Power, unpacked. “Sway” is a new interview show hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well liked journalist.” Now taking on Washington, Hollywood and the world, Kara investigates power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it. Every Monday and Thursday, from New York Times Opinion Audio.
Here's the Latest Episode from Sway:
Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, is charging toward a world in which food is delivered through apps like Uber Eats and “a driver may be human or may be software.” On the way, he acknowledges, “the human consequences can be painful.” Uber is not profitable yet, but its deep pockets and vast infrastructure give it power over independent restaurants and individual drivers. He says, “Do I feel guilty about it? No.”
On this episode of “Sway,” Kara Swisher asks Mr. Khosrowshahi about the plight of drivers and restaurant owners, and whether Uber is part of the “menace economy.”
The February cover of Vogue featuring Vice President-elect Kamala Harris kicked off a controversy involving the most powerful woman in fashion and the soon-to-be most powerful woman in the White House. In a multiday social media maelstrom, a leaked cover photo that Anna Wintour originally described as “joyful,” “casual” and “accessible” was deemed “disrespectful” by Twitter. According to people familiar with the matter on both sides, although there had been no contractual cover approval agreement in place, the cover image was not what the vice president-elect’s team had expected. The day after the first photo leaked, a second — more formal — digital exclusive cover was also released.
Ms. Wintour said in a follow-up statement to "Sway," “Obviously we have heard and understood the reaction to the print cover and I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of the vice president-elect’s incredible victory.”
In an exclusive interview on this episode of "Sway," Ms. Wintour discusses the magazine cover, diversity concerns at Condé Nast, the future of the fashion industry — and whether Jeff Bezos could be the next Anna Wintour.
Dominion Voting Systems has filed a $1.3 Billion defamation suit against former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. Chief Executive John Poulos says it’s the “first step” in the voting machine company’s efforts to counter a “malicious campaign of lies” spread by right wing media outlets and members of Donald Trump's inner circle.
Editors’ Note: Jan. 11, 2020
Parler went offline Monday after Amazon stopped providing it with web-hosting services. This followed Apple and Google’s removal of Parler’s app from their app stores. In notices to Parler about these decisions, both Apple and Amazon cited chief executive John Matze’s statement in this episode of “Sway” that “I don’t feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform.”
A mob stormed Washington and Twitter locked the account of a president who helped incite this violence. But Donald Trump and his supporters still have an effectively unregulated safe space: Parler. Chief executive John Matze calls his social media platform a “neutral town square.” Kara Swisher disagrees. On today’s episode of “Sway,” she challenges Matze on the neutrality of a site whose users, investors, advertisers and “community jury” skew right. And she presses him on the role Parler has played in our current national crisis.
Bela Bajaria has an unprecedented job at Netflix. In an executive shake-up this year, she was elevated from head of “local language” (read: non-English) productions to a newly created role, head of global television (read: all TV, everywhere). Her promotion signals how much Netflix is banking on international markets and diverse content to help it win the streaming wars.
Ms. Bajaria previously ran Universal Television, the studio arm of NBC. She was behind many of the shows the world has been watching, including “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Master of None,” and “The Mindy Project.” On the way, she hit pushback from executives who thought unconventional shows would be small and play only for niche audiences. Bela had other plans: “I want to do big shows that have underrepresented voices and people. They can be big, and they can be commercial.”
In this episode of “Sway,” the Netflix executive discusses how change happens in Hollywood, why she got fired from NBC-Universal and which shows you might be bingeing next.
Astrology has been around for thousands of years, so why are “Mercury in retrograde” memes and horoscopes still so popular in 2020? “We all need, at some point or another, to have someone say: ‘Yeah, that’s how you were made, and that’s perfect. Now, go do your thing,’” says Chani Nicholas, one of the internet era’s most prominent astrologers. In this episode, she demystifies the $2.2 billion industry of astrology — and reads Kara's birth chart.
On yesterday’s episode of Sway, the chief executive of Mastercard spoke about why the company blocked subscription payments on Pornhub. Was it too little too late? Kara asks Nicholas Kristof, the journalist whose reporting on child pornography forced the payment company’s hand.
Ajay Banga has spent a decade as chief executive of Mastercard. Last year, he oversaw $6.5 trillion in transactions. That means he knows what we’re spending right now (aggregated and anonymized, of course) and how long it might take to get us out of our current economic funk. It also means Mr. Banga has leverage over virtually any business that relies on credit card payments.For example, following recent reporting from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on the scale of child pornography on PornHub, Mastercard announced that it would terminate payments on that site.
Mr. Banga departs as chief executive at the end of this year, transitioning to the post of executive chairman. In this “exit interview,” Kara Swisher presses him on whether the company he’s helped build can keep up with Silicon Valley — and with the social consciousness of the next consumer generation.
Brené Brown’s best-selling books and TED talks about embracing vulnerability and shame have made her a cultural phenomenon. Silicon Valley executives often invite her to speak to their companies, though she is skeptical about their intentions to follow through on her advice. “For some people, I am the kombucha shake of the month,” she says.
In this episode of Sway, she’s taking on the toughest case of all: the self-proclaimed “vulnerability skeptic” Kara Swisher.
Kara's interview with Georgia’s Secretary of State was a doozy. This episode refers back to yesterday’s episode, “Georgia’s Secretary of State on Standing Up to Trump."
Georgia begins early voting today in two runoffs that will decide the composition of the next U.S. Senate. If Democrats win both seats, the Senate will be split 50-50 (with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as tiebreaker). If they don’t, it will be controlled by Republicans who stand ready to block most actions of a Biden presidency.
Brad Raffensperger is the man overseeing Georgia’s critical race. As secretary of state, his role is to ensure that the election is fair and — he hopes — drama-free. “My job is to have fair and honest elections, but also I’d love to have elections get back to being boring again.” He does not want “everything flamed up.”
That’s because Mr. Raffensperger is still dealing with the flames of last month’s presidential election. Donald Trump called the secretary of state “an enemy of the people” as he certified (and then recertified) Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. Mr. Raffensperger has faced pressure — and death threats — from members of his own party.
In this episode of Sway, Kara Swisher presses the secretary of state on how he’s managing the ire of his party, why — if elections were free and fair — he and fellow Republicans continue to champion voting restrictions, and how wrong Mr. Raffensperger was to compare Donald Trump to Stacey Abrams.
This week, Kara Swisher interviewed WarnerMedia’s chief executive, Jason Kilar, fresh on the heels of the announcement that Warner Bros. will release its 2021 film slate in theaters and on its streaming site, HBO Max, simultaneously. (If you missed that episode — scroll back and hit play! Or click here if you’re on the World Wide Web).
In this bonus episode of “Sway,” Kara Swisher and the New York Times media columnist Ben Smith discuss what the news means for the future of the film industry, and whether this move will establish Mr. Kilar as the streaming king of Hollywood or leave his “head on a platter.” As Mr. Smith puts it, “A huge piece of the studio business — and of Warner’s business — are these relationships with directors who they just burned the hell out of."
If you want to be the first to watch “Dune,” “Godzilla vs. Kong” or the new “Matrix” movie this year (yes, there’s a fourth one) — you won’t have to line up at a movie theater. That’s because Jason Kilar, the C.E.O. of WarnerMedia, announced last week that the full slate of Warner Bros. films will be simultaneously released in theaters and on the company’s streaming service, HBO Max.
Mr. Kilar is only seven months into the job, and he just unleashed one of the biggest industry shake-ups in recent history. Movie theater executives and filmmakers are reeling. As director Christopher Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter, “some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.”
In this episode of “Sway,” Kara Swisher questions Mr. Kilar on whether he just delivered the final death blow to struggling theaters, how he’ll make good with Hollywood’s top talent, and what films will look like when — as Mr. Kilar predicts — blockbuster budgets surpass a billion dollars.
Steven Galanis is helping celebrities get into the gig economy. He launched his company, Cameo, three years ago as a marketplace for the famous (and not-so-famous) to sell personalized shout-outs.
For $500, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may wish you a happy birthday. For $200, Ian Ziering (a.k.a. Steve Sanders from the original “Beverly Hills, 90210”) can send your mom a Happy Mother’s Day greeting. And for $10, the company’s chief executive, Mr. Galanis, will wish your kid’s team good luck on its next hockey game.
The company is facilitating fan requests, gag gifts and even political pranks. (The former New Jersey governor Chris Christie was a recent target.) But the point, says Mr. Galanis, is to bridge the gap for people who are “more famous than rich” — aging athletes, faded pop idols, out-of-work supporting actors and even artists whose inappropriate actions have led them to be “canceled.”
In the process, Mr. Galanis is taking on Hollywood power houses. Cameo is cutting agents, managers and publicists out of the equation, compressing the distance between celebrities and, well, the rest of us.
Dr. Ozlem Tureci and Dr. Ugur Sahin, the co-founders of BioNTech, are behind the first coronavirus vaccine to be approved in the West. Starting next week, the “Pfizer vaccine” will be available in Britain.
While Pfizer is financing and distributing the vaccine, the science behind it was actually spearheaded by the couple’s lesser-known company. When Drs. Tureci and Sahin, along with their BioNTech team, embarked on this mission, the record for the fastest vaccine creation was four years. They did it in less than one.
BioNTech started working on a vaccine in January. By early November, the company shared the results of its Phase 3 trials: over 90 percent efficacy. The announcement was made days after the presidential election was called for Joe Biden, and Donald Trump claimed the timing was politically motivated.
In this episode of “Sway,” the couple dismiss that accusation and speak instead to the science. “Clinical trials are highly regulated,” Dr. Tureci says. “And this is something which you cannot really delay or stop or expedite.”
Marielle Heller had her big acting break in “The Queens Gambit,” a chess drama that has already been viewed on Netflix by over 60 million households. But prior to her performance as Alma Wheatley, Ms. Heller was already a big name — off the screen.
She directed award-winning films like 2019’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and 2018’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Female directors remain a minority in the U.S. film industry, and Ms. Heller has spent her career navigating what she describes as a male-dominated Hollywood “machine.”
“I do think there’s a weird stigma where people probably think that female directors are a risk,” Ms. Heller says, explaining that people “watch a male director make one little indie that comes out of Sundance and they go, ‘I see potential in that kid.’ And then they watch a female director come out of Sundance and make one little indie and they go: ‘That was excellent. I’ll wait to see her next movie to see if she gets a job.’”
In this episode of “Sway,” Ms. Heller and Kara Swisher discuss what it’s like to be “difficult” women, why Hollywood lets Tony Soprano get away with murder but worries that female characters are “unlikable,” and how Ms. Heller — despite all her directorial acclaim — still gets offered 30 to 40 percent less pay than men who do the same job.
Jane Goodall is an expert on alpha males — for decades, she’s been studying them in chimpanzee communities. She’s also inspired leaders in business, politics and culture to change their approach to animals and the environment.
It’s been 60 years since Dr. Goodall’s first excursion to observe primates in Africa. Her discoveries there, which transformed our understanding of animals, continue to inspire generations of scientists and environmental activists.
Now, at the age of 86, she reflects on her legacy. On this episode of “Sway,” she reveals how she rose to celebrity status, how she uses her platform to persuade world leaders and which politicians (like President Trump) she wouldn’t even bother trying to persuade.
Harvard economist Raj Chetty believes that there’s a way to push past America’s political divide: data.
Mr. Chetty, head of the Harvard-based research group Opportunity Insights, has amassed a powerhouse of information drawing on everything from I.R.S. tax filings to credit card spending. Armed with that data, he’s able to understand whether meritocracy — or inequality — determines the economic fate of Americans. He’s also able to translate datapoints into accessible visualizations and concrete policy proposals.
In this episode of Sway, Mr. Chetty draws on data to answer questions like what age a person’s future has been largely determined (around 23), which ZIP codes provide the most economic opportunity (including some in rural Iowa), and what stands between a third-grader who will grow up to become an inventor and one who will not.
Mr. Chetty’s own trajectory was shaped by a move his parents made when he was 9 years old — from India to the U.S. — to pursue the American dream. His datasets reveal that this American dream is fading for future generations. But Mr. Chetty is determined to revive it. And given his influence on the future president, the economist may finally have his chance.
Chamath Palihapitiya is one of Silicon Valley’s most successful tech investors. He’s also among the most candid. “I aspire to be a Koch brother before I aspire to be an under secretary,” he tells Kara Swisher on this episode of “Sway.” His definition of power has little to do with politics — it’s profits, he says, that empower you to “control the resources.”
Mr. Palihapitiya made his first fortune as an early executive at Facebook. He has since multiplied his wealth as an investor, with big bets and bold forecasts about the future. These days, he’s behind one of the most lucrative and controversial trends — SPACs, the acronym for blank check or special purpose acquisition companies, which some call the next bubble.
On this episode of “Sway,” Mr. Palihapitiya shares his predictions for American economic recovery and the return of centrism — and his prescriptions for what the Biden administration should do first.
In the postelection uncertainty, all eyes were on Pennsylvania. And John Fetterman, the state’s Twitter-famous lieutenant governor, held court. He rallied Democrats with one-liners and taunted President Trump with arithmetic lessons on Twitter. Mr. Trump can try to challenge the election result, he said, but “you can’t litigate math.”
Mr. Fetterman, the former mayor of a Rust Belt town, is 6-foot-8, with tattoos, a shaved head and a graduate degree in public policy from Harvard. He’s not your standard politician. And that’s helped him sell progressive politics to working-class voters and become a powerful voice of the left.
In this interview with Kara Swisher, Mr. Fetterman explains the “purple churn” in Pennsylvania and why Mr. Trump’s increasingly desperate pleas for a recount won’t reverse a Biden victory. “There is no enchanted village in Pennsylvania full of 50,000 Trump voters that we haven’t heard from already,” he says. “It doesn’t exist.”
With a divisive election, an economy in a tailspin and a global pandemic, we could all use a little healing. Enter Esther Perel, an author and psychotherapist with the power to help mend relationships. “We have a screaming match, but we have a foundation underneath that,” she says.
In this episode of Sway, the couples counselor offers some advice: to Kara Swisher — on how to handle her Trump-loving mother, to Nancy Pelosi — on why she might be wise to surprise Donald Trump with a hug — and to all of us — on how we love and work through tumultuous times.
Jeff VanderMeer has built his career imagining weird futures in best-selling books like “Annihilation” and “Borne.” He says an apocalypse doesn’t have to mean the end of the world, but a reimagining of how we live on it.
He’s doing just that in his own backyard, making homes for raccoons and “rewilding” the land with native species. “We spend a lot of time keeping the outside, outside,” says VanderMeer, who sees his writing as a form of activism. But “there’s less divide between our bodies and the world than we recognize.”
As the most powerful man in the country peddled hydroxychloroquine and disinfectant snake oil as cures for the coronavirus, the comedian Sarah Cooper scoured her kitchen cabinet for props, scouted her lockdown apartment for locations and angled her iPhone. The result: a series of lip-sync videos posted on TikTok and Twitter — and viewed by millions.
The viral clips starred her facial expressions and the president’s voice.
But Ms. Cooper’s voice quickly followed. She soon nabbed a headliner spot at the Democratic National Convention. Months later, she’s the star of the celebrity-packed Netflix special “Everything’s Fine.”
Ms. Cooper says, “My success is forever linked to this person that I absolutely hate.” But she hopes that after Nov. 3, she can put Trump behind her.
It finally looks as if Big Tech may face some breakups. Lawmakers are interrogating tech C.E.O.s on Capitol Hill while the Justice Department pursues a landmark antitrust case against Google. For decades, tech giants have avoided such scrutiny — hiding behind the idea that their products are free, beneficial, even beloved.
Lina Khan says this is no excuse for a monopoly.
As a 28-year-old law student, Ms. Khan published a single scholarly article that greatly shifted America’s antitrust debate. Three years later, she remains an existential threat to companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple.
Ms. Khan served as counsel to the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee in this summer’s investigation, helping expose how Silicon Valley’s most revered companies use data and power to undercut, threaten and swallow up their competition.
In this episode of “Sway,” she tells Kara Swisher that Big Tech’s practices have had a “chilling effect” on the American economy, and that it’s time to drag the nation’s antitrust thinking out of the “ice age.”
“We are advantaged — unfortunately — by four years of a record from Trump,” Hillary Clinton says as she predicts big wins for Democrats in 2020. The former candidate has been a lightning rod for the right, and has been called a lizard, a murderer and a human trafficker.
But she believes that President Trump’s leadership — or lack thereof — has left American voters more engaged and less susceptible to disinformation. Or so she hopes.
In this interview with Kara Swisher, Mrs. Clinton shares the moments that still haunt her four years later and her priorities for a post-Trump future.
CRISPR-Cas9 is the kind of scientific breakthrough that could change human evolution. Scientists call it “genetic scissors” — a tool that snips DNA with powerful and scary precision. As Dr. Jennifer Doudna, the co-developer of the gene-editing technology, explains, scientists can now edit the genomes of living organisms “like you might edit a Word document.”
Dr. Doudna and her collaborator, Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year. Their pioneering research could pave the way for a cure for cancer. Some fear it could be used to create designer babies.
So what does this technology mean for how we live — and die? How will potential profit complicate the incentives of scientists? And just because we can more precisely “edit” life, should we?
In part two of Sway’s two-part election integrity series, Kara Swisher speaks to Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and an expert on the dark money and opaque laws that define modern American democracy.
From witness or notary public requirements in Rhode Island to a double-envelope mandate in Pennsylvania and a single dropbox per county in Texas, Mr. Potter and the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center are on a legal spree to fight voter suppression and voting restrictions. Millions of ballots are at stake. These court cases will help determine whose vote counts — and which candidate wins — in 2020.
In part one of Sway’s two-part election integrity series, Kara Swisher speaks to Alex Stamos, former Facebook chief information security officer and current director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, about what went wrong in 2016 and what Big Tech can do better in 2020.
Mr. Stamos — known in Silicon Valley for his willingness to speak truth to power — rose to national prominence when he departed Facebook amid disagreement about the tech giant’s handling of Russian interference in the last presidential election.
As Election Day draws nearer, social media platforms are amending their policies around political advertising, disinformation warnings and moderation of online groups like QAnon. But how do these decisions get made? What do these platforms plan to do if there is a contested presidential election? And whom can we really trust?
Roe v. Wade is under threat. As Republican senators scramble to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat with a conservative justice who would tilt the court six to three, the nation’s largest abortion and reproductive rights provider has its own power playbook. In this episode of Sway, Kara Swisher speaks to Planned Parenthood’s president and C.E.O., Alexis McGill Johnson.
While Ms. Johnson has little sway over the judicial appointment, she is in a powerful position to preserve women’s rights at the state level, even if protections are rolled back nationally. And she is braced for the fight.
You might know Michael Render, a.k.a. Killer Mike, from a speech he made that went viral four days after George Floyd’s death. Protests in Atlanta were escalating and so was the damage and violence. The mayor needed help turning the temperature down.
“I’m mad as hell,” he said, in near tears. “I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I’m tired of seeing Black men die.”
You might also know Killer Mike as Grammy-winning rapper and one-half of the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, whose music has been described by The New York Times as “the most politically timely hip-hop act of the day.”
Both his lyrics and his rhetoric speak to an urgent political moment. Killer Mike has a platform, a microphone and a blistering message about racial justice. Now, he also has his own bank — part of a push to empower the Black community.
Killer Mike sat down with Kara Swisher to talk about his power as a protest musician and entrepreneur, the temptation to burn it all down — and lasting lessons from the X-Men.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui is the chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, and arguably the most powerful force in the mission to vaccinate America from the coronavirus. The scientist, a 30-year pharmaceutical industry veteran and registered Democrat, says he doesn’t “want to get into the politics” even though everything about the United States’ coronavirus response — from mask-wearing to President Trump’s illness — seems to have been politicized.
Dr. Slaoui says he’s an adviser with “significant influence” — not a decision maker. And while he makes no guarantee about vaccine timelines, he does stand by a commitment to quit if politics interferes with science, saying, “I can guarantee that I will say what I think, and I am saying what I think.”
Alexander Vindman — war hero, European affairs expert, lieutenant colonel in the Army — had lofty dreams of serving the United States. But a call he heard between President Trump and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, gave him pause. Little more than a year after taking a job at the White House, Colonel Vindman testified before Congress regarding the Ukraine scandal, and was a key witness in the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.
Now retired, citing bullying by the White House, Colonel Vindman tells Kara Swisher he doesn’t regret testifying. But what drew him to the White House in the first place? Why did he speak up when so many others haven’t?
Elon Musk has a vision of the future, and — as one of the world’s richest men with four corporations under his reign — the means to try to manifest it. In a conversation with Kara Swisher, he outlines his theory of, well, everything.
“I do not think this is actually the end of the world,” say Musk. But at the same time, we need to hurry up. “The longer we take to transition to sustainable energy, the greater the risk we take.” But is relocating to Mars really necessary? Is our species ready to live with chips in our brains? And who’s Musk voting for, anyway?
On this episode of “Sway,” Kara Swisher speaks to Gavin Newsom, a governor who is, by some measures, running a country. California is the world’s fifth-largest economy. And yesterday, the state joined the ranks of Britain, Denmark and Germany with an ambitious environmental order banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035.
Governor Newsom is making big moves, even in the midst of a pandemic and a wildfire crisis. He’s leading California as the state takes on the federal government — “We’d be in the hall of fame if this was a sporting event.” But how does the governor choose his battles? What goes through his mind when he sits opposite a president who once called climate change a hoax? And how will the governor salvage California’s environment, economy and morale after a brutal year?
In the inaugural episode of Kara Swisher’s new podcast, “Sway,” she interviews House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. When it comes to presidential succession, Ms. Pelosi is second in line. And when it comes to taking on President Trump, she’s usually first.
“The power of the speaker is awesome,” says Ms. Pelosi. But how is she actually using that power? Why not accept a compromise (to the tune of $1.5 trillion) that may help quell a national crisis? What progress is possible when the speaker hasn’t spoken directly to the president in months? And with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaving a looming conservative court, can Ms. Pelosi maximize the power of a Democratic-controlled House?
Power, unpacked. “Sway” is a new interview show hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well liked journalist.” Now taking on Washington, Hollywood and the world, Kara investigates power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it. Every Monday and Thursday, from New York Times Opinion. Premiering September 21.