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Interview With Texas High School Valedictorian Paxton Smith; Authoritarian Wave?; America's Immigration Dilemma. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 7, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Vice President Kamala Harris touches down in Guatemala. Journalist Enrique Acevedo joins me to discuss America's
daunting task of stemming migration
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democracy itself is imperiled.
GOLODRYGA: Warnings of an authoritarian wave. Obama's foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes explains who is to blame in his new book, "After the
PAXTON SMITH, TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL VALEDICTORIAN: I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body
and a war on my rights.
GOLODRYGA: A Texas valedictorian goes off-script and stuns the crowd. Paxton Smith tells me what drove her to speak about the highly charged
issue of abortion.
JULIE DICARO, AUTHOR, "SIDELINED": It's all part of this broader idea that women don't belong in sports and that you're only here -- you should be
happy just to be here.
Sportswriter Julie DiCaro talks to Michel Martin about her book "Sidelined" and the unfair treatment of famous female athletes.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Vice President Kamala Harris is on the ground in Guatemala today, her first foreign trip in office, in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants headed
to the U.S. Southern border. Harris met with that country's president, as well as community leaders to discuss the issues forcing people to flee
their homes, like violence, corruption, climate, and poverty.
Border encounters reached a two-decade-high in April, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and nearly half of the migrants were from
Next, Harris will go to Mexico, where a vote held on Sunday appears to have put a dent in its president's grip on power following an extremely violent
Enrique Acevedo is a Mexican-American journalist, currently a correspondent for "60 Minutes+" and he is joining me now from Miami.
Enrique, great to have you on the program.
So let's begin with the vice president's first day there touching ground in Guatemala and reiterating her view and the administration's view that if,
given the chance, people would not flee their homes. It is because of outside factors, be it poverty, be it corruption, be it violence.
Given that, do you think that this can be a more successful trip and a start to really stemming this crisis? Or is this just yet another layer of
administrations trying to address this without any end results?
ENRIQUE ACEVEDO, CORRESPONDENT, "60 MINUTES+": Thanks, Bianna.
That's a great question. I think the Biden administration is hoping they can put a fresh perspective and have better results than previous
administrations, including the Obama administration, when then Vice President Biden was very much involved in immigration policy and in trying
to address these root causes of integration that Vice President Harris has repeatedly mentioned before her trip.
We know about bad governance, the lack of economic opportunity, violence in many of these countries. But now new factors, like climate change,
disinformation contains fueling the migrant caravans that we have seen in recent months, and, of course, the effects of the pandemic are also at play
in the region.
So it's going to be interesting to see what Vice President Harris highlights during her visit to Guatemala, if that's very different from
what she asks from Mexico's government, in terms of not just addressing the root causes, but helping to minimize the flow of migrants coming from Latin
America into the United States.
That's also something that's being reported. The U.S. wants these countries, Guatemala and Mexico, to stop the flow of migrants coming in, so
they don't have to manage immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
GOLODRYGA: And it's interesting, because exactly this month seven years ago, then Vice President Biden was also in Guatemala, addressing some of
these same issues.
And in January of 2015, he wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times." And I want to read it to you, because not much has really changed. He wrote: "The
economies of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain bogged down as the rest of the Americas surge forward. Inadequate education, institutional
corruption, rampant crime and a lack of investment are holding these countries back. Six million young Central Americans are to enter the labor
force in the next decade. If opportunity isn't there for them, the entire Western Hemisphere will feel the consequences."
So, here we are, years later, and not much has changed. We have seen a new generation of young Latin Americans who are feeling the same -- and Central
Americans -- who are feeling the same frustration. What, if anything, do you see different that this administration can offer?
ACEVEDO: The lack of hope that's driving many of those young migrants to the U.S. -- and, also, it has to be said, in our reporting for "60
Minutes+," we were recently at the border trying to address this cycle of every one or two years where we see an increase in unaccompanied minors, in
migrant families, and we like the nuance, historical context that you just provided in your introduction.
So I think what's changed this is fresh perspective. You have people like Samantha Power at -- the heading USAID, an agency that's going to be key in
addressing these root causes. Many people complain that we shouldn't spend money on governments that have a history of corruption and bad governance.
It's important to understand that Vice President Harris is not going to El Salvador and Honduras, where corruption and bad governance are certainly at
play with the leaders of both countries. But, again, going back to your question, I think what's different now is that they want to work with
grassroots organizations. They want to work directly with communities.
They're thinking of new creative ways of giving their resources directly to them, and not having to go through that middleman that in the past has
proven to be very unsuccessful, but also different is that, well, they are allowing unaccompanied minors to come into the country. They're not letting
them remain at the border or housing them in those facilities that we have seen on the border indefinitely.
There seems to be a better processing system now. But, in the end, all of this is going to really have to be measured in terms of results, not just
now, but in the next couple of years.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and the vice president has announced $310 million in aid and assistance for food shortages.
But I guess this goes back to a point you just made. It's a delicate balance between how much authority and oversight the U.S. has in these
countries that have been dealing with corruption for decades.
I know you mentioned trying new avenues and maybe eliminating the middleman. But there still needs to be some oversight. And there still
needs to be a role, obviously, that the governments themselves play. How do you see that balancing out?
ACEVEDO: I think they're trying to build a plane while flying, in many ways, because they understand that they need to spend a little more money
in the places where migrants are coming from to make a big difference at the U.S.-Mexico border, as opposed to spending more money, billions in
border enforcement and border security, without making any difference in the communities that are expelling these migrants.
But, at the same time, the political climate in the U.S. is not lending itself to that narrative. It's going to be hard to justify that and to
create the kind of oversight that you're about, especially when Republicans are very clear about first focusing more on border enforcement and
immigration enforcement within the U.S. than on the root causes of immigration.
So I think the administration is going to try different things. I think that part of the reason why Vice President Harris is right now in Guatemala
and then in Mexico is going to be -- it's going to have to do with reducing the flow of migrants.
For example, there's talk about asking Mexico to impose a visa for Brazilians who are immigrating from that country trying to go through
Mexico and then cross without documents into the United States. There's talk about new ways of restricting immigration flows from Latin America,
from the Northern Triangle, the so-called Northern Triangle, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, through Mexico.
And we will see what ends up in that negotiation.
GOLODRYGA: and Mexico will be the vice president stop tomorrow, obviously, a key player there and partner in this crisis in issue. And she will be
meeting with President Lopez Obrador.
They are expected to make an announcement tomorrow, signing an agreement on migration and development with the U.S. How much should we make of this
announcement? Is this sort of just something to give the administration and to show that there's some cooperation with the vice president there? Or do
you think this is really something of substance?
ACEVEDO: Well, her -- the vice president's visit to Mexico couldn't come at a more consequential time for that country, right after the midterm
elections just yesterday--
ACEVEDO: -- that, like you said, made a dent in the kind of political power that President Lopez Obrador had on the country.
He is now forced to negotiate with other political parties in terms of domestic policy. And I think he's also forced now to negotiate with the
United States in terms of finding a common solution to a regional problem, because this is not just a U.S. or a U.S.-Mexico border problem. It's
really a regional crisis that is manifesting at the border.
So, I think we will have to go into the details of that agreement to see if it's really something different from what we have seen in the past. There
are some coincidences in the approach from both the Mexican government and the Biden administration in terms of what's needed to solve this,
addressing root causes, investing in regional development.
But I don't think the Mexican government wants those resources to go directly to the grassroots communities and the organizations, civil society
organizations that we were talking about. I'm guessing they will want to manage part of that -- those resources. And I don't know if that's going to
ACEVEDO: -- with a Biden administration that is fighting corruption.
And AMLO, of course, called by many an authoritarian populist, had a very close relationship with President Trump, not necessarily the same with
President Biden. But we are seeing the administration at least have some sort of leverage, the U.S. administration, over these countries.
And that is just coming down to the pandemic and vaccine availability. We know the pandemic is ravaging these countries. I'm wondering what, if any,
leverage the U.S. may be offering in terms of helping in assistance? Obviously, we want to do that from an human humanitarian standpoint, and it
benefits the U.S. But would that be something that you could envision as sort of a key turning point and factor in putting more pressure on these
countries to offer them more of our vaccines?
ACEVEDO: Absolutely. There's the vaccine diplomacy side of it and, like you said, it should be handled from a humanitarian perspective; 12 million
people on both sides of the border depend on the vaccination campaign that's successful to reopen the border.
And I highlight that part, because I think that there's a leverage in reopening the border, not just for essential travel, but to -- both in
terms of interactions for trade, for the flow of migrants, the millions of people who depend on their businesses, on their lives on both sides of the
There's some leverage there. There could be an announcement in that direction tomorrow, a date to reopen the border. Right now, it remains
close. It has during the pandemic under Title 42.
But we will see what other factors come at play in that negotiation. Again, I think the fact that Vice President Harris is there today, just one --
less than 24 hours after an election that didn't turn out as expected for President Lopez Obrador could also be an interesting factor in those talks.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, a bit more vulnerability for him than he would have anticipated.
I know, Enrique, you will be covering this story, as we will be following it closely as well. Thank you so much for the time. We appreciate it.
ACEVEDO: Thanks for having me.
GOLODRYGA: Now, Central America isn't the only place seeing an authoritarian creep.
It's a trend emerging all over the globe, and one that our next guest has spent years examining.
Ben Rhodes was one of President Obama's closest foreign policy advisers. And he's putting forward a provocative theory, that the United States may
be partially to blame. It's all in his new book, "After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made."
And he joins me now from Los Angeles with more.
Ben Rhodes, welcome to the program. Great to have you on. Congratulations on the book.
Before we get to the book and some of the other issues transpiring around the world, let me just pick up where we left off with Enrique. You were in
an administration that was dealing with very similar problems and the flow of migrants into the U.S.
Vice President Biden at the time was tasked with this. Years later, we seem to be at this place once again. What do you make of this administration's
approach vs. yours, your administration's?
BEN RHODES, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, as you were just discussing, there's a lot of commonality.
And what happened is, after 2014, with the surge of unaccompanied children coming from Central America, we put together this aid package for Central
America, and Vice President Biden -- at the time, vice president -- was essentially in charge of building those relationships.
The challenge, Bianna, is, there's no silver bullet, and this doesn't happen quickly. And so what happened is, right after that aid got flowing,
the Trump administration came in, pulled the plug, kind of zeroed it out. And, obviously, the progress that was made was lost.
This is a long-term solution. You have to pursue these types of aid programs that reach people directly, as you were discussing, over several
years. You're not going to see results right away. And what it takes is kind of an all-of-the-above approach, where you're working to get at root
causes in Central America, you're working with Mexico on migration flows, you're working to make the asylum process work better, and you're working
to have a humane approach to the border itself.
But we have to have patience as a country to try to solve this problem over time, recognizing that any one trip is not going to do it, but it is going
to contribute to the kind of relationships you need.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and some skeptics may say -- question whether Vice President Harris was the right person to be tasked with this.
But, on the flip side, you could say that there's no person closer who has higher authority, other than the president, than the vice president. So,
obviously, this suggests that he takes this very seriously, and is prioritizing this. But, obviously, we know he's got a lot on his plate. And
he will be traveling to Europe this week for meetings with the G7 and NATO.
And President Biden wrote an essay over the weekend that sort of catches and talks about the issues you write about in your book, and you're focused
on it. And that is the question of democracy.
He wrote in this piece: "Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world? Will the democratic
alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries?"
Now, President Biden would like to believe yes. Where do you stand on this right now?
RHODES: Well, I definitely would like to believe yes.
I think that what we're facing and we have to recognize is kind of two sides of the same coin, which is the challenge of this creeping
authoritarianism that you mentioned.
On the one hand, you have China, which is putting forward an alternative model really of society, a kind of totalitarian blend of capitalism and
nationalism and technology that is threatening our values and threatening our interests around the world.
And I'm sure that what Joe Biden wants to do is go to Europe, and see if, among other things, he can't forge kind of common positions, make common
cause with our key allies about how we're going to compete with China in the long run and how we're going to, again, demonstrate that democracies
can deliver for people, as he said.
But at the same time, we have to recognize we're also facing huge challenges to our democracies from within. From within Europe itself, you
have Vladimir Putin seeking to kind of unravel and challenge the international order that the United States has led, seeking to divide
democracies against one another.
You have nationalists. You have far right figures like Viktor Orban in Hungary, who I look at carefully in the book, who've kind of put forward an
alternative model for how European countries can return to the kind of ethno-nationalism that tends to lead to dark places, Bianna.
So I think that the issue we have to recognize is, this isn't something we're going to solve just through our foreign policies. We have to make our
democracies work at home. And we have to strengthen and kind of consolidate the democratic world, so that we can weather this challenge that we're
getting from authoritarians.
GOLODRYGA: You spent a lot of time in Hungary and other countries, obviously, in researching your book. And I'm really interested in the sort
of Putin model that Viktor Orban and others have followed.
And here's a case study of somebody who was once a liberal Democrat moved into a nationalist, right, and sort of this right-wing populist. You have
come across the idea that a lot of that is based on some of the challenges the U.S. and other Western countries sort of impose on the rest of the
world, obviously, being the financial crisis, the mismanagement of COVID, what have you.
What are some of the lessons learned from your experiences in researching this book?
RHODES: So, the first lesson is, we have to see ourselves as connected to what's happening abroad.
A jumping-off point for me for this book and the reason I look at Hungary as kind of a laboratory for this new strain of authoritarianism, I asked a
young democratic activist, how did your country go from being a democracy to an autocracy essentially in a decade?
And he said, well, that's simple. Viktor Orban got elected on a right-wing populist backlash to the financial crisis. He redrew parliamentary
districts to favor his party. He packed the courts with right-wing judges. He changed the voting laws to make it easier for his supporters to vote. He
finally -- he enriched some cronies on the outside who financed his politics and bought up the media, turned it into a right-wing propaganda
And he wrapped it all up in a nationalist bow, an us-vs.-them nationalism. We are the real Hungarians. And the them can be immigrants, Muslims, civil
society, George Soros, liberal elites.
And I'm thinking, it sounds like a familiar playbook. It's what I have lived at home. And then pulling the thread on that, Bianna, what I had to
reckon with is, look, the inequities in globalization led by America after the Cold War that led to that 2008 crash kind of allowed people like Viktor
Orban and ultimately Donald Trump to appeal the people's sense of grievance and offer them the most familiar form of politics, which is nationalism.
The explosion of technology and social media that emanated from America ended up being the kind of perfect tool for someone like Vladimir Putin to
take those social media platforms and fire the toxins of disinformation and division back into our own societies.
In our own kind of post-9/11 excesses in the war on terror, people like Viktor Orban and Putin himself used similar language and similar framing
around national security and anti-terrorism to justify all manner of authoritarian policies.
And so a lot of this had its point of origin with Vladimir Putin, who was kind of the first to develop and pursue this playbook. But we have now seen
it proliferate to just about every part of the world, including right here in the United States, where, on January 6, we learned it can happen here,
GOLODRYGA: And I'm glad you brought up January 6, because, obviously, we have this upcoming summit between President Biden and President Putin.
And President Putin, as you and I both know, is famous for whataboutisms. And it appears, despite everything internally that's transpiring in his
country -- and we will get to Alexei Navalny, who's in prison, and I know you spoke with him as well.
But despite everything that's happening within Russia, and the rise of autocracy there really quickly, he is focusing on what's transpiring in
America. And he even said recently, last week, that he plans to bring this up, that the sense of all of these people who stormed the Capitol aren't
necessarily being given their rights, and perhaps they didn't have the right motives, but they have their own liberties that are not being allowed
to pursue here in the U.S.
What do you make about that?
RHODES: Well, look, I have been in the room with Putin many times when I was working for President Obama. And whataboutism is always a
characteristic of these summit meetings.
I remember, on Ukraine, we'd be -- he'd be denying that Russia was providing any support into Eastern Ukraine. We literally have overhead
imagery of huge masses of Russian military equipment flowing in Eastern Ukraine. And what he would just say is: No, you actually caused this
crisis because you got behind a coup that overthrew the leader of Ukraine who Russia had backed.
And you end up getting drawn into some debate with the guy. I'm sure he will be doing the same thing to Joe Biden.
I think what we have to recognize is that this is a tactic. And Navalny himself told me, look, Putin's message to his own people in Russia and
around the world isn't necessarily that he is pure, that he is not corrupt. It's that everybody is. And if, essentially, he can convince you that,
look, America is just as corrupt as Russia, it's no different, it's just a different system with the same outcome, like a handful of winners and a
bunch of losers, then that's the opening for Putin to say, at least I offer you the -- kind of the projection of your grievances.
I'm making Russia great. Again, I'm taking on our enemies.
And so that whataboutism is meant to engender cynicism, that nothing really matters, it's not worth even challenging this, that everybody's just as
corrupt as everybody else. And I think it's incumbent on Joe Biden to draw the clear distinctions between what America stands for in the world and
what Vladimir Putin has been up to for the better part of over two decades now.
GOLODRYGA: And you spent some time -- I guess this is during quarantine, so -- and during the pandemic -- so you were FaceTiming and spending time
communicating with Alexei Navalny. Obviously, this was before he was imprisoned.
And there was a connection that you finally realized that you had between the two of you that maybe drew you to him in ways you didn't expect. And
that was that you operated on a sense of rage. I want to quote something from your book.
You said: "There are different types of people. Some under pressure are scared, and some people, they are more enraged."
This is from Navalny: "My own motivations draw on rage, even that I know that rage can distort thinking and lead you some -- down dark alleys."
Rage motivates both of you. Can you talk about that, and where you think that has landed Navalny, being in prison now for -- this is a sentence for
a couple of years. Many expect him to remain in prison much longer. He nearly died from -- after a hunger strike and abuse there while in prison.
What do you make of his tactic and his approach to Russia as he would envision it?
RHODES: So, first of all, Bianna, I want to thank you for the attention that you put on Alexei Navalny.
I think there are two things I would highlight. The first is the extent to which Navalny helped me understand the mind-set that led to Putin. He
described coming of age as the Soviet Union came apart. He's a kid in a military town outside of Moscow. And he's been taught that he comes from
the greatest country in the world. And then he's getting West German army rations.
And the humiliation that engendered in him, I think, was a shared experience among Russians. And Putin tapped into that to restore the
greatness of Russia. But then Navalny did is, he set out to expose the corruption of Putin, that Putin was essentially railing against the fact
that Russia had created this oligarchic class of billionaires, while Putin himself was enriching himself and a class of oligarchs to then use that
money to take over the power of the state and control all aspects of society.
And what was so interesting to me about Navalny is, I said to him, look, I mean, you must get scared, right? You must be intimidated. He'd been
poisoned, imprisoned, but -- even when I was talking to him last summer.
And he said: Look if ever I needed motivation, I would just appear before Russian judge, because the lies if he would tell would give me all the
motivation I need.
And the thing that animated him was his sense -- he never lost that sense of incredulity and outrage at corruption. That's what got him into politics
in the first place. And whenever he felt like giving up, he told me: Look, I'm a normal guy. When the cell door closes behind me, when it clangs shut,
I know they can do anything to me.
But the thing that continued to motivate him was, he -- again, he didn't succumb to the apathy that a Putin wants to instill in people. He never
lost his sense of being outraged at the fact that the people in charge were stealing from the rest of the country and suppressing their rights.
And that's what allows him to take this incredibly courageous step of returning to Russia, knowing that he's going to be detained. Now,
obviously, the sacrifices that he is making are so much greater than what someone like me could ever make. But I think the lesson we have to take
from that is, authoritarians, people like Putin, people like Trump, they want you to be so turned off politics, so cynical, the world is just this
way, that you step aside, that you succumb.
And I think what Navalny is a message to the rest of us is, no, we don't have to do that. We can stand up for what we believe.
And Navalny was very clear to me: Look, I'm not doing this just to be dissident. I believe that if I could actually run in an election against
these guys, I would win.
I don't believe, as we hear commentators say all the time, that the Russian people are just content with Putin and his brand of corruption. And I think
we need to kind of bring that sense of urgency in everything we do.
GOLODRYGA: And, of course, every supporter of his and every other opposition leader that would like to run against Vladimir Putin has
obviously been deemed an extremist now. Many are leaving and fleeing the country. And we're hearing new stories by the day.
I guess, given all of that, I was reminded of yesterday, obviously, being the anniversary of D-Day. And then you write in your book, in 2014, for the
70th anniversary, you were there with President Obama. And Putin was there. And you describe a scene where there was a JumboTron, and a big image of
Putin comes up, and the crowd booed. And then a big image of Obama came up, and everyone cheered.
And you felt very uncomfortable, but yet, I guess, a sense of pride, too. And I'm wondering, if all of these years later, all of this work that Putin
is doing not necessarily to build Russia up, but build the West and the U.S. and break it down, do you think that same thing would happen today?
Would the world, would other people there be cheering on a U.S. president?
RHODES: I think so, Bianna.
And here's the thing. In writing this book and kind of reporting and going out and talking to people from Hong Kong, to Russia, to Hungary and other
places, you realize that the same competition plays out constantly throughout history. This isn't new. Like, each generation, there's some
kind of competition between the forces of nationalism and authoritarianism, people who kind of want to wind the clock back, and people who are
rejecting that, and people are saying that there's a different way.
And America is supposed to be the country that solved this by saying, no, we can have a national identity that is also a multiracial, multiethnic
democracy, where people can figure this out. I believe, truly believe that, despite the power structures in so many countries, more people in the world
today would rather live in that kind of world, where people do work it out through democracy, than where they succumb to autocracy.
I look at Hong Kong.
RHODES: This is one city where they had the opportunity to opt into Chinese autocracy. And the whole city tried to opt out.
And, ultimately, the Chinese Communist Party was too powerful for them. But I think we have to recognize that movements fail until they succeed.
RHODES: And we just have to keep at it, because this is the competition that is cyclical. And we have seen in the past that this message is more
attractive, but we have to defend democracy in this country to set an example that can then ripple out around the world.
GOLODRYGA: Look, I think I succeeded in getting an optimistic side out of Ben Rhodes.
GOLODRYGA: Even "The New York Times" called this book a gloomy tour of the world.
We saw a bit more optimism there, Ben. And that's always reassuring.
Thank you so much.
RHODES: Yes, I remain hopeful.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you. Thank you so much.
RHODES: Thanks. Thanks, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, next: When Texas high school valedictorian Paxton Smith took the microphone at graduation last week, nobody knew what she was going
to say, nobody. She tossed out her approved speech, took out a new piece of paper from under her gown, and went on to address the state's new abortion
bill, which prohibits most abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks, and gives no exceptions for rape or incest.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: This is a problem. And it's a problem that cannot wait.
And I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights, a war on the rights of
your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SMITH: We cannot stay silent. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The speech has now been viewed millions of times on social media and won the praise from the likes of Hillary Clinton.
Paxton Smith joins me now.
Paxton, welcome to the program. Great to have you on.
SMITH: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
GOLODRYGA: So, walk us through a bit of the background in your process when you were coming up with this last-minute speech. When did you realize
that this is what you wanted to do?
SMITH: Well, I was sitting in the band hall, and I was trying to finish an assignment for my psychology class.
And I couldn't bring myself to focus, because I was so distracted by how upset I was about the passing of the heartbeat bill.
So, I decided to start writing some of my thoughts on the Google Doc that I had open. And I think it was in that moment that I realized that that's
what I should talk about.
GOLODRYGA: What really struck me, and look, I grew up in Texas, this country and especially within Texas, there is so much polarization and so
much around this issue is built on politics. But what you did and what you captured was the impact that it had on you, and especially your fellow
female students. Not from a political perspective, but from a personal and a developmental career perspective. I actually want to play some of the
sound for our viewers to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: We have spent our entire lives working towards our future. And without our input, and without our consent, our control over that future
has been stripped away from us. I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and
dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: What was so striking about that is you representing this as a female valedictorian, and yet you're saying this law could uproot your
potential professionally. Talk about that.
SMITH: Yes, I think a lot of people have misinterpreted what I said to mean that being successful or being a mother is an either/or situation, and
I don't think that at all. I personally want to be a mother, and I cannot wait for that time. But I want it to be at a point where I am emotionally,
mentally and financially capable of having a child. And when I feel like I'm ready to find that work/life balance. And I think a lot of other people
feel the same way.
GOLODRYGA: Were you expecting the mic to be turned off when you started speaking --
SMITH: I was.
GOLODRYGA: -- and giving a speech that that was not the one that you had, I guess, been a green light for? You were?
GOLODRYGA: And did you feel more comfortable and emboldened the longer you continued to speak knowing that the mic was not being turned off? Did that
give you a signal?
SMITH: I didn't -- as I kept speaking, I didn't think that the mic was not not going to get turned off. In fact, when I was about most of the way done
with my speech, I turned to the side and I saw them giving the signal for the microphone to get cut off, but I kept speaking and I ended up getting
to finish my speech.
GOLODRYGA: I guess, did you weigh the consequences of what could have been? That you could have gotten into trouble with the school or the school
counsel, the board. You weighed all of that, I would imagine, and you still were determined to give this speech. Why?
SMITH: I felt like for me, this was the right thing to do. And that what I had to say needed to be said on a platform where people who didn't care
about the subject or disagreed with the subject would have to hear my voice and have to hear how it affected me. And I felt like whatever the
consequences might be, even though all the ones that I considered, I was willing to take those on to get my message out.
GOLODRYGA: What do you make of the response? Not only worldwide, but that went viral, but just the moments after the speech, the round of applause
that you received. The fact that you weren't reprimanded?
SMITH: It was great. I was very surprised, actually. But I think it shows how many people agree with me on the topic.
GOLODRYGA: Your parents knew.
GOLODRYGA: They were worried, as any parent would be. Not that they didn't support your decision, but they were concerned about what the consequences
would be. What was their reaction after?
SMITH: Afterwards, they were proud of me.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. I would imagine so. Again, I am mostly just struck about the reference you gave to this having an impact on the future careers and
lives of you and your fellow female classmates. What does your future look like? I mean, college is next. What would you like to pursue?
OK. Well, unfortunately, we will have to get back to Paxton. The audio went down there, video went down. That happens sometimes. We'll get her back on
the air soon, we promise.
OK. I'm told she is back. Paxton, can you hear me?
SMITH: I can hear you.
GOLODRYGA: You kept us in suspense. I don't know if you heard my question, but what is it you would like to pursue professionally?
SMITH: Professionally, I'm not sure yet. I am 18. So, I have a lot of time to figure this out. But at the moment, I'm hoping to go to college to study
GOLODRYGA: I'm sure you've been told that you have an appeal that would generate well in politics. Is there any political future for you? I know
you said you're 18, you've got many more years to decide that, but has this changed your perspective and outlook on politics?
SMITH: Possibly. It's certainly a possibility that I could get involved in politics in the future.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Paxton, I have to say, that was a very commendable speech to give. I know that you were nervous about it, but given the reaction that
you received from dignitaries and everyday citizens around the world, I think you should feel good about your decision there and it really left
people proud of you and talking about you. And we're sure that your future will be bright, as well.
SMITH: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you, Paxton.
Well, now, tennis star, Naomi Osaka, broke her silence over the weekend, thanking fans for their support after she withdrew from the French Open to
focus on her mental health. Her decision to pull out rather than face the tournament's press conference is triggering a conversation about the
relationship between athletes and the media.
For insight, we turn to sports journalist, Julie DiCaro, the author of "Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America." Here she is
talking to Michel Martin about Osaka as well as her own experience with abuse as a woman in sport.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Julie DiCaro, thank you so much for joining us.
JULIE DICARO, SR. WRITER/EDITOR, DEADSPIN: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: People accept that there's a certain amount of, you know, trash talk involved between athletes and then sometimes between broadcasters and
athletes, not so much but, you know, we can say depending on them for access and so forth. But when did you realize that your experience as a
woman sports talk host was just fundamentally different from that of your colleagues, your male colleagues?
DICARO: Yes. You know, I remember one day when one of my male colleagues got called sort of nasty name on the text line that comes into the station
and completely shut down for 15 minutes and wouldn't talk to anybody.
And I sort of thought, gosh, I would kill to have be the worst thing that people called me. You know, the responses I got from people were very
gendered, they were very violent. So, while might get, you're terrible at your job and you shouldn't have this job. Women get, I hope you get raped.
You probably slept with your boss to get this job. You know, things along those lines.
So, you know, it was when I saw the things that upset the men and realized how much worse the things that people said to me were that I really
realized how different it was. And I think that women, by and large, feel like, it's just me, that if people -- it's me because there's something
wrong with me. And it wasn't until women started -- we all started sort of talking to each other on, you know, private Facebook groups and things like
that that we realized that there's a lot of us in this boat.
MARTIN: Could you just back up for a second? Do you hear what you just said? Because I'm not sure that everybody understood what you just said.
You said that it was -- I mean, you just said like, yes, you know, like people, you know, express their desire to see me get raped. I mean, come
MARTIN: Like that's a normal part of the workday?
DICARO: Yes. Absolutely. And I've seen it happen to other women. I've talked to women in my book who said, you know, they were fighting back
tears while at the same time trying to read sports scores on the radio. It is a tough, tough environment. And I think women are largely still not
MARTIN: So, and this started just from the beginning? I mean, this started day one?
DICARO: Yes. It started day one. Yes. I mean, I think there's an initial pushback to you -- to women being in a space that is largely dominated by
men. So, first, you get complaints about your voice, about -- you know, if you make a mistake, it's because you're a woman.
Those kinds of things. But when I started commenting on topics that are, I guess, hot-button issues, things like violence against women, things like
racial bias in sports, things like that, that is when it really came out. The claws really came out from other people. And I think that a lot of it
is that, you know, there are certain rules where women are allowed to stay.
If you look the right way, say the right things, if you sort of defer to the men and don't sort of wade into the debates that people get upset
about, you're treated much differently. But if you are a person with opinions who speaks out and talks especially about social justice, racial
justice in sports, then you are going to get a lot of vitriol sent your way.
MARTIN: And a couple of years ago, you and another colleague decided to let the world know what you've been experiencing. It was a YouTube video
that quickly got millions of views under the hashtag, #MoreThanMe, you and another colleague had male friends of yours, acquaintances of yours read
actual e-mails and tweets that were directed to you. These were not made up. I think we should play a short clip of that. Why don't we do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, this skank, Julie DiCaro, is Bill Cosby's next victim. That would be classic.
DICARO: I don't know what to say to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't -- I don't think I can even say that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope your boyfriend beats you. I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why bring up your own rape in the story? Is it your way of firing back at critics who said you can't get any?
DICARO: That's something, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: And there's more.
DICARO: Yes, there's more. And Michel, you know, that was -- those were the sort of intermediate-level tweets. We couldn't even put the rated-X
ones on there, because we were afraid YouTube would take the video down. So, those were sort of -- yes, those weren't even the advanced level
tweets, those were just mid-range.
MARTIN: So, one of the reasons we're bringing this up now is that -- well, two reasons, one, we're talking in the wake of Naomi Osaka's decision to
withdraw from the French Open, because she had made the statement that she wasn't willing to participate in press conferences during the open, as a
way to protect her mental health.
She got a lot of pushback from the tournament. And one of the reasons that we called you is that you wrote a book not just about those experiences,
your experiences as a woman in sports media. But also, you broadened it out to the experiences of women athletes. So, what's your response to the Naomi
DICARO: I think, you know, the misogyny that's directed against women, particularly women of color is all part of the same thing, right? Whether
you're on the media side, whether you're an athlete, it's all part of this broader idea that women don't belong in sports and that you're only here --
you should be happy just to be here and you should play along with the rules and, you know, accept the way things have always been.
I think that what Naomi Osaka has done is incredibly brave. I think it sparked a conversation in media that we need to have. And it's a
conversation on so many levels, right? It's about mental health. It's about the way that we treat women and women of color in sports. It's about, you
know, the way that the media treats athletes in general. And certainly, we've seen other athletes come forward and sympathize with her and talk
about how hard press conferences are for them.
So, you know, it's -- I'm kind of shocked by the blowback that she's gotten from this. It seems like it was such a simple request and it seems like it
would have been such a simple thing for them to do to just say, OK. You know, we're excusing her for this tournament and afterwards we'll have a
conversation about it and then we can move forward and see what we can do to help her going forward. But, you know, that wasn't the response.
And I think that, you know -- I think that the reasons that has blown up to such an extent and is involving, you know, people in this conversation who
don't care about sports or tennis or any of it is that it is a woman, it is a woman of Japanese and Haitian descent pushing back against the status quo
and the way things have always done in an industry dominated largely by white men.
MARTIN: You know, I think a lot of people would be surprised to hear you say this, because you are a sportswriter. And some of the blowback has come
from sport journalists who basically say, hey, you know, we need access to these athletes. And, you know, they're actually quite, you know, irritated.
And so, I just -- I think people would be surprised to hear you, as a person, who's been a part of those press scrums and has, you know, fought
for access to say that this is a legitimate concern.
DICARO: Yes. And certainly, some of my colleagues who I respect very much, I disagree with. I think that, you know, most, by and large, 90 percent of
the people in sports media scrums and these press conferences are incredibly professional, who do their jobs very professionally.
But, you know, I saw Rennae Stubbs, the former doubles champ, say that she feels that these press conferences have been over credentialed, that there
are maybe people in these press conferences who shouldn't be there, maybe people who don't cover tennis regularly or people who don't necessarily
know that much about the sport. And, you know, I saw vice pulling out some of the questions that Naomi Osaka has been asked and some of the other
women have been asked.
MARTIN: Like what? Give me an example.
DICARO: Yes. Maria Sharapova at 15 was asked how she felt being a pinup. If she felt that was OK. Eugenie Bouchard was asked to twirl around and
show people her outfit. Naomi Osaka has been asked, why is your last name Osaka when your dad is Haitian? You know, I mean, just things that have
nothing to do with tennis, have no place really being asked by people.
And, you know, especially since Naomi Osaka has been someone who very courageously has spoken out against police brutality, she talks about the
murder of George Floyd, she infamously wore face masks of people who have been murdered by police at the U.S. Open. You know, things that she's going
to be asked about. She's of Japanese descent.
COVID is taking hold in Tokyo. The Olympics are coming up. I'm sure they're going to ask about that. And I think that, you know, if you are someone who
suffers from anxiety and depression, like she has said she does, that you really worry about setting a foot wrong and upsetting people and saying the
right thing, and I think that's got to be huge for a 23-year-old woman in the middle of French Open.
I mean, you only get four chances a year to add grand slams to your resume. These are precious opportunities. And I think the fact that she would
rather walk away and give that up than face the press is a reason that the press sort of needs to take a look in the mirror and figure out why she
feels that way and what we've done to contribute to it.
MARTIN: Do you think this intrusive behavior is particularly directed at women, and beyond that, women of color? You know, I think a lot of people -
- a lot of the fans are saying, hey, that's what you signed up for. That's just how it is in sports in general. So, how -- what -- so, do you think --
so, what's your take on that?
DICARO: Yes. I mean, I do I think that women and particularly women of color have different kinds of questions directed to them. I just saw, and I
think its Cambridge study, that talks about the words that sports media most uses to describe women. And with men, it was fastest, strongest, best.
And with women, it was married, unmarried and aged.
I mean, we've seen Serena Williams leave press conferences in tears. And aside from asking questions that are, you know, not about tennis, even when
we're talking about tennis, you know, we've seen Naomi Osaka asked questions like, wow, you lost to her last year, is she in your head now?
How are you going to handle this? You know, just things that, I think, if you're a person who suffers from anxiety, and even if you're not, don't put
you in a great head space either before or after a match.
You know, I came into this business from the blogging side. So, I didn't have access to these press conferences when I first started. And I still
had to find ways to make things interesting, to engage readers. I think there's a way to do that. You know, I'm all for access by reporters, but I
think that we need to have a conversation about what the parameters are, what the boundaries are. And I think that a lot of this is driven by the
fact that we are seeing a very young woman of color set boundaries for people who are older than her, who are white. And that is something that we
have not seen, and I think that's where a lot of the pushback is coming from.
MARTIN: I'm trying to figure out, has there been another moment like this? Can you think of one?
DICARO: You know, I can think of Kevin Love coming out and talking about his mental health. DeMar DeRozan did the same thing. Michael Phelps. And I
remember Zack Greinke in 2006 saying he almost quite baseball because he was -- he loved pitching but he hated all the press around it and it made
him really anxious and he too also suffered from social anxiety.
But I can't think of another case where -- well, maybe I can think of one. Simone Biles not wanting to go train at the Karolyi Ranch where so many
gymnasts were abused, forcing USA gymnastics to basically shut the ranch down and find another place to train. I mean, that was a pushback that
actually resulted in, you know, some change being made. And I feel like we see a lot of people talk about their mental health after the fact.
What made --
MARTIN: You mean, after they've retired? You mean, after they've retired?
DICARO: Yes. Or without advocating for any specific change. Just saying, you know, I have this, and I want the world to know. And, you know, if
anyone else has it, just know you're not alone. Which is a laudable thing to do. But I think what makes Naomi Osaka different is that she is
advocating for change and she is pushing back against the status quo, a specific thing that she wants changed. And I don't think we've seen anyone
do that. A time when (ph) we've seen athletes skip a post-game press conference.
But the way she tried to do it ahead of time by saying, this is what I'm doing, this is why, you know, and afterwards, I know I'm going to be fined.
I hope the money goes to a mental health charity. And then after this is over, I'd like to talk to you. You know, the powers that be (ph) about how
we can do this different. I don't think we've seen that kind of response or that kind of approach to this before. And, you know, certainly from someone
so young, it's incredibly courageous.
MARTIN: You know, it's interesting because the fans who think they own these athletes or is it the leagues or the sports leagues or -- who think
they own these athletes. And so, therefore, whatever they do or say to them is considered fair game. Is that -- that's the word that comes to mind?
DICARO: I think it's hard to argue with that. I mean, you know, shut up and dribble, infamously Laura Ingraham said to LeBron I think is the
attitude a lot of people have. I don't want to hear about your politics, I don't care about your personal life, just go out there and entertain me.
And when someone says, you know, I'm not going to do that, there are a lot of people who feel, look, you make a ton of money, you're famous, you have
all of these endorsement deals, get out there and do what you're supposed to do.
But, you know, that doesn't recognize athletes as fully formed emotional human beings. You know, I think we tend to feel that money erases all your
problems, which is clearly not the case. And, you know, a lot of people sort of resent the fact that someone who already, in their mind, has so
much more power than they do, in terms of money and celebrity, would say, you know, this is not OK.
That they feel that they should be grateful for what you have and go out there and do what you're supposed to do. But that's never been the rule for
the rest of us, right? I mean, in this country, if you have a disability, you have the right to ask for a reasonable accommodation from your
employer. Your employer has to make an effort to accommodate you. So, you know, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, has not been
the case for anyone's job. That's -- you know, that's just not the way it goes.
If you have a mental health disability, you're, you know, entitled to ask your employer, this is something that would help me. Would you allow me to
do this? And I think that's what she was making an effort at doing in a way that a 23-year-old who's grown up on social media does, which is just kind
of throw it out to the world. But I didn't think her request was unreasonable, in any way.
MARTIN: You know, it's interesting, because I'm thinking about other athletes, particularly athletes of color, who are always labeled as
difficult because they demanded certain respect. I'm thinking about Roberto Clemente, right, the famous -- you know, the Pittsburgh great, who was
consistently called Bobby by the sports media. I don't think Roberto is that hard to say and was just viciously roasted by them, until, of course,
they started, you know, winning world series, and then all of a sudden, you know, it was OK.
So, I feel like what you're saying is, there's also the aspect of being a person of color, which invites this kind of commentary. Do you think that
that's also true of the men? Like, I'm thinking about the blackout by the English Premier League a couple of week ago, the soccer league where the
players and coaches and many of the team management stayed off of social media to point out how many abusive communications are directed at athletes
of color there, because you think that the two are related. Are they related phenomenon?
DICARO: Oh, yes. I think it's all related. I mean, I think anytime you have people of color who -- especially who make a lot of money and who in
the eyes of the fans, you know, maybe don't deserve it, you know, this is the same thing we see in major league baseball, where people are constantly
siding with the owners rather than with the labor, which are the players.
You know, that the owners can take and take and take, and diminish salaries and diminish salaries, and people always side with the billionaires, which
is, you know, something I've never understood. And I think that race probably has a lot to do with it.
I think back to last summer's Black Lives Matter protests by the WNBA and the NBA, the WNBA sort of led the charge on a lot of that. And a lot of the
comments on social media were, shut up and play, nobody cares about your opinion. So, the idea especially that the players of color are supposed to
just go out there, perform for all of us while we toss quarters at them and then go sit down and shut up is one that's been around this country for,
you know, decades.
MARTIN: Which was interesting given how many people who own sports teams are involved in politics, who give massive political donations to the
candidates of their choice, and even in the case of one of the NBA teams was a member of the United States Senate, and certainly took political
positions, but nobody told her to shut up. And -- you know, which is interesting. Where does this go next in your view? What could change look
like in your view?
DICARO: It's a really good question. You know, hopefully, the people in the media who may ask more sort of tabloidly questions and stuff will think
better of it. I know that my colleague, Jane McManus has talked about how - - what a great job the WTA did cracking down on reporters who sort of sexualized young women, young tennis players.
So, maybe we'll see sort of the same thing. You know, maybe people are just going to have to ask questions that aren't quite -- that are, you know,
related to tennis, first of all. And that don't just keep asking the same question over and over and over, particularly about somebody's confidence
or skill when they just lost a match. You know, I just think that we need to be a little bit more sensitive than that.
These are human beings. Many of them are very young. You know, particularly, when we're talking about college athletes or, you know,
someone in tennis where there's a lot of young players. Swimmers are young. NBA players are very young, a lot of times. And I think we just need to
just talk to them the way you would talk to your child, not the way you talk to someone who's an athlete who makes millions of dollars.
MARTIN: Julie DiCaro, thanks so much for talking with us.
DICARO: Thanks for having me, Michel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, an animal with an extraordinary talent. After five years of service in Cambodia, this land mine sniffing hero rat is putting
up his paws and starting a well-earned retirement. Magawa is especially trained giant rat who during his glory days found no less than 71 land
mines and 38 items of unexploded ordinance. Cambodia has one of the highest numbers of mine amputees per capita in the world. So, his work really is
And last year, he became the envy of rodents everywhere as the first rat to receive the highest honor for animals, a medal for bravery from a top U.K.
veterinary charity. An amazing story. Our hats off to him.
And join me tomorrow for my conversation with Democratic senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. We'll discuss her new bill, which takes aim at sexual assault
in the military and how she's crossing the aisle to try and get it through Congress.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from