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Ali Velshi Speaks on ‘The Weaponization of Culture’

MSNBC host brings tough talk on Trump and more to Vancouver, in a free Wall Exchange lecture.

By Peter W. Klein 14 May 2018 |

Peter W. Klein is a national security reporter and documentary filmmaker. He is former head of the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and is founding director of the Global Reporting Centre.

[Editor’s note: On May 16, global affairs and economics journalist Ali Velshi will deliver a free Wall Exchange lecture at the Vogue Theatre where he’ll examine the current phenomenon and spread of culture wars, and culture’s role in both curbing and spreading populist ideals.]

There’s a line Ali Velshi likes to use in public appearances and even includes in his short Twitter bio: “I actually AM a Kenyan-born Muslim.” The quip is clearly a reference to Donald Trump’s long-running spurious claim that President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim and was born in Africa.

It’s a sure-fire laugh line, but it brought the MSNBC host some trouble during a recent on-air exchange with the lawyer for Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican who was running for U.S. Senate and was accused of sexual misconduct with minors. After Velshi and his co-host pressed Trenton Garmon for answers to why his client seemed to pursue teenaged girls many decades younger than him, the guest steered the conversation in another direction. “That’s a good question. Culturally speaking, obviously there’s differences,” Garmon said. “I looked up Ali’s background there and wow, that’s awesome that you have got such a diverse background. It’s really cool to read through that.”

“I don’t know where you’re going with this, Trenton,” Velshi said, as he and his co-anchor pointed out that Velshi grew up in Canada. After the segment ended, Velshi noted while shaking his head: “There’s nothing cultural about my background that helped me to understand what that conversation was about.”

It was the kind of exchange viewers have come to expect from Velshi, who has been a fixture on American cable news since 2001, when he rode his motorcycle from Toronto to New York to work at CNN and then Al Jazeera America. Velshi does not hide his opinions. He defended the Park51 project, a mosque and Islamic centre near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, and he criticized Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization, calling it blatantly racist and the representative “naive.” This brand of bold journalism drew the attention of NBC, whose cable channel MSNBC is known for its left-leaning coverage. In 2016, he was hired to host the daily program MSNBC Live and co-host the morning show Velshi & Ruhle.

Since the presidential election of Donald Trump, Velshi’s star has risen even higher. Many of his on-air exchanges with Trump surrogates have become viral video fodder. When President Trump falsely claimed that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada, Velshi was one of the first to jump in, pointing out that, “The United States, most definitely — this is just simple math — has a trade surplus with Canada.” In case any skeptics were confused, he went on to clarify: “Let me put it a different way. Canada buys more things from the United States than the United States buys from Canada — to the tune of $12.5 billion.”

During an exchange with Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin about the North Korean missile threat, the guest avoided discussing the Trump administration, focusing instead on the roles of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. “This is not a political game,” Velshi shot back. “This is about war. Can we get answers?”

For more information on Ali Velshi’s Wall Exchange lecture, go here.

Tickets are free but must be reserved.

The details

Ali Velshi will deliver the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Wall Exchange lecture on Wednesday, May 16, at the Vogue Theatre.

What: Ali Velshi: The Weaponization of Culture | Spring 2018 Wall Exchange
When: Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 7 p.m.
Where: The Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St., Vancouver, B.C.

This piece is a shortened version of one that appears here.  [Tyee]

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