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U.K.'s Death Toll Reaching 40,000; Dominic Cummings Breaking Lockdown Rules; Anna Soubry, Former British Conservative MP, Former U.K. Health Minister, and Mark Landler, London Bureau Chief, The New York Times, are Interviewed About Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson; "On the Record," a New Documentary in HBO Max; Sexual Harassment of Black Women in the Music Industry; Drew Dixon, Music Producer and Writer, and Joan Morgan, Author and NYU Visiting Professor, are Interviewed About "On the Record." Interview With Artist J.R.Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 26, 2020 - 14:00:00 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.
Prime Minister Johnson bets it all on his top adviser. But is he gambling away his political capital? I ask former Tory health minister, Anna Soubry,
and "New York Times" London Bureau Chief, Mark Landler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't tell that many people about what happened with Russell. He just grabbed me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Going on the record, allegations in a new documentary that shines a light on how black women are treated in the #MeToo Movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JR, STREET ARTIST: I think today, our (INAUDIBLE) creating a chain of solidarity, creating a chain of hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Not just a pretty face. The super-sized artist, JR, ells our Hari Sreenivasan why he's even more inspired than ever.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London where the U.K.'s death toll nears 40,000, the highest in Europe.
In March, the government's chief scientific adviser said that keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a good outcome.
Government missteps have now come into sharp focus this week in the form of Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's chief adviser made Brexit strategist,
architect of his election victory and some say Svengali. He admits to driving nearly 300 miles to his family's farm while the U.K. government,
which he advises, was telling the public to sacrifice and stay at home.
In a press conference, at number 10 on Monday after days of derisory headlines, Cummings refused to apologize. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINIC CUMMINGS, CHIEF ADVISER TO BRITISH PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: No, I don't regret what I did. As I said, I think, you know, reasonable
people may well disagree about how I thought about what to do in these circumstances. But I think what I did was actually reasonable in these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Not so fast. When Britain's politically polarized newspapers unite against you and more than a dozen bishops say that you should get the
sack, you should know that you're in trouble. But Cummings' boss, the prime minister, seems to be putting himself on the line to protect him.
So, why does this matter? Well, of course, there is that painfully high death toll and, of course, because it is yet another example of one rule
for the people and another for the elite.
Joining me now to discuss the impact on this public health emergency and its echoes across the Atlantic is former Tory health minister, Anna Soubry
and "The New York Times" London Bureau Chief, Mark Landler.
Welcome both of you to the program.
Let me start by asking you, Anna, of course, this is right in the heart of your former party, the Conservative Party. What, for you, stands out at the
biggest issue and do you think that Dominic Cummings will survive this?
ANNA SOUBRY, FORMER BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP, FORMER U.K. HEALTH MINISTER: I don't know if he's going to survive. That (INAUDIBLE) is true. I think if
enough Conservative MPs start to call for his resignation and we get a new name (INAUDIBLE) it seems, you know, the moment we have not got to that
tipping point where he is in serious trouble. But who knows? That could change. I think the real problem here is that -- sorry. Go on. Sorry.
AMANPOUR: No, no. Go ahead. The real problem?
SOUBRY: I was going to say the real problem here is that, you know, when you're in the middle of a huge national emergency, which is all about
health, you have to have a government that's competent and commands the trust of the people because you're going to be giving out really powerful
messages and people have got to get that message, agree to it and abide by the rules.
And this break down in trust is profound and really concerning. And as a second issue, I think it does show how, I'm afraid to say, lying and
arrogance is at the heart of people like Cummings and equally, I'm sorry to have to say, because he's the prime minister of this country and we all
want to be together, Boris Johnson, as well.
AMANPOUR: Well, so, let me ask you why then you and Mark Landler think that Boris Johnson is -- seems to be spending a huge amount of political
capital on defending this and not taking it as seriously as people apparently wish he would. Because here are the facts. A YouGov poll
released today says that 71 percent of those polled thinks Dominic Cummings did break the lockdown and 59 percent think he should resign.
And furthermore, it gets pretty bad for Boris Johnson because the new ComRes poll released this morning puts Johnson's approval rating at minus 1
percent. It was at plus 19 percent four days ago and the overall approval is dropping 16 points per day. I mean, let me go to you, Mark, because you
have been writing about it and there's, you know, certain echoes with how Donald Trump also deals with these kinds of issues. How do you see it? What
do you think is the biggest issue?
MARK LANDLER, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think the only reason that the Prime Minister Johnson would stick by someone at such
an obvious high political cost is if he really viewed him as an indispensable part of the government, and that has very much fascinated me.
We know he was the architect of the Vote Leave campaign. We know he was the architect of the Get Brexit Done slogan that brought Boris Johnson his
election victory. It's now becoming apparent that Dominic Cummings is also to the extent that Boris Johnson has any agenda, he is really the
mastermind of that agenda.
A few people have said to me this week that Boris Johnson knew he wanted to be prime minister. He wasn't exactly sure what he wanted to do as prime
minister and to some extent, what he wants to do, his agenda, his leveling mop (ph) agenda with the north, for example, is very much the brain child
of Dominic Cummings.
So, you see this just profound dependence that Boris Johnson has on Dominic Cummings. And I think for all people in this country, for voters in this
country, that should be a matter of concern that the prime minister's willing to sustain this kind of damage to keep on a man who so clearly has
lost the trust of the British public.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to talk about the great leveling in a second. But Anna Soubry, I wonder if you can fill in some of the blanks for our
viewers especially in the United States. What -- I mean, you were on the other side and on the receiving end of the Cummings agenda, so to speak.
Why do you -- do you agree with Mark Landler's take that he is what stands between Boris Johnson and the prime ministership?
SOUBRY: Oh, yes. I think Mark's analysis was absolutely spot on. Because you see, Boris Johnson is -- yes, he's -- maybe a lot of politicians have a
huge ego, of course they do. But Boris Johnson has -- you know, I think the entirety of his life just wants to be prime minister, never really thinking
well, why? What do I want to achieve if I get my ambition? What do I then want to do in the job? And I think that that is where Cummings does come in
because he gives him an agenda. Because Boris doesn't have one.
And if you also look at the time when Boris Johnson was the mayor of London, the reason why he was successful was because -- and he went into
that not really knowing what he wanted to do with it once he'd won it. So, he surrounded himself with very good people that had the ideas and the
ability then to execute those ideas in policy, in other words, to deliver. So, he needs that.
His problem has been, is because Boris is obviously was one of the leaders of the Leave Campaign, I mean, forgive me, I'm trying to be fair and
balanced here, but, you know, there wasn't much talent amongst Leave those leaders and indeed, the second tier as well. And so, he's struggling to
find anybody competent and at least Cummings does have a vision and he does clearly have ability. So, I mean, he's lumbered with him and he really
needs him, and that's why he is gambling away so much of that political goodwill in supporting Cummings in the face of real anger. I mean, I don't
know whether you've picked up on that but there is real anger out there about this.
SOUBRY: That feeling -- this feeling that the man lies. You know, the story about going on a -- I mean, for your American viewers, well,
anywhere, I mean, the idea that you are worried about your eyesight, so you get in a car with your child strapped in the back and you go on a one-eyed
car journey is just laughable, except it's actually not very funny. And, you know, the credibility of Johnson and all of that entirety is being
completely thrown away by his absolute loyalty to this man.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then because I think you brought it up and Mark brought it up as well. Obviously, in the United States, we had an
issue. We had Jared and Ivanka Trump drove or traveled some distance from their home in Washington to their home in New Jersey for a religious
holiday. We've had some of these issues. But here's the question you raised and I think that is important for people to understand this.
You know, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings and the Brexit people sort of say they are the voice of the people, they are responding to the people who
are angry about whatever it is, take back control, sovereignty, economics and all the rest. That was the reason for Brexit, right? That they could
connect with the people. But does this show, really? I mean, Mark, how would you describe it? I mean, is this a move that connects with the people
in this situation? Will they be outed as kind of fakes?
LANDLER: Well, I think what makes it so unacceptable to people is precisely what you said, Dominic Cummings has posed himself as a guy who
understands ordinary people and very much against the metropolitan elite in London. He's derisive of people who live here as not understanding the
midlands and the north.
And yet, when he does something like this, he sends a signal that he views those people to use the British phrase as mugs. He views them as people who
can be, in a sense, condescended to. The rules that these people abide by, live by, do not apply to him. And I -- so, I think it really strips away
the claim that Cummings and others had to speak for these people.
And I think that's why you see newspapers like "The Daily Mail," which is a stalwart pro Tory newspaper react with such venom because I think they find
it such as a display of hypocrisy. And so, I think that it's even worse for Cummings than if he were, you know, an old-time Conservative Party grandee,
if you will, this is a guy who has presented himself as a guy who understands ordinary people and yet he behaves in a way that makes it clear
that's not his real code. He really is an elitist who plays by his own rules and for whom the laws of others don't apply. And I think that's why
this has struck such a particular nerve in Britain.
AMANPOUR: And let me just quote from one of your recent pieces on this because, you know, you've obviously written for "The New York Times" for an
American audience. Parallels between of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are often overdone, you write, but there was something distinctly Trumpian
about Johnson's brazen incoherent defense of Dominic Cummings.
LANDLER: Yes. What I was getting at is just that there was -- you know, as Anna said earlier, there are these obvious holes in the story that anyone
can poke, can point out. And so, Boris Johnson is standing there presenting this rather threadbare explanation for what happened. That to me felt
Also, Dominic Cummings turned the tables in that Downing Street news conference and immediately went after the media and said, well -- in
essence, he said, this is fake news. You guys have been reporting falsely. Now, it is true that a couple of the elements of the story may not have
happened the way they were reported in the press. But let's face it, the preponderance of the story was accurately reported in the British
newspapers. And so, I thought all of that that felt to me Trumpian.
I think the difference here, and it is an important one, is that Boris Johnson is sticking by his man. Donald Trump in a similar situation I think
would have been much more inclined to cut his adviser loose, and that is an important difference between the White House where I used to cover and
covering Downing Street.
AMANPOUR: Which he did when the time came, he cut his election maestro loose, Steve Bannon, which we all remember when the time came to do that.
Anna, I want to talk about the very real health ramifications of all of this. You mentioned it will make it very difficult for the British people
to trust advise and perhaps to keep carrying on with any form of restrictions and lockdown.
But first let's just take a small break and play the soundbite of Dominic Cummings basically defending what he did. Let's just play what he said at
Downing Street. And again, an extraordinary visual. Here's an unelected official taking an hour-plus press conference in the garden of Downing
Street. But let's just play a little bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUMMINGS: I can understand that some people will argue that I should have stayed at my home in London throughout. I understand these views. I know
the intense hardship and sacrifice that the entire country had to go through. However, I respectfully disagree. The legal rules inevitably do
not cover all circumstances including those that I found myself in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Anna, there was no apology, no contrition and as we have said, the prime minister sticks with him. But the first resignation of the
government took place today. Let me read you a little bit. One of the ministers, Douglas Ross, resigned and he said, I have constituents who
didn't get to say good-bye to loved ones, families who could not mourn together, people who didn't visit sick relatives because they followed the
guidance of the government. I cannot in good faith tell them that they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.
So, as a former health minister yourself, Anna Soubry, what now do you think of the challenges for the government to have its way in the middle
still of this pandemic and in a country where the deaths are the highest in Europe?
SOUBRY: Yes. And actually, the other figure on that which is really -- in a way even more concerning even though the death is a tragedy, of course,
is that the figure for the deaths that are unexpected, so they're not in line, if you like, with the seasonal average, is extremely high. Actually,
we're just behind Italy and Spain per million. But in any event, the point is, we have handled this extremely badly.
You know, we know that you have to take people with you when you are giving very difficult health messages because it's a real curtailment of how
people behave. And so, people have to trust those messages and those messages are given by government.
And as the lockdown eases, and I want that lockdown to ease, we have got to get businesses back as much as we can and we have to get our children as
much as we can back to school, I think we're going to have a real problem, especially with parents, who when we say to them, it is safe for your child
to go to school, they'll simply say, I don't believe you. I am not going to do as you tell me anymore. I don't trust you anymore because your main guy,
and that's how they'll say it, your main man, he broke the rules.
Because I have to say, I think it's a very important point, remember, his wife had the virus, he had the virus at the time that they broke those
rules. So, that's why there's a lot of anger there. And also, it is so dangerous, because as I say, you have to have good strong messaging and
people have to trust you in that messaging, and it's this breakdown of trust that really will worry so many people looking at how we enter this
next stage of easing the lockdown.
AMANPOUR: I want to read for you both a pretty extraordinary tweet from a major scientific adviser, Stephen Reicher of the Scientific Pandemic
Influenza Group on Behaviors. He tweeted the following. I can say that in a few short minutes tonight, Boris Johnson has trashed all the advice we have
given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures necessary to control COVID-19. Be open and honest, we said. Trashed. Respect the
public, we said. Trashed. Ensure equity so everyone is treated the same, we said. Trashed. Be consistent we said, trashed. Make clear we are all in it
So, this is a government that likes to evoke the blitz spirit, World War II, Churchill, we are all in it together, and this is what the scientific
adviser says, clearly, we are not. But the important part of this is not even just the words but the facts. We still don't have tests, trace,
isolate, you know, all of that. We still don't have all the equipment that we need. We certainly don't have, you know, the right amount of resources
put into this.
So, Mark and then Anna, you know, the next stage is going to be dependent on actually fulfilling the government's promise. They said, you know, by
the 1st of June would have contact testing, tracing up and running. We're a few days away from that and no such operation is under way, Mark.
LANDLER: Well, I mean, I have been struck by how patient the British public is. Prior to this week's events, Boris Johnson's popularity ratings
were OK. They'd weakened somewhat but people were showing that British solidarity and stoicism and clapping for the NHS on Thursday evenings and I
think giving the government a fair amount of leeway to try get its act together on test and trace and on easing the lockdown.
You began did see some of the impatience creep in over the past few weeks. But I think the problem this government has is now having antagonized
people so badly with this Dominic Cummings affair they may be given less of a long leash by the public as they embark on this very difficult phased
reopening of the economy, when, as you say, they're going to require a great deal of buy-in from the public, lacking that level of trust, I wonder
how much patience people will have.
And, you know, as one who always thinks of things in the context of the United States, there was far greater divisions, have been greater divisions
in how the American public has approached the response to the pandemic. This country had been much more unified. I wonder how long that unity will
AMANPOUR: So, that's obviously the last question for you, Anna Soubry. And let's not forget in all of this, that Boris Johnson, the prime minister
himself, had the disease and when he came out, he thanked -- they were, you know, migrants to this country, NHS workers who, you know, had a vigil by
his bedside to -- he said it was touch and go, could have gone either way. So, now, as you say, the economy has to get back on track, they don't have
the wherewithal. What do you think is going to happen next?
SOUBRY: I honestly don't know. I know that we are not in the place that we need to be in easing the lockdown as we must on two levels. As Mark and as
yourself have identified this, test and track. Remember the W.H.O. said, (INAUDIBLE) said, test, test, test. That's test, track and isolate is not
in place to the level it has to be if you're going to ease the lockdown and avoid the second spike.
Because at the same time that there are some people who feel that the government has stuck two fingers up them (INAUDIBLE) the Cummings, equally,
they're going to start sticking two fingers up and saying, you know what, I'm not going to listen to anybody. I'm just going to on with my life.
On the other hand, we also have a significant number of people in the country, I think it was a poll out earlier today that showed 52 percent
think that the lockdown is being eased off too quickly because now, there's a big fear about this disease.
Now, look, it is a horrible disease. But the reality and the fact is, 80 percent of people who get it will suffer moderate symptoms and yet, we have
widespread fear of it. So, getting all these things balanced out so that when you do ease off, yes, you get people in the right mind frame that it's
not going to kill the vast majority of people, but at the same time, you protect the 20 percent who are at very serious risk and you put into place
that testing, tracking and isolation so there isn't a second spike and the overwhelming of the NHS.
So, all in all, at the moment, in my opinion, it's an absolute disaster. And somehow, we have got to get this show back on the road and this prime
minister and his government have got to grip the situation.
AMANPOUR: Former Government Minister Anna Soubry, "The New York Times" London Bureau Chief Mark Landry, thank you both very much for being with us
And next, we take you on another important but also painful journey with a new documentary airing on HBO Max when it launches tomorrow. It's called
"On the Record." And it chronicles allegations of sexual assault against hip hop mogul, Russell Simmons. By former Def Jam executive, Drew Dixon.
Here's a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drew was a young, powerful something who cared so much about his music.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so, when Def Jam called me. I was like, Russell Simmons wants to offer you the job as the director of A&R at Def Jam, I
could not have scripted it better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's one of the beautiful things about the music industry, there was a lot of mobility for women but at the same time there
was tremendous amount of sexual harassment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn't get a lot of sympathy for that. That was considered the price of admission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, HBO Max is the new streaming service owned by CNN's parent company, Warner Media. At the heart of this documentary is the music world,
the black community and how black women are at the very bottom of the pyramid when it comes to the #MeToo era.
Joining me now to talk about it is music producer, Drew Dixon, and author and visiting professor at NYU, Joan Morgan. They were both featured in that
clip you just saw.
Ladies, welcome to the program.
Drew, let me start with you. I guess, you know, there's a very dramatic moment in the documentary where you say that after 22 years, you were tired
of being a victim and you wanted to be a warrior. I think you used that word warrior. But it's not easy coming forward. How did you decide to come
forward and partake in this very pretty gripping documentary?
DREW DIXON, MUSIC PRODUCER AND WRITER: Well, thank you for having me. And no, it was not easy to make the decision to come forward. When I first
began to hear about the #MeToo Movement as it sort of manifested itself in 2017 with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, I was amazed and
grateful that the women who were coming forward were being believed and heard and seen and that the conversation was centering their stories and
then working from there in terms of investigations and sort of rigorous journalism that followed.
I also never imagined that that would happen and I certainly never imagined that the conversation would expand to include black women. I've always been
very aware that the story of white women in this country at least began sort of on a pedestal, however illustri (ph) that pedestal is. Whereas the
story of black women in this country began on a slave auction block.
So, I never even imagined really that I was going to be a part of that conversation. And in some ways, I was relieved, I was raising money for a
start-up which was very hard as a black woman. And when Brett Ratner was accused, I started to feel that this might actually force me at a certain
point to make a choice because Brett Ratner and Russell Simmons are very close. And then Russell Simmons was accused by Keri Claussen Khalighi and
another woman and then Russell called them liars.
And that's when I went to "The New York Times" off the record to tell them my story hoping that it would spur an investigation that might yield
another woman who was willing to come forward. And then Jenny Lumet came forward and Russell called her a liar. And it occurred to me that it was
incumbent upon me to come forward not just to support the women in general but to make sure that black women did not miss out on this opportunity to
be seen and heard because I frankly didn't know how long it would last.
AMANPOUR: So, since you bring up Russell Simmons immediately, I need to read out his statement, which we received in preparation for this
interview. And of course, you have accused him of rape and I am going to read this. Please note, these stories are 25 to 40 years old and I am
ashamed of my past having been a massively unconscious playboy, today, more approximately titled womanizer. But I cannot accept blame for that which I
have not done. I have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. To demonstrate this, I have taken nine prosecution grade lie detector tests,
seven of these tests administered by the chairman of the California Polygraph Association. I'm grateful for the women's movement and its
intended results, which include a brighter, more inclusive and safer world for my daughters and all women in the future.
Drew, I'm going to come back to you. But I actually first want to ask Joan because you have a slightly, you know, different perspective obviously
because you're not doing the accusing but you have studied the issue a lot and in particular the #MeToo issue through the black perspective and the
black women's perspective.
When Russell Simmons says he admires the women's movement, can you just give us a reality check of what it means to be a black woman and what it
means to be a black woman making these kinds of accusations?
JOAN MORGAN, AUTHOR AND NYU VISITING PROFESSOR: Well, first of all, thank you for having me here. I think that we have always been in a not well --
not explicitly stated but certainly black women understand this, that the price we have been asked to pay to support the struggle of racism and --
which is really narrowly defined because of patriarchy is the struggle of black men is our silence, that our issues can be discussed at some later
point after everyone gets free, if discussed at all.
There is also the issue of the feeling about -- in our community about airing dirty laundry. So, you don't let people outside of the community see
the problems and the struggles because there is an ongoing pressure to appear to the larger world as our best selves. When you combine those two
pressures and you add the violence and the ferociousness of sexual assault, what you get is generations of black women who have been silenced, who have
been shamed and who quite frankly have been bullied against speaking out.
AMANPOUR: So, in the documentary, as well, we have Tarana Burke, she's obviously the founder, the original founder of the #MeToo Movement. And she
basically highlights, she says the black women's need and duty to protect black men, which is kind of what you're talking about and what plays
So, I just want to play a group of interview clips from the documentary talking about this particular issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If white women are not believed, what do you think happens to the black woman in America when we come forward with stories
about sexual violence?
RUSSELL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN, HIP-HOP SUMMIT ACTION NETWORK: I don't have a stitch of violence of me. I would never hurt anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're worried as a black woman that you will say something that will have consequences that you hadn't anticipated.
DREW DIXON, MUSIC PRODUCER AND WRITER: He's the king of hip-hop. The black community will hate my guts. I didn't want to let the culture down. I love
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a terrible burden to bear to know that you might still be judged as somehow being a traitor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Drew, there's a huge amount then to unpack. It is a really big, big burden.
So just, you know, I guess expand on what you were just quoted and saying there. You basically said, I love the culture. You said, I loved Russell
You really -- it was really sort of part of the whole sort of thing that you wanted to be, this executive. It was your dream. You were in the
culture. Tell us about a little bit about the dream and what you achieved and what you had to -- well, what you walked away from, what you had to
walk away from.
So, I came to New York in 1992, having graduated from Stanford. I grew up in D.C. My parents were both local politicians. And I fell in love with
hip-hop. I was always a huge music fan.
And hip-hop, the activism of hip-hop, the swagger of it, the black -- the blackness of it, really, the sort of resistance of it, hip-hop was really
an art form that emerged because music education and instruments were taken away from inner city communities. And it was just another example of the
glorious way that black people can make something from nothing, and something beautiful.
And I loved it. And I believed it was important, in that I would sort of be able to fuse my activism as the child of public servants and my love for
music by being a part of this art form and facilitating black voices.
And so I came to New York. I answered phones for about a year-and-a-half at three different places. And I ultimately ended up getting my dream job
working to my -- working for my hero at the time, Russell Simmons.
And so -- and when I was there, I was able to prove that I could deliver professionally. I had the idea for a duet based on an interlude that Method
Man had submitted for his album. It was a cappella. It was just one sort of verse that I told Russell should really become a song and a duet.
I suggested that Mary J. Blige join Method Man to make what became "You're All I Need to Get By," because I thought it was an amazing opportunity to
sort of exemplify love in the context of hip-hop.
And so that was a hit. And then I worked on a soundtrack for a hip-hop documentary called "The Show." And that was also a hit. And I was really
proud of myself, I thought that I was emerging as an executive and being taken seriously.
And so when Russell asked me to come upstairs to get a demo, I expected to be upstairs for five minutes. Russell actually has an apartment or had an
apartment in the same building where he had an office. I wasn't even sure where I was going to get the demo, and I thought I would come.
He had ordered me a car, and I thought I would come downstairs and take the demo with me. And I just want to address what he says about not being
violent, because Russell tackled me violently. He was naked. He was wearing a condom.
He ambushed me while I was trying to find the C.D. I physically fought him. I cried. I pleaded for him to stop.
This is a violent man. This is a violent serial predator. At the same time, black people have very few heroes to spare. Very few of us get as far as
Russell Simmons had gotten at that time.
Hip-hop was maligned, not just in the mainstream culture at the time. Hip- hop was maligned within the black community at the time. There wasn't even a Grammy category for rap at that time.
And I didn't want to undermine this person who was moving us forward in so many important ways, who was empowering so many black voices, who was
creating black wealth.
And so I was torn, because I felt that the work he was doing was important. I was ashamed of having been violated in that way. I also am very aware
that black men and boys walk around with targets on their backs. And I didn't want to do anything to amplify the mythology that black men are
And I understand the way the news works in mainstream media, where the white gaze can kind of only consume one or two stories about black people.
So I didn't want to create a headline with a violent black man that would then make the black men and boys that I love more vulnerable than they
So, when I wrestled with all of those things, I decided that it was more important to be silent for the sake of the community than it was to come
forward. And so when the MeToo movement began, by this time, I was a much older woman. I'm a mother. I have a 15-year-old daughter and I have a 13-
And I want them to grow up in a world where they're both safe. And so I decided it was important for me as a black woman to get on the MeToo bus
before it left the station and to move to the front and to center our experience. We have never been safe. We lost our bodily autonomy in the
Atlantic slave trade.
And so I'm hoping that we as a society can digest this information about Russell Simmons, a violent man, and also continue our fight for justice for
black men and women, for Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
DIXON: And so I'm trying to be responsible as a black woman to my community and love my brothers and also love myself and my sisters at the
So, interestingly, in the documentary, you're not the only one who makes accusations. There are other women in the documentary. And we understand
there's nearly two dozen women who have.
But we also know -- and they have pointed it out -- that he has neither been charged, nor gone to trial, nor obviously being sentenced. And I want
to actually ask you to actually -- one of the big stories about this documentary is the connection with Oprah.
She was going to be part of producing it and airing it, et cetera. And then she pulled out. And she basically said that she felt that there were
inconsistencies in the story and other misgivings.
I want to know what you think of that and why you think she pulled out.
Let me ask you, Joan, because that's part of the kind of the story of this documentary.
MORGAN: It has become part of the story of this documentary.
Quite frankly, I would rather it not be the critical part of the story of this documentary. There's -- so -- that did two things. One is that it puts
the documentary, honestly, in the discussion, in the narrative. So many people were curious about this process of Oprah signing on and then not
being part of it.
And, honestly, I cannot speak to exactly what her reasons would be or not be for participating.
MORGAN: What I will say, though, is that I think that it is -- what we saw on the attack, that was launched on her by black men in the community,
asking the exact same questions that you asked me about earlier, that Oprah doesn't love black men, that Oprah is not loyal, that Oprah is a traitor in
some way, is so deeply reflective of the challenges that black women face when they sign on to take on these issues.
AMANPOUR: And, very finally, I have got 30 seconds.
What message would you say, Drew, as quick as you possibly can, finally?
DIXON: You know, I hope that people will take 90 minutes out of their lives to watch this film that scratches the surface in a story that's been
going on for 400 years.
Black women have never been safe in this country. And, frankly, the double bind that we face in coming forward really has played itself out with the
struggle this film has had to find its way to an audience. And I hope that it was worth it.
I hope that people watch it. I hope that every survivor sees some of herself in this film, and understands that she has a right to safety and to
be -- to move forward in every way, based on the value of her contribution as a human being, and not to be objectified and sexualized.
I hope we can begin a very important conversation about that.
AMANPOUR: Important conversation, indeed.
Drew Dixon, Joan Morgan, thank you both very much for joining us.
And again, this airs on HBO MAX tomorrow.
And now our next guest has taken the art world by storm. The French street artists J.R. is known for giant photographs of faces in urban centers.
I spoke to him back in 2013, when his first major exhibition in the United States happened. It was called Chronicles. And it was at the Brooklyn
Museum. And it showcased two decades of his work.
And here he is talking to our Hari Sreenivasan about why this pandemic inspires him even more.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks so much, Christiane.
J.R., thanks for joining us.
I know that so much of your work has been about community and public participation. And here we are around the world at a time where interaction
between people is limited.
So, how does art play a role today?
J.R., STREET ARTIST: Well, art have many form.
And I think, today, art plays a role in creating a chain of solidarity, creating a chain of hope. In many of the projects that I have started or
that I witness or that often inspire me, there is always a sense of hope, a sense of raising question, not necessarily giving answers.
And I think that, as long as there is this component in the art process, then it is art, and it is inspiring even in moments like that. And I would
have hundreds of examples to give you.
But during this time, I'm actually more inspired in the neighbor, and it gives me a big push and a big kick.
SREENIVASAN: You had a cover image on -- of "TIME" magazine, and it is in the middle of a street in Paris.
What were you trying to convey with that image?
J.R.: Well, with would the cover of "TIME," it was when we were in complete, complete lockdown in France, and I wanted to place an image that
people would see from their window. So I didn't look for any wall. I didn't look for any rooftop.
I just looked from what I would see from my window, a street and a crosswalk. And I would say, oh, if I see that, and people see it. Other
people are looking at the street and wonder when they will be walking that street again.
And so I just went in the morning, and early, early morning, and pasted it at, so that it appeared. It was actually a quick one. In 24 minutes, it was
But there is a project, like we just did now with the graduate students in America, where, basically, those students can't paste the image, the
students can't go in my photo booth.
J.R.: So, we had to create a features through Snapchat, say, anyone from home can send us a photo with their background. And then we will use the
billboards that are not being used right now on Times Square and other places, and we will actually celebrate you.
And then this amazing TV show happened. And LeBron James and President Obama spoke. And, suddenly, they had a graduation maybe they would have
never had in normal time.
SREENIVASAN: So, how many kids have posted to this virtual yearbook now?
J.R.: Oh, my God, I stopped counting. It's tens of thousands.
I mean, and it keeps going. And some -- we always ask that the photo is well -- so we have a great yearbook. So, the one who put their dog into it
and like five friends, we have to say, no, no, guys, we do it.
But it's great because, especially after the show, a lot of kids understood, oh, I could be in that crazy yearbook. And that was -- that's
one of a kind, one of a lifetime yearbook to be in.
SREENIVASAN: I want to talk a little bit about the exhibit that's happening at the Brooklyn Museum. And, of course, nobody in the United
States, nobody in New York City is going to be able to go in and walk around in that museum. They can certainly check it out online.
One of the images that struck me is something that was near Domino Park or -- and it's an image that it takes a little while to process when you're
looking at it, because I think, as a viewer, when I first saw it, it's, oh, OK, it's a giant mural, and then one detail after another after another
start to kind of reveal themselves to your head.
I want to know, how did you even get this idea? Kind of take me through the process sense of what you were thinking when you first thought this would
be interesting to do.
J.R.: Well, you know, I always wanted to represent the complexity of the society and the cities or the neighborhoods where we lived in throughout a
It's the same way when you go to the Louvre or to this incredible museum and you have paintings, or like Diego Rivera's painting that depict a
community where no one is bigger than another, where everyone is actually the same size, and everyone is represented how they wanted to be
So, in those old paintings, you saw the king, and then you saw the drunk, and then you saw -- everyone is just represented in the way they have been
painted by the painter.
But in those murals that I have made, I wanted people to choose. I say, hey, Harry, how do you want to be represented? And he would be, well,
there's many ways of being represented. I'm actually a journalist, but I'm also a fighter, and I'm also this.
I will say, yes, I know, but you have to choose one way to be represented. So, he would be, you know what? I would love to actually interview someone
in that mural.
And I say, OK, I'm going to photograph you on green screen. And then, one day, if someone comes, because I'm going to shoot thousands of people, and
someone say, well, I don't know, I'm just this person, do you want to be interviewed by Harry? And they would be like, sure.
So he's -- he already posed this way. Can you pose talking to him, so, this way, on the image you connect? So the whole mural is made like that, one by
one. And you can click on any person and hear their story.
And it's completely free. And it's right now outside at the Domino's Park in New York, but you can also, on the J.R. Mural app that you can find for
free on the app store, you can hear the story of every single person. Just click on any of them and you will hear their story, from the homeless, to a
rich person, to a head of a company, or walking guy, like any person, minorities, the teacher, a student.
Everyone's represented and sharing a bit of their story. And it's a way -- it's almost like a dream that you could walk the street and you could tap
the shoulder of anyone and be, hey, what's your story?
SREENIVASAN: There's an image you created or a piece that you created on the U.S.-Mexico border where, if you stand in a particular spot, it looks
like there's a giant toddler with his hands peeking up over the border to see what's on the other side.
Tell us a little bit about that.
J.R.: I looked at the architecture.
So, if you take the U.S.-Mexico border, I'm seeing a wall there that I can't paste on because it's a see-through wall. And I'm like, OK, how can
we use that or without touching the wall? Because I did this totally legally, so I wouldn't have any permit to do it.
So I never touched the wall. I just installed it a couple inch behind the wall. And then I don't think I necessarily put myself looking at it. I
always wonder,who can come and pass by there and see it without expecting seeing a giant artist at that exact location?
So, I looked for a road that is completely public. And on the U.S. side and on the Mexican side, I wanted to find a place that you can get to that
place totally legally with your own car, with your own bike, by walk.
And so that's what I did. And when you would walk there, it's in the -- suddenly, you would see that giant kid. And what people did is they started
taking photos and sharing their location. And suddenly you had hundreds of people coming and taking photos.
And you know what happened is that, actually, people started to seeing each other through the wall, because they came for the same thing. Oh, this is
our piece of the wall. Let's just go to take a photo. They would go down there with the family, take a selfie, and then they realize, oh, there's
family on the other side doing the exact same thing.
Hey, guys, how are you? Then they started exchanging phones and saying, hey, I give you my phone. Do you mind taking a photo from your side?
I saw that on social media. I saw photos of people passing each other's phone. This is totally illegal. You get arrested. You get deported. I don't
know. Like, it's -- there's Border Patrol watching all over. None of the person that have done that over one month have been arrested.
So, what does that mean? It means that there was Border Patrol who look and were like, that doesn't look like those guys are doing anything illegal.
Let them be. They're just being human. They're exchanging. They're talking. They're sharing.
And that inspired me so much that I came back and did the tables for the entire wall, where people ate together.
SREENIVASAN: On two sides of the table, who's sitting there eating?
J.R.: So, there's the wall dividing U.S. and Mexico, and then the table would go through that wall, and, basically, a giant, giant table. On the
U.S. side, you would have American people came there to eat, and on the Mexican side, they had Mexicans who came there to eat, knowing that the
table would continue.
We -- because, on the Mexican side, we know we wouldn't be bothered by the authority, we could bring a taco stand and musicians and everything. And
then, on the U.S. side, we just put a big tap on the floor. People brought their food. We passed some illegal tacos through the wall. And we all sat
there thinking that we're going to get arrested after five minutes.
Now, what happened is, an hour-and-a-half later, still no Border Patrol have passed by, which is impossible, which means that they have seen us
from a distance and decided to let it happen.
And after an hour-and-a-half, one Border Patrol came back alone. He dropped, came out of the car. And I was on the Mexican side. And I said to
them, well, send him over to me. I will talk to him.
And as he came, I say, I'm sorry, officer. I'm responsible for this. But we're almost done. We have the dessert now. He said, no, it's fine. I don't
come to arrest anybody. Just you can continue. Just don't stay too long.
And I said, would you share tea with he, officer? And he said, sure, sure. And we have a video of that. And someone passed me tea, passed him tea, and
we cheer. And then I say, officer, we are filming right now? Is it a problem, because we can see your name on your badge?
And, you know, obviously, this is not legal at all. And he say, no, it's fine. I'm OK with that.
I took his number, and I texted him couple a hours later. I say, officer, are you sure I can post that image, because it's very powerful? But I don't
want you to get in trouble. You were so kind to all of us.
He say, no, it's fine. I want to show another perspective, another vision. I have been walking at this border for years and years, and I have family
that's on the other side. I understand the complexity. I didn't arrest anybody today. But, it's, of course, a one-of-a-kind of moment. I was just
part of -- I was just glad to be part of it, so please share it.
And maybe I will get insulted by some people. I get congratulated by some others.
And I stayed in touch with him. He is an incredible person. And you will see that video has inspired a lot, a lot of us. Almost -- that moment is
almost as inspiring as the whole project.
And I have worked recently in jail, maximum security for -- jail in California called Tehachapi. And we pasted the entire yard of the jail with
the faces of the inmates and of AIDS victims and of people who actually came out of the jail.
And who would have thought that would be possible? Who would have thought that the guards decided to certainly paste with the inmates? It was an
You can see images. I left them on my Instagram also.
SREENIVASAN: That image of those prisoners at the time, when you look at it from above, you see them in the prison yard and you see them -- you see
their faces. You don't necessarily see their prison clothes that says they're prisoners, but, obviously, in the context, you know exactly what it
How do you figure out how not to take any moral judgment or a stance on who the people are, what they have done, who they have hurt?
J.R.: Who was I to judge?
I wanted to see a project like that will be possible. I told them that it would be the same thing as the mural I did in New York, that anyone could
be able to click on their face and hear their story. And I say, I'm not going to interview you. I'm going to not going to try to conduct this
interview one way or another.
I'm just going to put the mic, you're going to share your story. But, remember, there's people on the other side of the planet who don't know you
who also might think you are in this chair for good reason. So explain them where you come from, what happened, what's your story, how did you end up
here, what's -- how did you change or not? What is your story?
And a lot of those stories are unbelievable. Often, I was lucky to be able to bring my phone in. And I remember, first day I went there, there was a
guy named Kevin. He had a swastika on his face. Of course, I'm there with a crew of people from different races and region. And this is offending.
And -- but I have never met one guy like that. So,as soon as I saw him, I was like, hey, man, what's up with this? And he was like, oh, this, oh,
man, I mean -- oh, yes. And it's not that I forget that I have it, but it's from another -- from the past, I was brainwashed.
When I came to jail, I was really young, and you just try to go for shock and awe and all this. And then I realized I was brainwashed. And I'm stuck
with this. I'm in jail. I can't take it off. But, man, trust me if I could remove it, I would remove it.
And I shared that on social media, and -- what he said. And people say, oh, my God, I will help him if he wants -- we have to remove it. We will help
And each I would see him, I would say -- I would read him the comments of the people asking him a question. And I would say, hey, look, this person
is asking you actually this and that. What would you say to that? And he would just speak freely on social media about it.
And I went and saw Art Spiegelman, who wrote "Maus," who -- is an incredible cartoon about what happened in the camp during World War II. And
I asked him to sign him a copy.
And, actually, my friend Mark (ph) on my team went and grabbed it from Art Spiegelman. We brought him the book. And we gave it to Kevin. And we say,
Kevin, you might not know this book, but you should read it. This is what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust.
So he read it. And the next day, he sat with us and he said, look, I spoke to my mom yesterday. And she told me that my uncle actually was Polish, and
we -- he used to hide Jews in Poland. So he went to the camp himself. And I didn't know that part of my story. Had no idea. And here I am wearing a
swastika on my face, where some of my families were fighting against that.
And so I sent a little video to Art Spiegelman to thank him for that.
But people can change. And if we don't believe in change, if you don't believe that a man can change, then what's the point of, like, sending
humans into cages for the rest of their life?
SREENIVASAN: Do you see that -- a potential here for us to value art more, having gone through this time where we're going through our own mental
health issues, we're going through our own stresses, perhaps it's economic, perhaps it's health-related?
I think art have this incredible power to show you, I call it the gray zone, the zone that no one is really exploring, to show you a different
path, to show something where -- as an artist, I can fail. I can try something and fail.
But if it works, like the project in the prison, the project at the border, if that works, then it shows you, oh, maybe the world is not exactly how I
imagined it was. And it shows you a new perspective, literally, with a piece of paper and glue.
So, if art can do that, then, yes, it can touch me if you are at home, if you can't go out, if you can only watch it through a computer. It will
actually give you the power to think, oh, my God, no, I should not see the world as this dark place where everything is stopping.
I should see the world as, actually, I can do things around me. Actually, if I can't travel, I will do anything I can in my own neighborhood, that
there's always a way.
I think it's just a moment where I hope that it's just for a moment time we have to invent ourselves. We have to be more solidarity to other people
because of this time.
And -- but I believe people have that in them always. I'm an optimist, you know?
SREENIVASAN: All right, J.R., thanks so much for joining us.
J.R.: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: Solidarity and optimism.
And that is it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.