tv Amanpour on PBS PBS May 14, 2018 6:00am-6:31am PDT
-- welcome to amanpour on pbs. tonight, does ronan farrell ever sleep in his nonstop groundbreaking sexual assault reporting on powerful men earned him a pulitzer prize on public service. his new book war on peace is a timely look at american diplomacy. i speak with ronan farrow at the height of his journalistic productivity at a time of great need. ♪ ♪ >> good evening, everyone and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. ronan farrow is one man
whirlwind. he's a 30-year-old prodigy, journalist whose game changing scoop helped launch the me too movement. bringing down powerful and abusive men from entertainment mogul harvey weinstein to new york attorney general eric schneiderman. all this while putting the finishing touches on an essential new book, "war on peace, the end of diplomacy and the decline of american influence." as the united states lives its america first moment, farrell chronicles the nation's unilateral retreat from the indispensable field of diplomacy and global leadership. managing to get every living former secretary of state on the record, including an extraordinarily candid exit interview with a pre-rex tillerson. on a 24/7 book tour now, he dropped in to us in london to talk to me about how america's new direction is playing out around the world from iran to
north korea, from climate change to trade tariffs. and about his personal inside into sexual abuse as the son of woody allen and me affair he will. welcome to the program. >> pleasure to be here. >> first let's talk about your amazing productivity. literally every time we turn around there is another ronan farrow scoop, ronan farrow book. how on earth do you manage it, first of all, such disparate subjects, the whole me too revelation, this about america's role in diplomacy, very different subject. >> you know, i've been really fortunate to have leads come my way and brave sources turn whistleblower as they did in this book "war on peace" and as all these brave women did as part of the me too movement, and present hard truths that i really have had no choice but to work around the clock to ferret out. >> you've won the pulitzer,
you've got the pope, a whole load of awards coming your way. does it feel like a victory? does it feel like vindication to you? >> it feels like a relief, christiane. you know, there were so many obstacles arrayed against some of these stories, particularly the harvey weinstein story, which we easily forget came at a very different time in our history. already there's been all this analysis and all these brave people coming forward. as i was reporting on this, i was very, very fearful that this story was going to be fully shut down and these women would never be heard so i'm relieved. >> you were essentially -- you didn't know whether you would ever get this me too story out. the network that you were working for spiked it. the press had a role itself in suppressing some of these stories for a long, long time. >> absolutely. >> tell me about it. >> the questions about the role of the media over the years of silence around the harvey weinstein story are absolutely correct. and one of the ways in which i have conducted this reporting is to focus on the systems that it exposes, the way in which law enforcement became an avatar for
the interests of powerful men and this revolving door between the d.a.'s office in new york and high-priced private investigation firms that do the work of influencing the d.a.'s office. you know, media entities became a force for suppression. >> why do you think the media entities? our dna is to be investigative. what was it about the media that wanted you not to tell these stories? >> well, you know, i have to be careful about what i say at this point. i think there will be more to come later and i've been very focused on the underlying allegations. i don't want to distract from what these women did and said. but you're abchutely right to suggest that what happened here is contrary to the spirit of investigating the truth. and that's a real problem. >> well, we are going to come back to that, but let me get to your book first because this is "war on peace, a very aptly titled book and your subtitle is the end of diplomacy and the decline of american influence. and that is a huge topic right now with the presidency of
donald trump. it's almost like a sort of cognitive disnance. on the one hand he wants to make america great again. on the other hand, you see some of the actions pulling america away from projecting its greatness. from your perspective, having been for so long in the state department, what do you think brought -- what do you think, for instance, the result of pulling out of the iran deal will be for american influence? >> a significant tract of war on peace is devoted to the inside story of how the iran deal was brokered and the sweat and blood and tears and literal broken bones in some cases that went into that deal. but also the acknowledgment -- >> what do you mean broken bones? >> wendy broke a finger and nose somehow, slamming into doors and falling downstairs, rushing from one negotiation to another and john kerry broke a femur. >> he was hobbling around -- >> hobbling around negotiations from covering them. this was a high stakes gambit. all of those architects of the
iran deal are the first to acknowledge it is incomplete, it is imperfect by design because the feeling was, yes, iran is a rogue state and any number of other ways. the nonnuclear missile test, the kidnappings, the human rights abuses. but you aren't better positioned to address all those issues if you also have on the table they are on the verge of becoming a major nuclear power. and in that one narrow respect, christiane, as you know, all of the world powers rate around this deal agree iran was complying. it was temporarily working. so, there is great concern from the experts whose stories i tell in this book that the withdrawal from this deal will drive a wedge between the united states and all those other allies and also sends this incredibly troubling message to north korea at a time when we so desperately want them to come to the table and stick to any commitments they make. >> so let's unpack that a little bit. in terms of the deal it wasn't perfect, butter it was a good .
in the aftermath of president trump's withdrawal, technically violating the deal, the iaea has again come out and say iran is 100% supporting it. >> and what that means is is that the united states is, as you say, violating the terms of the deal unilaterally sabotaging it. that is how it will be seen. that plays into iran's hand. you know, this is not a universe in which we have withdrawn from the iran deal to go to some mythical better deal. the president talks about this idea that there is a perfect deal out there that we can get, but we don't have that on the table. and some of the best diplomatic minds we have went to work trying to get the best deal we could at that moment in history at a point we had already sabotaged earlier opportunities. and there were too many centrifuges going to get a perfect deal. this was the best we had and now we've left it for no alternative. >> you talk about whistleblowers in the state department who are brave enough to talk to you. you know, the one thing the world has got to know about
america, certainly from the very beginning when you had, i don't know, benjamin franklin, right, who was a great american diplomat, george cannon many years later. that seems to be going by the wayside in this administration particularly. was it already a trend that was happening? fewer people signing up for the foreign service, gutting of the state department, fewer experts able to apply their important trade? >> everything you just described is absolutely happening and happening to a vast new extreme right now. there is a purge of the state department. offices devoted to crafting policy in some of the most dangerous and important places on earth for american interests are empty, are being run by lower level acting officials. embassies around the world are empty. there are precedents in our past, though, the clinton administration slashed and burned diplomacy in a very significant way. we shuttered a lot of embassies. we surrendered a lot of influence and we ended up actually shuttering two government agencies devote today information and arms control, priorities we could use more experts on right now.
and, therefore, went into the po post-9/11 world. we are doubling down on those mistakes. >> to the idea that the president of the united states has a right to try to seek a better deal and that he campaigned on ripping up this deal, so to speak, how credible is it to you that a presidential campaign is run on americans thinking he's going to do something about the iran deal? is that even credible? >> you know, donald trump, like many politicians before him, invoked a strain of nationalism that is often set against the work of diplomats and the work of foreign policy. and that is profoundly damaging and also unfair and abusive towards public servants who are brave men and women doing lifesaving work. there is this stereotype of the dusty bureau karat who doesn't get anything done, and this book prominently describes the problems that need reforming at the state department.
it doesn't give a rosy picture, but it also highlights the way that is a misunderstanding, the way in which, in fact, these are not dusty bureaucrats. these are men and women at the front lines of all of our conflicts around the world, screening the dangerous people trying to get into the united states, saving the americans who are kidnapped or otherwise abused, crafting the high-level deals that hopefully keep our brave servicemen and women out of the line of fire. >> secretary of the state tillerson was the last of the great slashers and burners. is that something that the state department believes or you believe will continue under mike pompeo, the new secretary of state, or is he going to try to rebuild this vital bureaucracy? >> rex tillerson is on the record like all of the former secretaries of state in war on peace, and he's really as candid as he's ever been before. he says for the first time that he may have just been too inexperienced for this job, that he didn't know how to do budget advocacy. he lays a lot of blame at the feet of the white house. it's pretty extraordinary set of
confessions from him. look, mike pompeo is less likely to be out of his depth in precisely the same way because he is a politician and washington operator. as apparent from the first rounds of back and forth in his first hearing, he knows how to say the right thing. that said there is a lot of excitement about the opening salvo statements from rex tillerson, too. and while the rhetoric sounds good now, we have to wait and see if mike pompeo will pull out of this nose dive as so many career officials hope that he will. >> so, you know, you mention so many vital areas being bereft of the foreign service personnel. north korea is one of them, north and south korea. mike pompeo has come back to the united states with the three detained korean americans in north korea. that obviously is a good will gesture on the brink of a summit between the two leaders. where do you think this could lead, based on all that you have learned from the state department and in the wake of president trump pulling out of
the iran deal? >> this book confronts in frank terms the prospect of this -lea north korea issue. there are very legitimate reasons why we have said no as a nation to that kind of meeting before. you really run the risk of legitimatizing north korea as a nuclear power. history shows us and a lot of this history of negotiations around north korea is laid out in war on peace, this is a slippery diplomatic opponent. they lie, they speak out of both sides of their mouth. they don't live up to commitments. and the problem, christiane, is not that it's intrinsically wrong to run this as a diplomacy by tweet operation and to saber rattle and to go in there and have a meeting, but all of the experts agree you need a core of individuals steeped in the history, knowledgeable about the pressure points, and the pit falls to steer those kinds of conversations and that is just not happening right now. >> the iran deal obviously was down to a hard negotiations between john kerry and the iranian counter part.
kerry basically said when the deal was signed he used the occasion to reflect on his service in vietnam, you write saying, i learned in war the price that is paid when diplomacy fails. that is essentially the guts of your book. the military industrial surveillance complex takes over when diplomacy is on the back foot. >> and nobody in this book is arguing that the soldiers and spies doing important work to advance american interests aren't needed. but there needs to be a balance, you know. madelein albright is in this book saying, really incendiary terms, the balance is out of whack and especially in the years since 9/11 there has been less and less space for diplomats in the room. and, you know, the consequence of that are exactly as john kerry says, we give up opportunities to end and avert war. >> do you think that if this deal dies and the europeans somehow can't manage to save it along with iran because of u.s. pressure that we are back to
a -- what president obama said, either a nuclear armed iran or a much higher likelihood of another war in the middle east? >> there is an extraordinarily high risk of that. the obama administration -- you know, this isn't just partisan. these are top military officials who have in some cases survived multiple administrations to both parties looking at the options on the ground and tactically what they concluded was the ability to strike iran, to reduce their nuclear capacity was woefully limited. they can put things underground, they can rebuild. once they have the technical know how, they can always in a few months get back to where they were. and you're at the very real risk of a perpetual cycle of strikes. this is a very dangerous footing that we've put ourselves on. >> and, of course, part of the big issue right now is syria and america's role there. the obama administration sadly will be remembered for having failed in syria. >> absolutely. >> you used syria as part of your case study. >> uh-huh. syria was one of the many examples of the chaos of not
having a concerted unified diplomatic effort with empowered diplomats at the helm. on the ground for sometime, as the obama white house vacillated and talked about red lines and didn't react to the crossing of red lines, as you know and have done extraordinary reporting on, christiane, what was happening in the background was the pentagon and the cia were running amuck and arming and supporting factions on the ground that often were at each other's throats. it was complete chaos. and i tell the story of members of those various factions going to american command centers on the ground and, you know, o would say, no i'm with the al cia, not the pentagon, you have to talk to the other guy. these are factions fighting each other. this is the chaos that results in the absence of diplomacy. >> let's get back to your own story, because no one can avoid the fact that ronan farrow is also embroiled in one of the big me too stories of the last couple of decades. how much of your experience, your writings about your own
father woody allen have informed your zeal on this issue? >> only in a very attenuated way, christiane. i want to be care. to point that out because this idea that there was some kind of deeply root the vendetta was an attempted weaponization of that happening by harvey weinstein. there is just no truth to it and any journalist that looked at it immediately saw. i was an ambitious reporter on a huge lead. i was dogged. i have only lovely feelings about harvey weinstein going into this -- >> really? >> you and i were at many events he was at together. polite interactions, nothing but. members of my family worked with him in a -- >> wouldn't it have been risky for you? your mother an actress, your father a director. as you say, members of your family. was it risky for you to take on harvey weinstein? >> it turned out to be profoundly risky, you know. really for a time my television career ended when i refused to stop reporting this story. he made devastating personal
threats. i had some unsavory characters following me and staking me out and none of that is at all commensurate with the tremendous trauma that these women, these sources went through. >> what sort of threats in >> -- >> what sort of threats? >> i want to be careful to not become the story. that falls in the category there will be time to look behind the scenes. it was not an easy process. the personal links to it that kept me driven were simply that i had experienced what happens to a family when this devastating issue of sexual violence hits it. it was an emotional understanding of the broad strokes of how important it was to tell these stories, not a personal feeling about harvey weinstein. >> indeed. and i'm not even suggesting a personal vendetta. i'm suggesting what might motivate and inform a human being when you're taking on an issue. but particularly, i think you even said to your sister dylan, dylan, really, do you have to keep writing about this stuff? >> i think i had an acute
understanding of the conversation we all went through nationally in the united states of initially grappling with, why is this worth it? and then over time reviewing how incredibly well corroborated my sister's story was and hearing her anguish, understanding that as painful as it was to dredge that up, her determination to have those allegations see the light of day was actually a brave and important thing. and certainly that informed my conversations, you know, that sometime later with accusers of powerful men that i was reporting on. >> and then you came out and defended her. >> so, i had to go through a complicated process after my sister insisted on speaking out. and really review the evidence carefully and then conclude, almost grudgingly at first, that this was so serious and so credible that i had an obligation to respond to these questions that i was then besieged with and say, yes,
actually, my judgment as a brother, but also as a reporter and an attorney who has reviewed the evidence is this is really serious and she should be heard. and i did that only one time in a hollywood reporter column that they asked me to write and i said yes because i felt that sense of moral obligation. and since then she has been more than equipped to raise a very loud voice herself. >> and you did that, but that also -- i think you write it sort of empowered or encouraged the women who you then were able to break their story to come to you, because they knew that you would be open to their stories. >> well, i was quite badly attacked and smeared for writing that, you know. and it wasn't particularly convenient for my career, but i have no regrets about it. i'm very proud to have been able to support my sister as she did a brave thing. and i do think that for some of the accusers of harvey weinstein who did this incredibly courageous act, speaking out about this, and did it at so much personal risk, it was
probably a helpful precedent they knew i had spoken in a forthright way about this issue when so many others refused to. >> just this week as you're promoting this book, you also had another big scoop about the attorney general of new york. he obviously denies these allegations, but you had women come up and tell you about issues of domestic abuse and violence. tell me about that one. >> these are terrifically serious allegations of violence, being raised about eric schneiderman, the attorney general of new york, now former attorney general since the publication of this story. woman after woman describing beatings, essentially, slapping, choking, punching. and, you know, part of his response, christiane, has been to say this was consensual role playing. indeed, it appears in his sexual activities by the accounts of this women there was a proclivity for that kind of
violence. but they went to pains to say this was not role playing that they are raising these allegations about and that they wouldn't have raised the allegations if it was simply that, that this was, you know, a set of physical attacks that transpired when they were clothed, often in one case a woman who was simply a colleague of his, he came onto at a party. when she rebuffed him, he began hurling misogynist epithets and slapped her hard enough to leave a mark. i looked at the photo of that mark afterwards and, you know, heard all of these stories and looked at medical records. and my colleague jane mayor and i really worked hard to make sure we knew that this was dead to write. all i can say is these are serious and very, very credible claims. >> i wonder what you make of the latest verdict, the result in the latest bill cosby case, and remembering that books are being written about him that never
even broached the subject of the sexual abuse that many of these women alleged against him. i mean, this was years ago. you go into that as well. again, it's part of i think what you describe is the conspiracy of silence around powerful actors. and i just mean players, not just theatrical actors. >> i remember just a few years ago being on air and interviewing one of cosby's biographers and having fights in the newsroom about whether i could ask about the absence of these allegations in what was supposed to be the definitive biography of cosby which obviously has not aged that well. you know, there was a lot of push back. there were a lot of veteran journalists and television producers who said this is salacious. these women have been discredited. it's not in the headlines right now, why would you want to raise that? we kind of wound up with a compromise where i was allowed to ask one final question about it as a kicker to the rest of the interview. but that really illustrated just
how hard it was to cover these issues only a few short years ago. so, i am so grateful for every reporter that's banged their head against the wall trying to clay th change that culture. >> and to end with the diplomacy part of this, you also this week revealed black cube, the israeli-based intelligence operation -- >> private investigation. >> private investigation arm, had actually been contracted to dig up dirt on obama administration officials who had entered the iran nuclear deal. >> that's right. we were able to expose for the first time that this was, this firm, black cube, there had been reports that were just beginning to emerge there was some kind of campaign by private operatives targeting the iran deal. i have reviewed internal materials that show how those under cover agents were directed. they were using false identities. they were using front companies. in some cases those very same front companies that were used
to pursue and smear weinstein's accusers because black cube had weinstein through his attorneys as a client and was doing work on that case, too. here with respect to the iran deal, they used the very same tactics, going after people's personal lives, smearing them, looking at whether they had extra marital affairs. this was an all-out campaign to discredit the iran deal. >> on behalf of who? >> well, that remains an outstanding question. the language in these materials, christiane, is very politically targeted. it closely resembles conservative rhetoric. some of it used by people around trump, linking specific officials within the obama administration, talking about the obama echo chamber and the flun influence of democrats on the media. so there is certainly a political element. i should point out as well we were not able to document that, the direct client involved was a trump official as has been speculated and, in fact, at least one source near black cube said this was a private client, that there was potentially a
powerful commercial interest that wanted to dismantle this deal in some way. >> and finally, richard holbrook was a mentor to you, someone i followed through his experience as well. you said once to hillary clinton he was like a father to you. what did you get from him personally and professionally? >> you knew richard holbrook well. that is saying something. he was a profoundly difficult man as we all knew. he had a larger than life personalities. >> there you are. >> the counter point to that as many bridges as he burned and as sharp as his elbows were, he was the most devoted mentor. every single person on the afghanistan and pakistan team, he would have taken a bullet for any one of us. he was one of the last great celebrity diplomats, someone who
used the force of his ego and persuasion to wrangle people into deals that advance the interests of the united states. and his last days were spent decrying in secret memos i released for the first time in this book, the lack of space for any of that the fact he couldn't get a meeting with the president at the end to make the case for peace in afghanistan. >> it really is a shocker. and it's incredible stuff that you've unearthed and everybody should have a look and read this book, war on peace, ronan farrow, thanks so much. i think now more needed than ever particularly at this crucial time. thanks, ronan. >> it is more time than i hoped would be. good to be here. >> that's it for our program tonight. thanks for watching amanpour on pbs and join us again next time. ♪ ♪
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