Who Is?

Who Is?

“Who Is?,” an original podcast from NowThis, explores the biographies of influential people in the United States and beyond. Now in a third season, “Who Is?” presents deep dives into the stories of political power players, the donor class, and more. The podcast is hosted by NowThis correspondent Sean Morrow.... Show More

Episodes

March 2, 2021 60 min

One of the defining characteristics of the modern nation state is that the state has a monopoly on the use of force. In the United States, police officers are a manifestation of this agreement, to which we are all parties--whether we like it or not--and that is perhaps one reason among many why the apparent lack of accountability that seemingly pervades incidents of police misconduct is so troubling: it throws into question the ter...

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February 23, 2021 45 min

On April 19th, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; 168 people were killed, and hundreds more injured, in what remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in the United States. Twenty five years later, in 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that the United States had recorded the deadliest year for domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City...

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February 16, 2021 48 min

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is one of the most powerful and one of the most enigmatic people in the world. Often positioned as a primary global antagonist of the United States, Khamenei and his regime have endured five American presidents, and his story reveals, among other things, the consequences of American foreign policy. But Khamenei himself is a clever politician, a leader who has m...

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February 9, 2021 55 min

Ronald Reagan, a man who was first elected President more than forty years ago, remains one of the most impactful and influential conservative politicians in American history. Reagan, who made it in Hollywood before he made it to the White House, was a towering statesman, a favorite of Republicans and Democrats alike, and a man whose image recalls a past which may never have existed in the first place. How we view Reagan is one way...

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"Who Is?," an original podcast from NowThis News that explores the lives of the powerful, is back for a third season. On "Who Is?," host and NowThis correspondent Sean Morrow dives deep into the stories and backstories of the politicians, donors, media moguls, movements, and ideas that shape our lives, from Ronald Reagan to Inherited Wealth, and Domestic Violent Extremism to Police Unions. Featuring conversations wi...

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“Nobody would be fighting this hard to suppress the vote—the lie about voter fraud—if the vote was not powerful.” - Reverend Doctor William Barber II


Bonus episode!


If you listened to “Who Is Electoral College,” you heard from Reverend Doctor William Barber II. Reverend Doctor Barber is a major civil rights leader, organizer, and also a certified genius: he got the MacArthur grant in 2018, which is unofficially called the 'Genius...

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October 27, 2020 46 min

In 2000 and 2016, the candidate who lost the popular vote was elected president. Somehow, that’s democracy at work, and it’s thanks to a baroque institution called the Electoral College. Born out of the same contentious negotiations in 1787 that gave America the Three-fifths Compromise and the structure of the Senate, which bestows equal representation on Wyoming (the least populated state) and California (the most), the Electoral ...

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October 20, 2020 56 min

After a lifetime of firsts--from San Francisco District Attorney to California Attorney General to the Senate--Kamala Harris could become the first woman to serve as Vice President. Born in Oakland, California, and raised in Berkeley, Harris’s groundbreaking career in law enforcement has opened up space for women like Chicago’s Kimberly M. Foxx and Baltimore’s Marilyn Mosby. But it has also on occasion put her at odds with the comm...

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October 13, 2020 60 min

What do John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh have in common? They made it onto the Supreme Court of the United States in part as a result of the activity of Leonard Leo, the de facto head of the conservative legal movement. Leo, who until recently led the Federalist Society, is a masterful conductor of a network of nonprofits and advocacy groups that have largely succeeded in transforming the third branch o...

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October 6, 2020 49 min

Andrew Wheeler, the current Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is the most important member of the Trump Administration that you’ve never heard of. Extremely effective, Wheeler has systematically rolled back landmark federal regulation designed to address the climate crisis, and meticulously dismantled longstanding rules that protect our air, water, and environment. On this episode of "Who Is?," Sean Morr...

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September 29, 2020 55 min

It’s one thing to believe that a powerful elite exerts an outsize influence on American democracy. But it’s another thing to believe that this elite is involved in an organized conspiracy of Satanic worship and pedophilia, and further, that the only person who can save the children--and America--is President Donald J. Trump. This is the general thesis of QAnon, a bizarre and baseless ideology that has been embraced by as many as se...

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September 22, 2020 65 min

Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of the wealthiest and most powerful people on the planet. And yet, much of his story remains a mystery. Born in St. Petersburg, when it was still known as Leningrad, Putin’s childhood unfolded on the streets of a city  recovering from a devastating, years-long siege during World War II. Today, Putin is the longest-serving Russian leader since Stalin, and could be in charge until 2036. On this...

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September 15, 2020 49 min

In the United States, political power is allocated when Americans go to the polls and vote for the candidates whom they believe will best represent their interests in government. For that reason, access to the ballot has been restricted--and contested--since the early days of democracy, with each expansion of the electorate met by measures to suppress the vote. Democracy, it seems, has always been for some, but not others. On this ...

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September 8, 2020 57 min

On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the case of Martin’s death. In response to Zimmerman’s acquittal, Alicia Garza, an Oakland-based organizer, wrote a post on Facebook which contained the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” A friend, Patrisse Cullors, hashtagged it: #blacklivesmatter. Eight years later, fo...

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September 1, 2020 59 min

In 1993, Jeff Bezos noticed that use of something called “the web” was up 2300 percent. So, he moved to Seattle and started a company: Amazon. Nearly thirty years later, Bezos, the wealthiest human being on the planet, is on track to become humanity’s first trillionaire, and Amazon has grown into one of the largest and most valuable companies in the world. An exquisite, revenue-generating machine, from e-commerce to Amazon Web Serv...

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August 25, 2020 55 min

On the first season of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow explored Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the military industrial complex. But what about the meat industrial complex? Whether it’s beef, chicken, or pork, most of the meat that winds up on your dinner plate is the ultimate result of an industrial food system controlled by a handful of powerful multinational meatpacking corporations: JBS, Smithfield, Cargill, Tyson, and National Beef...

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August 18, 2020 54 min

There are more than 7 billion people on the planet, and as of this year, nearly 3 billion of them use Facebook or one of the platforms it owns: Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. As a result, the company is massively profitable, which has made Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, one of the most wealthy and powerful human beings in the world. At the helm of this behemoth, Zuckerberg wields a power that, according to leg...

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August 11, 2020 53 min

In some ways, George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who turns 90 this week, is the sum of the worst horrors and greatest triumphs of the twentieth century. A survivor of World War II who narrowly escaped Nazi concentration camps, Soros would escape totalitarianism twice, making his way to London on the eve of the Soviet occupation of his hometown, Budapest, Hungary. Soros went on to become one of the financial titans of glob...

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August 4, 2020 55 min

On Who Is?, Sean Morrow talks a lot about the system--and the powerful financial interests that exert a profound influence on it. But who are these check-writing billionaires, where do they make their money, and how do they spend it in order to influence our democracy? One of them, Paul Singer, runs a hedge fund, Elliott Management, whose business is activism--but not the activism you might think of. Elliott’s “activism” is activis...

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July 28, 2020 46 min

How did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the son of Abraham Schumer, an exterminator, and Selma Schumer, a homemaker, become the most powerful Democrat in the Senate? Schumer’s path to power is, on the one hand, a case study in the American meritocracy elevating one of its best and brightest: a hardworking, public school graduate who worked his way to the top. On the other hand, Schumer’s politics are an object lesson in the d...

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