“This is who we are. This is why you watch,” reads the header of MSNBC’s Twitter account. Above it is a collage of tiny talking heads, all squeezed into the network logo: a curious display that provokes more questions than answers. Who, in fact, are “we”? And why do you watch?
The obvious message is that these eighteen people possess characteristics that will persuade you to choose MSNBC over other networks. But it’s anybody’s guess what those characteristics might be. The network actively discourages consideration of its anchors’ personal convictions or their individual qualities of character or intellect. The image presents them as equivalent. Indeed, they often host one another’s shows. It has a Hollywood Squares feel to it. These are miniaturized, interchangeable “television personalities,” replaceable parts, compressed into the network’s identity and subservient to it.
MSNBC’s bland, evenhanded respectability is buttressed with a careful performance of diversity both “ideological” and demographic, also visible in the Twitter logo. Eight women, ten men. One Black woman and one Black man. One Ismaili Muslim of Gujarati Indian descent at the bottom right corner. (Speaking of religious observance, a surprising proportion of MSNBC’s anchors were raised Catholic and/or attended Catholic high schools—eight, by my reckoning.)
The differences between these hosts matter a lot. Their character and background affect how each sees and understands the world, with meaningful consequences for all who watch.
Let’s start at the top. Joe Scarborough: Age fifty-six. Pensacola Catholic High School. BA, history, University of Alabama; JD, University of Florida. For a few months in 1993, Scarborough represented Michael F. Griffith, the murderer of abortion provider David Gunn.
Three marriages, four kids (plus two from his wife and cohost Mika Brzezinski’s former marriage); lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, just like Brian Williams. Salary: a rumored $8 million.
A few of MSNBC’s top eighteen have served in government in some capacity, but Scarborough is a former congressman, having served as the Republican representative for FL-1 from 1995 to 2001. In 2000 he received a 95 rating from the American Conservative Union, organizers of CPAC. While in Congress he supported eliminating the Department of Education and voted against a minimum wage increase. He supported the curtailment of reproductive rights and voted to cut off AIDS funding for the Ryan White Act.
This history provides context for Scarborough’s negative reaction to the boos and spontaneous chants of “Lock him up!” that sprang up in the massive crowd at Nationals Park in Washington, DC, during game five of the World Series, when Donald Trump’s image appeared on the big screen.
“We are Americans and we do not do that,” Scarborough said loftily. “We do not want the world hearing us chant ‘Lock him up’ to this president or to any president.” (“Startling and sad,” agreed Brzezinski. “Horrible.”) Scarborough equated the scene with the chants of “Lock her up!” aimed at Hillary Clinton at Trump rallies since 2016, and as recently as a few days ago. Scarborough condemned both chants in the same breath, noting no distinction between a politician deliberately stoking anger against his opponent and a spontaneous cry of defiance that rose up, leaderless, in a crowd of forty thousand people.
Scarborough’s response fared poorly on Twitter. Many who are quite as American as he, it appeared, want very much for the world to hear them shouting “Lock him up.”
Given his evident distaste for the whole rude-chanting deal, I was surprised to find no evidence that Scarborough had ever condemned the chants of “Lock her up!” against Clinton before now. I asked the network if it could provide any earlier remarks he’d made on the subject, and received no response.
But another host (the one in the middle of the C in the logo up there) felt differently.
That's not what you said. You said "lock her up." You praised "Red blooded Americans" after Jewish blood was spilled in a Pittsburgh synagogue. You amused yourself with poisonous language. Have you no decency? https://t.co/AbKZ9BnpM6
— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) October 29, 2018
— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) March 11, 2017
Lawrence O’Donnell: Age sixty-eight. Born in Boston. St. Sebastian’s School, Needham, MA (the school was in Newton back then); BA, economics, Harvard. First a writer, and later, the “powerful, even feared” legislative aide and staff director for Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, for whom he worked from 1989 to 1995. O’Donnell was married to film star Kathryn Harrold, who starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1986 action movie Raw Deal; one daughter; divorced in 2013. Lives in New York. Salary: a rumored $5 million. Loves motorcycles, even though he once totaled a beloved Norton and stayed away from them for a few years. Used to tool around DC on a Harley.
O’Donnell wrote for, produced, and acted in the NBC series The West Wing. He also acted in the detective series Monk and in HBO’s Big Love. He is notoriously hot-tempered. Nearly a decade ago on Morning Joe, in a lively defense of the big-picture wisdom of electing conservative Blue Dog Democrats, O’Donnell shouted at journalist Glenn Greenwald: “I am a socialist. I live to the extreme left, the extreme left of you mere liberals, okay?” A dyed-in-the-wool Hollywood leftist; a “limousine liberal,” one might say.
And in contrast to Scarborough, O’Donnell responded to the World Series “Lock him up” chant by saying, “There is a big difference between ‘Lock him up’ and ‘Lock her up’: none of the people chanting ‘Lock him up’ are running for president.”
There’s little evidence of socialist leanings on The Last Word, O’Donnell’s show on MSNBC. But if he doesn’t quite appear to “live to the extreme left” of Greenwald, O’Donnell’s political history is certainly to the left of Scarborough’s.
Scarborough’s history suggests a lifelong propensity to defend power and wealth over egalitarian principles; O’Donnell was a Beltway firebrand, partly inside the “pragmatist” political establishment, and partly outside it. It’s entirely unsurprising that he is less inclined than Scarborough to bow down to establishment power.
It’s also useful, and gratifying, to note that MSNBC’s journalists do not march in lockstep, as many on the right would have us believe.
Mika Brzezinski: Age fifty-two. Alumna of the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, the ruling-class all-girls alma mater of Brooke Astor and Katharine Graham. BA, English, Williams College. Brzezinski’s father is the famed Polish-American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser; with Carter and David Rockefeller, he cofounded the Trilateral Commission. Through her mother, Brzezinski is related to former Czech president Edvard Beneš. Mika Brzezinski has been a VIP all her life.
She divorced her husband of twenty-two years, Jim Hoffer, in 2016, amid rumors of a long-standing affair with Scarborough, to whom she became engaged the following year. They’ll be celebrating their one-year anniversary soon; their wedding took place on November 24, 2018, in the National Archives, with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings officiating.
“Mika is liberal in some areas, she’s also conservative in areas that would surprise you on social issues,” Scarborough once told HuffPo. “She’s pro-life and pro-guns.”
Scarborough’s band, the Independent Counsel of Funk, features Brzezinski and several of the Morning Joe gang in the video for their latest single, “Blue Dawn.” They’re trying to get to the studio super early in the morning and having ever so many wacky mishaps along the way. Brzezinski also appears in the video for “Mystified” (2017), a Cars-esque pop tune about the lamentable state of the world. Salary: rumored to be the equal of Scarborough’s, $8 million. (N.B. I can’t verify these figures, but there’s a certain consistency to the estimates floating around online.)
Willie Geist: Age forty-four. Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood, NJ (basketball, football); BA, political science and French, Vanderbilt University; Phi Delta Theta. Judge, Miss USA Pageant, 2009. Started his career as a sports journalist at CNN. Described by his Morning Joe cohost Joe Scarborough as a “dead in the center” independent, the accuracy of which assessment may be judged by the fact that Geist began at MSNBC in 2005 as a producer for Tucker Carlson, on whose show he could be found snickering at Rosie O’Donnell’s body and praising Donald Trump.
Writes jocular dad-joke humor books, including one with his own actual dad, Bill, a retired CBS newsman. Voice of Sum, opposite Al Roker’s Dim, in Kung Fu Panda 3. Married to middle school sweetheart Christina; two children. Lives in New York City and Lewisboro, NY. Salary: a rumored $5 million.
Andrea Mitchell: Age seventy-two. New Rochelle High School; BA, English, University of Pennsylvania. Married, since 1997, to former Federal Reserve chief Alan “I have found a flaw” Greenspan, now 93, a lifelong disciple of Ayn Rand. Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated at their wedding, at which the groom (whom Mitchell calls “sweet pea,” according to a humdinger of a report in the Post) “surprised and delighted the 75 guests at the conclusion of the vows by planting a long, long kiss on his new wife, coming up for air, then doing it all over again.”
Mitchell is a registered Democrat. Also a breast cancer survivor, a personal history that made for riveting coverage of the 2012 Komen Foundation scandal, in which the breast cancer charity came under political fire for cutting ties with Planned Parenthood. She has been at NBC since 1978, and is now chief foreign correspondent. Was once grabbed by security guards and kicked out of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s press conference in Khartoum, because he didn’t like the cut of her jib regarding militias in Darfur. Lives in Washington, DC.
Brian Williams: Age sixty. Mater Dei High School, Middletown, NJ. Dropped out of George Washington University to intern in the Carter White House. Not so long ago Williams was the king of broadcast news, bristling with honors (“over a dozen Emmy Awards, eleven Edward R. Murrow Awards, four DuPont-Columbia University Awards, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism and the industry’s highest honor, the George Foster Peabody Award”), with a viewership regularly exceeding ten million on NBC. He has had a long, hard climb back on MSNBC since his fall from grace four years ago, for lying about having come under fire in a military helicopter during the Iraq War.
Williams, along with Nicolle Wallace, has the coveted distinction of “beating” his Fox News competitors on a regular basis, making each the most watched show in its time slot. Which might not matter so much, per se, to viewers or readers, but is the absolute obsession of television news professionals and their paymasters. In general Williams comes across like a corporate product, obedient to power, though without Scarborough’s authoritarian bent. He lives in New Canaan, CT; married since 1986. Two children, including actor Allison Williams (Girls; Get Out). Salary: “close to $10 million per year,” even after the scandal.
Stephanie Ruhle: Age forty-three. Park Ridge High School, Park Ridge, NJ; BA, international business, Lehigh University. Formerly in hedge fund sales at Deutsche Bank; met husband, fellow hedgie Andy Hubbard, on her first day at Credit Suisse. Joined Bloomberg in 2011. With two other reporters, Ruhle broke the market-rattling story of “London Whale” Bruno Iksil, the rogue trader who would eventually cost JPMorgan more than $6 billion (yes, billion) in losses.
Ruhle is a practicing Catholic. Her mother, Louise Ruhle, voted for Trump, and Ruhle brought her on set to do one of those Hey, Here’s a Trump Voter segments. “Do a better job,” Mrs. Ruhle told Trump when she got on the air. This was in October of 2017, so her plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Three children. Lives in a four-story townhouse on the Upper East Side.
Chris Matthews: Age seventy-three. Graduate of the all-boys Catholic La Salle College High School, Wyndmoor, PA; BA, College of the Holy Cross; graduate work in economics, UNC. Peace Corps, Swaziland, 1968–70. San Francisco Examiner Washington bureau chief for thirteen years.
Matthews is by now entirely a creature of the Beltway, barrel-aged for many decades in DC politics. He is still, as Alex Pareene said long ago, one of television’s “most fascinating and watchable personalities,” though he is constantly putting his foot in it, with misogynist talk in particular his apparent specialty; in 1999 the network paid severance to a woman staffer after Matthews made “inappropriate jokes.” Matthews also called Hillary Clinton “a she-devil” and once joked about knocking her out with a “Bill Cosby pill.” He had to apologize for that.
He began his Washington career as a cop (US Capitol Police). He was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, and for six years worked as chief of staff to Speaker Tip O’Neill, whom he is still obviously crazy about. Matthews believes deeply and sentimentally in the bipartisan collegiality of his early career in Washington, a state of affairs he seems to think is still both desirable and replicable. His show Hardball has been on TV for twenty years and more. We used to call him “Tweety”; I don’t know why that fell out of fashion.
Matthews calls himself a liberal, but he voted for Bush in 2000. Calls himself a centrist; famously said he felt a thrill going up his leg when he heard Obama speak. He recently underwent surgery for prostate cancer, for which the prognosis seems good, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Three kids, including actor Thomas Matthews (The Newsroom). Lives with his wife, Kathleen, a former Marriott executive and onetime chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, in Chevy Chase, MD. Rumored salary: in the neighborhood of $5 million.
Rachel Maddow: Age forty-six. Castro Valley High School, Castro Valley, CA. BA, Stanford, public policy; PhD, Oxford, political science (Rhodes scholar). Maddow was raised in a strict Catholic family and suffered lasting trauma when, as a newly arrived freshman, she was outed as gay by the Stanford University paper before she’d had a chance to tell her parents. Maddow was an activist from an early age, volunteering for ACT UP as a teen. Her poise and intellectual and ethical firepower were evident even then, as you can see in this 1990 video of her high school graduation speech (come for the long blonde hair, stay for the soaring oratory!).
The Rachel Maddow Show sees the most traffic on MSNBC each night: 3.38 million viewers on a recent Wednesday, for example, beating Hannity, who’d given most of his show over to a Trump rally.
She has been mocked for overselling the Trump/Russia conspiracy, especially by those who don’t wish to let Hillary Clinton off the hook for her own failures as a candidate in 2016. Obviously, there aren’t mutually exclusive explanations for Clinton’s loss.
Maddow is a moderate Democrat; she’s compared herself to an “Eisenhower Republican.” A 2011 Hollywood Reporter profile said she delivers the news “with agenda, but not hysteria.” This is the common ground between all of MSNBC’s top eighteen, I think: a mannerliness that politely blurs stark differences.
Rachel Maddow struggles with cyclical depression. She likes to fish. E! Online has reported that she makes $7 million. Her partner of many years is the artist Susan Mikula; they live on the Upper West Side and in West Cummington, MA.
Joy Reid: Age fifty. Montbello High School, Denver; BA, documentary film, Harvard. Reid has yet to fully recover from a massive scandal in 2018 regarding the discovery of homophobic slurs she’d posted to her old 2007 blog, The Reid Report. These included attacks on ex–Florida governor Charlie Crist (calling him “Miss Charlie,” etc.). She apologized on the air for her “insensitive, tone-deaf, and dumb” remarks.
But the real trouble began shortly thereafter, when—as journalists continued to dig through the archives, and objectionable old posts continued to surface—Reid suddenly claimed she hadn’t written them, or some of them, and announced that her old blog must have been hacked. Cybersecurity expert Kevin Poulsen of the Daily Beast annihilated Reid’s hacking allegations point by point, and the Daily Beast suspended her column there.
But MSNBC, where Reid hosts the weekend morning AM Joy show, decided to ride out the storm. Like the similarly disgraced Williams, Reid has worked hard on her comeback. Hers is a leading voice in the Black community, and she is a vivid and insightful analyst. But forcing her fellow Democrats, in some sense, to choose between their ethics and their loyalty to a sister has damaged Reid’s credibility, and until this disconnect is addressed directly, a shadow will remain. Married since 1997 to Discovery Channel editor Jason Reid; three kids; lives in her native Brooklyn.
Nicolle Wallace: Age forty-seven. Miramonte High School, Orinda, CA; BA, mass communications, UC Berkeley; MA, journalism, Northwestern. Describes herself as a “non-practicing Republican.” But it is safe to say that Wallace has already practiced a lifetime’s worth, as onetime White House communications director to George W. Bush and minder for Sarah Palin; she also worked on the Florida recount in 2000.
It’s true that Wallace shows open contempt for the current president nearly every day: “[T]he emperor is buck-ass naked,” she remarked when Trump traveled to North Korea with daughter Ivanka. This salty language gets her a lot of mileage, but Wallace was a Bush loyalist through and through, and the anti-Trump rhetoric generally strikes me as a long-term project to whitewash non-Trumpist Republicans in hopes of some future rehabilitation. Wallace’s revulsion has not extended, so far as I can tell, to an explicit condemnation of Abu Ghraib (“the things that the government had to do”) or any of the myriad horrors of the Iraq War, or to a candid acknowledgment that her old bosses lied the world into a failed war at the cost of trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives.
Thus Wallace’s work at MSNBC is hampered by the both-sidesist notions of Bush-era Republicans, rhetorical techniques developed back when it was enough, when it was acceptable, to describe US politics as “debate” in warm and fuzzy terms, a strategy that is no longer tenable. Wallace’s manners are immaculate, to be sure, to all her eminent colleagues on “both sides.”
She recently divorced Mark Wallace, her husband of fourteen years; he is a businessman and fellow veteran of the Bush 2000 Florida recount effort. Wallace is said to be dating a frequent guest on her show, New York Times writer Michael S. Schmidt. She and her ex have one son; before the divorce, they lived in Roxbury, CT.
Chris Hayes: Age forty. Hunter College High School, New York; BA, philosophy, Brown (also did some theater in college, alongside classmate John Krasinski). Bronx-born, Irish-Italian; his middle name is Loffredo, his Italian mother’s maiden name; his maternal grandfather had an Italian deli on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
Hayes is the most openly progressive of MSNBC’s top eighteen—he came up as a journalist through In These Times and The Nation—and the only MSNBC anchor to have focused consistently on the climate crisis, his signature issue. Made significant waves by being the first to comment on NBC’s quashing of Ronan Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein story, as revealed in the New Yorker writer’s recent book Catch and Kill.
Hayes plays it cool on the air; he may raise an eyebrow at most, even when he’s really angry or shocked, like the time he was pelted with rocks during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. A small thing, you might say; it wasn’t that many rocks, and none of them really connected. But it demonstrates how his style of handling conflict makes for a huge contrast with the Trumpian or Fox News house style of incitement and perma-rage.
Married since 2007 to Kate Shaw, whom he met at Brown. She is a law professor and Supreme Court expert whom Hayes describes as “the most accomplished person in our household.”
Loves good food, watches his figure. An “egg salad guy,” according to Grub Street, and that fits. American, reliable, not the fanciest but intrinsically good. Lives in Brooklyn; three children.
Chuck Todd: Age forty-seven. Miami Killian Senior High School; dropout in political science/music (French horn scholarship) from George Washington University. Todd’s rise through the profession was meteoric: editor of Washington daily The Hotline; handpicked by Tim Russert to join NBC as political director; NBC’s chief White House correspondent. Five years ago ascended to what is arguably the summit of political punditry on television, the host’s chair at Meet the Press.
More than maybe any other inhabitant of the MSNBC logo, Chuck Todd is his job. Which partly explains his abiding unpopularity with audiences, who reckon he’s an insider with no outside, an absolute centrist of the corporate establishment, blinkered by process and unable to connect with the world, trapped in the cable news bubble.
Consider his mystifying reaction to the recent news of billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s possible entry into the Democratic primary: “Guns and climate? Who’s to his left?”—a response so weirdly ill-attuned to the relevant facts that it stunned his fellow panelists into a stammering near silence.
Todd is so deferential to power that he can’t even bring himself to condemn Trump to his own kids, though the president has insulted him repeatedly and personally, once calling him “a sleeping son of a bitch.” “I bring my kids up to respect the office of the presidency and the president,” he told News4. “I don’t allow them to say anything negative, ever, about the president.” Strange and unsettling notions, coming from a professional political analyst. Lives with his wife, Kristian, and two children in Arlington, VA.
Craig Melvin: Age forty. Columbia High School, SC. BA, government, Wofford College. A born broadcast journalist, he won an AP award while still in high school, as an “Our Generation” reporter for local station WIS; the story was about his unconventional social studies teacher Mike Fanning, who dressed in costume to teach history. Melvin’s dad was a postal clerk for forty-one years. Amid the MSNBC logo’s mad parade of wild passions, runaway ambition, and crazy scandals, Melvin’s mild, old-fashioned charm is a little breathtaking. (“I sang in the choir because my maternal grandmother was in the choir and I wanted to hang out with her.”)
Bill Clinton once yelled at Melvin for asking him tough questions about Monica Lewinsky during a book tour, such as: Had he ever apologized to Lewinsky? “It wasn’t my finest hour,” the former president later admitted of his outburst. Melvin married ESPN anchor Lindsay Czarniak in 2011; two children; lives in Westport, CT. Loves plants.
Katy Tur: Age thirty-five. Graduate of Brentwood School, a private high school where a lot of Hollywood families send their kids; alums include members of Maroon 5, Jonah Hill, and the late Andrew Breitbart. BA, philosophy, UC Santa Barbara. Tur is the daughter of highly decorated Los Angeles helicopter reporters Marika Gerrard and Zoey Tur, who was born Robert Tur. Zoey describes the family as “Jewish in culture, but not observant” and describes how she took Katy to visit concentration camps and to the former headquarters of the Gestapo so that she’d have “a real sense of history.” (Zoey Tur is a thoroughly mind-blowing journalist and personality, responsible for the helicopter footage of Reginald Denny’s beating in Los Angeles as well as the O.J. Simpson white-Bronco chase footage. Katy and Zoey Tur were estranged for some time, though the cause is disputed, and they eventually reconciled.)
Katy Tur’s biggest claim to fame so far is that Donald Trump took against her like the complete weirdo he is during his 2016 campaign. He called her “Little Katy,” a “third-rate journalist,” and so on—a novel kind of hostility, back in the days before Trump had taken against all journalists en masse. (“Katy, you’re not reporting it, Katy. But there’s something happening, Katy. There’s something happening, Katy.”) The pointedly specific taunts against Tur in Trump’s angry rally crowds freaked the network out enough that it assigned her a security detail.
She is married to CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil, has a baby son, lives in New York, and is crazy about Phish.
Ari Melber: Age thirty-nine. Garfield High, Seattle; BA, political science, University of Michigan; JD, Cornell. Staffer for John Kerry’s 2004 campaign, first in Iowa and then as California deputy political director. Melber told CJR in 2014 that when he learned that Kerry had lost, he wept so hard that he had to pull the car over. Next stop, law school, and a stint at Cahill Gordon & Reindel as the right-hand man of First Amendment superstar Floyd Abrams, from 2009 to 2013.
Melber emerged from this trial by fire a remarkably effective interviewer—and a registered independent. His veins appear to contain ice water; he betrays no emotion at all, not even when speaking with Jerome Corsi—an experience that would have the eyeballs of many popping out on stalks, even if they hadn’t worked for the Kerry campaign (Corsi having been a key architect of the dastardly Swift Boat attack against Kerry).
For the most part the sangfroid serves Melber perfectly, though once in a while one might welcome a hint of the passion or outrage that often characterizes the broadcasts of O’Donnell, Wallace, and Maddow.
Melber is a keen scholar of rap and hip-hop music. Blavity approves of his skill at choosing apposite lyrics to quote in a story, and Bill Kristol approves of his substantive approach to legal issues. A curious character. He married Observer pop culture reporter Drew Grant in 2013, divorced 2017. Lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
Hallie Jackson: Age thirty-five. Pennsbury High School, Fairless Hills, PA (forensics team); BA, political science, Johns Hopkins. Jackson has by far the lightest internet footprint of any major media star I’ve ever seen. She orders a hoagie and mac and cheese at Wawa when she goes home to Pennsylvania, she says. The only readily available tabloid article on Jackson is about her taste for traveling with packs of baby food, so she can get her fruits and veggies when she’s on the road. She has an extremely cute dog, Dawkins.
My main purpose in undertaking this long analysis of the MSNBC Twitter logo was to give a human dimension to each of the “personalities,” with a view to demonstrating the difference that even a little context makes to understanding their work. But after an inexplicably fruitless investigation of Jackson, I failed to unearth any such context, to the point where I started to wonder whether a Voight-Kampff test might not be in order.
As chief White House correspondent since 2017, Jackson so far maintains an undistinguished record; she was content merely to transcribe Trump’s recent Twitter gloating over the demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for example, explaining that the president “clearly wanted to talk, share” without mentioning the possibility that what he mainly wanted to do was lie.
Jackson married Douglas Hitchner in 2011; he caught for the Hopkins baseball team, finishing his four-year career with a .292 average, five home runs, and forty-six runs batted in. They live in the DC area.
Ali Velshi: Age fifty. Born in Nairobi, raised in Toronto. Northern Secondary School, Toronto; BA, religious studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Velshi is a Muslim of Gujarati descent, whose father, Murad Velshi, began as a master baker in his native South Africa and later became a Canadian politician.
I often find the best way to evaluate a financial reporter’s work is to look back a few years. A brief survey indicates that Velshi’s instincts have been excellent across the board, q.v. this interview he gave Arabic Knowledge@Wharton in 2011 (“If you have money and you have the ability to borrow, you will first of all likely never see rates as low as they are right now.… If I could afford to buy 10 houses across America right now with 20% down, I would do that…because if I regard them as long term investments, the interest rate alone, regardless of the appreciation of the asset, I’ll win on that”).
Though he has a fine résumé (CNN, Al Jazeera; noted reporting on Katrina and on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, in addition to finance), Velshi’s greatest asset to MSNBC goes politely unmentioned: he is a gently self-deprecating Muslim of great patience and insight, who couches much of his analysis in the neutral perspective of business, with a lighthearted spin. “I look like a boiled egg,” he once lamented to an interviewer, vastly downplaying his even-tempered charisma. He’s a very good Twitterer; he “has fun with it,” as in this recent retweet from Samantha Bee mocking his show’s awkward guest lead-in style.
“I actually AM a Kenyan-born Muslim,” reads his Twitter profile. At a time when Fox is actively stoking Islamophobia, the mere sight of Velshi silkily reporting alongside Stephanie Ruhle is of incalculable value just as a counterweight, presenting sanity against insanity. “I’m a nonpartisan, equal-opportunity fact checker,” Velshi has said. He’s not above giving people what for if they’re disrespecting facts, though.
Velshi has been married since 2009 to Lori Wachs, partner in Springboard Growth Capital, whom he met when she was a guest on his show. She has two children from a former marriage. They split their time between Bryn Mawr, PA, and New York City.
Editors note: CJR has appointed its own outside public editors for four vital news outlets — The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC — that currently lack any public ombudsman. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Any messages will be treated as off-the-record unless otherwise agreed.)