Interviews with Foreign Leaders

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    Interviews with Foreign Leaders was curated by Alyssa Knapp, a 2021 Library of Congress Junior Fellow and graduate student in the UCLA Masters of Library and Information Science program. Hailey Williams, MFA Candidate in Poetry, College of Charleston, contributed to the exhibit while working in the Library of Congress Internships (LOCI) Program in Spring 2023. Alan Gevinson, the Library of Congress AAPB project director, completed the exhibit. We are grateful to present and former NewsHour correspondents and producers Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Jeff Goldman, Annette Miller, Susan Mills, and Judy Woodruff for their help.


    Interviews with Foreign Leaders, the third in a series of exhibits focusing on programs in the AAPB’s PBS NewsHour Collection, contains more than 200 interviews with heads of state and other leaders from around the globe. The collection draws on public radio and television programs from 1957 through 2019, mostly from The PBS NewsHour and its predecessor programs, but also from a variety of other sources, including Bill Moyers Journal, Prospects of Mankind with Eleanor Roosevelt, two National Educational Television series, and full interviews conducted for two PBS series, War and Peace in the Nuclear Age and Vietnam: A Television History. Featuring conversations with presidents, prime ministers, and other leaders from more than 60 countries, some of which no longer exist, the interviews provide unique insights into figures who have shaped global politics over the past seventy years. In many cases, the conversations showcase leaders who have continued to affect the socio-political cultures of their nations to this day. The politicians in this collection include controversial dictators, such as Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, Ferdinand Marcos, and Anastasio Somoza, along with presidents and prime ministers prominent in world affairs beyond their own countries, such as Willy Brandt, Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Václav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, and Zhou Enlai.

    Many of these interviews represent feats of impressive journalism. Some foreign leaders were reluctant to appear on American news networks due to conflicts with the American government (for example, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Hafez al-Assad). While many interviews were conducted in Washington during visits by heads of state, the collection also includes interviews conducted abroad by NewsHour correspondents Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Charles Krause, among others. In 1978, co-anchor Robert MacNeil traveled to the village of Pontchartrain, France, to interview the Ayatollah Khomeini, then in exile, after developing contacts with people close to him. The result was the first extended television interview that Khomeini had given. In 1985, MacNeil went to Havana, Cuba, to speak with Fidel Castro for his first major American television interview in six years, a conversation that lasted more than four hours and was broadcast over four nights.

    Foreign leaders often agreed to these interviews because of the NewsHour’s commitment to fair and extended coverage. “They respect you because of the NewsHour,” producer Susan Mills stated. The NewsHour’s format allowed “more than the 30-second sound bite you’re lucky to get on a commercial network, and that’s a big difference if you’re trying to broker something,” producer Jeff Goldman added. Nelson Mandela gave correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gualt an extended interview following his release from prison in 1990 after she and the NewsHour had consistently covered South African political figures in exile during apartheid. Following an interview in 1993 with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Hunter-Gault obtained an interview with Hafez al-Assad after Mubarak telephoned the Syrian leader and convinced him that he would get more time on the NewsHour than the commercial networks allowed.1

    These interviews covered a wide variety of topics, including colonialism, war, human rights, and social issues. Many took place at historically significant moments in world history, such as negotiations in 1978 for a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and later for the Oslo Accords of the 1990s; the Iranian Revolution; the ousting of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines; Central American civil wars and peace efforts in the 1980s; the Persian Gulf War; the breakup of the Soviet bloc; the end of apartheid in South Africa; and the post 9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The series War and Peace in the Nuclear Age and Vietnam: A Television History conducted retrospective interviews with world leaders discussing the nuclear competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union between World War II and 1989, and the war In Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. The AAPB collection also features interviews with notable first-time female leaders of nations, such as Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua, Tansu Çiller of Turkey, Indira Gandhi of India, Golda Meir of Israel, Kazimiera Prunskienė of Lithuania, Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland, and Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom.

    In the following three exhibit sections, the interviews are arranged in three ways for easy access: by leader, country, and broadcast date or recording date.

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