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Interview With Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Interview European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 10, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
CHRISTINE LAGARDE, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK: It's like providing a bridge across very troubled water, the pandemic.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The female factor in these perilous times. From the IMF to the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde was the first woman at
the helm. Now she's unleashing another half-trillion euros to keep the economy afloat in a global pandemic.
NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: We are going to be vaccinating over the next few months significant numbers of people.
AMANPOUR: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon navigates coronavirus and Brexit, while leading a new push for Scottish independence.
MARCUS SAMUELSSON, CHEF AND RESTAURANTEUR: So, between March 15 and October 15, we served over 225,000 meals for the neediest and the first
The influence of black chefs on American cuisine. Our Walter Isaacson speaks to Marcus Samuelsson of Harlem's legendary Red Rooster restaurant.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
It is a critical week here in Europe, where Brexit talks are at an impasse, setting the continent on course for a chaotic split with Britain, as a
lethal second wave of COVID-19 tears through the continent's fragile economies.
On Brexit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says Britain and the E.U. are still far apart, despite what she calls her lively and
interesting three-hour dinner with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson.
Von der Leyen set a Sunday deadline to resolve all outstanding issues, acknowledging that a negotiated exit will be difficult to reach.
As for the economy, the European Central Bank is set to crank out hundreds of billions of new euros, looking to give member states breathing room to
take on debt and ride out the worst of the pandemic.
Christine Lagarde is president of the European Central Bank. She is the first woman to hold that position, after also being the first woman to lead
the International Monetary Fund.
And I spoke with her from headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, about her stimulus plan and also about her priorities to invest in women and green
policies going forward.
AMANPOUR: Christine Lagarde, welcome to the program.
LAGARDE: Thank you so much. Lovely to see you.
AMANPOUR: And you, too.
And it's quite an exciting day. You have just announced and unleashed another, I believe it's a half-trillion euros in stimulus. Look, the E.U.
governments are racking up massive debts to ward off the worst of this pandemic, and yet you, as the Central Bank, are urging banks to keep
Tell me what the procedure is.
LAGARDE: Well, what we want to do is make sure that households, corporates, governments have access to financing, so that they can sustain
this period of incredible hardship from the health and economic point of view.
If you want, it's like providing a bridge across very troubled water, the pandemic. And that bridge is financing that has to be available at very
So, this is really our purpose with this half-a-trillion more asset purchase that we are preparing to do for the next nine months, but with one
objective, making sure that financing conditions are favorable, because, to give you an idea, we all had hoped that, once the first wave was over,
vaccinations would be on their way, would be rolled out, and we would have herd immunity in short order.
This is not happening because of the second wave, because of the additional containment measures, because of the logistics associated with vaccination.
We know now that it's going to take pretty much the whole of '21.
And for the economy to then pick up, it's going to be a matter of a few additional months. So, we're providing potential financing to make sure
that financing conditions are favorable and supportive to get across those troubled water and root the recovery in solid ground.
That's what it is.
AMANPOUR: And that's over into 2022, you're saying. And, at the same time, the E.U. is trying to get to grips with its own budget and its own pandemic
Do you think, whatever they pass, that it will be enough to meet what you're saying, which is an unexpectedly harsh second wave? And I have even
heard people worry about a third wave.
LAGARDE: It will be one side of the deal.
The -- what happens at the regional level in Brussels, if you will, the budget and the recovery and resilience fund is one side of the deal. The
other side of the deal is what member states, you know, the likes of France, Germany, Spain and all of them, are also putting on the table in
terms of fiscal support.
And the two combined are really intended to support people, make sure that income is preserved, that training is provided, that the economy is
transformed, because this pandemic has not only hurt, but it has also accelerated transformation.
So, if those budgets and those grants are effectively used to transform the economies by making them more digital than they are, by making them more
green than they are, then there will be success on the other side of that bridge.
AMANPOUR: Look, to a layman like me, I'm hearing spend, spend, spend. I even hear it from another fine woman, your successor at the IMF, Kristalina
Georgieva, who says, everybody, spend; just keep the receipts.
So, what you're saying is, austerity is not the issue anymore, like we had in the 2008 financial collapse?
LAGARDE: Well, Christiane, the very strange thing is that, while we say that, a lot of people are actually not spending, not consuming, not
And that is the case because, for two months, then followed by a bit of recovery for a month, for two month, but for those first two months, there
was no spending. They were saving, because people simply could not consume, and because businesses were so uncertain about the future, that they were
not investing either.
We are back into a similar situation, with not as much exceptional savings, but still much higher than average, and still very, very low investment.
So, while there is this incentive to spend, spend, spend, well, if the shops are closed, if the cinemas don't work, if you can't get on a plane or
on a train to travel somewhere, if you can't go to restaurants and invite your friends, there's not much that you can -- I mean, there are things
that you can do, but the spending is limited by virtue of the circumstances.
So, effectively, what we are trying to do, as central banks, is to stay the course and make sure that, when conditions become a bit more normal, that
spending, consumption, investment is actually picking up and will relaunch the economy and accelerate the recovery.
That's where we are at the moment.
AMANPOUR: So, I know this is slightly separate, but I think it's within your purview, or at least in your lane.
I'm sitting here in London. Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has been having talks with the commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. And they
haven't come to a deal. And the deadline has been extended until Sunday for them to say something.
It was meant to be discussed in the current E.U. summit, and it's deliberately not being discussed.
Do you think a deal is there to be had? And, if not, what are the -- what is the fallout, both for the E.U. and for Britain?
LAGARDE: Well, I will find out a bit more because I'm off to Brussels tonight, because it's also a Euro summit tomorrow. So, I will be in
Brussels with member states' leaders.
But it's clear at this point in time that all parties are preparing for the eventuality where there is no deal and where, at the end of the day Sunday,
they acknowledge that there will be no breakthrough on those three key stumbling blocks, if you will, that are the fishing rights, that are the
state aid, and the level playing field, so that we are all on a par, and the, essentially, dispute resolution mechanism.
So, this is what is happening. And we have -- there was an announcement by Ursula von der Leyen that precautions had to be made in terms of air
transportation, in terms of connectivity for the situation where there would be no deal. I think the same is also true in the U.K.
But, you know, my gut feeling -- I'm a lawyer by background. I have participated in many, many negotiations. My gut feeling is that, as long as
the fat lady has not sung, it's not over. And I think they will try to reach some sort of plateau where they can agree on a deal. It might be a
mini-deal, but I hope they can do that, because there is a lot at stake.
When you look at the -- only the trade consequences for the U.K. in particular, it is significant. It's a lot less significant for the whole
European Union, by virtue of the size of the European Union, compared with the U.K.
And, frankly, it's just -- it's just a horrible pity that, being so close - - because 95 percent of the negotiations are completed -- Michel Barnier has managed that beautifully for four years -- that we get stuck with this
Now, as is always the case in negotiations, something has got to give. And, hopefully, something will give on both sides, so that there is an
agreement, and the trade relationship are not governed by WTO pure terms, because it would be hard on the U.K. and it would be hard in general.
The fat lady sings, that is a beautiful Americanism. I'm sure not many central bankers use those kind of colloquialisms.
So, I want to ask you. You are a very different kind of central banker. You didn't come up through the -- sort of the traditional route of academia and
all the rest of it, in terms of financial -- the financial world. You have a much different background.
And I want to ask you whether that is what's leading you to what you say is your priority for the ECB. And that, among other things, is to put a huge
focus on green investments, on just green issues, you said, with a new focus, a new determination.
Tell me why and how. And will you succeed at it?
LAGARDE: I have become a central banker, but I keep my identity at the same time.
And I actually warned the European Parliament that I would do the best I could as a central banker, but I -- that I would want to keep my freedom in
relation to women and in relation to climate change.
And I don't want to be stepping out of my duties, which is to deliver on the mandate of the Central Bank, which is to keep price stable. Price
stability is the mandate.
But what I want to do is to enrich the mandate by opening those windows on climate change, notably, to identify whether or not it has a bearing on
You know, when we have major weather catastrophes, when we have threat of exhaustion of some resources or stranded assets, when we have potential
carbon tax, that has a bearing on inflation. It either reduces or increases, but it certainly has a bearing on prices.
Inflation is the measure by which we determine whether or not we achieve our price stability mandate. So, we need to take that into account, in the
same way that, when you hold assets, if those assets are not properly priced, because they don't take into account externalities, the damage that
we do on the planet.
Well, we have a bit of an issue in terms of risk management. And I think that we have that duty to the European Parliament, to the European members
to manage our risks properly and to deliver on our mandate of price stability.
So, I want to open that window on to climate change, draw the consequences, and take measures, with, of course, the members of the Governing Council,
who are party to the institution and will be interested to hear about those things, I'm sure.
AMANPOUR: And, apparently, you're going to stress-test the banks to see if they can withstand all sorts of climate change and crises.
What does that exactly mean, again, to a layperson?
LAGARDE: Well, that's the supervision arm of the ECB that will do that, essentially.
And what it will mean is that banks will have to, number one, identify the physical risks associated with climate change. Do they have stable
operations? Do they have -- I mean, it's just basic risk management of their operations.
But they will also be asked to look into the assets that they hold. Are they held by a company that itself is mindful of climate change, that has
anticipated proper valuation and risk management? And that will bring about a better conscience and a better assessment and better provisions to
actually quantify the risks associated with climate change.
And the European Parliament has actually done its job for that. They have begun doing the job. It's not over. But they have agreed on a taxonomy
identifying what is green, what is not green, what is really not green at all.
More work to be done. And it's for them to do that job, not for Central Bank. But we all have to work on it.
AMANPOUR: And -- OK, so, you are an expert on gender equality and the struggle for that, first of all, your own experience.
But you have also said that you want to bring more women into this issue, into the climate issue. And you have said that -- well, you say that one of
your reasons could be quite controversial. And you believe that women, as mothers, have a really fundamental understanding of what it means to
protect the planet.
Talk to me about that.
LAGARDE: Well, it's -- first of all, I observe that many of the initiatives in the universe of climate change are driven by women, if you
look around, many, many more women in that field than in pretty much any other sector. So, that's an observation.
LAGARDE: Number two, there have been some interesting studies conducted with European economists of 18 European countries on a gender-segregated
And guess what? Women are far more interested and far more motivated by all the questions relating to climate change. Interesting.
So, it begs the question of, why is it that women are finding it more interesting? Is it because it's a new field, where they're facing less
competition, or is it because they are particularly attentive to the consequences of climate -- of climate change on the planet, on the
development of -- on what we are going to leave to children and grandchildren?
And I'm not suggesting that this is a maternity-related dimension, but I believe that, maybe being more practical, maybe being more driven by this
concern about posterity, I contend. And I know that this is controversial, and I know that some feminists will say, oh, shock, horror, how can she say
Well, sorry, but I observe around me that -- that concern and that attitude, which doesn't mean that men are not concerned about what they're
leaving behind for their children, but I think there is a stronger and a deeper, almost physiological appetite for it with women.
AMANPOUR: Now, as a feminist, no shock, horror at all.
What must you be thinking right now to see the Treasury secretary-designate to be a woman for the first time in the United States, the vice president-
elect to be a woman for the first time? You're number two in "Forbes"' most important women. Above you is Chancellor Merkel. And there are so many
women leading on all fronts at the moment.
What does that say to you, not just about where we are as a world, but the direction maybe, particularly in the economy, in finance, with so many
women in charge now?
LAGARDE: Well, first of all, I applaud the choices that are being made.
And I think that I'm particularly delighted to see my friend Janet Yellen being most likely the next Treasury secretary in the United States. I think
she is -- she's superb. She's pleasant. She's attentive. She has empathy. She has technical skills. She -- I don't -- I'm -- I couldn't stop,
possibly, about her. So, I'm thrilled.
And I say that because I know her personally, and I know that she will be attentive to do the best possible job. That's another thing which I have
observed with women, by the way. And I'm not the only one. Women in charge, because they don't want to disappoint, because they are, I think, aware of
the legacy that they will leave, and some particularly concerned to have a second woman in the position actually do the job, they read the brief.
They think about it. They are focused and determined to perform. And I think that that should be a very convincing argument to have more and more
women in those positions.
I can tell you, Christiane, that, in the world of finance, there are still too few women in charge. And the IMF did some really good work. And I'm
delighted that it continues to do good work under the new leadership about the role of women in finance.
It's minimal, 2 percent women heads of banks, 20 percent members of boards of banks. This is -- this is a pity.
AMANPOUR: You called it ridiculous when the picture of you with all the other board members of the ECB was first released, and you were the only
woman. And now you say it's not bad. At least there's two women now.
And I can't let you get away. I just want to know, with all these women leaders -- and you are obviously one right now, but any thought about
running for president in France or wanting to be prime minister eventually?
I know you have got seven more years where you are.
AMANPOUR: Why is that?
LAGARDE: Because I have a great job to do, and because that's what I'm focused on.
AMANPOUR: All right, Christine Lagarde. I will have to ask you that in seven years from now.
Thank you so much for joining us.
AMANPOUR: And my next guest is also on the "Forbes" most powerful woman list.
She the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon. She too is reckoning with a deadly second wave of coronavirus and Brexit, which she says will cause
real damage. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the E.U.
Now, after setting an example for effective leadership in the first wave of the pandemic, Scotland is now being hit very hard. As for Brexit, Scotland
faces a possible worst-case scenario, tied to Britain as the U.K. potentially crashes out of Europe.
And the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is joining me from her office at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Welcome to the program, Nicola Sturgeon.
STURGEON: Thank you. It's a pleasure to join you.
AMANPOUR: Now, I don't know how much of Madam Lagarde you heard, but she was giving a really fantastic encouragement and endorsement of female
leadership, including reading the brief, doing the work, putting in the time, being patient.
Would you say that that applies to yourself?
I did hear a bit of the interview with Christine Lagarde. I think she's really inspirational and a role model for women everywhere. And the comment
she made, I think, is spot on.
There's an old saying that women in positions of leadership have this feeling that they have to perform twice as good as men in order to be
considered half as good. So, there is a real responsibility I think that we all feel to live up to expectations, to exceed expectations. And partly
that's because we are judged by higher standards, and often the criticism when we fail is much, much harsher.
And I think the point she made about us feeling a responsibility to women who come after us is really, well, me too. So, I think most of us feel that
AMANPOUR: So, let me turn this to what seems to being directed and led by certainly the current crop of men in government in Britain.
We understand, since our interview, latest reports are that Prime Minister Johnson has briefed his Cabinet members, after meeting with the European
Commission president, and essentially is saying that there is a very strong possibility, a very strong possibility -- he said it twice -- that they
could be an Australia-style result of these negotiations, which basically means a no-deal.
This is what he said:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have just updated Cabinet on where we have got to with our friends and partners in the E.U.
And they agreed very strongly with me that the deal on the table is really not at the moment right for the U.K.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he's pretty much -- how do you read it? You're a politician. What do you think he's saying there?
STURGEON: Yes, I think the chances of a deal now are almost vanishingly small. They're not nonexistent. And I remain hopeful, I guess, because no
deal will be catastrophic.
But I'm starting to worry not that just no deal is now the overwhelming likelihood, but that Boris Johnson is actually now almost planning for
You know, exactly a year ago right now, the U.K. general election took place, and he fought that election to be elected as prime minister,
basically saying that his deal with the European Union was oven-ready. He later said that no deal would be a failure of statecraft and it was a
million-to-one chance against that happening.
Now, today, he's saying it's very highly probable.
Now, let's just focus on what that means. In just three weeks' time, the U.K. will see its relationship with European Union ruptured, with no
agreement about the future trading relationship. That means that we will see barriers to trade, tariffs. It will mean cooperation and collaboration
on things like education and research, law enforcement, climate change, all of that will be compromised.
And the consequences of that will be really significant and really damaging to people and businesses the length and breadth of the U.K.
And it seems to me that all of that is because Boris Johnson is failing to grasp or accept that responsible independent countries in the modern world
have to collaborate and work with others, and at times pool sovereignty for the greater good, for the greater well-being and prosperity of their
And I think he's about to take the U.K. down a very, very damaging road. And, for Scotland, that is made all the worse because we didn't vote for
it. We rejected Brexit in the referendum in 2016, and now face that no-deal cliff edge, which is completely against our wishes, and will do real damage
AMANPOUR: You know, the latest figures show that most people, 51 percent to 38 percent, now believe Brexit was a mistake.
And I wonder also what you and your party plan, because I understand that the SNP, your party, plans not to vote, to abstain, if I'm not mistaken, if
a deal is taken to Parliament.
Can you walk me through why that would be?
STURGEON: Well, we don't know at the moment whether there will be a deal to go before Parliament.
And if there is -- and it looks less likely now that that will be the case -- we have no idea yet what the terms of that would be. So, we would have
to see that before we could make any definitive decision.
But for SNP members of Parliament to in any way endorse anything that effectively gives a green light to removing Scotland from the European
Union would be very difficult to do, because the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit.
So, we are in a position where Scotland's democratic wishes have been completely ignored. Now, obviously, we want to meet the best of a very,
very bad situation.
But, increasingly for Scotland, the question is, are we going to allow ourselves to be dragged down the wrong path by people like Boris Johnson --
and the majority of people in Scotland also didn't vote for Boris Johnson to be prime minister -- or do we now decide to take our future into our own
hands, so that Scotland can chart its own path, and, as part of that, be a close and cooperative partner with our friends, yes, in other parts of the
U.K., but also across Europe and the wider world?
And that's a really big decision for Scotland. And given that we -- you mentioned opinion polls. The majority of people in Scotland, according to
all recent opinion polls, now favor Scotland becoming an independent country.
AMANPOUR: Yes, they do. I was actually going to basically tell you what you have just told me and what you know better than me.
AMANPOUR: They do, indeed.
But you remember that, when there was the referendum, I think it was 2014, you all said it was once in a generation. Here we have this again. And you
know that the British government, Boris Johnson, I think they have threatened to veto it. They said that you can't do it if it's not approved
by the British government.
What is your plan here? I mean, do you have a plan? There are elections in Scotland in May.
AMANPOUR: What is your plan?
STURGEON: Well, my plan is to win those elections by putting forward to people in Scotland the proposition that there should be a referendum again
to allow people the opportunity to choose independence.
Yes, we had a referendum in 2014, but circumstances have changed very dramatically since then, as we see with Brexit. And, of course, democracy
is not a single moment in time. People in any democracy have the right to change their minds. So, I intend to fight an election on that basis. And if
we win that election, then I don't think it would be sustainable and certainly not democratic for any prime minister to stand in the way of
Scotland's right to choose.
It is entirely legitimate for Boris Johnson or whoever is prime minister to argue against Scottish independence, but it's not legitimate to see that
people in Scotland shouldn't be the ones to make that choice.
And I think most people in Scotland believe that there is going to be another independence referendum and that the prime minister and U.K.
government simply cannot stand in the way of democracy.
AMANPOUR: He obviously pushes back on any SNP intervention in Parliament, which he did this week. One of your M.P.s made an intervention on issues.
And this is what Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: Breaking up the U.K. really means the impact on our budgets, on our economy, the impacts on Scotland, the impacts on our whole country.
It's their manifest inability to explain what they actually mean, Mr. Speaker.
The people of this country voted in -- Scotland voted in 2014 to remain part of the U.K. They were right then, and they will be right in the future
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Is that bluster, or do you face serious impediments?
STURGEON: Most things with Boris Johnson are bluster, to be perfectly frank about it. But maybe I'm biased in that regard.
There is a theory in Scotland, of course, that, every time Boris Johnson speaks about Scotland, support for independence rises. So, maybe I should
encourage him to do more of it.
Of course, independence -- any country being independent brings challenges, as well as opportunities. I take nothing for granted if there is, as I
intend that there will be, a referendum to allow people in Scotland to choose independence.
I and those arguing for it have to persuade a majority to choose that option and we have to do that in an open and frank way, recognizing the
challenges as well as the massive opportunities.
And, in fact, do it in a way that is the polar opposite of how Boris Johnson and his colleagues argued the case for Brexit, which was to give
nobody any detail and to deny all of the challenges, which is why 3 1/2 years later, he faces the prospect of crashing out at the end of the
transition period with no deal because he never leveled with the people about the realities of Brexit and the tradeoffs and the issues that had to
be resolved along the way.
AMANPOUR: And we are actually hearing and we have been hearing throughout this pandemic where the economies have crashed in so many parts of the
world, that a Brexit -- adding Brexit to that could be exponentially worse for the economy of the U.K.
AMANPOUR: So, that's that issue. I want to turn to the pandemic because you're dealing with all of these issues in the middle of real life and
death happenings and circumstances and decisions. So, you led Scotland through a very successful first wave. You thought that you were on the
verge of eliminating this. And the second wave has hit you very, very hard. I wonder if you -- I wonder why you think that's happened.
STURGEON: Well, firstly, the second wave, which we are still in, is very difficult, but it hasn't been as harsh as the first wave in terms of the
numbers of people needing hospital care and intensive treatment and, thankfully, in terms of the number of dying. Although, 80 persons dying is
one too many. In terms of why would a second wave many of the same reasons as much of Europe is grappling with a second wave, this is a global
pandemic of an infectious virus. We did come very close to eliminating the virus in the summer months, but then as people started to move around and
travel across the U.K. and further afield again, the virus was reseeded into Scotland.
Now, at the moment, although the second wave is still very much with us, we have a situation in Scotland where case numbers are starting to decline
again. There are number -- the reproduction number is declining. So, you know, our focus particularly as we go into the Christmas period and deeper
into the winter is to work with the population, with businesses to try to make sure that we all behave in a way that continues to get the virus back
under control and keep it under control, but we are not in any way complacent. And, you know, people have sacrificed so much.
Unfortunately, I think there's some months of sacrifice still required. But, of course, this week in Scotland, as was the case across the whole
United Kingdom, we started to vaccinate people against this virus. So, there is that light at the end of the tunnel, which I think, albeit, things
are still very difficult, has given people optimism this week.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned vaccine. So, I want to put this to you. The chief executive of Edinburgh Airport has described your plan, Scotland's
plan, for mass vaccination as woefully inadequate. Who do you think he means by that and do you accept that?
STURGEON: I'm not sure exactly what he meant, but I think he was just flatly wrong about that. Now, let me say first of all, the chief executive
of Edinburgh Airport, like the chief executives of airports across the world and indeed businesses around the world are under severe pressure and
stress. They're having a dreadful time. So, I understand that passions can be quite -- run quite high and everybody's dealing with a difficult
situation, but our vaccination plans, they have just started this week.
We are -- we've got very detailed plans in place as have the other governments of the U.K. And as we get more supplies of the vaccine, the
supplies have started to flow, but we don't yet know exactly what supplies we'll have over what time scale, but we are ready to go and vaccinate
people as soon as those supplies are flowing. And we have already, this week, vaccinated over 5,000 people in Scotland, which in our overall
population is around 5 million. So, there's a long way to go, but we had a very strong start to the program this weekend.
You know, while everybody understands, there is a long way to go, obviously we hope to have other vaccines, as well as the Pfizer one that's got
authority in the U.K., we hope to see others authorized and -- progressively as we go through the early part of 2021. I think we can now
start to hope that into the spring and certainly into the early part of the summer we might start to see much greater normality restored to our lives
and I know that's something everybody is desperate for.
AMANPOUR: And I guess just very finally and quickly, in the vaccine rollout, hesitancy is playing a pretty big role in many countries. Do you
face that in Scotland? And do you have plans to assure your population that, you know, they should be taking the vaccine?
STURGEON: Absolutely. And do we face that in Scotland? I think every country faces, you know, anti-vaccination sentiment. I think the way it
works, in particularly with social media these days, often minority opinions can be amplified through that. So, I don't think it's something we
should be complacent about. But my feeling, and I think this is backed, in appalling evidence is that the majority of people in Scotland and across
the U.K. and probably across the world are really keen to get vaccinated.
But we will continue to reassure people that vaccines going through robust regulatory processes and we will take steps to try to deal with people's
concerns to, you know, rebut any myths about vaccination and to encourage people to come forward just as soon as they are invited. And certainly, the
response this week, albeit in the early stages of the program has convinced me that there's going to be a very, very strong response, indeed.
AMANPOUR: On that optimistic note, Nicola Sturgeon, thank you for joining us.
And now, from the business of government to the business of actually trying to stay in business, like other restaurateurs, the chef, Marcus Samuelsson,
has been hit hard by the pandemic. But during this crisis, he is helping those in need, particularly those of color. It's a community he celebrates
in his new book "The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food."
Here he is talking with our Walter Isaacson about his journey from Ethiopia to Sweden to the United States and why restaurants are more than just
places to eat.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thanks, Christiane. And, Marcus Samuelsson, welcome to the show.
MARCUS SAMUELSSON, CHEF AND RESTAURANTEUR: Thank you so much for having me. Very excited to be on.
ISAACSON: Great. You came to this country with 300 bucks in your pocket and it took you 25 years to build up your restaurant empire. And then after
COVID hit, it all came down in 10 days. How are you doing with things like the Red Rooster and your wonderful restaurants?
SAMUELSSON: Well, this has been by far the toughest year not just for me but all of us, right. It's been challenging as a small business how to
maintain and we're getting tested. But I do think as an immigrant, it gives me a lot of strength. You know, I've been through things before. As a
person of color, I've been tested before. But it's definitely taking a toll. But I've also really felt gratitude to be part of several
communities. One, the community of Harlem, and two, the community of hospitality.
ISAACSON: You talk about being tested before as an immigrant. You know, you're from Ethiopia by way of Sweden, and then to Harlem. Tell me what you
learned on the trail that's helping you through this COVID crisis.
SAMUELSSON: Well, what I've been thinking a lot about this year is that this is so much bigger than yourself, right. And sometimes the worst that
can happen can also be the best that could happen. In my case, me and my sister and my brother had tuberculosis. My mother sadly passed. But me and
my sister survived and that's how we got adopted from Ethiopia to Sweden, and it really saved me.
So, when things like that has happened to you in your life, you just kind of like -- I've been through some tough beginnings, but also very grateful
to be here. And it's very similar to this experience. It's so much larger than yourself. You got to just hang on if you can. I've been very
fortunate. My family's healthy, my wife is healthy, my son is healthy. And as long as we are healthy, we can always add value to our community and our
ISAACSON: You've turned the Red Rooster, your restaurant up in Harlem, into a community kitchen now. Explain what you're doing and how you're
working with Jose Andres, your friend.
SAMUELSSON: Yes. Well, you know, by yourself you have power. And if you're part of the larger community collectively, I think that this year I really
thought helped me focus on the individual but also as a collective. And as a collective, I'm part of the hospitality community. I called Jose Andres
very early in March and said, hey, (INAUDIBLE), we'll be there. We'll feed the community. And we started with 400 meals a day for the neediest to
1,500 meals per day.
So, between March 15th and October 15th, we served over 225,000 meals for the neediest and the first responders. And it completely changed us as a
community, but also it made me realize what it means to be a restaurant during a pandemic. What you can do as a collective. And it transformed me
as a person but also us as a business.
ISAACSON: Over the course of this coronavirus pandemic, have you seen the change in the type of people you are serving?
SAMUELSSON: Oh, this was in the beginning, particularly being -- living in Harlem and serving Harlem, it was homeless people, the neediest. Then we
served the first responders and the hospital. And then it was my neighbors. After months of this, right, this is still going on. The line became middle
class, working class and I was -- I'm pleased that we can be there for our community. And it was very often the homeless and the people that are used
to waiting on shelter living that showed the line, that really showed they have experience on waiting. They knew how to wait through social
So, there was a lot of beautiful human interaction in that line that I saw that I never expected because we had the least experience of this and
someone has experience of waiting on line knew more about how to do this.
ISAACSON: After Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, we realize that the restaurants were not just places for food, but places of community where we
rallied around and figured out what we're going to do. Have you seen that in the restaurant community during COVID?
SAMUELSSON: Yes, I mean, this is -- I've seen the best in people in the toughest time, right. This just didn't happen in Harlem. Same thing
happened in Newark and in Miami and across the country. The power of one and the power of us together.
I mean, Walter, what you have to understand, independent restaurant, that community employs between 11 million and 16 million Americans, right. The
word restaurant means to restore your community. But sometimes the word restaurant is almost too big. You know, fast food chains are part of
restaurants but they're very different than independent restaurant and we created the Independent Restaurant Coalition to specifically help the mom
Once the mom and pops in your neighborhood goes away, our neighborhood vastly change, right. It's going to be completely dark at night, it has
impact on jobs but also on safety and also quality of life. So, it's very important for us to keep the independent, mom and pop restaurants alive.
ISAACSON: Do you think the independent mom and pop restaurants are more likely to be thriving after COVID or do you think it will help the change
SAMUELSSON: Sadly, I think the big guys with access to finance and can wait it out and traditional bank loans will definitely be able to survive
this. I'm not sad they're surviving. It's good that business is open. But this will have a huge impact on mom and pop, particularly minority, black
and brown business, as we know, have been impacted by COVID in this proportionately. Both with access to hospital and access to health care,
right. And also, traditionally, we know financial solutions in those communities are much harder.
So, post-COVID it's going to be a very different America in black and brown neighborhoods but also wherever there are small businesses.
ISAACSON: Congress is wrestling with an aid package. What do you think should be in that for the restaurant industry?
SAMUELSSON: Well, I would love to see the aid package really restore what we got this summer, something similar to that. Because small businesses or
family business, I really don't like the word small businesses because for the families it's their own business. And if we don't get a meaningful
package, mom and pop restaurants in this country will go away. Not just for a couple of months, Walter, forever.
The restaurant business is not a high margin business to begin with. So, we've been through our toughest year. We need the aid right now. We need to
go back to work. Right now, you're looking at 11 million people where 70 percent of the people, we're asking to stay home. This is going to have
impact beyond restaurant. This is going to have impact on the barbershop. This is going to have impact on all small retail. And we need that aid
sooner than later.
ISAACSON: Give me a sense of how hard it is to start up a restaurant and to then restart a restaurant once it's been closed?
SAMUELSSON: This is -- it is extremely hard and challenging to start a restaurant because normally we are also not traditionally getting, you
know, access to banks. This is very much -- you fund raise through friends and family. And if a restaurant is doing great, you might have a 6 percent
to 8 percent profit margin, which means that you don't have a lot of money stashed away for a two-month closing. So, you're basically running that
restaurant month to month.
And when you're closing a restaurant and then starting back up, first finding the staff, getting all the systems back up, and the margin of 7
percent to 10 percent is not going to help you restart the restaurant. This is not a 30 percent, 40 percent profit margin business where you can stack
away a lot of money for a better day. This is literally like living month to month. And -- but it is also an industry that takes care of so many
neighborhoods and employs -- one of the largest employers in this country.
So, it's meaningful not only for the neighborhood, not only for the family, but for us as a country. So, when you save American restaurants, you're
actually saving American and it is by far the most diverse industry. So, immigrants like myself that might be hard to get into other work fields,
restaurant is very often the first place you can get a job but also the first place where you can own your own business. So, this is vital for so
many different reasons.
ISAACSON: You have a gorgeous, delectable new book out that's not only a cookbook, not only recipes, but a celebration of black food, a celebration
of the immigrant experience and a celebration of a lot of chefs, old and new, who you write about, almost biographically. You titled the book "The
Rise." Let's start with that. Why is it titled "The Rise"?
SAMUELSSON: It was an opportunity, Walter, to really celebrate black excellence when it comes to American food and cooking. I felt like -- just
like a lot of American history, the African-American experience, the way it's been written into our history wasn't correct. This was an opportunity
to celebrate incredible chefs like Ms. Leah Chase and also honor the people that are not so famous that actually contributed much more to American
There are five original cuisines in American food that are directly linked to the black experience. Southern food that we consider -- we call
sometimes soul food. Low country from the Carolinas, Cajun, Creole and barbecue. These are all iconic important food cultures that all stems out
of the African-American experience. So, we need to get the authorship, the correct authorship to that. We need to create and set tables for more
memories so we can honor the people who created it and we need to get people to be inspired to be in our industry, and that's really why we want
to create the rise.
ISAACSON: Is there a particular essence to which you would call black food?
SAMUELSSON: I do. I mean, it obviously stems from West Africa. Comes out of the slave trade. Like a lot of food comes out of war and in a very, very
complicated difficult and horrible situations. And I would say, making it delicious with very -- small means, right. So much of all the black
experience when it comes to food is not having enough but also being ingenious. Bringing the rice to the Carolinas, for example, bricking okra
from the continent to America and so many incredible indigenous dishes that comes out of West Africa.
When I think about a jollof rice from West Africa and I think about a jambalaya from your town, New Orleans, they're exactly similar, right? So,
where one inspired the others. And there are many dishes like this that started in Africa, came to the Carolinas and became American dishes.
ISAACSON: You celebrate Leah Chase, who died at 96 a year or so ago, and her restaurant in New Orleans was more than just a restaurant. It was a hub
of the civil rights movement. It was a hub of the community. How important are people like Leah Chase? You've dedicated the book to her.
SAMUELSSON: Well, Ms. Leah Chase is an American icon. You know, she passed away last year at 96 years young. Her restaurant started in the '40s. Think
about that. In the '40s. And now, her daughter, Stella, still runs it Dooky Chase. But, obviously, she was a game-changer in so many different ways.
For the first 20 years or so, white and black customers couldn't eat in the same restaurant but Ms. Leah Chase broke those laws because she wanted to
serve everybody. But also create jobs for everybody, right. And restaurants for African-Americans meant different things. Very often they have to go to
Ms. Dooky Chase -- Leah Chase to gather, (INAUDIBLE) vote and so on. So, you know, we can't think of restaurants as safe haven today but that's what
they were in black communities.
They were job creators. They were safe havens. And there was also a place where you always knew you could get a meal. Even if you didn't -- couldn't
pay directly that day, you could put it on the bill and by the end of the month, go and pay, clean up your bill. And Leah was there for her
community. She was in and of her community.
SAMUELSSON: My favorite recipe in the book, I think, and I'm going to try it out, is the casava dumplings with callaloo puree, which Nina Compton
does it by (INAUDIBLE). Tell me about the influence of Caribbean culture on black food.
SAMUELSSON: Ms. Nina Compton is for me -- it's not a coincidence that she's in New Orleans and she's really learned so much and Leah mentored her
as well. But, you know, Nina's food, Nina coming from St. Lucia, training in New York with Danielle and so on, she's done -- she is black excellence,
right. She's come from a place. She's gone this hard training. And now, she and her family have their business.
And Caribbean food has influenced America in so many different ways but it's also localized. When you talk about black food, it's not monolithic.
There are those five (INAUDIBLE) that we talked about. But there is also through the Caribbean and through immigration. We learned that St. Lucian
food is different than Jamaican food, for example. We learned that Cuban has a different journey than Dominican food. So, it helps us in a
geographically way really understand how blackness is not one thing, it's plural. And that's really important the way we understand that Portuguese
and Polish food is not the same just because they start with P and come from Europe.
ISAACSON: When I was reading "The Rise," I was loving the recipes. But by the time I got to the end of your wonderful book, I realize it wasn't just
about food. It was about race and about class and about equity. Tell me how those things fit in, both in your book and what we're going through today.
SAMUELSSON: I think food is politics in so many different ways because it is a trading commodity, right. So, it is linked to culture, identity and
race. Who owns something, who cannot own something. And I think it's very important to have these conversations. You think about the slave trade, for
example. You think about food from Africa very often doesn't get its props when it comes from Africa.
For example, if you're going to give away a box of chocolate this holiday season, you might say, hey, I'm going to buy my loved ones some Belgian
chocolate. The coco bean is not in Brussels. The coco bean is in Ghana. So, we are programmed already to give a lot of good food quality to Europe.
You're going to think about a French coffee or an Italian roast X, Y and Z coffee, that coffee bean comes from Kenya or Ethiopia.
So, again, the authorship where the food comes from to identify that is very, very important. And we are on a journey and something like "The Rise"
can continue to have that conversation to open that door up. That is very important because as we trade, we also think about that culture from a
higher quality standard. It inspires us to go to that country, it inspires us to think about people in a different context.
ISAACSON: Marcus Samuelsson, thank you so much for joining us and good luck with the restaurant and good luck with your book, "The Rise."
SAMUELSSON: Thank you so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: Ethics and conscience in cuisine as well.
And finally, tune into our show tomorrow for two very important conversations with John Kerry and Greta Thunberg to mark the fifth
anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement. President-Elect Joe Biden appointed the former U.S. secretary of state as his special envoy for
climate change and he was a key architect of the 2015 Paris deal, which Biden will re-enter after Trump pulled the U.S. out. Here is Kerry last
month accepting the position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: President Joe Biden will trust in God and he will also trust in science to guide our work on earth to
protect God's creation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And Greta Thunberg will also join me. She was "Time's" 2019 person of the year for leading a global movement for climate action. We'll
see what's next for the fearless trail blazer.
And that's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.