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 second 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

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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July 21, 2020 49 min

After serving as United States Ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump Administration, former Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, the first woman to lead the state, has fast become one of the most prominent and powerful politicians in the contemporary Republican Party. Haley, the daughter of Punjabi Sikh immigrants, grew up in rural South Carolina, and first entered politics when she defeated a longtime incumbent in a lon...

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July 14, 2020 47 min

In 2018, after defeating a powerful corporate Democrat in one of the biggest political upsets in American history, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the most prominent progressive in the United States. In office, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has proposed visionary policy, like the Green New Deal, and become famous for her willingness to challenge the status quo directly--a formidable poise she developed over more than a decade o...

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"Who Is?," an original podcast from NowThis News that explores the lives of the powerful, is back. On "Who Is?," host and NowThis correspondent Sean Morrow dives deep into the stories and backstories of the politicians, donors, media moguls and movements that shape our lives, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Mark Zuckerberg, and #BlackLivesMatter to George Soros. Featuring conversations with the reporters, biographe...

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March 3, 2020 50 min

A billionaire among billionaires, Charles Koch is one of the most powerful men in the world. By all accounts a brilliant businessman, Charles inherited his father’s company when Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House, and, over decades, has transformed privately held Koch Industries into a massive multinational conglomerate with annual revenues of well over a hundred billion dollars. Since the 1970s, he’s not only reinvested that...

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February 25, 2020 49 min

Vice President Mike Pence, who has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” for decades, was born a Catholic Democrat, but rose to prominence as an Evangelical conservative. Once elected to Congress, his friendly attitude toward big business attracted the attention of billionaire donors like Charles Koch. But as Governor of Indiana, Pence became infamous for how his faith informed his pol...

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February 18, 2020 46 min

Arkansas is one of America’s poorest states. Today, it’s also one of its reddest, and the politicians it sends to Washington, like its star senator, Tom Cotton, aim to cut the government assistance programs that many Arkansans depend on. But the state was once solidly democratic, and elected charismatic democratic politicians like former President Bill Clinton, for decades. In the second of three episodes exploring the contemporary...

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February 11, 2020 46 min

As Democrats nationwide consider who their party will nominate to challenge President Trump in November, Republicans look ahead -- to 2024. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, after a meteoric rise through Kansas politics to leading the CIA and the State Department, is widely believed to be preparing to run for higher office. A businessman; a veteran; and a committed Christian, Pompeo represents one possible future for the Republican P...

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February 4, 2020 48 min

Who is Stephen Miller? One of three Senior Advisors to the President--along with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump--Miller is arguably the person who has had the greatest impact on the most people. Policy that Miller has devised, and, thanks to a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, by in large been able to enact, has changed how immigration works in the United States. But that's not all: as one of President Trump's favorite sp...

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January 28, 2020 44 min

Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump, is probably the most powerful person in the United States who we know the least about. The grandchild of immigrants who escaped the Holocaust, Kushner is the beneficiary of his family’s meteoric rise, and the quintessential rich kid: before his donation-based admission to Harvard, Kushner hobnobbed with politicians and managed segments of his family’s vast real estate holdings. In graduate sc...

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January 21, 2020 39 min

How did Saudi Arabia get away with the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the kidnapping and alleged torture of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and even 9/11? How does it get away with war in Yemen and human rights violations at home? Oil, and the wealth that oil has brought about. On the first international episode of Who Is, Sean Morrow explores the 34-year-old trillionaire in charge of Saudi Arabia...

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January 14, 2020 45 min

In the United States, war is big business. The Department of Defense, led by Secretary Mark Esper since 2019, has a budget of $738 billion this year. And while many of those dollars pay for those who serve in the armed forces and the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal, a significant portion of that budget will go to the military-industrial complex, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about in his farewell address in...

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