tv 60 Minutes CBS June 12, 2022 4:00pm-5:00pm PDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> i'm kind of surprised that there are many more-- many more hostages being held by governments than by terrorists. >> i know. that is surprising, isn't it? the majority of our cases are actually what we call wrongful detentions. it's when a nation-state actually is detaining americans, essentially, unjustly. >> that government wants something, in return for our citizen. >> they want to use that person for political leverage. they want to use them as a bargaining chip. ( ticking ) >> my desk was right about here. and the editor sat up there. >> america's newspaper industry
is in a state of decline, partly due to a loss of advertising revenue, partly due to financial firms that have bought up nearly a third of the daily papers in the u.s. so, what's the cost to american citizens? >> this is an attack on our democracy. ( ticking ) >> ready if you are? >> yes! you want me to slate myself? >> yes, please. >> right. rita moreno, with one of the world's handsomest men of color. ever. >> okay, interview over! ( laughter ) >> we're done! >> can't do any better than that. okay, i just want to ask you about the obvious-- all of your honors and awards. >> ain't it grand? ♪ i like to be in america ♪ >> ladies and gentlemen, rita moreno. >> this is marvelous! ( ticking ) >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm sharyn alfonsi. >> i'm jon wertheim. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight, on "60 minutes." ( ticking )
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>> lesley stahl: when most of us hear the word "hostage," we think of someone held captive by a terrorist group, or criminal gang, seeking ransom, attention, or worse. but as we first reported in february, the vast majority of americans imprisoned abroad today are not held by terrorist groups, but by foreign governments, with whom the u.s. has thorny, or in some cases, no relations. our government calls them
"wrongful detainees," and there are currently more than 40 of them. last fall saw a rare moment of success: the release of then-37-year-old journalist danny fenster, a detroit native who'd been locked away for nearly six months in a small, always-lit cell in a prison in myanmar, formerly called burma. >> danny fenster: hey! >> stahl: danny fenster's reunion with his family in november... >> danny fenster: thank you for everything. >> stahl: is the moment every hostage and detainee family dreams of. >> reporter: how's it feel to be back? >> danny fenster: it feels incredible. >> stahl: danny fenster had moved to myanmar in 2019 and worked as an editor for several publications. he and his wife, a brazilian diplomat named juliana, watched in dismay as, a year ago oued the elected government of aung san suu kyi, which brought throngs of peaceful protestors into the streets.
within weeks, though, the military regime ordered a violent crackdown that drew worldwide condemnation. late last spring, danny had a flight home to visit his parents, but as he was about to board the plane, a group of policemen showed up and called out his name. >> danny fenster: and i just looked up, like, "what?" and i said, "yeah, that's me." they said, "we have questions for a criminal investigation." >> stahl: did they allow you to make any phone calls? no? >> danny fenster: no. i got a couple text messages off to juliana saying, "call the american embassy. i'm being detained." >> stahl: were you handcuffed? >> danny fenster: handcuffed and blindfolded. >> bryan fenster: i had a very long text message from his wife, juliana. >> stahl: bryan fenster, danny's older brother back home in detroit, was the first in the family to learn that danny was in prison. and the family immediately mobilized. >> rose fenster: please, i
beg you, we beg you, bring danny home. >> stahl: they launched a "bring danny home" campaign, including supporters worldwide sketching his picture. danny was eventually charged with incitement and wrongful association, based on his work for a banned publication that had been critical of the military, even though he hadn't worked there for ten months. he says he desperately wanted to let his family know he wasn't being tortured, but for weeks he wasn't allowed any communication at all outside the prison. >> danny fenster: i remember just staring at the wall, thinking, sort of figuratively, you know, "i just-- when is that tank going to bust through the wall, you know, and get me out of here?" >> stahl: you really thought at one point you were going to be rescued? >> danny fenster: no. but i was really hoping. >> ned price: release danny immediately. >> stahl: the state department made repeated appeals. >> price: we remain deeply concerned over the continued
detention of danny fenster. >> stahl: but the u.s. government hasn't recognized the legitimacy of the junta, so even getting information about danny was difficult. after a month, he was finally allowed periodic phone calls with his family. >> bryan fenster: it was hard. i mean, there were many calls we had with him where he was in tears. you're trying to find the words for him. you know, after one month, two months, three months, four months. >> stahl: back in washington, danny's case had fallen under the mandate of roger carstens, one of the few state department officials held over from the trump administration. he's a man with a tough job, and an odd-sounding title. you're called speha. what does that mean, speha? >> roger carstens: it's special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. so, everyone truncates it into speha. >> stahl: the speha office was created in 2015, after an inal review of u.s. hostage policy following the tragic deaths of american journalists and aid workers held captive by isis and complaints from hostage families that the government hadn't been proactive enough.
but in the years since, the makeup of roger carsten's cases has changed. i'm kind of surprised that there are many more-- many more hostages being held by governments than by terrorists. >> carstens: i know. that is surprising, isn't it? the-- the majority of our cases are actually what we call wrongful detentions. it's when a nation-state actually is detaining americans, essentially unjustly. >> stahl: that government wants something, in return for our citizen. >> carstens: they want to use that person for political leverage. they want to use them as a bargaining chip. >> jason rezaian: it's something that people don't know about. they don't think about very much. >> stahl: "washington post" reporter, and iranian american, jason rezaian, was a wrongful detainee himself, imprisoned for a year and a half in iran, where he'd been living as the paper's bureau chief. he was freed as part of a prisoner swap in 2016, and has
been pushing ever since for the u.s. government to prioritize the cases of the more than 40 current wrongful detainees. >> rezaian: we're not doing enough for these people. and we're not doing it quickly enough. >> stahl: what countries around the world are holding americans right now? >> rezaian: iran, which is sort of the perennial hostage-taker; china, who has more than anybody else; russia; venezuela. >> stahl: does our government have a stern policy against quid pro quos? >> carstens: that's a hard question to answer, and here's why: there are things that, to give in, would actually either provide an incentive or a benefit to the hostage taker, and so, my job is to start becoming creative. what else can we possibly do to solve this problem without giving a direct concession? >> stahl: prisoner swaps: taking the innocent american and swapping him for a guilty criminal. we've done that. >> carstens: if there's a way i can get someone out that doesn't involve a swap, much better.
>> stahl: but in danny fenster's case, the myanmar government wasn't asking for any policy concessions or prisoner swaps. >> bill richardson: it didn't look like he was going to get out. >> stahl: enter former congressman, u.n. ambassador, and new mexico governor bill richardson, who established a foundation that facilitates the delivery of humanitarian aid and engages in hostage negotiating-- his long-time, sometimes controrsiapealty >> reporter: how're you feeling? >> stahl: he had a long history with myanmar, and was concerned about a local former employee of his foundation who had also been arrested. he secured an invitation from the military regime to come to discuss humanitarian assistance and covid vaccines, and told the state department he wanted to work on the fenster case, too, but he got pushback. >> richardson: they asked me not to raise danny fenster. >> stahl: did you say, "why shouldn't i raise this?" >> richardson: yeah, i said, "look, this is what i do."
what-- so i said, "all right, look, i'm going to go." >> stahl: there was some tension between governor richardson and the state department. >> carstens: the bottom line is that i had discussions on a few occasions where i said, "we have a current line of effort. i'm feeling pretty good about this. can we hold off a little bit?" >> stahl: richardson held off briefly, but then flew to myanmar this past november, and participated in two days of humanitarian aid meetings at the presidential palace with the isolated military regime, including the commander in chief, a man considered responsible at the time for more junta, which splashed photos of the meeting far and wide. >> richardson: when i think we convinced them of our sincerity, then i said, "by the way, you've got-- i want two things. you have an activist burmese woman that worked for me. i want you to release her."
the next day, she'd been released. >> stahl: just like that? >> richardson: just like that. then, i decided, i'm on a roll. "by the way, there's an american journalist named danny fenster. and, you should release him. it'd be the right thing. the american people are going to like this. your record with the u.s. government right now is not very good. so it-- it'd make you look good. humanitarian gesture." >> stahl: but you were defying the state department. >> richardson: i wasn't defying. i just saw an opportunity and i took it. >> stahl: richardson says the commander privately told him he'd release fenster, but not yet. so, he left myanmard given a pariah regime legitimacy, and looking like he might have made things worse for danny fenster, who was sentenced a week later. >> danny fenster: "you've been convicted on every count and sentenced to 11 years." >> stahl: 11 years?
>> danny fenster: yeah. it was, like-- despair, you know? >> stahl: helpless. >> danny fenster: yeah, helpless. >> stahl: there was criticism. the feeling that you had botched this meeting and it led to danny fenster getting this 11-year sentence. >> richardson: you know, families get so emotional. they go through ups and downs. but i knew if the commander kept his word, and i thought he would, that this would be forgotten. >> stahl: go away, yeah. >> richardson: and i got him out. he's out. and we did it. >> stahl: sure enough, just days after the sentencing, richardson was quietly summoned back to myanmar, and danny was unexpectedly taken out of his cell, put in a van, and, without knowing where he was going, driven to the airport. >> danny fenster: i just see a bunch of white guys in suits. i didn't know who was who. >> richardson: and there was danny, walking towards me.
>> danny fenster: and he said, "i'm here to take you home." i just couldn't stop smiling. i was smiling so much. i was so happy. the sun was on my face, i could it was ang>>stens:'d like to stt with saying thank you to governor richardson for securing the release of danny fenster. >> stahl: if there was any lingering anger over governor richardson's trip, it was not on display at the press conference when danny landed on u.s. soil. >> carstens: i just can't get upset when the governor actually brings him home. we have no pride of authorship. whoever can come up with a plan and get someone out, we're down for the win. >> stahl: carstens says he's hopeful about some of the other detainee cases. he traveled to venezuela in december to meet nine americans imprisoned there. and, during negotiations to revive the iran nuclear deal, the u.s. envoy said it would be "very hard for us to imagine getting back into the nuclear deal while four innocent americans are being held hostage."
yet, jason rezaian says it's still not enough. when you say we should prioritize getting these people out-- >> rezaian: yeah. >> stahl: the implication is that you're saying, let's make a deal; let's do a swap. and then you're right back to the issue of incentivizing this thing. >> rezaian: look, ultimately, when americans come home, when brits come home, when french people come home, there are some sue is not werconcsion. the issue is, how do we make it difficult on the back end? >> stahl: so, you're saying make >> rezaian: bring them homesh however you need to do it, and then-- >> stahl: money, swaps, whatever? >> rezaian: you know what, cut through all the b.s. and just bring people home. >> stahl: critics say that even though you work very hard, you keep the families apprised of what's going on, that you're not doing a good job. there are still 40 people being held. >> carstens: when i go to bed every night, i feel the weight of not having brought home between 40 and 50 americans. so i don't go to bed usually
feeling good. i usually wake up with energy, can't wait to get to the office and get back after it. but this is a business of ones and zeroes in computer language. someone comes home, steps on a tarmac in america, falls into the arms of their loved ones. you've got a victory there. but unless that's happening, you're losing. >> danny fenster: hello! >> stahl: we want to leave you.. >> ahh! ahh! my beautiful grandson! >> stahl: ...with a pretty special falling into the arms of a loved one. >> oh my god! >> stahl: danny's reunion with his 95-year-old grandmother, a survivor of the holocaust. >> i'm happy you're in america. god bless you. >> stahl: since our story first aired, three wrongful detainees were released-- two by the venezuelan government, and one, trevor reed, by russia. but, w.n.b.a. star brittney
griner was arrested in russia in february, accused of having hashish oil in her luggage. last month, the state department deemed her a wrongful detainee, and she remains in custody. ( ticking ) who are positive for acetylcholine receptor antibodies, it may feel like the world is moving without you. but the picture is changing, with vyvgart. in a clinical trial, participants achieved improved daily abilities with vyvgart added to their current treatment. and vyvgart helped clinical trial participants achieve reduced muscle weakness. vyvgart may increase the risk of infection. in a clinical study, the most common infections were urinary tract and respiratory tract infections. tell your doctor if you have a history of infections or if you have symptoms of an infection.
>> jon wertheim: "newspaper industry in state of decline!" not exactly a stop-the-presses headline. for two decades now, owing largely to the loss of advertising revenue to facebook and google, fewer and fewer americans get their news, comics, and sports from all those gazettes and tribunes and journals. but, that doesn't tell the whole story. as we first reported in february, there's an additional threat: hedge funds and other financial firms that own nearly a third of the daily papers in america. and these new owners are often
committed not to headlines and deadlines, but to bottom lines. one fund in particular has been called by some in the industry a dry. it all prompts the question: as local newsrooms and local news coverage shrivel up, to what extent does democracy shrink with it? ♪ ♪ ♪ behind the marching band and baton twirlers, at the annual 4th of july parade in pottstown, pennsylvania, you'll find a one-man band: reporter evan brandt-- snapping photos, taking notes, and gathering quotes. >> evan brandt: the paper comes out tomorrow. >> tomorrow? >> brandt: every day. tell me all about what you're doing here. >> we're just looking forward to a great 4th of july. >> wertheim: for the last 24 years, he's chronicled this community of 23,000 for the local newspaper, "the mercury," which at one time had dozens of reporters. now, brandt is, literally, the last reporter standing in pottstown. when a community like this loses
their local reporters, what else are they losing? >> brandt: it reminds us all about shared experiences. you know who died, you know who graduated from high school. you know whose kid had a great game. you know, those are all important elements about holding people together. >> wertheim: you're describing the soul of a community? >> brandt: sure. >> wertheim: brandt took us to the old headquarters of "the mercury." punching above its weight, "the mercury" won a pulitzer prize in 1979, and another in 1990. now, it looks like this. >> brandt: my desk was right about here. and the editor sat up there. the sports guys were along here. the photographers were in the back. anyone could walk in the front door and say, "i need to talk to a reporter. my sewer's backing up and the township isn't doing anything about it. can you do something?" >> wertheim: behold the new "mercury" headquarters. we're going up to the "mercury" newsroom.
brandt's turned his attic into a command center. >> brandt: this is where the magic happens. >> wertheirm: it's here that he scrambles to cover pottstown, 20 surrounding towns, and nine different school districts. >> the motion is carried. >> wertheim: overworked and overwhelmed, brandt has seen his industry battered by all sort of forces-- disappearing classified ads; people getting news for free online. but he says the worst culprit is the hedge fund, alden global capital, which bought "the mercury" in 2011 and has since sold the paper's building and slashed newsroom staff by about 70%-- severe even by the standards of the newspaper sector, that has seen an astounding 57% job loss since 2008. in 2017, after another round of layoffs, brandt says he felt angry, and wanted answers and accountability, so he paid a visit to the hamptons summer home of heath freeman, the 41-year-old president of alden global capital, and knocked on the door.
what'd you want to say to him? >> brandt: what i settled on is, "what value do you place on local news? and i'm not talking about money. what value do you place on it?" >> wertheim: brandt recalls that a woman let him in; behind her, he caught a glimpse of freeman, who walked away. you never got to ask him that question. >> brandt: i did not. >> wertheim: this secretive hedge fund-- their website shows this single photo-- started building its print empire over the last decade, and now owns wsowehind et0 newspapers, making den's pid takeover and cuts have alarmed u.s. lawmakers. in 2019, 21 senators wrote to heath freeman, asking him to abandon his "newspaper-killing business model." freeman, though, has doubled down. last year, alden made a play for tribune publishing, home to historic papers like "the baltimore sun" and "the chicago tribune." >> gary marx: this is an attack on our democracy.
>> wertheim: gary marx and david jackson spent 30 years as investigative reporters at "the chicago tribune," a paper that has won 27 pulitzer prizes. >> marx: local and regional newspapers are so important to our communities, to holding our leaders accountable. they're not just going after some business that is trying to make money. >> wertheim: they admit the tribune had been crippled for years by bad management; but after seeing alden buy the "denver post" and then gut staff by 70%, the journalists were worried the hedge fund would do irreversible damage. so, what'd you do? >> marx: we fought back. that's what we did. dave and i just decided that we are going to throw everything we possibly can, use all our investigative and reportorial skills to save this organization that is so important we felt to the future of the city we love, chicago. >> wertheim: so, this investigative team, accustomed to exposing corruption and injustice, acting as watchdogs on local government-- they turned their attention to their
potential new owners. you've said, when alden capital arrived, it was an existential threat. >> david jackson: yeah. >> wertheim: why is this firm particularly nefarious? >> jackson: well, alden has sort of a playbook of going into a distressed newsroom and selling off the real estate and property, equipment, things like that. and, second of all, diminishing the resources that the reporters have. >> wertheim: leaked company financials show, in 2017, alden built in profit margins as high as 30% at certain papers, more than double industry standard. in recent filings, the "new york times" company reported 10% profit margins. >> jackson: these are executives from a hedge fund who live in a very wealthy lifestyle. they're not taking the profits and using them to build "the tribune." >> wertheim: what's your response to someone who'd say, "look, this is capitalism"? >> jackson: well, we've always been aware that we're doing journalism in a capitalist
democracy. and we've always embraced that recognize the civic trust that's embedded in this profit-making machine. >> wertheim: jackson and marx say what they learned about alden only fueled their sense of urgency. so, in 2020, putting their jobs at risk, they wrote an op-ed in the "new york times," pleading for a philanthropist, foundation, anyone, to step forward to save their paper. one man tried: maryland hotel magnate stewart bainum, a life-long subscriber to "the baltimore sun." bainum committed $200 million, and we followed him last year, scrambling to put together a deal to buy tribune publishing. >> stewart bainum: we've done the due diligence, we just need a buyer. >> wertheim: bainum couldn't find a partner. last year, alden bought tribune publishing for more than $600 million, and two days later started offering buyouts to tribune employees. more than 40 have since left the "chicago tribune," including
one-fourth of the newsroom. freeman declined our repeated requests to sit down with "60 minutes," but his public relations team sent us letters he wrote to other newspaper owners that state, alden is committed to providing "robust, independently-minded local journalism" and that it's time for tech giants to start paying for the "billions of dollars" they're making off of news publishers' content. the newspaper crisis didn't begin with alden; and this is not the only financial firm in this sector, but alden is often held up as the worst actor. one study conducted by the university of north carolina in 2018 found that some alden-owned newspapers had cut staff at twice the rate of their competitors. steven waldman is a former journalist. in 2011, he studied the decline of the local news industry for the federal communications commission. he says that, in the absence of local reporting, there's evidence of increased corruption by local officials. one example he points to: bell, california.
when the local newspaper there shut down, scandal ensued. >> steve waldman: the elected officials just kept voting themselves pay raises, to the point where the city manager was making $800,000, just because there was no one there. >> wertheim: i'm guessing there's nothing specifically corrupt about bell, california that wouldn't replicate in any of 1,000 other towns. >> waldman: pretty much through all of human history and throughout the world, when you have power that isn't watched, it tends to get abused. >> wertheim: waldman says it's not just that local news has been hollowed out; it's what has replaced it. >> waldman: the vacuum was filled by national cable news, and social media, and very opinionated, polarizing material. >> wertheim: waldman believes in flooding communities with local reporters. in 2017 he co-founded "report for america," a program that sends print, radio, and television journalists to newsrooms in underserved communities across the country.
we brought together five reporters. >> chrisanna mink: i'm chrisanna mink. i'm a pediatrician and also a health reporter. >> camalot todd: i'm camalot todd. i report on mental health for buffalo. >> amelia ferrell knisely: i'm amelia ferrell knisely. i'm an investigative reporter that covers poverty in west virginia. >> wertheim: chris jones, a marine corps veteran, covers domestic extremism in appalachia. gracyn doctor covers race and equity in charlotte. these studies that show that people trust local media more than national media. doesn't sound like that surprises you, those results. ( laughter ) >> reporters: no! >> chris jones: these are our neighbors, you know? i mean, we're not writing about someone i'm never going to talk to again. they're people, before they're interview subjects. >> wertheim: this is jones on january 6. he had cultivated such a level of trust from his sources that he was one of the few reporters covering the insurrectionists as they stormed the u.s. capitol. >> jones: i got a lot of calls immediately after the 6th from a lot of different, like, news organizations, people who
wouldn't answer an email from me, you know, a week prior. >> wertheim: you were the local journalist, you had the sourcs. >> jones: yeah. >> wertheim: you had the relationships. >> todd: a lot of national media is coastal, and it stays coastal unless there's a big news event. and then they fly their reporters in, write the story, and fly them out. >> wertheim: gracyn doctor experienced this firsthand. her mother was one of nine african americans killed by a white supremacist in the 2015 mother emanuel church shooting in charleston. doctor felt that when the national media parachuted in, they were looking for sound bites, instead of examining the deeper questions. >> gracyn doctor: especially in a place like charleston, south carolina, where, like, the history of racism runs very, very deep. that was the opportunity to really dive into some of that history, you know? like, why did this happen in this community? >> wertheim: while newspapers like the "washington post" and "l.a. times" have been bought by billionaires, waldman says addressing this crisis falls to all of us. >> waldman: we need a dramatic increase in the-- the commitment
of foundations, and philanthropists, and donors like you and me, to actually supporting local news. werth rember stewart bainum, who lost out to alden global capital? he's launching the "baltimore banner," a nonprofit digital news outlet, to go head-to-head with the "baltimore sun" for subscribers. it will cover only local news, with plans over the next three years to hire more than 100 reporters. all digital. >> bainum: the web. newsletters. podcasts. apps. wherever people receive their news, we're going to go there. >> wertheim: after sounding the alarm about alden global capital, gary marx and david jackson left the "chicago tribune." jackson is still working as a reporter at a nonprofit newsroom in chicago. marx is now living what he calls his second dream job as a high school football coach. they are more convinced than ever that local news cannot become yesterday's news. >> marx: you're faster than that. journalism is one of the most noble professions there is.
you can have tremendous impact on society. >> jackson: i work with a lot of young people, and i tell them that the-- we're leaving them a smashed and broken system, but that they're going to have to reinvent it, because it's necessary. journalism is necessary for the survival of american democracy. >> wertheim: as for heath freeman? pmia mansion for $19 million--. ( ticking >> cb h presented by progressive. rory mcilroy shot to take the title. the diamondbacks snapped the
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she says her showbiz longevity is sprinkled with serendipity, the we warn you, beneath the a darhollywta pain and betrayal, reinvention and resilience. she's only the third actor to "egot:" winning the emmy, grammy, oscar, and tony. as we first reported last november, moreno stars in a new version of "west side story," and at 90 years old, we found an artist who is witty and candid. ready if you are? >> rita moreno: yes. you want me to slate myself? >> whitaker: yes, please. >> moreno: right. rita moreno with one of the world's handsomest men of color. ever. >> whitaker: okay, interview over. ( laughter ) >> moreno: we're done. >> whitaker: can't do any better than that. okay, i just want to ask you about the obvious-- all of your honors and awards. >> moreno: ain't it grand? there's really a lot of stuff here. >> whitaker: because you've done a lot of stuff.
>> moreno: every one of them surprised the living daylights out of me. but it's not about the awards. don't let that sound like i'm being modest. i am not modest. i know what i have earned. i'm up to my ass in some pretty spectacular acknowledgments.atms l of violet as anita in "west side story" was sheer willpower. >> moreno: i never stopped rehearsing. in fact, somebody told me recently that they were a dance extra on the mambo at the gym scene, and one of the girls turned to her when we had ten minutes off, and she says, "look at rita moreno. she's still rehearsing." she says, "that's what you have to do to become a star." >> whitaker: but what is it about you to have achieved this?
>> moreno: i think that perseverance is my middle name. it's just something-- truly, that i think i inherited from my mom. >> whitaker: in 1936, moreno's mother, rosa maria, and wide- eyed five-year-old rosita, fled poverty in puerto rico to start a new life in new york. they landed in the bronx. >> moreno: or as we still call it, "the brong." >> whitaker: here she first you grow up bein don'er thinking you dt h, iup filled a puerto rican. when you're little, and you're told you're not worth anything, you believe it. >> whitaker: she found sanctuary and her passion in a spanish dance studio, and by 17, moreno's dramatic looks and flair caught the eye of a talent scout, who got her a meeting with none other than mgm's
studio chief, louis b. mayer. >> moreno: and he said, "young lady, how would you like to be under contract to mgm studios?" >> whitaker: just like that? >> moreno: just like that. >> whitaker: without so much as a screen test, in 1950, rita moreno found herself making movies in hollywood. >> moreno: i went to the commissary for the very first time, and that very day, in walks elizabeth taylor and lana turner. i thought i would have a heart attack. >> whitaker: you, little rosita, had arrived. >> moreno: and i really felt like one of them. >> whitaker: but with the hollywood glamour came studio obligations: publicity dates for paparazzi, and swank parties, where the teenaged starlet found herself fighting off insistent sexual harassment from powerful men. >> moreno: it wrenches my heart, mostly that i didn't know how to handle that kind of thing. >> whitaker: why would you be expected to? i mean, that's-- >> moreno: well, it was very common. the casting couch-- there were a
million jokes about that. >> whitaker: but rita moreno knew it was nothing to laugh about. >> moreno: i was raped by my agent when i was... i was either 16 or 17. i was sitting on the couch next to him and he said, "such a pretty girl," and he put his hand on my cheek. and mounted me. i struggled, but he did it all. >> whitaker: she told us she was the family's breadwinner and had to keep working, so the insecure rita moreno felt she had no choice but to keep her agent. is this the source of the insecurity? >> moreno: oh, is this at the bottom of all the insecurity? no question. >> whitaker: why are you comfortable speaking out? >> moreno: i want women to know that all the awards in the world will never make up for the things i have experienced in my life. the be-all and end-all is
to me a ngnd self-respect, which >>taker:ollywood can be on men,n of color in the 195, it could be corrosive. >> i'm right here! >> whitaker: moreno got roles as native girls in b-musicals, caked in brown makeup, all with a vaguely spanish accent. >> that is true. >> moreno: dusky maidens. >> whitaker: those were the types of roles you were getting? >> moreno: with the accent. it hurts me to watch me, doing stuff that is humiliating. >> whitaker: you were working because of these roles. >> moreno: i accepted a lot of those, because there was nothing else. and i took them with a lot of shame. >> what did i tell you, lena? >> whitaker: but she takes great pride in three scenes in an mgm blockbuster. >> moreno: "singin' in the rain" where i had a very tiny part. ( cheers ) >> whitaker: she played famous flapper zelda zanders, finally able to strut her stuff and
show her true face. >> moreno: it was wonderful, because i didn't need to put on that muddy brown makeup. i didn't have to speak with an accent. and i thought, "that's going to change everything." >> whitaker: instead, she was dropped by mgm. she found work with other studios. and that smoldering passion to perform landed her, like a bombshell, on the cover of "life" magazine in 1954. that picture won her a new studio contract, and the attention of one of the greatest actors of an era. >> moreno: marlon brando. marlon took one look and he just fell. >> whitaker: he fell? >> moreno: for me. >> whitaker: yeah. >> moreno: i had a fox contract. i met the love of my life. all was good. what could be bad? >> whitaker: marlon brando takes up three chapters of moreno's memoir, and eight years of her life. their stormy relationship nearly killed her. brando was married when moreno became pregnant with his child.
she says he pressured her to have an abortion. afterward, she attempted suicide. why did you try to take your life? >> moreno: what i was really trying to do was kill that bad side of me that kept going back to him. that bad woman who didn't respect me, who was me-- another side of me. >> whitaker: well, thank god you failed. >> moreno: you're not kidding. >> whitaker: six months later, in the fall of 1961, people around the world got to see her playing anita in one of the greatest musical films of all time. >> moreno: i wanted that part so badly. >> whitaker: why? what was it about anita that made you want it so much? >> moreno: oh! it was the part for a hispanic girl. ♪ puerto rico my heart's devotion ♪ >> moreno: anita, the one who had a sense of herself. a sense of dignity. and i had to portray that. and it felt really good. >> whitaker: well, you talk
about yourself like you're this bundle of insecurities and everything, but what you put on that screen was anything but. >> moreno: i could pretend i had self-respect. i'm an actress! ♪ i like to be in america ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> whitaker: her performance was electrifying, and, she says, one of the hardest things she's ever done. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> moreno: i hadn't danced in years. and i didn't dance those kind of dances. that's called jazz. ♪ ♪ ♪ i never was that. i was a spanish dancer. castanets. so, when i went into "west side story," i had my work cut out for me. >> whitaker: her most powerful scene required her to dig down into feelings she'd long tried to bury. >> moreno: when we did the rape scene, during rehearsals when they were mauling me and all that, the boys-- i pushed them away, and started to cry, and i could not stop. all of those scars that i thought were healed, just
opened up. ♪ ♪ ♪ i was like a wounded animal when i did it again. >> whitaker: is that on the screen? >> moreno: and that is-- yes, when she says, "don't you touch me." >> anita: don't you touch me! >> moreno: and i thought, "how would marlon say that, as an actor?" and it was through my teeth: "don't you touch me." that is the scene that i know got me the oscar. >> rock hudson: rita moreno in "west side story!" >> whitaker: in 1962, moreno became the first latina to win an academy award for acting. >> moreno: i can't believe it! >> whitaker: so, your phone must have been ringing off the hook after that? >> moreno: no, the phone wasn't ringing off the hook. after "west side story," i couldn't get a job except in gang movies-- lesser ones. >> whitaker: your career did not just take off? >> moreno: hardly.
>> whitaker: so you took off? >> moreno: yeah. >> whitaker: she moved to new york, and found new love, and new roles on broadway. she married a cardiologist, the late lenny gorden, and they had a daughter, fernanda. it was here, in the '70s, alongside morgan freeman, that moreno won her first grammy, with the tv show "the electric company." then, a tony for her outrageous broadway creation, googie gomez. and, with the help of a green frog, an emmy rounded out the egot. if all the puppets and slapstick give the impression moreno had gone to the light side? look again. in the gritty hbo drama, "oz," in the 1990s, she played prison psychologist sister peter marie. a different kind of nun. >> moreno: different kind of nun. >> sister peter marie: stop it! stop it. stop it! >> moreno: it was the salvation of me as an actress, not a career. >> whitaker: since "oz," moreno has kept working, straight into the 21st century: movies, tv, a sitcom with legendary producer norman lear. she's been working non-stop for 75 years.
and, there's this: (♪ "west side story" 2021 ♪) >> whitaker: steven spielberg's version of "west side story." moreno plays valentina, the widow of doc, who owned the candy store in the original. she's also an executive producer of the film, released last year. >> moreno: take 12. ( slate clap ) >> steven spielberg: she's part of the ensemble. >> whitaker: we talked with steven spielberg remotely. >> spielberg: i wanted her to really, you know, bridge the legacy of "west side story," and to inspire our young cast. >> whitaker: and, unlike the first movie, spielberg set a mandate that all puerto rican characters be played by hispanic actors. >> moreno: i think hollywood has changed. i think there are still things yet to be addressed. the representation that hispanics get is almost nil. there are so many talented people among hispanics. jennifer lopez can't be the only one. >> whitaker: that's why moreno
was thrilled to be part of this "west side story." she sings? >> spielberg: she sings, and she acts, and even though she doesn't have a dance number, i have home movies of rita dancing with all the sharks and the jets. she has not lost her mojo as a dancer, at all. >> whitaker: rita moreno, who is 90, hasn't lost a step. she admits she has stumbled along the way, but she has refused to stay down. >> moreno: i think some people would say i was tough. i think it's resilience, because if i'm tough, there's a part of me then that's become hard. it's simply not in my nature. >> whitaker: but "resilient"? >> moreno: resilient is what i am. i'm a real bouncer-backer. (♪ "west side story" 2021 ♪) ( ticking ) >> more from rita moreno. plus, learn about the bipartisan push in congress to help support local news.
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