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George Floyd Laid to Rest at Houston Memorial Garden; Nancy Pelosi Calls for Transformative Structural Change; Bill Moyers, Broadcaster and Journalist, is Interviewed About George Floyd's Funeral and Injustice and Inequality in United States; Protests Reaching the Atlantic Ocean All the Way to U.K. and Beyond; Afua Hirsch, Journalist and Author, "Brit(ish)", and Eusebuis McKaiser, Broadcaster and Author, "Run Racist Run", are Interviewed About Inequality and Injustice for Black People and White Supremacist Rule. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 30, 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This will be a home going celebration of brother George Floyd's life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: George Floyd is laid to rest in Houston, his hometown. What's next for black lives in America? I ask veteran of the civil rights era, the
legendary broadcaster and thinker, Bill Moyers.
And as solidarity protests roll across the world, Britain is reckoning with its slavery stained legacy.
And in South Africa which confronted white supremacy rule with truth, 25 years on, racism still has tough roots. I talk to author of "Brit(ish),"
Afua Hirsch and South African radio's, Eusebuis McKaiser.
Then, Louisiana Republican, Mike Johnson, on President Trump's handling of this crisis and why the killing of George Floyd hits home.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
The family of George Floyd has said good-bye to a father, a brother, a partner. He's been laid to rest at Houston Memorial Gardens in Texas, next
to his mother. And of course, many will remember that it was she he called for with his dying breath.
And as thousands mourn, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for transformative structural change while President Trump says 99 percent of
police officers are great people. This in the midst of a health crisis that continues to devastate the black communities. Constant reminders of race,
class and resources in America. And the country's age-old struggle with injustice and inequality.
So, what will this powerful moment of moral reckoning lead to? My first guest tonight is a veteran of the civil rights area. Bill Moyers is a
journalist and former White House press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson in the early '60s, of course, whose major achievement was the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed segregation in the United States. Bill Moyers has had a legendary career at PBS as a broadcaster and he's joining
Welcome to the program, Bill Moyers. We are so grateful to have you on this day, particularly.
So, in light of everything that you have done and everything that you've covered and the administrations that you have worked for, put into context
what we're seeing today. What went through your mind first as we see George Floyd's final farewell and being laid to rest?
BILL MOYERS, BROADCASTER AND JOURNALIST: The first image I had -- and I'm very glad to be with you, Christiane. The first image I had was of a
conversation I did many years ago with one of the wisest men of our times, the legendary mythologist Joseph Campbell, who said to me, if you want to
change the world, change the metaphor. And I think the funeral that we saw today is perhaps the beginning of changing the metaphor that we use to
address civil rights from the valley of despair, let's say, because very little has changed over the last 25 years despite all the civil rights
legislation. That is very little has changed in the daily lives of most African-Americans.
Too perhaps a metaphor of, you know, the beginning of change, the Sam Cooke song they sang at the funeral a few minutes ago, "A Change is Going to
Come." And when I look at these young people, particularly, and many of them are millennials, as I have three millennial grandchildren. Many of the
millennials who have been rather lethargic in the past few years about the power of politics to change anything. And I see them now looking beyond
this moment to the country that we're going to become in their adult majority if we don't change.
So, I hear the sounds of change. I've heard them many times in the last 50 years. But something about this is bracing. And one thing is that, of
course, the victim here was not John Kennedy or Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King or Malcolm X or any notable or icon. It was a kind of everyday
-- George was a kind of everyday fellow. He had his -- made his mistakes, spent some time in jail, came out, tried to turn his life around. He was an
everyman trying to make a better life for himself in a country still dominated by white rules and white people.
And the fact that it's an everyman, it's a rather ordinary fellow like so many other people in this country, who has become the symbol of perhaps a
new unity in our effort to change the way race relations are conducted in this country. So, that went through my mind as I was watching and listening
to the funeral.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you, with the long view of history, why do you think you've eloquently stated what an everyman he was, but why do you
think his murder, his brutal killing in full view of the public, why do you think this is what has changed the level of movement, galvanized not just
Americans across the country and as you say, of all races, but also across the world? What was different about George Floyd, do you think than Eric
Garner or Michael Brown or the other names that have become synonymous with this in the United States?
MOYERS: His death was prolonged. It happened over nine minutes of our watching. We never -- most of -- none of us today saw a lynching, although
Americans used to go by the hundreds and thousands to view black men and some black women being lynched in the early days of the last century. We
watched it. We watched that policeman put his knee directly on this man's neck and willfully. And nonchalantly apply that pressure.
And, you know, when he kept saying, I can't breathe, I can't breathe, as did Eric Garner, I kept thinking, what happens when America's democracy
says, I can't breathe, I can't breathe? Can't America die of too little air when there is so much opportunity to do better by it? We saw this happen.
It was like watching -- when my father died, he was born in 1904, I found in the drawer of his desk an old newspaper. A front page of his newspaper.
Some several people had gathered in the square of his hometown of the Paris, Texas, near the Red River and watched a lynching of a black man. I
still don't know if my father was there or not, but that photograph not taken far from his home changed his life, changed his attitude, changed his
We saw this happen to that man. We'd read about it, heard about it, this sort of thing happening over the years and it happened often in recent
years. But we were all there, not only as spectators, we were there as participants because of all the people around that scene -- none of the
people around that scene interfered. And that's what's been happening to black people in this country for years. We never really saw them.
I grew up in a town in East Texas, half black and half white. And I left it thinking, you can be well loved, well churched and well taught and never
experience the lived experience of other people. None of us ever experienced what happened to this fellow until we watched that nine-minute
tape play out over and over and over again with us participating.
AMANPOUR: It is extraordinary. And the level of reaction to that and the level of solidarity with the people on the streets in the United States is
huge around the world. But I want to ask you, because you said, partly, I cannot breathe, begs the question as to whether America's democracy has
enough air to continue breathing.
So, I want to read you a little quote from Michelle Alexander. She wrote "The New Jim Crow." About mass incarceration and that. And says, American
democracy hangs in the balance. And I know you've done a lot of thought and work on democracy. But she says, if we do not learn the lessons of history
and choose a radically different path forward, we may lose our last chance at creating a truly inclusive egalitarian democracy. Do you agree with
MOYERS: Yes, I think the democracy was dying of too many lies long before this murder. I think America was dying from a great concentration of
wealth. We were becoming not -- we were moving from democracy to plutocracy where the rich rule and by the politics, they won. I was concerned about
democracy as so many others were before this happened.
But this terrible crime that happened in front of us was just so reminiscent of what had happened before. I was at the White House in 1965
when Watts exploded. There were riots and violence throughout that area of Los Angeles. And the president appointed a commission, the McComb
Commission, which was charged with exploiting what had happened and recommending changes, but it came back with a very disappointing report
saying really it was riffraff that brought it on and nothing happened.
A year later, the summer of 1967, there were riots in American cities, east to west, north to south. 41 people killed in Detroit. 20-some-odd people
kill in the Newark. The president appointed another commission. This commission, an excellent group of American citizens came together,
concluded that this had been caused by a convergence of the social burdens that were pressed down upon black people in this country, poor housing, too
few jobs, jobs that didn't pay well, violence in their own communities, corrupt barring credit practices for black consumers. It all converged in
Newark. And that we were becoming two societies, unequal societies, one black, and one white.
And there was a moment when I felt hopeful and the country felt hopeful, I think, for a very brief moment. And then because the president backed away
from it, he was worried about alienating the white middle class. He didn't want to shift money from spending in the war in Vietnam to spending on real
social change and because Congress wouldn't pass tax increases that would help us meet the enormous demands of rebuilding the ghettos and providing
dignified jobs with living wages, the country just backed away from it.
Richard Nixon was right there waiting. He used to southern strategy of arousing white southerners and working people against improvements in the
lives of black people, the silent majority. And he won the election by rousing fear and bigotry towards blacks again, and we lost that moment.
Also, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act of -- the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were incredibly
important in changing the politics of this country and the direction of this country, but they did not affect the daily lives of African-Americans.
So, that even though we had a new political look about us with African- Americans participating, life did not change for people who were living in the poverty of the ghetto, that couldn't find good jobs. And we then began
not to see them.
The great sin of America for all of these decades is that we haven't seen what is happening to the people we were oppressing. We white people had
not. We finally had come to the moment when we were scraping the whitewash, and it was whitewash, off of our vision of the country, and what we are
seeing is not pretty, not right. Unless we see the truth of what is there, we are going to be just the same as we have been for the last decades, the
last 200 years.
AMANPOUR: What hope is there now? And I just want to ask you what you think of not just the Democrats in the Congress who are saying the right
thing, they're trying to do the right thing, but the Republicans who are also kind of stepping up, whether it's, you know, Greg Abbott, who says,
I'm committed to working with the family of George Floyd to ensure we never have anything happen like this ever occur in the State of Texas? He's, of
course, the Republican governor. You are a Texan. You know Texas. Senator John Cornyn who is running for reelection as we know, he has tweeted,
dedicated to rooting out racial injustices so no other family has to experience what George Floyd's family has.
These are very conservative Republicans on the right-wing side, I guess. You have seen Mitt Romney march with the protesters in Washington over the
weekend. Given your experience and your president, Johnson, who created a consensus, unlike any other president, do you see any movement towards that
kind of consensus now in the wake of George Floyd's death for some kind of meaningful change?
MOYERS: Well, I've seen it before, you know. We would not have passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 unless, first, we beat Barry Goldwater, the
Republican candidate, who opposed to vote the Civil Rights Act. But we passed it with a number, 16 of 17 key votes at different times from
moderate Republicans. It's been a long time since they have done that. And I was very glad to see the governor of Texas, a very red state, and the
senior senator from Texas, John Cornyn, do, as you said, they put themselves on the right side in terms of their image on this.
But just last week, 10 Republican county chairmen in Texas said that these murders of black men were all stages. This morning, this morning, the
president of the United States tweeted that the 75-year-old man in Buffalo we saw being pushed down violently by -- harshly by the police, we saw the
president -- we read the president's tweet saying that he fell harder than he was pushed and that he wanted -- that wasn't staged.
So, the Republican Party is still not on the right side of this moral issue, I'm sorry to say. I wish they were. I grew up with a different
Republican Party that really was the party of Lincoln. Black candidates in my hometown used to get votes from Republicans who remembered the party of
Lincoln. But that's not the way they have been now. That party has been on the other side of everything we've done, tried to do right, about the
Republican Party, about civil rights.
I'm sad to say that, but the fact of the matter is, despite Mitt Romney and Colin Powell -- by the way, Colin Powell voted for President Clinton in
2016, remember? And how much that helped. And some people think maybe Mitt Romney voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. So, it's a large numbers everyday
Republicans say, we are going to get change the way our party looks about the world and get behind a just, fair and equal society, I think it's just
AMANPOUR: Well, this brings me to the other level of engagement investigation you've done on the condition of the United States. You
mentioned that Mitt Romney may have voted for Hillary Clinton last time. I don't know. But certainly now he said that unless Donald Trump is beaten,
and not just beaten but beaten heavily, the fate of the United States is going to be one that's very, very, very unequal and a very difficult time
to get through.
And you have written in your latest essay, which is called -- you've called "Trump No Friend of Democracy," and you said, we hold this truth to be
self-evident. It's happening before our very eyes. And you're sort of describing, that's the title, a slide in the United States from democracy
to authoritarianism. And you know, you chapter and verse it very persuasively. So, just tell us what you think is -- what makes you think
that and where do you think we're going to be in the next few years?
MOYERS: Well, what I've seen is what everybody else has seen. Every day and every way, President Trump has brought power into his own hands. He's
put himself above the law. He's encouraged policemen to be brutal. He's talked about how the Secret Service was empowered to turn vicious animals
and weapons you haven't seen the like of on demonstrators surrounding the White House. He's remaking the Justice Department in his image. He's just
taking one step after another to do what he said three years ago, I can fix it myself. I alone can fix it.
That's a strongman. He likes strong men around the world like Vladimir Putin and Bolsonaro in Brazil and Duterte in China. He admires the dictator
of North Korea, says he is his best friend. This man has a penchant for one-man rule and wants a one-party state. And it's been day after day and
act after act and he is been unable to tell the truth or to recognize the truth.
This is the last point I would make. Unless we see the truth and act on it, we are going to run out of oxygen. Truth is, the oxygen in the air of
democracy, and we are going to run out of it. You know, I grew up in the south, Christiane. The truth about slavery was driven from the pulpits,
driven from the classrooms, driven from the newsrooms.
And then the truth about Jim Crow was driven out of the classrooms, out of pulpits, out of the schoolrooms. And we had a huge civil war, a disastrous,
devastating civil war, because we couldn't recognize the truth. I was served in the Johnson White House at the time we escalated the war in
Vietnam. We drew the wagons around us and refused to see the truth that was being reported by the young journalists in Vietnam who were closer to the
war than we were at the White House. And when we didn't see the truth, it proved devastating for the Vietnam and for the Unites States.
We need to face the truth like a grownup and deal with what we all see around us. That's the issue. It is there. It's not hidden, the poverty, the
racism, the inequality, the favoritism towards the rich and powerful and wealthy at the expense of the working people.
You know, President Trump right now is following the strategy of Richard Nixon in 1968 when he ran for the presidency and won. He divided, though,
white working class from the black working class, because the president knew that the plantation owners of old always needed a white overseer to
keep the black workers at bay.
And that if you can -- Lyndon Johnson said to me in Tennessee during the campaign of 1960, we saw a bunch of white women holding up racist signs,
antiblack signs, and Lyndon Johnson have said, if you can convince the poorest white man in town that he's better than the richest black man in
town, you've won. And that's what Trump is doing right now, invoking race, invoking bigotry, invoking anger to try to turn white -- everyday white
people against everyday black people like George.
AMANPOUR: Bill Moyers, thank you so much for joining us. It's really so important to have this historical perspective as we try to see what the
road ahead is going to look like. And 80 percent of the country right now believe that it's verging on out of control. And by far, the majority of
those polled have sympathy with what happened with George Floyd rather than the violent crackdowns we have seen on our screens. So, maybe that is
saying something about the American people and what they think right now.
Now, of course these protests have crossed the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the U.K., here, and beyond, forcing a reckoning over here as well. In
the city of Bristol, of course, protesters over the weekend toppled a statue of a 17th century slave leader which many saw as a symbol of
institutional racism and colonial color blindness.
My next guest, the journalist and author, Afua Hirsch, here in London, her book "Brit(ish)" asks what it means to be black and British today. And from
Johannesburg in South Africa, Talk Radio's host, Eusebuis McKaiser. He's author of the block "Run Racist Run." Let us let's talk to them both.
Welcome back to the program, Afua Hirsch and Eusebuis McKaiser.
I want to ask you first, Afua, you're here and you've seen the massive protests here in the U.K. You heard what Bill Moyer said about why this
moment, I mean, it was riveting the way he describes because we saw lynching life, nearly nine minutes. What is your view of why this has taken
such a whole new momentum than any other such murder in the U.S. and even the murders here of unarmed black people?
AFUA HIRSCH, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR, "BRIT(ISH)": Hi, Christiane. Thank you. That's a question I have been asking myself because I think that those
of us who do this work, who draw attention to police and state brutality against black people, who have talked about previous atrocities we saw both
in America and here, there was almost an element of surprise as to why this was the one that got through.
When I say got through, I think the murder of George Floyd really has changed the atmosphere here in Britain. I'm having conversations with
people and on a scale that I haven't felt there was a door open to before.
I think there are a number of reasons. I think that there was a very specific health context where this is a pandemic that our leaders told us
would affect us altogether, bring us together, it would be a leveler. The country has been truly -- we have seen black people suffering grossly
disproportionate levels, both in the U.S. and the U.K., dying far greater numbers and an utter failure of leadership, to be honest about that, to
grapple with it.
And even as I speak, to take preventive steps or offer concrete guidance as to how to protect black and ethnic minority people as they return to work,
they're still more likely to die and nothing has been done to recognize them. So, that is a specific context. And I think the pandemic has also
shut down a lot of the distractions, really, that stop us from engaging with this. You know, sports events, drinking, festivals. All of the
material of daily life that kind of serves to distract to people from the very real injustice that's happening around them.
And then I think the situation just in itself, having leaders who don't even make the effort to be seem to be saying the right thing. You know, we
used to hearing often quite (INAUDIBLE) virtue signaling from politicians, but the alter absence of that, leaders who have actually inflamed the
tensions and deepened the pain, and I think these things have really combined on both sides it was of the Atlantic to tap into people's
consciousness that there is no reasonable explanation as to why anyone would tolerate a society where this still happens.
And I think that's the question people have been asking themselves. If they didn't go out onto the streets and protest and march and demonstrate, and I
was there this weekend in London as thousands and thousands of people turned out, if we didn't do that, we would be sending a message that this
was a tolerable reality. That the deaths of black people, as Bill Moyer so powerful put it, modern day lynchings were something that we could live
with. And I think the message is coming through loud and clear that we can't.
And it is a different situation in the U.K., it's a different kind of history but a highly interconnected one. And just as Bill Moyers was
saying, we haven't been honest about that history here. The roots of this systemic racism that has affected generation after generation of black
British people has never been properly acknowledge or understood. And I think that that is the first thing that really needs to happen here, is a
level of education, because we haven't even had the sophistication or the language or the space to have honest conversations.
When people like me have raised matters in greed (ph) historical record, I have been attacked with racist abuse in the mainstream media. So, the idea
that you shoot a messenger to protect the kind of fragility of this white privilege and power has been very normalized until now. And that's what is
starting to incrementally change.
AMANPOUR: We're going to get to some of those examples in a second. But I wanted to ask you, Eusebuis McKaiser in Johannesburg, because, you know,
the world country looks at your country, Eusebuis, and thinks, wow, you know, we got out of a systemic institutional, essentially, white
supremacist rule of the majority by a minority, and we are, you know, the standard wearers forbearers and reconciliation and a post racial world.
But clearly, the truth is somewhat different. And we've had a huge number of protests in South Africa in solidarity with George Floyd as well. Sum up
for us why this is so important in South Africa as well.
EUSEBUIS MCKAISER, BROADCASTER AND AUTHOR, "RUN RACIST RUN": Thank you for having me back on the program, Christiane. I have been invited over the
last week on a number of international programs in the hope that South Africa can have a good new story to give to the world. But I'm sad to
report from Johannesburg that the opposite is true. That the key lesson here in South Africa and the key reason why the protests in the U.K. and
the USA resonate particularly with black South Africans is because we are an example that you can have political change, you can even have a black-
led government and you can still have the remnants of a colonial regime of the past pretty much in place 20-odd years after the at vent of advent of
We have had our own George Floyd moment in recent weeks in South Africa where a black man was killed in a township by the name of Collins Khosa. He
was killed allegedly at the hands of black soldiers and this in a Democratic state led by an ANC government. And what that tells me is you
can have neocolonial features and state sponsored violence decades after the formal demise of a colonial government and a departed Oedipus (ph).
So, we put a gigantic gap in South Africa between the no motivation (ph) of an anti-racist society that was the nascent society we thought we were
signing up for in the mid-1990s, Christiane, and the reality in 2020 that, in fact, being black in South Africa is as perilous as being black in
London or being black in New York.
And the reality in 2020 that, in fact, being black in South Africa is as perilous as being black in London or being black in New York.
AMANPOUR: I heard from another radio host from South Africa who said -- and I quote -- "Police brutality is a national sport in South Africa." As
you say, it's still going on there, and sometimes black-on-black, as they say, in the jargon.
And also listing how difficult it is for any kind of -- despite the racist laws and the segregationist laws being written out of existence, how still
difficult it is for young black men, particularly in townships or black people in townships, to be able to get on any employment ladder or property
ladder. There's a whole inability to get land and the like.
What are some of the structural issues that even, as you say, you have a democracy and a black-led government and administration, and yet it doesn't
MCKAISER: The most fundamental structural problem is economic injustice and the fact that the economic injustices are inherently racialized in the
South African context.
So, if you look at, for example, unemployment levels amongst white South Africans, they are single digit and always have been single digit. But if
you look at who it is that bears the brunt of the unemployment crisis in South Africa, it will be young black persons under the age of 35 years old.
If you look at who disproportionately make up senior managers in corporate South Africa executive positions, it is white South Africans. So what you
have is a small number of black elites with political connections that are in cahoots with white capital, and that is the basic structure of the
But beneath that, you have got masses and masses of black South Africans who have civil and political rights, this first-generation right of our
constitution, but who do not have economic freedom.
And I think, Christiane, part of the problem -- and you see echoes of this also in the experiences of black and ethnic minorities in the U.K. -- is
that, when we talk about racism, we often divorce the conversation from economic justice.
And the reality is that you can never march towards an anti-racist society unless you democratize your economy. And in South Africa, those go hand in
When we look at the mining sector, when we look at how black workers are subjugated and poorly treated in terms of asset wealth and income
inequalities in other parts of the economy, it is pretty clear that, although South Africans got the right to vote, and although we deracialized
legislation in 1994, what we did not pay attention to was social and economic power, which remains incredibly, incredibly skewed, mostly towards
white South Africans and a couple of black South Africans, but not the vast majority.
AMANPOUR: So, I just want to play for you a couple of sound bites that we have.
One is from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on this issue, and another is from the health secretary, Matt Hancock. And then we can talk about it.
Can we play the first one now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I truly believe that we are a much, much less racist society than we were. In many ways, we're far happier and
better. But we must also, frankly, acknowledge that there is so much more to do in eradicating prejudice and creating opportunity.
And the government I lead is committed to that effort.
MATT HANCOCK, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: Thankfully, this is all based in response to events in America, rather than here, but we also must continue
the drive here for tolerance and genuine equality of opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Afua, as you can see, Matt Hancock there ending that saying that this is all about America and not here, and there's no institutional
And Boris Johnson saying, well we could do better, but.
How -- what would you say about that official reaction and those statements on what's going on in England, in the U.K.?
AFUA HIRSCH, AUTHOR, "BRIT(ISH)": Well, it's the perfect example of how racism works in Britain.
And as I'm listening to Eusebius so powerfully talk about economic disempowerment and unequal distribution of resources in South Africa, and
I'm thinking about Bill Moyers talking about the position of African- Americans in America, the common theme here is British people, British people exporting this plantation slavery to their colonies in what's now
the United States of America, British people exporting and helping to lay the foundations for a system of apartheid in South Africa.
And, actually, one of the things that spontaneously happened here is people saying that statues of figures like Cecil Rhodes, who really embodied this
white supremacist idea and his plan to co-opt black Africans into a wage economy that would guarantee the dispossession of their land and their
intergenerational poverty, these are things that British architects built.
And on top of that, we still revere them. We still have them on plinths and look up to them in all of our hallowed institutions, because racism is part
of everyday culture and everyday history in Britain.
And these are the things that our political leaders, they're not even dismissing them. I think they genuinely are profoundly ignorant about them
and how they work.
And so these problems all compound, that we have not ever been honest in Britain about our role in exporting racism globally, about the impact that
has on contemporary black British people, because most black British people are descended either from the history of plantation slavery in the
Caribbean, which in many ways was Britain's Deep South, or they are descended from people who lived in African colonies which Britain used to
build itself, its gold, its resources, its human labor, used it to fight the wars and then rebuild itself after the wars, and now use it to populate
its public services, where they're more likely to be exposed to and die from COVID.
So this is all part of one picture. And you really get a sense of how sophisticated the political response is, when you hear Boris Johnson say,
well, things are getting much better, and Matt Hancock, saying that, oh, racism is terrible in America.
This is the level that we're at in Britain, and I'm afraid to say it is beyond basic. And I -- Matt Hancock was asked recently how many black
people are in his Cabinet. And after an embarrassing, awkward pause, where it emerged that either there were none or he didn't know, he said, well, we
have great diversity of thought.
So, I think this is a reality check for British people. We haven't been doing the work of having this conversation. We don't have the knowledge to
have this conversation as a nation. And the idea that we will now sit and look at South Africa or look at the U.S. as examples of something far worse
than we would ever encounter here, really, it's insulting.
And that -- I hope this is a moment where people are beginning to coalesce around the reality that we have a lot to answer for here.
And just to finish on the specific point of police brutality, which you mentioned, Christiane, just today, it was announced that there will be a
review into the death of a man, Simeon Francis, in police custody in Devon. These cases have been happening in Britain, but they haven't achieved the
I have been to funerals of young black British people who died and, in some cases, filmed also on camera, whilst police or security guards restrain
them, and as their life left their bodies.
So, the same history has happened here, and we haven't had a reckoning, and that is what we need.
AMANPOUR: It really does sound like this is a tipping point moment, a game-changing moment. Let's see, as you say, whether the people will remain
engaged in this to make the change that you're all describing.
Eusebius McKaiser, Afua Hirsch, thank you so much for joining me on this really important day and this topic.
So, new debate on overhauling policing and other institutions in America.
Amid all that Mike Johnson, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, is joining the chorus, while also remaining a firm supporter of President
Here he is now talking to our Walter Isaacson about racial tensions in the United States and his own personal story of adopting an African-American
boy 20 years ago.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Congressman Mike Johnson, thank you for joining us.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): It's a delight to be with you. Thanks for having me.
ISAACSON: What did you feel when you watched the video of George Floyd being killed?
M. JOHNSON: I was outraged. I don't think anyone can view the video and objectively come to any other conclusion but that it was an act of murder.
And I felt that initially, as everyone did. And it's so disturbing. And the underlying issues beneath that are something that the country is now
struggling with, and I think it's something we have to look at very soberly and with a lot of empathy. And I'm glad to see that's happening around the
ISAACSON: You live up in Bossier City, near Shreveport. And you and your wife a long time ago adopted a 14-year-old African-American young man and
raised him, along with your other children.
Tell me about how that gave you some perspective on this.
M. JOHNSON: Yes, sure.
We took Michael in almost 20 years ago. He was 14. I often -- the easiest way to summarize the story is, I ask friends, have you seen the story "The
That was our story, except my Michael was not an NFL prospect, a similar story to that. And we took him in as our own. And Michael is now doing
great. This is 20 years later. He's in his mid-30s. He lives in California, four children of his own. He and Adonza (ph), they have a great family
And he says to people, he shares his testimony that, were it not for our intervention in his life, that he would certainly have joined a gang,
gotten on drugs, wound up in prison, or dead on the street somewhere.
And that's the harsh reality that we have here. What it's taught me is, we now have four other children of our own. And my oldest son, Jack,
ironically, this year is 14. And I have thought often through all these ordeals over the last couple of weeks about the difference in experiences
between my two 14-year-old sons, Michael, being a black American, and Jack being white, Caucasian.
They have different challenges. My son Jack has an easier path. He just does. The interesting thing about both these kids, Michael and Jack, is
they're both handsome, articulate, really talented kids gifted by God to do lots of things.
But the reality is -- and no one can tell me otherwise -- my son Michael had a harder time than my son Jack is going to have simply because of the
color of his skin. And that's a reality. It's an uncomfortable, painful one to acknowledge, but people have to recognize that's a fact.
ISAACSON: What do we do about that?
M. JOHNSON: I think that we need -- we really do need systematic change. I think we need to transformative solutions.
I think we're at a moment where we can begin to do more to form that more perfect union, as it says in the first line of the Constitution. Martin
Luther King Jr., Dr. King said, the Declaration of Independence was a promissory note to future generations of Americans. We have not achieved
yet what we can and should do.
But I think this is a moment for us first to do it. I think and I hope that we can push the politics aside of it, all of the ulterior motives and
agendas that so many organizations and groups have, and just look at this honestly.
If we could begin to see one another as our creator sees us, that's -- the central theme of America is articulated, of course, in the second paragraph
of the Declaration, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and they're endowed by God with their rights.
God sees us equally. We're made in his image. As a Christian, I believe that. And if that's true, there are implications that come from that.
As Americans, that being our foundational creed, we have to understand that every single person has an inestimable dignity and value. And your value is
not related in any way to the color of your skin or what zip code you live in or what you can contribute to society. Your value is inherent, because
it's given to you by your creator.
That is the theme. That's the idea, the premise of America. And we have to live up to that.
ISAACSON: You just mentioned systemic change. Explain what type of changes you think are necessary.
M. JOHNSON: There's a controversy raging right now in the country about whether there is a systemic problem within American policing. And that's a
whole different debate.
But when I'm talking about systematic change, I mean from a cultural perspective. I have grown up and lived in the Deep South all my life, and
it's -- we're still very segregated. We are. It's just a reality.
Sunday mornings, I was in a pulpit two Sundays ago speaking to this issue. And I said as, as they said in the civil rights era, it's still true. This
is still -- Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, and how tragic that is.
And so a lot of leaders in my community are talking, we're having dialogue right now of pastoral leaders, clergy, about trying to bring clergy
together as a start, get white pastors and black pastors together around the same table to break bread and talk about how we can further integrate
our community and cross those socioeconomic, racial lines.
I think there's a lot more of that that's needed. So, when I speak about systematic change, I mean from a cultural perspective first, because it's a
heart condition before it's a policy condition.
ISAACSON: And what about this change that may be needed for policing, more specific things, police reform?
There's bills being proposed to ban certain things like choke holds or to do -- what would you and the Republican Study Committee want to do to try
to change how policing is done?
M. JOHNSON: Well, we have talked about -- I serve on the House Judiciary Committee, and we have a big hearing coming up this week on that very
issue, of course.
And we summarize it when we're back home in a town hall setting or talking to community groups. It's about the three T's to us. It's about
transparency, training and termination, right?
So, transparency within policing to give reports if there's bad apples on a police force, and they're very rare, that people need to know that. That
needs to be a part of what is released to the public when it's necessary.
And then training, you have to talk about in the police academies. I grew up in the fire and police academy in Shreveport, Louisiana. My dad was an
assistant chief of the fire department. And I watched those trainings.
Things have changed over the last few decades. And we need to update that. We need body cameras and the like.
And then termination. If you identify officers who have suffered from PTSD or have a violent inclination or violate policies and rules, that needs to
be dealt with appropriately, so that we can prevent the kinds of atrocities like we saw with George Floyd and so many others.
So, there are things that can be done. And I believe that the leaders in law enforcement would agree that some of those reforms are necessary. And
we need to bring in the experts and have a thoughtful dialogue about the best ways to approach and improve these conditions.
ISAACSON: You talk on the telephone a lot to President Trump.
Have you talked to him about this issue and about the tone that he's setting?
M. JOHNSON: I haven't spoke to the president about this since the George Floyd event.
I'm on the Reopen American Task Force. And we have had some committee hearings, but I haven't had a direct dialogue with him since all this
What I do know -- and I'm often asked when I'm at home in the district about President Trump and his personal inclinations, and I have spent a lot
of time with him, in relative terms, as others. And what I have seen from the president -- and I truly believe this -- that he sees everyone equally.
He loves everyone as Americans. And he does his best to act in accordance with that. It's a very challenging time to be the president of the United
States. I mean, the series of challenges that are on his shoulders right now, it doesn't matter who the president is right now. They would be under
tremendous criticism and assault from all sides.
And so there's a biblical admonition. As a Christian, I believe we're called to pray for those in authority and to pray for the president,
whoever the president is. Right now, I really believe he needs our prayers because he needs wisdom and discernment to walk through these very choppy,
uncharted waters that we're in as a nation.
ISAACSON: But some of his tweets calling people thugs, some of the rhetoric he's used doesn't seem like it's intended necessarily to unite the
Would you counsel him, if you could, would you want to counsel him that, at least on the tweets and in the impromptu statements, he be more unifying,
not use such language?
M. JOHNSON: Yes, the thing about President Trump is, he wakes up every morning and he's under constant assault.
And it's partly a function of where the culture is, and with the advent of social media and the new dynamics in popular media. Whomever the president
is from this point forward, I think, is going to be facing that kind of criticism and confrontation constantly.
And the thing about President Trump is, he's not -- he doesn't shrink from challenge, right? And the world view of somebody who is in land development
in Manhattan is that it's a competition, right? And if you get hit, you hit back and you hit harder. And that's kind of the frame of reference that he
brings to the office.
And so sometimes that's really helpful. Sometimes, it positions us as a nation to be strong and show dominance and all that when it's needed. And,
sometimes, it could be a hindrance to him in what he's trying to do.
But he doesn't communicate exactly like I do. But, overall, you look at the record as president, and you see what he's done, for example, to the
minorities and to the African-American community in the country, I mean, prior to the pandemic, we had the greatest economy in the history of the
country, in the history of the world, lowest economic unemployment numbers in 50 years, and lowest in every racial demographic, including black
He has done a lot criminal justice reform. He's done a lot for every segment of the population. But that gets lost in all the controversy right
now. And I think that's really unfortunate.
ISAACSON: A lot of the military leaders and also some Republicans are now starting to criticize him. Famously, General Mattis said something like
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who doesn't try to unite the American people, doesn't even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to
What did you think when you started hearing that criticism or when you heard General Mattis say those words?
M. JOHNSON: Well, first of all, that criticism, as I recall, has been leveled against every president in my lifetime, right? They used to say it
about George W. Bush, his detractors did.
And conservatives said it about Obama. This is the environment we're in our politics. We're losing civility in so many ways. We're losing the ability
to have thoughtful dialogue and discourse about these big issues, because everyone increasingly goes to their partisan corners and draws a line.
And I have seen that development even since I have been in Congress. I came in, I took office in January 22. It has devolved since then. The last
election cycle, with the Squad and others who came in, in the freshman class, they came in with a very different approach to governance than even
their colleagues on that side of the aisle have.
And we have seen that. So there's less willingness for people to have a thoughtful dialogue. And it's reflected at the highest levels. And I was
disappointed that General Mattis said that.
I don't agree with that. I have worked in close proximity to the president. I believe I know his heart. I believe he genuinely cares about all of
America, that he wants -- when he says, put America first, he means that he wants to defend what's great about our country. It's a return to greatness,
as he likes to say.
And the ways to do that is very complex, and it's, again, difficult waters to navigate. I just thought it was disappointing that military leaders
would come out and say that.
ISAACSON: But a whole bunch of military leaders, including Admiral Mullen, Admiral McRaven, General Dempsey, they especially seemed to react against
the use of U.S. military forces on the streets on civilian protests that, as you said, were legitimate, a lot of them, and regular protests, which is
our First Amendment right.
Clearly, we all want to stop the looting and the rioting. But do you think that the U.S. military should be deployed in this fashion?
M. JOHNSON: I think the Insurrection Act should be used very rarely and very cautiously.
But it has been used multiple times in recent years. They -- many people acted as though President Trump was the first to threaten or to utilize
that, but it's just simply not the case.
Sometimes, the last resort is military protection. And I can just tell you what many of my constituents thought and believed as they were watching
this play out on the 24-hour news cycle on every station their television the last few weeks, particularly now, it's calm now -- down now,
apparently, and we are having more peaceful protests and less violence and less looting and all that.
We're grateful. But I think the reason it's become more productive that way is because the commander in chief of the country said, enough is enough.
And you have to have a heavy hand to maintain law and order and to restore the rule of law that, after all, the founders -- John Adams famously said,
we're a nation of laws, not of men.
We are -- if you're going to have a self-governing people, of, by and for the people, you have to have some semblance of peace and law and order on
the streets. And so if local law enforcement, if the even National Guard troops are not able to maintain that peace, there must be a stopgap.
And I think that's what the president was trying to articulate. Maybe it had the desired effect. I understand the criticism. I do believe it should
be very rarely used. But if you have a situation where you have absolute lawlessness and property destruction -- I mean, in Minneapolis, I saw an
estimate. There's tens of millions of dollars done in property damage to small business owners, many of them African-American, ironically.
And you have to have some stopgap to make sure that you maintain the rule of law, because that's what America is founded upon.
ISAACSON: Senator Murkowski and others who are Republicans have started to say they're struggling with their support of Trump.
Are you thinking that there may be some cracks now in the Republican wall in Congress? And what do you feel about struggling to keep supporting all
of what Trump has done?
M. JOHNSON: Look, I think the record of the Trump administration is, without question, one of extraordinary accomplishment by any objective
Put the personalities aside and the partisan politics aside. If you look at the record of what the Trump administration has been able to achieve for
the American people, it's unprecedented.
And I think, at the end of the day, in this election cycle, when people go into that ballot box, they're going to have a serious, distinctive choice
between the record of the Trump administration, not rhetoric, but the record itself, and what it's done for each and every American vs. the ideas
that are being perpetuated by Joe Biden and his party.
They are moving increasingly to the left, I think to a point that makes a lot of registered Democrats uncomfortable. I know, in my part of the
country, there are a lot of people who have been lifelong Democrats who are looking at the leaning towards socialism and the big government solutions
to everything, and the different -- the difference in opinion on foreign policy and fiscal policy and all these other things, and they're deeply
concerned about it.
They see the AOC wing of the party sort of taking over and the Bernie Sanders wing of the party and moving Joe Biden further and further to the
left. I think that's a very clear distinction.
ISAACSON: You're the chair of the Republican Study Committee, and it's producing a report, releasing a report this week on foreign policy that's
very strong and very specific, especially when it comes to China.
What do you think we have to do to hold China accountable, both in terms of coronavirus, but also intellectual property theft and other things? Should
we be fundamentally changing our relationship with China?
M. JOHNSON: As the president has rightfully pointed out, this is our greatest adversary right now.
We have to understand it's a very complex relationship we have with China, because they're a big trading partner. But we also know they have some very
nefarious plans for the world. They are trying to rebuild an empire.
And so we're suggesting now, I think, the toughest sanctions that Congress has ever suggested to be able to deal with this threat. And it is a threat.
I think what's happened with the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a lot of the problems. China was not dealing in good faith in this, and that they
obscured a lot of the facts that the world needed sooner, and we could have prevented a lot of the calamity that's befallen us.
The WHO seemed to have been complicit in that. We're deeply concerned about it. So, we think that there's some sanctions that we recommend in this
report, some very detailed things, to, again, target it towards the Communist Party in China, the CCP, and not the people themselves.
We have to distinguish, because I think the people of China are victims of their communist regime. And that's a problem that I think we have to
soberly face together as Americans.
ISAACSON: Congressman Mike Johnson, thank you so much for joining us.
M. JOHNSON: It was a delight to be with you. Thanks so much.
AMANPOUR: And we are out of time as well.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.