MSNBC news anchor Richard Lui visited UCR on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at INTS 1109 to discuss the 2016 elections and his beginnings in journalism. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Karthick Ramakrishnan, the dean of UCR’s School of Public Policy, which sponsored the event.
Lui engaged the attendees by opening up discussion and directly conversing with audience members. He started off by asking their names, majors and plans for their postgraduate career.
Afterward, he moved into his first talking point about the New Hampshire primary and the implication of the results, asking audience members who they thought would come out as number one and what they thought the second and third place results would tell us. Audience members answered unanimously that they thought Donald Trump would come in as number one for the Republicans.
The discussion then moved to the Democrats with Lui saying of the New Hampshire results, “Is it going to be a 25 percentage-point win by Bernie Sanders or is it going to be 21 or 29 … The larger the gap would show that Hillary Clinton’s perceived win in Iowa did not have the legs that her campaign thought it would, going into New Hampshire.” Lui emphasized that the results in the South Carolina and Nevada primaries should be paid closer attention to as they are indicators for how diverse sections of the electorate will vote.
Lui answered the questions he posed earlier in the event saying of Republican senator Marco Rubio’s theorized second- or third-place win, “It would show that the energy for someone like him of a diverse background of a story of difficulty and adversity that he grew through … is now being accepted on a wider level even after the robotic answer he gave at the debate,” referring to the repeated attack on Barack Obama that Rubio was called out for by ex-presidential candidate Chris Christie.
Of Republican senator Ted Cruz he said, “If you see him do well it shows that he has legs outside of non-evangelical bastions.” Focusing on Trump and his high polling numbers, Lui elucidated, “Nobody has underperformed to the great degree as Trump did in Iowa. He underperformed by 6 to 8 percentage points which is in the last 20 years the greatest underperformance.” Lui continued that if Trump hits below 29 to 31 percent, “It shows that all of these national polling numbers, we have to question them.”
The results of the Republican and Democratic New Hampshire primaries were as some in the audience had speculated with Trump in first place with 35.3 percent for the Republicans, second being John Kasich with 15.5 percent and third being Jeb Bush with 11.7 percent. For the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders came in first with 60.4 percent, Hillary Clinton in second with 38 percent and Martin O’Malley who placed third with .3 percent, but suspended his campaign after a less than stellar turnout in the Iowa caucuses.
Ramakrishnan interjected and asked for Lui to share his upbringing and his beginning in journalism. Lui spoke about his early aversion to education saying, “I hated school. I almost got kicked out of my first high school because I didn’t go to class and almost flunked twice.” A chance meeting and agreement with the principal allowed him to graduate on time.
After high school Liu said he couldn’t find the practicality in going to college and thought of it as a “waste of time” as well as being too expensive for his family to afford as he grew up on welfare and food stamps. He skipped out on college and took up a job working for Mrs. Field’s Cookies and quickly rose in the ranks. In his first five years he excelled in sales and managed the largest store of the 600 or so stores that operate in the country, also becoming the youngest person at the age of 18 to run the regional training center.
“That was my early sort of structure of thinking things out. I needed to do it for myself and I needed to make sure it had value,” explained Lui. Though he was proud of his time spent at Mrs. Field’s Cookies, he realized, “I wasn’t going to be able to sell cookies for the rest of my life.” After resigning his position, he spent the next two years at City College in San Francisco where he joined the speech team and later transferred to UC Berkeley where he earned his bachelor of arts in rhetoric. He worked at several start-up companies that focused on ground water remediation and data recovery. Eventually he applied to the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan.
The next business endeavor he would pursue was with Citibank, which relocated him to Singapore. His objective for going to business school was to work at a Fortune 500 company or another start-up company but his interest in journalism led him elsewhere. Lui professed his love for education, stating, “It tears down your assumptions … I love when I learn something new and I can destroy my dominant hypothesis because what that means is that my new hypothesis — on what I want to do — is better. So, always be open to that.”
After he “rejiggered” his life’s “dominant hypothesis,” he landed his first job in broadcast journalism in 2002 with Channel News Asia in Singapore or what he described as the “CNN for Asia.” Through the networking he did in Singapore, the experience he gained, and with help from his agent, Lui landed his first job in the United States at CNN from 2004 to 2009 where he anchored “Morning Express.”
In 2010 he joined MSNBC and he’s been a dayside anchor ever since. “I wanted to be more involved in politics and the UN … I’ve always sort of approached my career since business school an obligation, not only to myself but to others and to my community,” he said.