Christiane Amanpour interviewed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, famous for her October 2000 meeting with North Korean dictator Kim "He’s Not a Nut" Jong Il, as part of her "Notes from North Korea" program, which aired on Saturday and Sunday evenings. During the segment, the CNN senior international correspondent failed to note how her husband, James Rubin, worked as spokesman and Assistant Secretary for State for Albright from 1997 until May 2000. Albright emphasized how "it's possible to have verifiable agreements" with the North Korean regime and how "negotiations need to be pursued actively." The Clinton administration that she worked for conducted negotiations with the communist dictatorship during the 1990s and signed a nuclear agreement with them, which the North Korean government violated by conducting a secret uranium enrichment program. So much for "verifiable agreements."
Amanpour did call the North Korean regime "a police state" and a "dictatorship" during her special, but she downplayed the communist government’s responsibility for the deaths of millions of North Koreans during a famine in the 1990s. [audio available here]
Albright, concerning her visit to North Korea, first noted during the interview that she and the dictator "are the same height" and that "I had on high heels and then I looked over and so did he." Amanpour then asked, "Did you have real political talks with him?" The former Clinton administration official answered, "We did and not only political, Christiane, but technical."
During the interview segment, which began 34 minutes in the hour-long program, Amanpour ran footage from Albright’s visit, showing the then-Secretary of State posing, walking, and meeting with the North Korean dictator, as well as being treated to one of the country’s "legendary mass dances" ["Airplane!" director David Zucker famously spoofed Albright's visit in a 2006 political ad]
At one point, Amanpour asked about the so-called "Dear Leader:" "What was he like as a person to talk to?" Albright played up the recluse’s love for American culture: "What is interesting is his interest in the U.S. He was interested in American basketball, and he certainly knew all about the movies and who had gotten Oscars." Amanpour then noted, "Albright says that, with his keen interest in all things American, it's not surprising that Kim Jong Il would have chosen the New York Philharmonic for this cultural overture. Musical events are important in North Korea. Not just for their entertainment value, but because of the political message they convey."
Earlier, during the first segment of her special, Amanpour detailed her visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and quipped that "the entire city feels like a movie set, designed in part for foreign consumption. North Korea is a police state, a dictatorship. Its economy is in collapse. And in the 1990s, widespread famine killed millions of people. But this is not the face the government wants to project." Later, during a feature on one of the musicians of the New York Philharmonic who is ethnically-Korean, Amanpour gave more of a clue on the cause of the famine. "...Lisa [Kim, a violinist] was born, and raised on the stories her father told her about a brutal North Korean dictator whose regime starved and tortured its own people." During both segments, footage of North Korean children dying of starvation ran briefly. But no further explanation is given.
The full transcript of Christiane Amanpour’s interview of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We're about the same height. I knew that I had on high heels and then I looked over and so did he.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR (voice-over): Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is the highest-ranking U.S. official to ever meet Kim Jong Il. It happened in October, 2000 in the capital Pyongyang.
AMANPOUR (on-camera): Did you have real political talks with him?
ALBRIGHT: We did and not only political, Christiane, but technical.
AMANPOUR: Do you think it will be possible to have some kind of a deal, a peace deal, a normalization deal with him as the head of North Korea?
ALBRIGHT: I think it's possible to have verifiable agreements with them, and I think that the negotiations need to be pursued actively.
AMANPOUR: What was he like as a person to talk to?
ALBRIGHT: What is interesting is his interest in the U.S. He was interested in American basketball, and he certainly knew all about the movies and who had gotten Oscars.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Albright says that, with his keen interest in all things American, it's not surprising that Kim Jong Il would have chosen the New York Philharmonic for this cultural overture. Musical events are important in North Korea. Not just for their entertainment value, but because of the political message they convey. Kim Jong Il treated Albright to a command performance of one of their legendary mass dances.
ALBRIGHT: They were all dancing in these incredible costumes, and 100,000 gymnasts and people in perfect synchronization as only a dictator can make 100,000 people dance in step.