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Safeguarding Women Against Violence in U.K.; Colorado Mass Shooting. Aired 3-4p ET.
Aired March 23, 2021 - 15:00:00 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.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those poor folks who died left behind families. It leaves a big hole in their hearts.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Another mass shooting in the United States shocks and numbs. With 10 more killed, we ask an expert and the father of a
student massacred at Columbine, will America ever find its way out of this state?
Then: Amid a deadly COVID anniversary in the U.K., M.P. Jess Phillips joins us on the everyday violence and killing of women.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: Not with a bang, but with a whimper, not in fire, but an ice. That's accurate. That's how it's going to happen.
AMANPOUR: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson solves the great mysteries of the universe with our Walter Isaacson.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Powerful words condemning yet another American mass shooting. Former President Barack Obama issued a strong statement against the killings last
night in Boulder, Colorado. Obama had been visibly saddened and angered by the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook during his term and the lack of any
Today, he was moved to say: "It's long past time for those with power to fight this epidemic of gun violence. We can overcome opposition by cowardly
politicians and the pressure of a gun lobby that opposes any limit on the ability of anyone to assemble an arsenal. We can and we must."
Later, President Joe Biden agreed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take commonsense steps that will save the lives in the future and to urge my
colleagues in the House and Senate to act.
We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was the law for
the longest time. And it brought down these mass killings.
We should do it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that is the challenge now, trying to humanize the numbing reality.
The Boulder police chief emotionally read a roll call of the dead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIS HEROLD, BOULDER, COLORADO, POLICE CHIEF: I'm going to read the names of the deceased, Denny Strong, 20 years old.
Neven Stanisic, 23. Rikki Olds, 25. Tralona Bartkowiak, 49. Suzanne Fountain, 59. Teri Leiker, 51. Officer Eric Talley, 51. Kevin Mahoney, 61.
Lynn Murray, 62. Jody Waters, 65.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ten people. And this is the seventh U.S. mass shooting in seven days.
And it comes barely six days after eight people were shot to death, including six women of Asian descent, in Atlanta, all to say that we know
this script well.
Here with me now is journalist and writer David Cullen. He's written the definitive accounts of the Columbine and the Parkland school shootings.
Welcome back to the program. We have talked several times after these terrible incidents.
And I wonder what you're feeling now. Obviously, people are shocked. People around the world are looking at this as yet another chapter in this
dreadful American story. How did it affect you when you heard the news?
DAVE CULLEN, AUTHOR, "COLUMBINE": Well, I'm a little embarrassed to say I'm feeling pretty numb. I can't -- I'm struggling to make myself feel a
And Boulder, I went to grad school there. I lived in Denver and Boulder for 15 years, and it's like a second home to me. And I'm not sure if it's
because we had sort of a year of freedom from the horror with COVID or what it is, but I just sort of can't -- I don't know, probably can't sort of go
back to that mentally.
And so that's, like, the rational part can, has been thinking and talking about it all day, but, emotionally, I'm just cut off from that.
AMANPOUR: Because you did spend so much time with families, with victims, with the stories when you wrote about Columbine, which was 1999 in the
state of Colorado, and then the Parkland school massacre.
After many of these over the years, people like you, others have thought, well, OK, this will be it, the Sandy Hook where children of 6-year-old -- 6
years old, were slaughtered in cold blood. People thought, this will be it, this will be the moment that our leaders, our elected leaders, will do
Have you given up that hope? I mean, what do you think it will take, as I asked, to get out of this state in the United States?
CULLEN: Actually, that's really interesting, as you were saying that.
No, I haven't given up hope. In fact, I have much more hope, which may be kind of this weird dynamic I'm going through. I spent almost a year, over a
year, working on a big piece on Gabby Giffords and really on the movement for "Vanity Fair." I think we called it something like "How Gabby Giffords
Outsmarted the NRA."
But the gist of it, the reason I started to work on that, actually, in the wake of the last sort of like double whammy of El Paso and Dayton, is when
I started on that, is because covering this closely, I see the public and the media really has this notion that it's hopeless, it's going nowhere,
where I have been observing the opposite.
It's been bubbling up, and really the political playing field has completely shifted. The NRA, which was seen as unstoppable force that
squelched every politician in its wake, and which did because of that, so - - but anyway.
So, after years of that, they're not dead and buried, but they're defanged. They are a shadow of what they were just a few years ago. So we're very,
very close. And it really happened after Sandy Hook. The two main -- that is seen often as the death knell of the gun safety movement, but it was
really the birth of the modern movement.
The two major forces right now are -- the two organizations are Giffords and Moms Demand Action, which merged now, is Everytown. Both of those were
formed in the wake of Sandy Hook as a response to Sandy Hook.
Moms Demand Action now counts more than six million members, which is bigger than the NRA. It didn't exist a day. It started with a Facebook post
the day of Sandy Hook by Shannon Watts.
AMANPOUR: So, Dave, I realize that you're trying to look on the bright side, and it is true that the NRA is in deep trouble. It is under
investigation by the New York attorney general. It wants to dissolve it. It's filed for bankruptcy. That was in January.
And during the 2018 election, it was outspent by gun control activists. So, the NRA was outspent. So, that seemed to kind of spell putting them on the
But they're still massively popular. And you're listening. Right now, there's been a hearing in the Senate as we speak, previously planned, but
many of the Republican senators basically spouting NRA language.
And let me just ask you about this, because, in terms of the ground up and grassroots, you're right, there has been activism. But 10 days before this
shooting, under pressure by the NRA, a judge in Colorado blocked Boulder, the town where this just happened, from enforcing its assault ban rifle,
its assault rifle ban, saying that it wasn't -- it violated state law.
So, that's -- that actually happened. And it's the NRA, and there's been a shooting.
CULLEN: Right, but what I look at big picture is the mind-set of the politicians and where they're at.
So, up until -- even Barack Obama didn't run strongly on guns. He sort of - - it was there, but, like, as little said about it as possible. For a generation, the Democratic Party has been running away from it and running
In 2020, the field aggressively fought for who could run the most strongly on guns. And Biden's plan, if enacted, which is a long way from happening,
would really rival the -- there's only been two landmark legislation on gun -- gun legislation ever, in the 1930s in response to sort of the gangster
movement and the tommy gun, and in the '60s, the assassinations.
This would rival that. The fact that not only Biden, but the entire Democratic field was proposing something so drastic tells you that the
equation has changed, and now they see it as advantageous to run on guns and on gun changes.
That has not been true since the 1970s. So, still, yes, within the Senate, because of our whole filibuster thing and the 50/50 and we have got the Joe
Manchin and so forth, of conservative Democrats, we're not there at passing it.
But the way politicians are running on it, they know what they're doing, and it tells you that they now see it as an asset, rather than -- before,
it was not just a liability, but a death sentence. That has flipped.
And so you can see sort of the future projecting. We have got a lot of fighting to do to get there. But the fact that they're running on this
tells you everything you need to know about where they see this heading.
AMANPOUR: OK, let's get back to the -- let's get back to the Republicans, who are consistently opposing this.
CULLEN: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Here's one, and this was about the Georgia killings.
No, I'm sorry. I'm going to play you what Senator Ted Cruz said in the Senate today, pushing back against Democrats who are saying, OK, now, now
can we do something about it? Take a listen to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): What happens in this committee after every mass shooting is, Democrats proposed taking away guns from law-abiding citizens,
because that's their political objective. But what they propose, not only does it not reduce crime. It makes it worse.
The jurisdictions in this country with the strictest gun control have among the highest rates of crime and murder. When you disarm law-abiding
citizens, you make them more likely to be victims. If you want to stop these murders, go after the murderers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that's interesting, go after the murderers.
The NRA says, I think it says guns don't kill, people kill, right? And yet I have today been listening to security and law enforcement experts who
have joined the dots from all the terrible names that we can enumerate of the sites of mass shootings over the last several years, and the one
constant is actually a gun, the AR-15.
It is the only weapon that is designed to kill, not just wound. It is designed to kill. And it's been used in just about all of these terrible
mass shootings. President Biden's now saying there should be a ban on assault -- assault rifles, and expanded background checks.
Why is it that the politicians don't get it about AR-15 and the assault weapons? Why do they conflate that with the legitimate right under the
Second Amendment, under legal provisions, to bear guns?
CULLEN: Yes, because they're -- people like Ted Cruz don't have a conscience.
It's just a -- yes, and they got a -- they have a lot of people who they can rally. And the biggest problem on gun legislation has been asymmetrical
voting. So, gun enthusiasm, if you own a gun, if you go hunting, it's a big part of your life. And for lots of people, it's their identity. They will
vote on guns. It's a major thing for them, where, historically, the problem has been, on the other side, even one poll show more people want more gun
safety legislation, it's third, fourth, 20th on their list.
They're voting on jobs, the economy, war in Iraq, blah, blah, blah, so forth, climate change. They don't own guns. Like, I don't own a gun. Aside
from this, I don't really think about it. It's not top of my list.
So, 2018 was the first time that flipped, where more people voted to, but it's still a huge problem. And it's still a power that someone like Ted
Cruz can run on. He's got a lot of people in Texas who owns guns, and he can really rile those people up.
And what he and a lot of other Republicans are counting on is single-issue voting, and that trumping a lot of other things. And he feels like he can
still sort of like vote against COVID relief and so forth and all these other things, and this is -- guns are such a hot-button issue on both sides
of his people, but he can get people to the polls, he hopes, voting specifically on that.
Or what -- he can say, like I'm not -- I'm going to be a champion. I want those Democrats do anything to stop your rights on gun. He will get a lot
of votes out of that.
So I'm definitely not saying it's like all done. It's still a rough fight, and for a lot of systemic reasons like that. Asymmetrical voting will
always be an issue.
AMANPOUR: There's the guns, and then there's the background checks. And, again, President Biden called for expand back -- and the last I checked --
and correct me if I'm wrong -- the majority of American people are for sensible gun control.
Here's what the--
AMANPOUR: Yes, go ahead.
CULLEN: Yes, overwhelmingly.
AMANPOUR: Yes, overwhelmingly, exactly. Yes.
Colorado's attorney general said this about background checks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL WEISER (D), COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL: We in Colorado have a background check law. But if people go to surrounding states, they can get
a weapon without having a background check.
That is a commonsense measure that's supported by overwhelming majorities. The fact that we didn't get such a law after prior mass shootings is hard
to understand. We need a federal law. I know that our members of Congress in Colorado have run on this issue, are committed to this issue. We need a
national background check law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, again, making a statement that is supported by, as you say, the overwhelming majority of the American people.
But a surrounding state, if I'm not mistaken, is Wyoming where there are less stringent laws. And here's what the Republican senator from there
says: "Every time there's an incident like this, the people who don't want to protect the Second Amendment use it as an excuse to further erode Second
So that's their mantra. But isn't it a fact that the reason you need a federal law is because, no matter what each state does, they're all
different? And you can have Illinois saying something, some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, and yet half-an-hour across the
border, they can go and buy stuff, bring it back and use it to kill and mass-shoot?
I'm so glad you said that, because I was really itching. I didn't want to get off the subject of the -- fact-checking what Ted Cruz said about that.
That is what -- what he said is the most misleading statistic out there.
In Chicago -- so, Chicago is a great example. But it's true of almost every urban center, or, well, quite a few of them. Most of the guys from Chicago
come from Indiana, which is just across the state line just outside of Chicago. Most of the guns in New York City come from out of state.
So, let's just take Chicago as an example, and know that we can extrapolate this correct -- truthfully. A city like Chicago has a problem. So, they
pass very strict on legislation. That doesn't solve everything, especially when the guns are coming from Indiana.
But then if you're Ted Cruz, and you look at statistics, OK, you have got Chicago, which has got really high murder rates and really strong gun
safety legislation. Therefore, his logic is like, look, it's failing. It's counterproductive. It's causing the deaths.
No, murders were already happening. It was an attempt to fix it, and it has probably brought them down some. But as long as the back door is open with
Indiana -- and probably Wisconsin -- I'm not actually sure -- but I have studied Chicago quite a bit. So many come from Indiana.
You got a big opening. So it doesn't really do what you need. So, exactly. We need federal legislation, so you can't just ship from one place to
another. That happens in so many of the different cities. And, obviously, cities are where a lot of the murders are happening.
And in response, they have strong gun legislation. And so it's easy for the other side to twist the facts and pretend the causality and pretend that
the gun safety laws have caused the murders, where, of course, they didn't and the murders were already happening.
AMANPOUR: Dave, I want to thank you.
And I want to bring in Tom Mauser. We had hoped to have him for a longer part of the conversation, but technology conspired against us.
But, Tom, I want to talk to you, because it's important, and you play an important role.
Your son was killed during the Columbine school shooting in 1999. And I just wonder, because you have spent all these years in activism trying to
change the political dynamic around guns, what was your thought when this happened again in Colorado?
TOM MAUSER, FATHER OF COLUMBINE VICTIM: Well, first, you think, well, why Colorado again?
But, actually, it came even closer to home for me, because I got a call yesterday afternoon from a friend whose daughter was at that store. And the
gunman had run past her. They were very glad that she was not shot.
Some people in the store helped her escape. But it really brought home how pervasive this problem is in America that I could have a family friend --
in fact, his daughter was adopted from China at the same time, on the same trip that we adopted our daughter from China.
And it's so pervasive that it touches so many people. And she's probably traumatized by this, as so many Americans are.
AMANPOUR: Tom, that is really too close to home for you, I mean, to have a friend whose daughter could have could have been killed. Your son all those
years ago was killed.
You went to the State of the Union. You hope, I think beyond hope, that legislation can do something thing to rebalance this very dramatic
imbalance in the gun reality.
You heard maybe what President Biden said today, that assault rifles should be banned, the AR-15 and the like.
And although we don't know the motivation of the shooter, we're told by his brother, who has been speaking, that he had mental issues, that he was
potentially bullied. He was a Muslim in school.
But we also have been told that he may have used a modified AR-15. Again, all the facts are not yet in. But what hope do you have for a federal
coming together? Because it seems to be necessary, even though the grassroots activism is quite successful and quite out there right now.
MAUSER: My hope is that we have people in Congress, particularly who are Republicans, who will start listening to the people and not just to the gun
The fact is that we have over 90 percent of Americans supporting strong background checks, universal background checks. And yet the Republican
Party is not willing to listen to them. Mitch McConnell would not even let it be heard in committee. And, most likely, the filibuster is going to kill
any chances of passing that bill.
We need to have people listening to what the American people are saying.
AMANPOUR: And the American people are saying and talking very loudly about this, and they're voting about it as well. And yet this situation persists.
I mean, just recently, just this year, particularly after the storming of the Capitol and the insurrection, there was a surge and a spike in gun
sales. And it just seems that, each time something like this happens, the equal and opposite happens as well in terms of buying guns.
Loopholes are also a very, very dramatic and consequential issue, isn't it? I mean, going back to your son's killing, it was a loophole that led to his
killers being able to buy those guns.
MAUSER: That's right.
And, in fact, what was amazing was, it was just two weeks before the shooting in Columbine that my son Daniel asked me at the dinner table if I
knew about the Brady -- the gun show loophole, which was related to the Brady law that requires background checks. And then two weeks later, he was
killed with a gun that was purchased through one of those loopholes in the Brady Bill.
And that's what led us to close that loophole here in Colorado. We need to close that across the whole nation. And we're not going to get a handle on
this problem of gun violence if we're not really even close loopholes.
AMANPOUR: It is a huge job. Let's see what happens under this new administration and under the fact that that their party controls the
legislative as well.
Tom Mauser, thank you for sharing your experience and your feelings.
And, also, Dave Cullen, thank you so much for being with us.
Now, the United Kingdom fell silent at noon today, reflecting on the 126,000 lives lost to COVID on the anniversary of this country's first
lockdown. It has been a devastating toll. But here, too, a national epidemic of violence against women is taking center stage.
It is a conversation most recently triggered by the killing of Sarah Everard right here in London earlier this month.
Joining me to talk about all of this is the British lawmaker Jess Phillips. Her brief is domestic violence and protecting women as shadow minister for
the opposition Labor Party.
Jess Phillips, welcome. Welcome to the program.
I just wonder, as you're obviously dealing with the violence, and particularly against women here and the surge in domestic violence under
the lockdown, what you think of the unrestricted and untrammeled use of guns and the mass murder that keeps punctuating American life with such
JESS PHILLIPS, U.K. SHADOW MINISTER FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SAFEGUARDING: I mean, it is bewildering, I think, to European lawmakers, and certainly
British lawmakers like myself, that it seems so obvious, the solution, which will take a long time, I think, in the U.S. to take hold after
sensible laws could be put in place around gun control and checks and balances in the system that exist here.
I mean, the idea here that somebody, that my sons could just go out, in some sort of retaliation to something that happened, and just go and buy a
gun right down the road, is just -- it's a phenomenon to British people that that is the system in many states of America.
And it just seems -- what seems so unfathomable to me, as somebody who's dedicated my life to political service because of violence, is why the
really obvious solutions are not ever considered, and it doesn't seem to push anywhere forward.
I was 18 years old and at school when the Columbine incident occurred. And hearing that father just then before, I cannot believe that the progress
has not been made, when, in the U.K., we -- one single murder in the last two weeks has forced political change already.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to talk about that in a moment.
But I think it's worth our viewers remembering that a mass murder here in the U.K. -- it was in Scotland, Dunblane -- made it impossible to buy those
kinds of weapons. And there was serious gun legislation. In Australia around the same year, the same happened. And most recently, New Zealand,
after the Christchurch massacre, there was instant, within six days, I believe, gun legislation and restrictions that the people who voted and
agreed and agreed with.
Can I ask you about your own brief as well? Because, as I said, you are the shadow minister responsible for women's safety, if I could put it that way.
And you have been very vocal since Sarah Everard. And you always are about this issue.
Again, the Sarah Everard, Colorado, it's all coming at the same time as what happened in Atlanta, where women were targeted and killed as well.
What is it with the stats on gender-based violence and killing that are so out of whack?
PHILLIPS: I mean, the reality is, is that we don't, as policy-makers globally, actually track it properly. So we count what we care about.
And the Sarah Everard murder has shaken everybody across the United Kingdom. Men, women, policy-makers alike, have been shocked by that. But
the reality is that, in the week that Sarah Everard was missing, before her body was found and somebody was charged with her killing, in that week, six
women in the United Kingdom were killed in their home, and a little girl.
So, the incidence of this case, compared with the data, the huge numbers of data in the United Kingdom, every three days, a woman is murdered at the
hands of a man, usually a male partner or ex-partner.
And if you scale that up globally, if we look even at sort of terrorist incidences, domestic and international terrorist incidences in the U.K., in
Australia, around the world, we can see that there is often patterns in those who perpetrate such violence of violence against women and girls.
Yet I'm afraid to say that women's lives are still considered to be less important. And so, when women are dying, it's very rarely tracked as to why
that's happening. It's very rarely monitored. It's very rarely seen as being part of an overall issue.
It's just one of those things. And that has been the case in the United Kingdom for a long time. In the murder in Turkey in the last few weeks, we
see the same thing. And the shooting, the shooting in Atlanta recently that, the reality is, is to not see that in terms of being violence against
women and girls would be wrong.
That is not simply just another mass shooting. That is a mass shooting that specifically targeted women because they were women.
AMANPOUR: What has happened? Are you satisfied? You said, obviously, everybody has been shocked by the Sarah Everard murder. Are you satisfied
with what the government is doing? What actually has come of this in terms of law enforcement protection?
PHILLIPS: Well, it's still relatively early days.
What I would say is that I'm satisfied that the government have recognized that they have got to do something. And that feels loud and clear. What
they had to do here, which is often what happens in legislature, is that, quickly, something had to be come up with.
And what they came up with was a sort of tired old ideas about street lighting and undercover police officers in bars, which will go almost
nowhere to addressing the issue that women don't feel safe on the streets of the United Kingdom.
But they -- I think that this, and off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lockdown that has caused people all across the world to have a
universal experience of being frightened and locked in their homes, means that public attention is on violence against women and girls in a way that
it hasn't been before, and so that the government will, that they won't ignore it, but yet no direct specific action has been taken.
AMANPOUR: Which is alarming many, many women in this country.
We see Twitter feeds. We see the activist groups really trying to press this point home.
And about the police, you know, you said, you know, sort of milk toast solutions to more lighting and more patrols and undercover cops in bars.
But it is a policeman who's been arrested for the killing of Sarah Everard. And I think people across this country and around the world were pretty
shocked when police were manhandling women who turned up at a vigil for Sarah Everard to remember her and lay flowers, and people were very upset.
The very institution that's meant to protect these women are actually visibly, in this case, not.
What has to happen to make that change?
PHILLIPS: I mean, law enforcement in this country actually, the very visceral images that we saw of police officers pinning down women at a
vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, a vigil that the future queen of our country had attended earlier that day to give an idea of sort of the sense
of national mourning around this issue, to then see that turn to something that appeared as the police acting in a very heavy-handed and unnecessary
fashion. That is the tip of the iceberg, I would say, with regards to how women in the United Kingdom and around the world feel about whether they
will be trysted by law enforcement.
So, what has to be done is a huge piece of work with all elements, the courts and police services across the country that really pushes the idea
that if women come forward and say that they've been followed, if women come forward and say that they've been raped, if women come forward and
express how they're being abused in their homes, the proper and appropriate action will always be taken. Because I'm afraid to say that the vast
majority of cases of rape, for example, in this country, are still either only one in six women will ever report, meaning that five out of six women
just simply don't trust that they will be listened to.
But of the one in six that do come forward, we see a tiny fraction, less than 5 percent ever seeing the inside of a courtroom around their case.
Their case is, by and large, being dropped. So, that is the issue that law enforcement in this country has to get over. It has to get over a
fundamental trust issue. And it certainly hasn't helped with images being, you know, binged around the country of police officers seemingly acting
heavy handed at a peaceful demonstration.
AMANPOUR: You know, what you're saying about the rape culture, what you're saying about, you know, the impunity for so many of those charged and
accused, you tweeted that 230 people will be raped today, and their rapists will walk free. No police, no crime, no court, no sentence. And even this
bill that we're talking about in the wake of Sarah Everard won't help convict their rapist. Yes. That's why you're not voting for it.
It does seem extraordinary that this has come to pass, the fact that, you know, they don't even see the inside of a courtroom much less a jail cell
or a conviction. And you've also talked, and a lot of people are talking about education and not just for women but also for boys and education
starting at a very young age to make them understand what is the correct way to behave, especially around sex ed and how that plays out, you know,
in college campuses, in schools, wherever, as they grow up and then there's the potential of crimes being committed.
PHILLIPS: Yes. I mean, for the first time in this conversation around women's safety, I think men have been not just invited but demanded entry
into the conversation in a way that I have to say I've not known quite so well before and to put a positive spin on it. I actually have found lots
and lots of men wanting to know exactly what it is that they can do to help or what they should have been doing, where things have been going wrong.
The education point is always going. In my view, it will be the silver bullet to teach children from the age of 4 until 18. Unfortunately, I think
that potentially we have many cohorts of men who are probably going to need some education in their work environments because we haven't reached them
yet. But it feels to me that proper gendered understanding of the roles of men and women and breaking down ridiculous ideas about women subservient in
sexual relationships, men's dominance.
You know, patriarchy harms everybody. It doesn't just harm women. It harms men and women. It tells them they can't be careers. It tells them they
can't have feelings. It tells them they have to act and be a certain way, which will harm women. All of that we need to be teaching our children.
What worries me sometimes about the rhetoric around education is the mother of two sons myself is that we're always one step away from blaming mothers
for the actions of their sons because they haven't been raised properly. I'm afraid society will always try and find a way to blame a woman for the
things that have befallen her.
AMANPOUR: Yes. We can see that a lot, obviously, continuously the victim blaming. And it's really almost the first part of the narrative of any
crime. It really is shocking that that still happens. But very briefly, I want to ask you because it also means more women in politics, in business,
in all professions to sort of level the playing field and to demonstrate that education. But you have said that you and many of your female
colleagues in politics have faced so much abuse just as women politicians, online trolling, actual abuse, all sorts of threats.
PHILLIPS: Oh, yes. I mean, currently, I think I have five outstanding court cases of people who've stalked, harassed, threatened, threatened to
kill me and my family. This has become run-of-the-mill for female politicians around the world. I'm actually part of an organization called
not the cost around political women all over the globe facing violence for just simply stepping forward. But the reality is that women in powerful
positions is the single thing that will improve things for women in my country and around the world.
AMANPOUR: Let us hope, because so many people are getting into this conversation now. Maybe now is the time. Jess Phillips, thank you so much
indeed for joining us.
So, why is the universe the way it is? How did life begin, and how might it end? Many of us have asked these questions at some point. And our next
guest has spent his life trying to find the answers. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist, he's an author and a popular science communicator. His
new book is called "Cosmic Queries" and it's co-authored with physicist, James Trefil. And he's joining our Walter Isaacson to discuss the book and
what drives his thirst to explore the really big questions of our universe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And, Neil deGrasse Tyson, welcome to this show.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST AND AUTHOR OF "COSMIC QUERIES": Thanks. Thanks, Walter. It's always good to see you.
ISAACSON: You've just written a totally fascinating book, which also happens to be really gorgeous, about the big questions in our cosmos, big
questions in our lives. What is the question you would most want to know the answer to?
TYSON: Thanks for asking that, because it's -- I have an un-orthodox reply. And if I can break the questions up into several categories, one of
them -- because this book is designed around questions, whether or not we have answers to them. Because these are questions that we've carried with
us in civilization forever, like where did it all come from, what's it all made of, what is our place in the universe, how will it all end?
And some of those questions, we got that. We've got the answers. Others, we offer you some ideas that we have, but we're not sure. There's a whole
other category of questions where we don't even know if it's the right question.
And I'll give a quick example. On Earth if you visit Santa Claus and you say, Santa, please point north to me. I want to keep going north. Every
direction Santa will point is due south. Because Santa's on the North Pole. Santa can't point east or west even. So, the question which way is north on
the North Pole has no meaning.
Now, we know that, you have to think about it, but we know that in advance because we've set up the grid ourselves. But in space, on the frontier of
inquiry, you don't even know if your question is the right question. So, what's the question I want most answered? It's the question I don't even
yet know to ask. That's what drives me.
ISAACSON: Let me ask a few that you ask in the book and see if you can sort of give us the short-form answer to them. What happened before the
beginning of the universe, or is that a question that has no meaning, since time didn't exist before the universe existed?
TYSON: So, the cop out answer is we've defined time as the beginning. So, to ask what's before it would be like asking Santa Claus what is north of
the North Pole? Because you hike your way as far north as you can, you're done. So, I don't mind that as an answer. But we have other ways of
thinking about that question right now.
For example, the full universe itself can contain pocket universes within it. This rolls out of our understandings of quantum physics as applied to
early universe, astrophysics. When you merge those two, some interesting consequences unfold. And so, our universe could be a pocket. Our observable
universe could be a pocket within multiple pockets, perhaps an infinite number of them. And we have a word for this, it's called the multiverse.
You've heard of this in science fiction. Is there a parallel universe there? All right.
So, it may be that universes within a multiverse are being continually made. And our beginning, yes, it wouldn't make sense to ask what was around
before our universe in our universe. But time may go infinitely far in the past as a clock kept by the multiverse rather than by our own place within
it. So, we've been exploring that lately.
And, by the way, if there's an infinite number of them, then all molecules and matter, atoms, will assemble in all possible ways. And that led to the
idea that maybe you and I are having this conversation in that future, except maybe, you know, we're 10 years older or 10 years younger or there's
some little difference about it. But -- so, people like thinking -- I think it's their immortality urge, thinking of themselves co-existing in any of
these other universes. And they would make interesting stories if we start visiting each other.
ISAACSON: Let me bring you back down to Earth, which is --
TYSON: No, no.
ISAACSON: With a big question, how did life begin?
TYSON: So, that's another fascinating frontier. I mean, here we are on Earth. We had all the right ingredients, right as in the ingredients for
biochemistry. So, the hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, all of these ingredients are part of the birth ingredients of our solar system.
And, by the way, they're common across the galaxy. So, that's very important fact there.
Then, these atoms make molecules, organic molecules. OK. But that happens spontaneously. We got this. Because they want to get together. All right.
Carbon is a very sticky element. It's in the presence of oxygen and other things, it's going to stick to itself and stick to it. So, it'll start
So, the big question is, how do you go from inanimate molecules to self- replicating life? And that remains a frontier. Some of it has like a chicken and egg problem because the RNA makes the DNA but the DNA has to
give instructions to make the RNA. And so, we have a lot of biologists scratching their heads right now.
So, the way I talk about it is that it's a frontier. And we've got top people working on it. So, I'm good with that. And often this is where
someone who's deeply religious might step in and say, well, you needed God for that. And, like I say, this book, "Cosmic Queries," touches many
questions that will touch people -- will affect people, possibly religiously, definitely philosophically. And all I'm saying is that it's
the next frontier.
Yes, we don't have an answer yet, but are you going to say we'll never have an answer without appealing to deity? I'm not prepared to say that. Because
with top people working on hard problems throughout the history of science, we have solved problems.
ISAACSON: Let me ask you a question that Enrico Fermi asked, which is, where is everybody?
TYSON: That's a really important question that Enrico Fermi, he's a physicist back, you know, 70 years ago, 80 years ago. So, he was thinking
about this, thinking about aliens. Where are they? If they're anywhere in the galaxy. You can run a fast calculation and show that if you're anywhere
in the galaxy and you have technologies to expand to other planets, they would have expanded across the entire galaxy by now in the history of our
So, you can do that calculation and that's what led him to that question. And so, now you have to ask, where are they? So, there's several replies,
several responses as we explore in the book. So, one of them is space travel is just too hard, really. It's hard on everybody, not just hard on
us. So, no, they didn't become the multiplanet species.
OK. That's not good for science fiction storytelling, but it's -- I think it's the lead answer. Another one might be, they did explore the galaxy,
and they did have a go with Earth, took a look at us, and returned to their home planet reporting there's no sign of intelligent life on Earth. OK.
So, that would just be embarrassing for us that we wouldn't even count as intelligence on their scale. But here's another more intriguing
possibility. That whatever is the urge that has you say, I want to colonize planets, whatever strand of DNA they've got that urges them to do this is
incompatible with colonizing the entire galaxy. Why? Because as this strand of DNA manifests in everyone who's doing this, there will come a point
where they start competing for each other's planets and they start fighting, I want that planet because I am the colonist. And then they
implode out of their selfishness.
And they say, come on, they're aliens. No, excuse me, that happened on Earth. How far back do you have to go? Spain, Portugal, France, England,
they're colonizing the world, sending their ships and their armies, doing land grabs around the world. And then what happens? They end up fighting
with each other. And then the whole system of colonization implodes. That happened here on Earth. It's not a stretch. So, maybe the urge to do that
is self-limiting of your capacity to succeed with that ambition.
ISAACSON: Do you think there is life on other planets?
TYSON: Often when people ask that question, they are thinking about intelligent life, you know, with ray guns and things. If you're a
biologist, you're looking for any life, microbial, anything that has a metabolism that we might recognize as life. And if you just look at the
abundance of the native ingredients of life as we know it, you look at how fast life formed on Earth, you look at how many planets are now in the
catalog, more than 4,000, and that's just in our little pocket of the Milky Way Galaxy, you would be inexcusably egocentric to suggest that we are
alone in the universe.
And so, it's these calculations that any one of us have made in astrophysics and astrobiology, a new field with the conjoined words of
biology and astronomy, astrobiology. We all have confidence that there's life out there for those reasons I just gave, and we should be looking for
it. And so, that's motivating these trips to Mars with rovers. These are biology and geology experiments loaded onto clad onto this mobile
laboratory. And in the recent incarnation we even have a helicopter, love it, that goes up, and it can drop into craters and things that the rover
So, this search for life is motivated by the expectation that there's life out there. And we look in our own solar system. First, we follow the water.
Multiple places within our solar system have evidence for liquid water in them. And every place on Earth, every place on Earth where we find liquid
water, we find life, even the dead sea. It was called the dead sea by people who didn't have access to microscopes because they weren't invented
yet. It's dead of vertebrate fishes, right. But pull out a drop of it, you'll see microbes doing the backstroke.
ISAACSON: If I had one really big question that I'd love to know -- have an answer to, it would be, why does the universe exist?
TYSON: So, when you cross from scientific inquiry to philosophical inquiry, and in many places, they overlap, you end up asking questions that
contain the word why. And why is two-faced. All right. If something falls on of a shelf and breaks, you can say, well, why did it break? And I can
say, well, when it was on the shelf, something lifted it there, gave it what's called gravitational potential energy and that energy is just
waiting to be manifested.
You shove it off the shelf that, energy gets recovered, and it becomes kinetic energy. And on hitting the ground, that kinetic energy has to go
somewhere. It goes back not object cracking it, destroying it. And I say, that is why it broke. All right. That's a perfectly good answer to that why
But then you could say, well, why is there gravity? All I can say, well, because there's mass curve space and time according to Einstein and that
mass tells space how to curve, and space tells matter how to move, and what we say is gravity, it's just objects moving in the curvature of space. But
then, why does matter do that to space? And you keep why'ing yourself down the line, and you get to a point where you're really asking for motives.
You know, why is there a universe? Why is any of this -- and, OK, but if you want motive rather than just causes and effects, then you're no longer
in the realm of experimental science. You step into religion, and religion there are motives because God loves you, because Zeus commanded it, because
-- and then you're -- somehow, you're good with that.
What's odd though, deeply religious people, I don't see them asking, why is God -- why does God exist? They don't really ask that question. Why is Zeus
throwing lightning bolts? He's mad. Well, why is he mad or why does he get mad at all? Somehow the religious account satisfies people enough to not
further ask questions deeper than that.
What was around before the universe? I don't know. Maybe the multiverse was always there. Well, something had to create it. But I say, what? And they
say God. And then I ask, well, who created God? And they say, well, God always was. That's the same answer I just gave you for the universe and
somehow, you're happy with that.
So, that's the interesting fact about certain categories of questions that have bedeviled civilization ever since antiquity.
ISAACSON: How will the universe end?
TYSON: I love the Robert Frost poem, and I always mangle, though I get two out of the three lines. It's not with a bang but with a whimper. Not in
fire but in ice. That's accurate. And that is how it's going to happen.
So, yes, we're expanding and cooling. And an interesting fact that if you ever let air out of a bicycle tire, the air that goes past your finger, it
feels cooler than the air around you because that's air under pressure that's expanding cools spontaneously. And the air usually out of compressed
cans feels cooler. So, expanding universe behaves similarly, as we expand the temperature's dropping.
Right now, it's three degrees above absolute zero. It is cold in the depths of space. And it'll keep getting colder. So, in the infinite future, all
physical processes will cease. And all stars will die out and they will blink out one by one in the night sky. And the entire universe will just be
a void. A void. That is sort of the most likely pathway given established physics. But there are others. And one that scares me, if you give me 30
seconds to describe it.
This expansion of the universe is actually an acceleration. And if that acceleration goes unchecked, then in about 20 billion years from now, all
galaxies will have expanded beyond our horizon. So, all of cosmology will go away because everything we know about the history of the universe comes
from galaxies. Then, all stars in our night sky will expand, it'll overcome the binding energy of our galaxy itself. Then it'll overcome the binding
energy of our molecules, stretching those apart. Then it will overcome the particles within the atoms and then the particles themselves. And then
it'll get to the very fabric, the very pixels of the universe itself. The very constituents that make up the space/time continuum and it'll try to
stretch that. And you can't stretch that.
The only thing that we know will happen to it is that it will rip. And I don't even want to wonder what that means. It's fabric. Every fabric has a
stretching limit until it rips. In 20 billion years, that's what will happen. The universe will rip. And it's called the big rip. And I'm
terrified of that. I'm glad I'll be dead from a hundred other causes. Somebody -- whoever's around then, it'll be a spectacular death.
So -- and in the book, we explore these many ways that science informs us of how the universe will end. But we're not landing on any one of them just
ISAACSON: Neil deGrasse Tyson, thank you so much for being with us.
TYSON: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, finally, from the wonders of the universe to the marvels here on Earth, stunning drone footage captured an amazing sight in Iceland.
Lava spewing out of a volcano called Fagradalsfjall near the capital Reykjavik.
And scores of Icelanders flocked to the scene to witness the spectacular eruption. While most brought their cameras, others brought something else,
hot dogs, a favorite food even there. Scientists used the lava to grill their sausages. And even with all the excitement, it looks like they didn't
forget the ketchup.
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.