New York activists have vented their anger at Steve Bannon, who appeared in a live debate set up by The Economist – a couple of weeks after the New Yorker abruptly withdrew his invitation to their own event.
Sporadic protests broke out on Saturday at the Open Future festival as Steve Bannon was interviewed via video link by Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist, which set up the event. The former Trump adviser has received an avalanche of criticism both offline and in social media.
As Bannon addressed the audience, protesters gathered around The Economist’s New York office, holding banners that read: “No platform for white supremacy!” and “Shame The Economist.”
Meanwhile, Bannon carried on with the interview, hailing prime-minister of Hungary Viktor Orban and Interior minister of Italy Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration Lega Nord.
Salvini rose to power on the back of anti-Muslim and Euroskeptic sentiments in Italy’s wealthy north, while Orban is famous for resisting Brussels’ “open-door” policy for refugees.
“I absolutely do not condemn Orban or what Salvini is doing. These individuals, these populist national movements across Europe, are trying to get the sovereignties of their countries back,” said Bannon.
The interview received a mixed response from viewers and listeners.
Some in the room stood up and challenged Bannon’s views.
Beddoes had defended her decision to invite Bannon to the Open Future in a statement published earlier in September. Bannon “stands for a world view that is antithetical to the liberal values,” it read, adding: “We asked him to take part because his populist nationalism is of grave consequence in today’s politics.”
“The future of open societies will not be secured by like-minded people speaking to each other in an echo chamber, but by subjecting ideas and individuals from all sides to rigorous questioning and debate,” Beddoes stated.
Earlier this month, the New Yorker magazine had invited Bannon to be a feature guest at their October festival, but later decided to withdraw his invitation. The magazine’s editor, David Remnick, later conceded that the festival was not the best format in which to interview Bannon, and that it could be done “in a more traditional journalistic setting.”