that's really disastrous.
So I think we have to think about this as opening up, so we get our businesses back. We will have workplaces that are wearing masks, workplaces
that are practicing distancing, but they are actually meeting, but just not huge meetings.
And then, as we gain confidence that we have the dashboard and we have the tools, we will open up a little bit bigger. And, at some point, there will
be a fantastic first pitch thrown out at Fenway Park.
ISAACSON: Dr. Eric Lander, thank you for being with us. And stay well.
LANDER: Pleasure, Walter.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, today, NASA is marking the Hubble telescope's 30th anniversary in space.
To celebrate, the telescope produced this amazing interstellar image. Astronomers are calling it Cosmic Reef, look how beautiful, because it
looks like an underwater scene.
For three decades, Hubble has stood at the forefront of discovery, providing pictures of the cosmos and over a million scientific
Meanwhile, China's space agency today revealed the name of its first Mars mission, Tianwen-1. That means quest for heavenly truth. And it's due to be
launched in the coming months.
So, these remarkable milestones remind us of the importance of scientific exploration, reminds us of the importance of facts, evidence and trusted
We want to end this week by saying, please listen to the experts. Do not ingest or inject any disinfectants.
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.