Professor Luigi Zingales defended his decision to plan a debate with Steve Bannon at the University of Chicago, telling about 50 students at a town hall that he has valuable perspective on understanding Donald Trump's rise.

"In spite of the character of the guy, I think he was able to interpret and understand a feature of the American people that we, academics, missed," he said. "Everybody at the University of Chicago was shocked on November 7 when the results came in."

Zingales says Bannon has succeeded at selling a "pretty explosive combination of nationalism and a lack of democracy against globalization." As a researcher whose interests include populism and as the director of an academic center -- the Stigler Center, which hosts a variety of speakers -- he said he decided it would be productive to hear what Bannon has to say.

Zingales, a professor at the University's Booth School of Business, made clear that he is a hardline believer in trying to understand even the most outrageous ideologies.

Bannon, the former chief strategist to President Donald Trump and former Breitbart executive chairman, is an economic nationalist who has long advocated for greater restrictions on immigration.

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