tv Firing Line With Margaret Hoover PBS May 23, 2020 5:30am-6:01am PDT
>> he's one of hollywood's leading men playina leading role in this real-life pandemic this week on "firing line." >> i know you're angry! [ crowd cheers ] i'm angry! >> it was as gay rights activisv milk that sean penn earned his second academy award penn has bdeath-row inmate... >> thank you for loving me. >> ...and a wartime commander. >> what difference you think you can ma, one single man in all this madness? >> penn's desire to make a difference led himto ew orleans after katrina and haiti after the earthquake. >> a lot of people are suffering. >> the relf work he's doing these days began rit in his own backyard. >> the reality is that we should be testing, retesting and retesting. >> what does actor-activist sean penn say now? " ring line with margaret hoover" is made possible by...
additional funding is ovided by... corporate funding is provided by... >> sean penn, welcome to "firing line." >> thanks very much. good to be here. >> you are a two-timed- academy awnning actor, a direct and author. and you ve been invoed in humanitarianelief work now for more than a decade. saw you making rescues yourself in new orans during hurricane katrina. and you spent months in haiti after that devastating earthquake in 20. called community organizedprofit relief effort right there on your shirt, core, which is on the front lines of the current covid-19 pandemic. ani am grateful that you are joining me. >> good to be here. >> listen, did you ever in your ldest imagination thk that you would be administeringr
humanitariief aid in your own hometown, los angeles, california? >> no, not at all. it's a real adjustment to make psychogically. when we're working overseas, and particularly in what are typically considered third-world countries, and you get a text m from a friend, you just immediately say n the field, will call back later." to consider being in your own hometown and thinking of that as "in the field" is a very -- it is an odd paradigm shift. >> so, your organization, core, has decided to focus on testing anyou're on the front lines offering free dre-through testing to the country's most vulnerable populations. first, how did you focus on testing? why did you pick that ea to focus on? the morning that w covid-19
and knew that i had and i had great peoplestructure in disaster response. we had worked througher the chepidemic in haiti as well as post-earthquake and had some relatiohip to infectious disease in that sense. so we went to the governor, to governor newsom in california and said "hey, you've got a team here. is there a gap we can help fill?" g ded us to mayor eric garcetti in los angeles, who with the los angelesre epartment, had already set up a very good testing system. but the problem was that on all their test sites in los angeles, it was manned by 20 to 25 firefighters, which meant that thoseou firefighters not be in the field and responding with their paramedic corps, with their brushfire corps and all of that. so we were able to go in, get trained up by th and then build trainers out of our own people
and be able to start recruit. and so it's something that we a wee to take off the hands of the fire department, because anybody who's gotten a little bit of will and a litt bit of thought is able to learn how to animate the testing aspect of it. t >> you starts drive-through testing on march 30th in los angeles and e now managing testing sites in five states and are expanding to several others, incling navajo nation. you were in chicago just this week with the mayor of chicago. how many tests have you administeredow? >> i'm going to be guessing because i might be in the weeds that. i'm more in the field these days. i think about a quarteion. >> it seems like the key to your collaboration or the key to ur core effort, the strategy, is to build partnerships in oer to fill gaps. >> absolutely. and it's partnerships. initially, the one thing that we hope will be replicated by other groups with other local governments, municilities, whether on a state or local level, the way that we're going to make a real impact
is not so much of our 250,000 tests to date to whatever that number actually is. buthe replicability of this kind of match between government and an ngo or community organization on whatever scale that they're able to do . it's the way that i believe the whole country can get tested when these disasters hpen. you know, i think president obama recently used the analogy about pulling the veil back. well, it not only pulling the veil back on those things that might be criticized in government. you pull back the veil onn governmentneral, and you're going to find that, yes, all of the big tools are there, but they are not there to the scale that would allow, for example, mass testing. you don't have the human resources when it comes to contact tracing one of the difficulties in using the national guard is, you know, a lot of people are not going to be very cooperative with information if it's a mana
in uniform oman in uniform knocking on their door saying, who have you been around lely? so being co-citizens in that way, working with groupsio like the nl guard, those things are very important. so it's really about being willing to have faith in each other and go in. and when you come to a cityr or statecality that has political leadership,th embraces it and takes the ap of faith, you do see an awful t of magic happen. >> two things -- one, are there local municipalities -- do you find that they're eager to work with you? and are there states -- you know, most municipalities are blue areas, rit? you know, cities tend to be more liberal. what about red citie or, you know, more some ah the more conservative places? i'm thinking okloma city or jacksonville, florida. have you thought about expanding into those places?e' >> wl, worked in in what i would say, friendly and unfriendly eironments.
within any unfriendly environment, you wil some people in leadership. for example, we work in atlanta, georgia. mayor botts has been great and suprtive. i think she just genuinely has concern for her constituents. e, you have a governor who's on a planeunknown to me. so, yes, there --s it ilittle more difficult in those circumstances. but the bottom line is that it is, you kno any thinking person knows this isn't about -- i'm not in the opening of the economy or not openi of economy business. there's no reason for me to distract myself with, you know, with a shared opinion about the opening aspect of it. what is certain to me is that testing is a partnership and it's not borde states. we should all be getting tested. surveillce is a big part of it
so that we start to understand this virus, but also so those families that would otherwise be affected by someone who testsositive, that person can be isolated. i think we should all wear masks, whether we are red, blue or parading in the streets, if only as a sign of solidarityi these hospital workers who have put themselves on behalf of other human beings and in the line of duty they have. what we can do is put it on just to say "i salute you." that's all we have to do. >> if we can get to the place as much as we need to, what does that look like? is that every american can get sted as much as once or twice a week? >> yeah, that's what i -- see,he important thing that everyone needs to know about the pcr is they're diagnostic tests, meaning we're not talking about the serology antibody tests. we're not in the serology test business this stage. all we do is the diagnostic positive or you're negative. the test result is as reliable as the isolation y
th give yourself between testing and result. anybody can pick iup in between. are diligent, if t if people get tested twice a week and it's absoluty not only possible, we as a country could and a test doesn't take long. it's a snap. >> what about people who aret nervous abtting tested? there are people who are reluctant still. what do you say to them? >> again, they've got k hard at the people they love and make that decisiont and get past tar. >> i'd like to show you something president trump said about testing just recently. let me show you what he said and get your reaction on the back end. >> what we've done on testing -- we've now tested more th the entire world put together, the entire world put together. we have many more testsan hey do and better tests. and the reason we have more cases isecause we have more testing. >> we actually have not conducted more tests than the whole world, put togeththough we have compted more raw tests than
any other individual country. you know, it's widely acknowledged that the federal government was behind the ball and botched the initial phases of testing. federal government response on testing? >> it goes without sayings that none ofe clear. if there is a national strategy, none - and federal guidelines, as itre tes from social distancing to testing to every other aspect of procurement and manufacturing of ppe. you know that the president said it, i would part ways that knowing what nse on the ground and talking to people because we use -- mostf the work we do is in very marginalized when those people, be they white, black, brown, anywhere ithe country, see that they have an opportunity to be tested twice a week, that's when will feel like a success. it doesn'to me much good
to get into talking about the white house. it's going to be our failure as a country, as citizens if we dot, between advocating in our own ways for that production, et cetera, and to follow this up, we've put out, with core, a manual. it's a kind of idiot's guideite. to setting up test sites. it's not a complicatedth g to do. you need the ppe, you need the testing, you need a lab relationship. that can be -- that can happen all over this country. and the success ll be when every american has the opportunity to be tested twice a week. and the more americans that opt in on that program, the sooner this thing's >> there are a lot of people who don't want to get tested twice a week. they don't want to wear a mask.k what do you th about incentivizing them to in some way? maybe either tying itne toloyment benefits, tying it to ppp payments, the small business loans program. do you think people just dot through the goodness of their own hearts, if they're, as you said, looking at their own family,
is there way to mandate it or encourage it? >> the first thought is, is that it's aut leadership. this is -- the idea -- it's not only the united states. every part of the world is doing their own thing on this. and some of themng more interesnd successful ways than others. but nobody nobody's bulletproof. and i think it really -- i don't see and if it has to be leadership in the state, then so be it. of the united states,ent whatever conflict i may have, -- if and i'm not suggesting this could happen or not, but the incredible legacy thate would have, no matter what's happened, no matter how horribleai cethings may appear and be for certain families across this country already, if hdid attack this in a way that mod forward
quickly to where people could be tested twice a week, where the scientific community could have the the surveillance that they need, i really believe that that -- this -- that openg this economy will happen sooner this is, at ry least, a mandatory rehearsal that this country has to havean to underpreparedness, to understand solidarity, to understd how to groupge er and take these things on, whetheit's a pandemic,y a dimb, a hurricane or all the other things a th coming our way. this could be a great bonding mome. i just encourage the president and all the governors -- you know, i'm spoiled because i come from a ate that has done that. and that doesn't make our state bulletproof. but we are blessed to have governor newsom and mayogarcetti because they really have been as much as possible within the complexity of political position,
doing an extraordinary job. and now i'm in new york city where i think that, if there's another governor that i would be excited work with, it would certainly be governor cuomo. >> you sound a lot less paisan now than people think of you in the past, because, you know, i presume it's 'cause you're in the trenches. you want to get ings done, and the politics maybe aren't forefront of mind.te you tw.. >> yeah, i think i got a little bit tired of myself believing that my dinner tab passion conversations were translating or being productiv and i've always had great relationships with people of varying opinions. i've had bitter arguments.
sometimes that has to do with my own travels, the way the lens through which i've seen the world may be different from other peoe. but, you know, in humility, i am also just "what the hell is going on? we better work together," in all aspects this, but covid-19, we have a duty to make this a silver lining. we all think about the various silver linings possible every day. we have to to keep ourselvesme at sane. but there are so many possibilities of that. and it's really the only way we're going to honor these tens of thousands of people that have died from this thing whwere -- who were here with us -- grandparents, fathers, mothers, et cera. even some children. they were just here with us alive a minute ago.an now we imagine them piled up like wood in the rain. and the only way that they
get an honorable pass if we commit ourselves to the silver linings. >> how do younderstand how partisan every element of this pandemic has become? even the debate abouening? i mean, last weekwe ther protesters in orange county, just south of los angeles, your home be protesting the beach closures. the president is criticizing it seems like every aspectim. of this can't be removed from the partisanshi how do you think about that? >> well, what we see,nc as i said, pally in qui marginalized areas, is that the -- the larger number of peoplest who are the ulnerable and the most without and who have been before this covid-19,ey
re the ones who are largely most concerned about opening too fast, and i do find it upsetting to see that people who have large groups of people who have never known any oppression or going without of any kind suddenly on their own behalf are saying, "free me, free me, free me" witho real concern. but the part of that i can be empathetic to because living in arantine is not something anybody expected to do. i just thi we are in too much of a rush and too many people who are the haves are magng the argument for open without listening to those who don't have the same access to healthcare and what that's going toean for their famili if this thing goes wrong.yo >> but why du think that -- why do you think there's a rush to get back? do you think it's politically driven? the economy? it's just all about
>> well, i think there's been so much misinformation that people are fatigued where they would be otherwise inspired.ne you know, it'sf those times where you got to look the country in the eye and say,ctually, we have to srifice completely. we can't do it halfway. and if we do that together, we can make all th go much quicker m and mue effectively and save a lot of lives. >> but do you think that we havdone what you just sai have stepped up to meet the moment -- i don't mean necessarily our political leadership. maybe some hmae. e some haven't. but the american people have basically took the guidance and went home and flattenethe curve. >> largelyhat's true. but the guidance has been chaotic. and so we -- you know, yes, it's in the american people to stand up. that i'm seein i seit with our volunteers and we've got 450 of them in their own neighborhoods working, doinghis stuff for their own communit
so are americans willing to step up? yes. you go to the stores you see some diligence., you also su know, the wiring that it takesea toy do this right has to again be hammered into usnl when we goe, when we read our newspapers, when we watch the news on television. we've got to have a streamline thing because it's hard every day to realize where your hand goes, what it touches, how far f away you am people. what is the air and the aerosol? what did thetell me yesterday different from today? what part of it is common sensen i think common sense is another level of step up we still have not fully grasped in a harmonious way. >> you've made a career out of being an activist, being a rabble rouser, maybe earlier in your career, before your humanitarian relief work. is there any part of you that empathizes with the protesters or feel sympathy for them?
>> oh, yeah. well, i would say this. when i see people, you know, doing the unmasked, you know, io kifeels a bit hateful in its demonstration, weapons over shoulders and so on. what i see is people who are scared. and we've got to work on that.go and we'vto care about them asuch as we do anybody else. and i do. you know, i can get infuriated watching that. and that's -- but that is where we go to leadership. and i thk that we all can see where leadership harnesses the best in america and where it doesn't. >> how do you think the question of leadehip is going to impact the 2020 election? >> you know, as of 2016, i just -- i opt out
of this conversation.at up -- look, what happened is on us. it's on us for whether people are happy with this a administrati those who are desperately unhappy. but, you know, those w wanted someone else in the white house evidently did not work hard engh.d count myself in. they won. that's thelectoral college. and now it's up to america whether they're going to itre-embrace that or chang >> during the primaries, you you're...y kimmel, you said that >> so, in terms of those principles that we stand for, who is going to be a better leader to continue us through covid-19? is thajoe biden or is that president trump?
>> i think it's some brilliant 25-year-oldo' got better digital fluency than either of them. and i think, you know, we are in an inverted possession of wisdom these days. you know, et used to be always us -- i was hoping to into the older, wiser set. t but i look andnk the greater wisdom is in the youth. i thinthat the way to change this country right now is to say, let's take your lead because it's their future. and i think that they are o ressed society. their dreams have been limited by our mistakes and are threatened, certainly. you know, i remember mountain ca, that snow caps that were -- had been there, you know,d in time rpetuity. and they're gone now. and you talk aut these things, this climate issue. covid won't be the existential i threat, but the existential opportunity.
i think climate is probablyt the fie. and nuclear proliferation is the the other one thatco i'd be morerned with. but again, yeah, i would lower the age of it. what is itabout 36, 37 you got to be to be president of the united states? >> 35. >> let's take 10, 8, 10 years off of that and we'll be in business.is >>n. final question. as an artist, as you look at this pandemic, are you findg a deeper meaning or understanding about why we'r experiencing this now? >> it's a nny thing. when i was first in haiti in 2010 after the earthqua, knew -- a lot of people who i would run into thought i was there to make a movie about it. and it wasn't for years that i actually -- until i ended up considering what that would look like. and what i thought was
that the only way to hit ote human heart of this story is that it coulde a drama. it has to be a farce, likeh, "mthat great movie. we knew in our guts, in our hearts, we knew this was going to happen, something like this was going to happen. i hink the -- you know, if i look att through that lens,th like mosgs, until we can make fun of ourselves, we can't grow. so i tnk that that woulbe the presentation that i would go to. >> when are we going to make fun of ourselves again in the movies? k in are people gonna be b the theaters? >> that's an interesting -- look, i wondered when people were going to be back theater once everything started streaming. there's a lot of social distancing in th sense beforehand. >> already. >> i hope that we get overbe g digitally connected a bit, realize that we do -- it does matter to be together, whether it's in a movie theater when the time is right or not.
and biggest hope is that, you know, like what happened after the vietnam war.mb and let's re, it took 10 years to kill 58,000 americans. it took a few months to kill 90,000 americans in thisne. so this is going to be with us. anin the aftermath of that war, american cinema was ints golden age. the greatest americafilms probably of all me were once we had been through th common hard together. and so it's my hope that, you know, one of the collateral silver linings is we'l wanting to go to the theater to see things that connect us and are thoughtful, not only those things that take us outside of our reality. >> sean penn, keep doing your good work on and off the screen. thanks for coming to "firing line." >> thankou very much. >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible by...
the people who give the momoneyo make mister rogers' neighborhood are the people who contribute to this and other public television stations and: [captiing sponsored by the u.s. department of education] ♪ it's a beautiful day in this neighborhood ♪ ♪ a beautiful day for a neighbor ♪ ♪ would you be mine? ♪ could you be mine? ♪ ♪ it's a neighborly day in this beauty wood ♪