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The Explosion That Shattered Beirut; 100 Deaths and Rising After Lebanon Explosion; Trump's Poll Shows Steady Decline; Steve Cortes; Senior Adviser for Strategy, Trump 2020 Campaign, is Interviewed About Trump; Trump's Verbal War with Disease Expert; Challenges and Opportunities of the Coronavirus Pandemic; Interview With Isabel Wilkerson; Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 5, 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.
Beirut in ruins. I speak with an eyewitness to the explosion that shattered the Lebanon's capital.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: They were dying, that's true. And you had -- it is what it is but that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Campaigning through a crisis. Trump 2020 adviser, Steve Cortes, on the president's divisive reelection bid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we do need is a consistent, strong message that you keep
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The doctor trying to steer America through this health crisis, Anthony Fauci sits down with our Walter Isaacson.
And finally --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISABEL WILKERSON, AUTHOR, "CASTE: THE ORIGINS OF OUR DISCONTENTS": As Americans we have not come to grips with what has always been there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A racial hierarchy in the land of free. Pulitzer prize winner author, Isabel Wilkerson, tells me why America's systemic oppression of
black people resembles a caste system.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Even during decades of civil war, residents of Beirut say they've never felt a blast like this one. The massive explosion a city's port that's
killed 100 people and rising and wounded thousands and left some 300,000 displaced.
Lebanese authorities have declared a two-week state of emergency. And as they frantically dig for survivors and scramble to treat the wounded, an
investigation is underway into exactly how this happened. So far, the source of explosion has been linked to a large supply of confiscated and
potentially unsecured ammonium nitrate which was being stored in a warehouse. This, in a country already reeling from the coronavirus and
Riad al-Asaad (ph) is a political activist and he's the owner of a large construction company in Beirut and he's been out all day surveying the
damage. He's joining me now.
Welcome to the program, Riad al-Asaad (ph).
This is terrible what happened in an already devastated city. Tell me what you have seen today. How bad is it from close up? Can you hear me, Riad?
RIAD AL-ASAAD: I can see you.
AMANPOUR: OK. Tell me -- we're on the air now. Tell me what you have seen today close up. Riad al-Asaad (ph), can you hear Christiane Amanpour?
All right. While we try to get our guest back, let us go to a report from our correspondent, Ben Wedeman, on site.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No one knows yet how many people died in Tuesday's blast in Beirut. The destruction was so
extensive, the shock wave felt across the city. The emergency services so overwhelmed, it was up to whoever could help to provide a bit of comfort to
the injured. Open lots turned into field hospitals.
The blasts happened just after 6:00 in the evening with what started as a fire in a port warehouse, culminating with an explosion the likes of which
war scared Lebanon has ever seen.
The whole house collapsed upon us, this woman says. In an instant, lives were lost and livelihoods destroyed. Michel Haybe (ph) has come to see the
wreckage of what was his electrical goods store. 40 years, says Michel, war, we've seen woes of every kind, but not like this. As if the economic
crisis, coronavirus, the revolution weren't enough, this tops them all.
Life was already a struggle in Lebanon with its economy in freefall and coronavirus on the rise. And now this.
HADI SHAHLAWI, BAR OWNER: We got here an hour ago, and as you can see, it is completely and utterly destroyed. We've been open since October and
we've been, you know, fighting every month with different circumstances, the economic situation -- it's a catastrophe. What's happening in Lebanon
is catastrophic right now.
WEDEMAN: Reporter: in the words of the Lebanese-American poet, Jubran Khalil Jubran, pity the nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, condolences and offers of help have been pouring in from around the world, but only President Trump has called it a bomb attack.
Here's what he said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRIMP: I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was -- this was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of
event. This was a -- seems to be, according to them, they would know better than I would, but they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But three U.S. Defense Department officials say that they have seen no indication that that is true. The president's instinct to
contradict the experts around him is nothing new, of course. But as the coronavirus death toll skyrockets in the United States and questions mount
over the federal response, it is beginning to cause the president some political trouble.
Poll after poll shows Trump is in steady decline, both nationally and in key swing states which won him the White House back in 2016. With many
voters now citing the pandemic response and racial equality as key election issues.
So, will the campaign change tack? Joining me now from Virginia to answer that question is Steve Cortes, a Trump 2020 senior adviser.
Mr. Cortes, welcome to the program.
STEVE CORTES; SENIOR ADVISER FOR STRATEGY, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Let me just first ask you, does it trouble you, as you're trying to get, I guess, a coherent message around the president from the president
in the campaign, that just about, you know, practically every day now he's saying things that don't quite tally with reality. Why do you think he said
a bomb attack in Lebanon when nobody else, not even the Lebanese government or their own military, is saying that?
CORTES: Well, Christiane, you know, if you listen very carefully to that tape you just played, what he said there is that his generals feel, meaning
it's an educated guess on their part, they did not report to him that it's a bomb, they didn't say they have intelligence. It was a supposition, an
educated guess from people whose entire lives and careers are dedicated to national security types of issues.
So, I really don't see anything controversial there. You know, he didn't state something definitive. He stated -- he was relaying to the public what
the generals had told him. And, again, nobody knows, clearly, and the president didn't act or did not suggest that he did know.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, we're not sure the generals told him, because as I said, generals or Defense Department officials have told us that there was no
indication. So, I guess, I'm just trying to figure out. Do you not worry that a lot of confusion is coming out from the mouth of your candidate, a
lot of confusion where he contradicts experts? Let's just move away from Lebanon for a moment, in the United States about coronavirus, about all the
important things that matter to the American people?
CORTES: Right. Look, this president has been the most transparent president, and perhaps the most transparent politician, for that matter, in
American history. His openness in terms of the lines of communication with the American people is so extensive that there are times that it can appear
that he's contradicting himself when, in fact, what the president is really doing is having, in some ways, an open debate.
For example, you mentioned regarding coronavirus. There's a lot of different voices within his administration, a lot of different voices
within the medical community, more broadly here in the United States and globally, who disagree with each other. And the president welcomes -- you
know, I know this personally from some of my dealings with him, he welcomes those kinds of debates and disagreements, even within his own White House.
So, the idea, though, that he is contradicting experts doesn't -- in my view, is not consistent with the reality. There is not a consensus
agreement among experts, for example, when it comes to things that have become suddenly very controversial like hydroxychloroquine, for example.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you know, that's one of the -- you've really chosen an extreme example with hydroxychloroquine. Let us just talk about
some of the more simple ones, things like the mask situation, even his own, you know, senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, contradicted him and
said people actually should wear the mask. The "Wall Street Journal," which is normally a cheerleading place for certainly conservatives and Republican
presidents, have been pushing back on him several times, and people have noticed that. Many, many issues.
And I guess, look, let's just talk about the numbers. The Gallup poll says the president's approval rating is at 41 percent, disapproval at 56
percent. Trump's approval rating is in dangerous territory if you talk about historic circumstances and looking back. Do you not worry about that?
CORTES: You know, look, Christiane, I think it's important for us, and we certainly here in the campaign do pay attention to polls. They are one
barometer of many of our success. They're not the north star, they don't drive policy certainly for the White House and they don't entirely drive
our tactics even here at the campaign.
When I look at the polls through -- and again, they're an input, they're not the input. But as an input, when I look at the battleground states, for
example, CNBC came out with a battleground state, array of polls last week, we are in within the margin of error in all of those states. So, they're
essentially tied. And I'll be the first to -- can see that. I think it is roughly a jump ball, it is roughly a coin flip right now in the
battleground states that matter. That's where we are focused.
I would also say this regarding polls and I would caution not to read too much into polls. There is a culture, unfortunately, in the United States
right now, a cancel culture, where it is so unpopular and so unfavored by elites in this country and in workplaces, in academia, in media to say that
you are a Trump supporter that I think it is reasonable for us to guess, to project, that there is a certain amount of reluctance when it comes to
polls. I know there in the U.K., of course it's known as the Shy Tory Effect. I believe there's a bit of the Shy Tory Effect right now in the
Now, I don't want to count on that. I want us to win in these polls. But most importantly, I want us to win in the polls on November 3rd. That's the
poll ultimately that matters. You know, I was in the Trump campaign four years ago and I heard so many naysayers at this time of year in 2016
(INAUDIBLE) that we had no chance because of how we were polling. We surprised the world, we pulled off the greatest political upset in American
I'm reminded often by the tenor of the critics of President Trump right now, and I'm encouraged that we can do again in 2020 what we did in 2016.
AMANPOUR: OK. You're absolutely right, everyone was caught off guard last time around, but some would say this is not the same campaign. Give got
four years of seeing President Trump in action and what's happened in the world and the U.S., the COVID pandemic, the economic collapse in many parts
of the world, including the United States, the uprising for racial justice. And as you know, many, many people say that they believe that those two
issues are huge.
Let me just ask you this. As a campaign adviser, and you say that you were there in 2016 as well, what do you make of that interview with Axios? I
mean, look, there are some people who have likened it to a Monty Python skit. It was truly extraordinary and I wonder whether you might have
suggested that he didn't sit down for half an hour in those kinds of circumstances, because there was -- it just went all over the place and
people kind of thought maybe the president was losing a little touch with reality.
I just want to ask you about the empathy question, the little sound that we played. You know, he talked about the number of deaths. There is now, you
know, nearly 157,000 deaths in the United States, and he said, you know, he said, it is what it is, we're trying to do our best, but it is what it is.
Do you worry he's showing -- not showing enough empathy?
CORTES: Right. Well, listen, there's really two questions there and I would be happy to answer them both. Regarding the interview, I think it's
actually a strength that the president is willing to take on tough interviews. He sat down with Chris Wallace of Fox News, and even though a
lot of people might think Fox News is always a layup for the president, Chris Wallace is not a layup interviewer for anyone, one of the toughest
best research interviewers out there, sat down with him for an extensive interview. Did the same, of course, as you mention, with Jonathan Swan of
Axios and HBO.
I think it is a strength that he is willing to sit down and answer tough questions. I mentioned him -- his transparency earlier. We see the exact
opposite with Joe Biden. We see someone who is literally hiding in his basement and only agreeing to interviews that are sure to be friendly or to
call on reporters that are prescreened and literally prelisted.
So, I think that contrast for the American people over the next 90 days will be very telling, and I also believe, look, anybody -- to use a sports
analogy, if a fighter is training for a championship bout, he wants to take on the very best sparring partners before he steps in the ring for the
final event. This president is doing that. He is taking on the best sparring partners possible before he steps into the ring for the debate
with Joe Biden. And I believe, I'm confident that we're going to see those results.
Regarding your second point about empathy for the suffering out there in this country, I can tell you that the president, of course, has enormous
empathy. The point, I believe, he was trying to make there when he says, it is what it is, is that this is a global phenomenon, unfortunately. America
is not responsible. Nobody is responsible except for the communist Chinese party because they deceived the world, they lied to the globe, they
infected the world, crashed the global economy when they knew there was a human transmission. They sealed Wuhan off from the rest of China. They did
not seal Wuhan off from the rest of the world. So, nobody is responsible other than the Chinese communist party.
And I think the point he was making is, the entire world, unfortunately right now, is seeing a significant uptick in cases, even places that were
formerly relatively unaffected. Like Australia, in the last month, they're had an 11-fold increase in positive cases. Even places like Spain, which
was locked down just about as hard as any place in the world with maybe the exception of Wuhan. Even there we're seeing a significant uptick in cases.
So, there's isn't uniquely American about the uptick in cases.
We can't necessarily manage that part of the equation. What we can manage is how do we deal with the cases. And on that score, thankfully in the
United States, the mortality rate is dropping significantly. We are well below many of our industrialized peers. Countries like the U.K., Belgium,
we're right about where France is.
And so, when we look at the metrics of how we are handling the uptick in cases, I think we're actually seeing an increasing story of success there.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, look, you know, you said a lot of things. Certainly, none of the news organizations I know have prelisted and prescreened
interviews for Vice President Biden. And on the facts here, the United States is still doing one of the worst, certainly, in the number of deaths.
And just so that you know, the cases may be trending down but the deaths are trending up. And yesterday's death toll in the United States was one of
the highest in two months.
And -- but here's where it matters for you --
CORTES: OK. But, Christiane, you know that only per capita matter. We're a massive country.
AMANPOUR: Wait a minute. No, no. These are the figures which are -- we're not going to get into that rabbit hole about comparing them to what. These
are the figures from Johns Hopkins, they are the established figures.
Now, on the president's treatment of all of this, this is where I don't understand why you guys are quite happy with what's going on, because 62
percent of people say President Trump is hurting efforts to slow the spread of COVID. 67 percent say they do not trust information that President Trump
is providing on COVID. So, I guess at this point, is there any thought in the campaign of changing tack a little bit?
CORTES: Well, Christiane, first of all, just to clarify, I am not happy, nobody is happy, clearly, with the fact that we have to deal with this
situation in the first place. And, again, this is a global situation. There is nothing uniquely American.
I think this is important, by the way, and I'm not trying to parse the numbers. I'm saying per capita death rate matters, and you can't just give
the total number of deaths and say that that is the barometer to watch. The United States is a massive country of 330 million people. When we look at
per capita death rates by population, which is what Jonathan Swan was trying to do with the president, when we look at it on that score, we are
right roughly in the middle of the pack on industrialized nation.
We're doing better than Belgium, U.K., Sweden. We're right about where France is. We're not doing as well as, say, Japan or Switzerland are doing.
But what I can say is, what we can control here regarding therapeutics, hospital access, capacity in our health care system, vaccine advancement.
And I think, that's by the way, we're ultimately -- that will be the final answer to this entire crisis.
On all of those metrics for the federal government of the United States really matters, we are seeing progress. It doesn't mean we're happy. Of
course, we're not. This is a terrible situation we have to deal with. And again, we're only dealing with this because of the deception and
malfeasance of the China communist party. We know that this is a situation that could have easily been contained and quarantined in Wuhan if they had
just been honest and invited in the experts of the world from the United States and other places. They chose the opposite path with disastrous
And I think that matters with this election, because the American people, and polling show this, overwhelmingly have come to the conclusion that this
is the fault of the Beijing regime. And they also know, I believe, that Donald Trump has been the most forceful U.S. politician in decades in
confronting the various threats of the Chinese communist party that presents to the United States, and in fact, to the world.
AMANPOUR: Look, Mr. Cortes, I know that the president and yours and his allies' campaign slogan is blame China. But the question here, the American
people are saying that they don't believe that the president has, in fact, controlled this and dealt with it properly. Even the economists are saying
that it needed an all of government federal response and coordinated.
The economy used to be President Trump's biggest calling card. Here's from the economists. The three most important policies for creating an economic
recovery are public health, public health and public health.
Here's the Dallas fed president, unless we get the virus under control, we see that growth is slowing and the rebound is less pronounced. Here's
Goldman Sachs, the economist is saying that, a mask mandate could save the economy from a 5 percent loss in GDP. I mean, you just can't get away from
the fact that this COVID handling and the constant different and, you know, contradictions that the president makes and the, you know, sometimes
stubborn resistance to things like masks until he puts one on is affecting his -- the view of his competence.
CORTES: OK. You know, Christiane, I would say this, you know, we have learned -- we've had to learn a lot very quickly about this virus. And even
the medical authorities here in the United States, including, for example, our own surgeon general, including Dr. Fauci in the early days, were not
advising masks. And in fact, sometimes we're discouraging masks. We're actually worried masks could do more harm. They are completely on the other
side of the equation now. And I'm not saying that to criticize those individuals, I'm saying we have learned a lot as the crisis progresses.
The president has certainly also evolved in his thinking and his prescriptions for the country. He now says that masks are patriotic. Our
campaign has said that masks are patriotic. And he's increasingly wearing them particularly when it makes sense. For example, when he visited our
military hospital at Walter Reed.
So, it is clearly an evolving situation. We are learning a lot as we go along. And again, while we may not be able to control the spread of new
cases, because that is a global phenomenon, there is clearly a surge going on all over the world, in places that locked down hard, in places that
didn't. Even here within the United States, we're seeing the same, between states that locked down hard and those that did not.
But what we can control, again, in terms of the federal government is therapy to treat those who are sick, absolute breakneck speed toward a
vaccine so that we can finally get control of this entire situation, and making sure, from the federal standpoint, that there is backup for states
and localities so that we don't have any problems in terms of health care capacity. And thankfully that has not happened.
As dreadful as this situation has been, no one has been for want of medical care, for want of a medical -- a ventilator or want of an ICU bed. These
are the things we can control. And the president, I believe, is very much in command of the situation. Regarding the economy too, you know, listen, I
would push back. The recent economic data has been fantastic. Just yesterday we got --
AMANPOUR: Oh, come on, Mr. Cortes. Come on. Come on. We just had the economic data in June, or whatever it was, last month, that showed that it
was the worst contraction on an annual basis, a quarterly, you know, since records were kept. I mean, come on.
CORTES: No. Listen, that is correct, that is correct because we shut down the entire economy of the United States and much of the world, obviously,
for that matter. So, of course, we got some --
AMANPOUR: 30 million Americans are unemployed. I mean, it's bad, and it's being reflected in people's -- in the poll numbers.
CORTES: And look, I'm not trying here to be Pollyanna, right, and to say that everything is puppy dogs and rainbows, but what I am saying is that
there's also really, really encouraging data lately about the recovery, out of those doldrums because we had to shut down the global economy. And some
of the metrics, for example, U.S. manufacturing index which came out yesterday, a year and a half high as factories and industry in this country
power back up.
In the last two months we've added seven-and-a-half million new jobs. New home sales in the United States for the month of June, the highest month on
record. So, there are a lot of green chutes. I'll be the first to say, we have a long way to go to get back to the heights of the Trump boom that we
enjoyed earlier this year. But the great American comeback has commenced, and I believe the American people have confidence that the man, the
entrepreneur in chief who produced the first Trump boom, will create the conditions for the recovery and the Trump boom 2.0.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Cortes, thank you for giving us a window inside the campaign messages. We will talk more in the weeks and months ahead.
Now, we're going to be talking to Anthony Fauci next. And of course, on masks, when Dr. Fauci said at the beginning, don't use them, most of
Americans were trying to keep them for the medical and frontline staff.
Now, even as life and death amongst this pandemic continues, President Trump has launched an on-again, off-again verbal war with the infectious
disease expert, his own top adviser. But Anthony Fauci is, in fact, going to be sitting down right now talking to our Walter Isaacson about the
challenges, about the opportunities and about where he sees this coronavirus pandemic leading.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Dr. Tony Fauci, thank you for being on the show and for all you're doing for the country.
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Thank you, Walter. Thank you for having me.
ISAACSON: There is a great divergence in how this disease is affecting people, especially young people. What do you think is most misunderstood
FAUCI: You know, Walter, that's a very good question and a very good point because of all the viral diseases I've had to deal with over the last four
decades from HIV to Ebola to Zika, I've never seen a virus where you can go from 40 to 45 percent of the people have no symptoms at all, and then some
get minor symptoms, some get sick enough to be in bed for weeks at a time and then have residual symptoms, some go to the hospital, some require
intensive care, ventilation, and then some die.
And usually, with some exceptions, usually you find out that the elderly and those with underlying conditions get into trouble and have the greatest
chance of a severe outcome, whereas younger individuals, you know, the 20, 30-year-old individuals, they generally, with some exceptions that they
need to be careful of, do reasonably well.
So, when you're trying to get country, as a whole, to do things, to keep the infections down, you've got to have everybody singing the same tune.
But what we've seen, unfortunately, particularly now in the southern states that have tried to open, and we've seen those surges going up from 20,000
cases a day up to as high as 70,000, what the younger people don't fully realize is that even though they feel somewhat, you know, immune to this in
the sense of they're not going to get sick so who cares? I'm not bothering anybody. Why don't I go out and have a good time? I know they're innocent
about that, but what they don't realize is that when they get infected, they propagate the outbreak.
And they may not get sick, but they'll infect someone who gets sick, and then they'll infect another person then, and before you know it you have
people in the hospital. And that's what we're seeing right now.
ISAACSON: I spoke to your colleague, Dr. Francis Collins, last night on this show, and he said that many nights you and he just talk late at night
and say, how did we get into this position, especially how do we get into a situation where everything became so polarized and so politicized? What's
your answer to that? How did this become so polarized?
FAUCI: What happens, Walter, is that you know better than I do that we live right now in a very unusually divisive society from a political
standpoint, and when you have two things converging, a historic pandemic that you're trying to deal with and a divisive political society in an
election year, my goodness, that makes things quite complicated.
ISAACSON: You know, the president said a couple days ago on his HBO Jonathan Swan interview, when pressed about how bad things go, he says,
well, it is what it is. What's your reaction to that? Could we be doing better?
FAUCI: You know, Walter, we always could be doing better, and it really gets back to what I was saying just a moment ago about the idea that we've
all got to pull together. We live in a big country with a great deal of divergence of opinions and a variety of other things that differ. There's
good news about that. We embrace that difference.
The trouble is, sometimes that difference allows for a not uniformed type response. So, we have some governors, some mayors or whatever doing things
one way, others wanting to do it another way. That's the reason why we whenever get the opportunity, I appeal to people to use the four or five or
six easy things, Walter, washing hands, physical distance, wear masks, avoid crowds, stay away from bars, and outside is always better than
If we do those things, which are not rocket science, public health things, we can make that curve go down. The trouble is, when one segment of society
is not doing that, it influences everybody. That's the point.
ISAACSON: The president keeps saying we're doing very well on testing and on the disease compared to other nations. Has he explained to you why he
FAUCI: Well, Walter, what I think it is, is that as the president he's trying to keep the spirits up for people in the country and saying we're
doing well. I mean, you know, in some aspects, if you look at some of the curves, they're going down, but as public health officials, we look at the
whole picture. And it's a serious situation that you've got to address in a very serious way.
ISAACSON: Do you think we are addressing in nationally in a very serious way?
FAUCI: You know, we are.
We had some significant issues that we're trying -- and, again, I think the issue gets back to, we would have liked to have seen the baseline get down
to a very low level.
And we were not successful. We plateaued at 27,000 cases per day. And then, when we tried to open, open the country economically and otherwise, we had
a great diversity of people doing it correctly and people essentially letting caution to the wind.
And then what happened is that we had an increase to 30,000, 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 cases. That is not good, by anybody's definition. We
have got to get that down.
And when we do, we will find that it's going to be easier for us to prudently and carefully get back to some form of normality. But we have got
to get that baseline down.
ISAACSON: So, do we need a national strategy, a national sort of mandate?
FAUCI: Well, I'm not sure we could say strategy.
What we do need is a consistent, strong message that you keep hammering home, particularly with regard to masks, physical distance, those kinds of
ISAACSON: Are we getting that consistent, strong message?
FAUCI: Well, it's getting better now. I'm very pleased to see that. Now we're seeing the very highest level. The vice president consistently wears
a mask. We see the president wearing a mask. We need to keep that message up. It's a powerful message when it comes from the top.
ISAACSON: Well, the president met with you yesterday for the first time in a while for a -- for one of the COVID briefings. I think only you and Dr.
Birx and one other were wearing a mask.
Tell me about that meeting and what we should make of it, why there was a meeting like that yesterday.
FAUCI: Well, you know, the president -- previously, we would have those daily press conferences, where we would have the consistent task force
meeting led by the vice president, and then, every day, we would go out and have some sort of meeting with the president, where we would brief him, and
then we would get up together.
Right now, that's pivoted a bit more towards the economic reopening of the country. So, every once in a while, the president would like to say, OK, I
know I'm not seeing you guys and ladies every day. He wanted to see us.
So, essentially, what we did is that we brought the task force meeting to the Oval Office, as opposed to having him come down and talk to us. That's
what that was all about. It was...
ISAACSON: And what was the outcome of that?
FAUCI: You know, it was a good discussion. We were talking to the president about the things we need to do.
In fact, Walter, I told the president almost word for word everything I just told you about what we need to do, about the consistency, of the fact
that we can end this.
One of the problems is that, when people are cooped up, they have a natural feeling that, is this ever going to end? Are we just going to be this way
all the time? So, when given the opportunity, they go all the way to the other extreme, and instead of being careful.
Those are the kind of things that I was telling the president, that we need to get that message, A, we can end this if we do some fundamental simple
ISAACSON: Dr. Birx has been saying, and you have agreed with her, that we're in a new level, going to a new level of community spread. Does the
president believe that now?
FAUCI: Well, we spoke to him and explained to him, because there was some misunderstanding about what was meant.
I agree with Dr. Birx completely. What she was referring to is that, when you have community spread, it permeates the community. It's very difficult
to identify who the index case is, because many people don't have any symptoms.
That's very different, Walter, from when you have a nursing home outbreak. You know exactly what -- the constraints of the outbreak, or a meatpacking
plant or a prison.
When you have community spread, it's kind of very insidious out there, and you really have to get your arms around it. And that's the reason why I get
back to what I said before. We all have to pull together in the community.
Everyone needs to assume that they might be infected without any symptoms, which means you wear a mask to prevent you from infecting others. You avoid
crowds. You wash your hands. You do things outdoors vs. indoors. Those are not difficult things to do.
ISAACSON: In theory, could we have -- would a one-month just sort of shutdown again, would that help us bring it back to a manageable level, so
it wouldn't be community spread?
FAUCI: Well, the answer is probably, theoretically, yes.
But the country is really not going to be accepting a month shutdown. I think the reality is, if you want to live in a theoretical world,
certainly, you could do that, but it would have a significant impact on the economy, which health comes first in many respects.
But, also, I think the country -- would not be acceptance of that, because of the fact that they have been -- many of them have been restrained for so
long that they would likely rebel against that.
ISAACSON: One of your causes for optimism, I have been reading, is about monoclonal antibodies.
Explain to me what they are and why you think that might even come along even faster than a full-fledged vaccine.
FAUCI: Yes, right, right. Good question, Walter.
Well, yesterday, Francis Collins I and Janet Woodcock announced a product that we're putting into clinical trials for both outpatients, as well as
inpatients who are not in advanced disease.
And a monoclonal antibody is a natural product that the body makes. So, what we did is that we got a patient, one of the early patients from
Washington state, who was infected and recovered. So, his body was making anybody that fights the virus. We took blood from them. And the cells that
make antibody are called B-cells, because they evolve from the bone marrow.
Those individual B-cells make specific antibodies. So, we screened all the B-cells and picked out one of the cells that specifically makes an antibody
against that part of the virus that binds to your cell, which means it's going to block the virus.
And then you could make that cell have antibodies in unlimited quantities. You purify it, and you passably infuse it intravenously to try and treat
someone to prevent them from getting advanced disease.
So, we're cautiously optimistic, since we know that antibody is directly against the virus, that we may be able to have a good early treatment.
ISAACSON: You have been urging people, and so has Dr. Collins, to go into these clinical trials, to sign up for them.
So, I did, and I'm now part of the clinical trial, and I will be taking it this afternoon, getting my first vaccine or placebo for the Pfizer, which
is a -- as you know, an RNA, new type of vaccine.
Do you want a lot of people to do that? And how do you answer the question of, if you're in one of these trials, and somebody else comes up with a
vaccine, is it safe, not knowing whether you got the placebo or the vaccine, for you to just go get the new vaccine?
Well, Walter, thank you very much. I think somebody with your visibility and reputation and intelligence getting a vaccine is a good sign for other
people to do that.
We need to be sure that we're careful when we're doing things, particularly with people who are perfectly normal. And vaccine trials unnecessary,
because, when you make a decision about a vaccine, you are going to be administering it globally, literally, Walter, to billions of people.
In the United States, it will be hundreds of millions of people. So, you want to make sure, as much as you want to get something that works, it's
got to be in a clinical trial to prove, A, is it safe, and, B, is it effective?
And until you know that, it is definitely a good idea to be in a clinical trial. Well, people say, well, you know, the only way you get a good answer
is the intervention vs. the placebo. Well, do I really want to get the placebo?
The answer is, there are vaccines that may actually be harmful. And that's the reason why, when you go clearly into these trials, you want to make
sure you give it to somebody that's safe.
And that's why the trials start off with phase one, then go to phase two. And the vaccine that you got, or placebo, or will get, we have a pretty
good idea that it's safe. But we want to prove it, and that's the reason why we're putting 30,000 people into these trials.
ISAACSON: Now, if we prove it's safe, and nobody has bad adverse reaction, but we're not quite sure if it's effective, it just seems effective, why
not just roll it out, since they're already manufacturing it, and let people, hundreds of thousands of people, do this?
FAUCI: That's a reasonable question.
The only thing that you want to make sure, in addition to safety, is, you don't want to be distributing a vaccine to hundreds of millions of people
that doesn't work, so that, if you get one that's safe, but you haven't proven it's worked, the only reason that you might want to give it is to
people who, at the risk/benefit, are at a very, very high risk.
But you don't want to give it to everybody, for sure, because, when you start to give it to the hundreds of millions of people, you must know that
it is effective. Otherwise, you may have what we call perpetual ambiguity. You will never know if it works.
So, if you are going to be giving it to people year after year, you really want to know if it works.
ISAACSON: So, how do you think this ends for the country?
FAUCI: You know, I think it ends.
And I hope that we can get the people who are the ones that are inadvertently and innocently spreading this to understand their societal
responsibility, at the same time as we get good therapies, as we get a vaccine.
I think, if you put those things together, this will end, Walter. It will end. We can get the infection rate so low that it doesn't impact how we
live. If you get a vaccine that you can give essentially to everybody who wants and needs a vaccine, that could be the nail in the coffin of this.
So, I do see an end to this, but it's up to us to do it.
ISAACSON: And let me just ask you a personal question.
You have been hit from all sides. You have been criticized. You have been praised, by the way, and put on baseball cards. It's being even more
intense that when you went through the HIV/AIDS crisis 20 or so years ago.
How do you get through this? How do you have time to reflect and to think about the people who are being affected by this disease, and for you to
even mourn and process some of the horrors you're having to go through?
FAUCI: Well, Walter, that's a great question.
It's not easy. I have phenomenal support from my wife and my children, who are really great about this. It is really somewhat surrealistic.
And what I have been able to do, and I think I can do it pretty well, although it gets painful sometimes, is to compartmentalize and focus like a
laser beam on what my job is. And I'm a public health official. I'm a scientist. I'm a physician. That's my identity.
The only thing that I care about professionally is to put an end to this outbreak. The other things are distractions. It's a distraction that I
don't pay attention to, because, if you pay attention to it, you can't focus like a laser.
So, on the one hand, I'm on baseball cards, and I'm all these other things that are completely surreal. And, on the other hand, you have people, even
within what you think is your own group, that are terribly criticizing you. And then you get death threats all over the place from crazy people, who
harass my wife and harass my children and make death threats against me.
If I concentrated on them, I wouldn't be able to do my job. So, I just focus on the outbreak. I don't get a big head about the baseball cards, and
I'm not frightened by the other nonsense. So, that's how I handle it.
ISAACSON: Dr. Tony Fauci, thank you, and thank you for handling it that way. It's great to be with you.
FAUCI: Thank you, Walter. It's always good to be with you. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Fauci focusing like a laser on the leadership that he's delivering.
Now, Oprah Winfrey says that my next guest's book is a game-changer and the most important volume she's ever chosen for her book club.
Isabel Wilkerson is the first African-American author to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Her latest book, "Caste: The Origins of Our
Discontents, " calls out America's obsession with the term race.
And she joins me now.
Isabel Wilkerson, welcome to the program.
ISABEL WILKERSON, AUTHOR, "CASTE: THE ORIGINS OF OUR DISCONTENTS": Oh, thank you.
AMANPOUR: You must have the wind in your back, with such a great endorsement and your book flying off the shelves and arriving at such an
incredibly timely matter.
Can I ask you, do you think that everybody's too obsessed with the word race?
WILKERSON: Well, I think that we tend to use the language that we're accustomed to that has been the defining nature of interactions in our
And with the use of the term caste, the word that is the focus of this work, it allows us to have new language for the divisions that we have
inherited as a country. In this era of upheaval, we need new language in order to understand how we got to where we are and how we might be able to
find a way to push past it, to transcend the boundaries that have been created for us long ago.
AMANPOUR: I mean, again, you obviously wrote this before this moment of reckoning and before, obviously, George Floyd was killed.
So, what made you, apart from finding new language, define and differentiate caste and race? I mean, you say caste is the bones, race the
skin. What does that mean?
WILKERSON: Well, it means that we have been trained and socialized to see ourselves by what is defined in our country, has been defined for 400 years
as race, the division of people on the basis of what they look like, primarily, which was essentially the view of what one's ancestry might have
And one of the things that brought me to this book is that I wrote a book before, and my first book was "The Warmth of Other Suns." And that book was
the outpouring, the migration of six million African-Americans from the Jim Crow South, essentially defecting what I came to call a caste system.
And that was because the word race, racism that we are so accustomed to using did not seem sufficient to capture the world as it existed that -- in
that way, the hierarchies into which people have been born, the multilayered forms of controlling and repressing people on the basis of
what they look like, this artificial hierarchy.
And so that's how I came to the use of the term caste in reference to the United States.
AMANPOUR: You write in your book -- and you quote Alexis de Tocqueville, who's often quoted when it comes to the origins of America and what he saw,
in any event.
You say this: "The French writer Alexis de Tocqueville toured Antebellum America in the 1830s, and observed that only the surface of American
society is covered with a layer of democratic paint."
Wow, that is such an incredible quote from him.
AMANPOUR: And he saw, I think, white privilege as endemic to the American culture, to the American life.
And you write about how, in the late 19th century, early 20th, that the American immigration system was curated to achieve that. Can you explain
WILKERSON: Well, the thing is that the country was founded on a hierarchy that is not often spoken of, but was created in the very beginning of
colonial Virginia, in which it was -- there were the dominant group, which, at that time, were the British, and then those who were brought in to do
the work, the toil for free, people who were enslaved from Africa.
And so that was creating -- that created a bipolar caste system, you might say. Each caste system has a different metric for determining who should
fit where in the hierarchy. And, here, it happened to be what ended up being ethnicity/race.
And so, as other people enter the hierarchy, a preexisting bipolar hierarchy, they have to figure out where they're going to fit in. They have
to figure out where -- they discover upon arrival where the culture, where the society assigns them.
And so people who arrived to the United States, what is now the United States, in, say, the 19th century might have come from Ireland or from
Hungary or from Poland. And then they discovered that they were identified not as their nationalities and what they might have considered them to be,
but they were identified and categorized as white.
And then that occurred. Some kind of apportionment of identity had to be applied to any group that came into this preexisting hierarchy that was
bipolar to begin with, and that has expanded to include other people. And the curation occurs when there is control over who can enter the country as
a citizen, the fraught debates over immigration and who is presumed worthy to be considered a citizen.
And that's an ongoing issue for us even today.
AMANPOUR: Your book tackles, obviously, the U.S., also India, and, I think really chillingly, Nazi Germany.
And even more chilling, you talk about how the Third Reich actually drew some of its laws, some of its rationale, and certainly interconnected you
eugenicists who were in contact from both sides, how they looked to the United States as so-called a successful experiment with segregation and
this caste system.
Fill in those gaps for us, because that really is quite chilling.
WILKERSON: Well, I must say that I came to -- let me start by saying that I, of course, was going to be looking at the originating caste system, the
most easily recognizable one, which was, of course, India.
But what happened was that then Charlottesville happened. And as a result of Charlottesville, that forced me to look at Germany. And that was because
there at Charlottesville were the symbolism merging, the symbolism of the Confederacy and the symbolism of Nazi Germany converging among the
ralliers, the symbolism that speaks to the history and the memory of history, the memory of what has gone before, and the remaking of that in
our current era.
And so that forced me to look at what had happened in Germany in the intervening years after World War II. And upon arriving and looking into
this so deeply,
I discovered these things that I had never, ever imagined, I mean, the most stunning and wrenching discoveries, among them that the that the Nazis
actually -- first of all, that the -- that American eugenicists and Germany eugenicists were in conversation with one another, in dialogue with one
another, the German eugenicists turning to American eugenicists in the years leading up to the Third Reich, that American eugenicists, the books
that they wrote were big sellers in Germany, and that, of course, the Nazis needed no one to teach them or to tell them how to hate.
But what the Nazis did do is that they actually sent researchers to the United States, particularly to the American South, to study the Jim Crow
laws, to study how America had controlled and subjugated African-Americans.
And they actually went back and debated those laws in making the Nuremberg laws. That was just wrenching and horrifying to discover.
AMANPOUR: And can I just not put too fine a point on it, because it is horrifying?
You write how the so-called one drop rule -- and I will get you to explain that -- was even too harsh, considered too harsh for the Nazis.
This is the American segregation time one drop rule.
Well, one of the things that becomes a unifying or universal characteristic of a caste system or hierarchy such as this is this idea of purity vs.
pollution, and the idea being that the dominant group must remain pure at all times and by whatever means necessary.
And so one of the ways that the United States assured that or worked to maintain that was to decide to declare that, in some states, one drop of
black blood made a person black, no matter whatever else they had in their ethnicity, in their lineage.
And so that was the American standard for delineating who could be in the dominant group and who would be in what I call the subjugated caste. And so
the Nazis sent people to and researched, deeply researched the Jim Crow laws, the miscegenation laws and other laws that were segregating African-
Americans from their white citizens.
And the Nazis did adopt some of what they saw and what they learned, but they felt that this one drop rule was too far. And they decided that they
would not make that same distinction in determining who would be identified as Aryan and who would be identified as Jewish in that system.
AMANPOUR: Again, as you say, nobody needed to teach the Nazis how to hate, and their crimes were just -- we know. We know what happened, of course.
Let me ask you, though, about now, the post-George Floyd moment. Do you believe that, A, we, as a society, we, as the media, are getting it right?
Do you believe that anything yet -- can you see anything changing in sort of a structural level, even being talked about changing at a structural
level where it matters, like in various -- whether it's government or whatever it might be?
WILKERSON: Well, one of the things that I say, in working on this book, is, I say that I'm coming in to -- essentially as a building inspector,
inspecting the old house that is the United States, a house that, as with any old house, is always something that needs to -- there's always
something that needs to be inspected, considered, perhaps repaired.
There's always a need to look very closely at what is going on. And my view is that the moment that we are in now is one that suggests to me that we
could be on the cusp of an awakening. I think people who live with the disparities and pressures of being in -- at the least benefited spectrum of
a caste system experience all kinds of things that other people may not see if they don't have to live with it every day.
And I think that what we are seeing in more recent times has exposed everyone to a reality that is all too common for so, so many Americans, and
that now, with the awareness, once you become aware -- I mean, this book is in some ways an X-ray of our country that allows us to see ourselves as we
truly may be, from all sides, from all perspectives, now being able to see it.
I would hope that this would be an awakening that will allow people to recognize that this is our inheritance, no one alive created the
hierarchies that we now live with.
But, once you become aware of them, once you become aware of the infrastructure that we now know that we live under, and can see the ways
that it is hurting actually everyone, then I would hope that it'll allow people to recognize that there's a responsibility that all of us have to
find ways to scale the walls, the false divisions that have been created in order for all of us, all of us to heal, in order for -- to find a framework
for (AUDIO GAP) figure out a way to heal.
AMANPOUR: You talk about healing.
Obviously, this country, your country is in -- is in the worst state of division that many people can remember.
Just quickly and finally, in the book, you talk about the year 2042. And you associate it, to an extent -- or you talk about, anyway, President
Trump's victory back in 2016, in light of that date. Tell us what you mean by that and why it's important.
WILKERSON: Well, 2042 has -- had been several years ago identified as the year at which the demographic configuration that has been known in the
United States since its founding would be changing.
And that means that there would no longer be a white (AUDIO GAP) numerically. And so the question would then be, what will that mean for the
country? What will that mean for how we -- how people relate to one another or how it relates to political outcomes of elections?
And, essentially, that this is a figuration that no one alive has ever experienced, and so it has an effect on everyone. The question, I think,
for the country will be, what kind of country will this be? Who will we recognize as being a part of the family that is a country ideally would be?
And how do we move forward with a changing demographic?
AMANPOUR: Yes, really, really important, especially at this time of moral reckoning.
Isabel Wilkerson, thank you so much, indeed.
And that's it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.