Rock singer and motivational speaker Andrew W.K. said Monday he was stunned by both his invitation to visit Bahrain as a cultural ambassador and the sudden cancellation of the trip last week by the U.S. State Department.
“As I understood it, Bahrain was very excited about this trip,” he told MSNBC host Alex Wagner. “And they’re not the ones that canceled this, it was actually the State Department, at the last second, who had a change of heart, and I don’t know why.”
W.K., who had a brief hit single with “Party Hard” in 2001, said he was “as shocked as anyone” when the department contacted him in September 2011. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said an “Bahraini entity,” which she did not name, had contacted the department about co-sponsoring his visit, but that upon further review, “more senior management” deemed it inappropriate.
The cancellation, W.K. wrote on his website Nov. 27, came down less than six hours after he got his official itinerary.
W.K., born Andrew Wilkes-Krier, also told Wagner that the booking was less about his singing than his second career as a motivational speaker; he planned to spread his “positive party” philosophy about celebrating life as best one can, which won unlikely support from a member of Wagner’s panel, former Republican National Committee head Michael Steele, who said W.K. probably made department personnel nervous, as would anyone who had “a little bit of an edge” to them.
“That doesn’t change the fact that you need to make that reach,” Steele said. “Because how you start to change things diplomatically is culturally, and that’s where the passion is.”
Watch W.K. discuss the failed trip to Bahrain with Wagner and her panel, as aired Monday on MSNBC, below.