An MSNBC anchor covering the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis appeared to sympathize with the lawlessness on display in a conversation with a Black Lives Matter activist captured on a hot mic.
MSNBC’s Ali Velshi provided live coverage to the network throughout the protests on Thursday night, with a concurrent livestream posted to YouTube. During a moment when Velshi was off camera, he can be heard on a hot mic captured in the YouTube stream discussing the night’s events with Ja’Mal Green, a Black Lives Matter activist and former Chicago mayoral candidate, who approached Velshi and introduced himself as someone “helping . . . lead” the protests.
Green and Velshi’s conversation, captured nearly two hours and 14 minutes into the livestream, shows Velshi agreeing with Green’s assessments of the rioting.
“People are angry and their reaction, you can’t be mad at them for it,” Green said, to which Velshi responded “yeah, because what does justice look like?”
“Why do I have to play by somebody’s rules if there’s no justice? . . . I hear you. I never want to see this, but that struck different, man,” Velshi continued. “I’ve been a reporter for 30 years almost, and people used to tell me ‘these stories don’t really happen, people don’t shoot people who aren’t armed, people don’t kill people who aren’t doing anything,’ and then all of a sudden cameras showed up. How many have we seen in one week? That woman in Central Park, Ahmaud Arbery . . . the question is what changes, what does it change, does this get anywhere or do people just let it burn.”
Green has been active on Twitter since the rioting began, and appeared on NBC’s Chicago affiliate Friday morning to comment on the protests, saying “unfortunately, the only time people want to pay attention is when folks are burning things down.”
Velshi’s conversation took place after rioters had breached the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct and set it ablaze upon a police withdrawal. Speaking to another unidentified bystander, Velshi said into the hot mic that he was “not feeling the menace” of the situation and that it did not “seem like a riot.”
“There’s always a group of people who take advantage of this kind of stuff, but that’s not it . . . that taking of the police station had a symbolic feel to it,” he claimed. “I mean that’s just an American city in 2020 and the police are not in control.”
He also appeared to be unaware that he was being recorded, saying “they keep taking our shots so I never know when I’m on duty and when I’m not.” Earlier in the evening, Velshi said on live television that “it is not, generally speaking, unruly” as he stood in front of a burning storefront.
MSNBC reporter just now: "I want to be clear on how I characterize this. This is mostly a protest. It is not generally speaking unruly."
The guy is literally standing in front of a burning building in the middle of a riot. pic.twitter.com/IzCV6On4sF
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) May 29, 2020
MSNBC did not return a request for comment on Velshi’s remarks.