Trump rips LeBron James’ smarts hours before rally in Ohio
Ahead of campaigning in Ohio on Saturday, President Donald Trump unleashed a withering attack on the state’s favourite son, savaging LeBron James in a late-night tweet that derided the intelligence of one of the nation’s most prominent African-American men.
Melania Trump’s spokeswoman quickly distanced the first lady from the criticism of James, saying in a statement Saturday afternoon that it appears James is “working to do good things on behalf of our next generation’’ and that the first lady would be open to visiting his new school. The statement doesn’t criticize the president.
Trump blasted James after seemingly watching an interview the former Cleveland Cavaliers star did earlier in the week with CNN anchor Don Lemon in which he deemed Trump divisive. Although James has long been a Trump critic, calling the president “U bum’’ in a 2017 tweet, the Friday night tweet was Trump’s first attack on the player, who just opened up a school for underprivileged children in his hometown of Akron.
“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,’’ Trump posted. “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.’’
Trump then, unexpectedly, appeared to weigh in on the growing debate over who is the greatest NBA player of all time, James or Michael Jordan, by writing “I like Mike!’’
Many former and professional athletes, current including Jordan, jumped to James’ defence.
“I support LeBron James. He’s doing an amazing job for his community,’’ Jordan said in a statement to The Associated Press through his representative via text Saturday.
Trump, who was features at a Saturday evening rally for a fellow Republican outside Columbus, has long denounced the media — CNN in particular — and rarely lets a slight go unnoticed.
But the attack on James, who was being interviewed by another black man, to some resembled a racial dog whistle and came just days after Trump deemed Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who is also black, as “low IQ’’ during a screed at a rally in Pennsylvania.
Ohio Gov. Josh Kasich, a Republican who at times criticizes Trump, tweeted: “Rather than criticizing ?KingJames, we should be celebrating him for his charity work and efforts to help kids.’’
Trump has repeatedly been questioned about his views on race, from deeming many Mexican immigrants “rapists’’ during his campaign kickoff speech for the Republican presidential nomination to placing blame on “both sides’’ for the violent clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, a year ago.
James, who campaigned for Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and has not been shy about using his celebrity for social causes, did the interview from the public school he opened for at-risk kids in Akron, called the “I Promise’’ school. Every student receives free tuition, as well as free food, a uniform and even a free bike.
In the interview, James said he “would never sit across’’ from Trump, though he would talk to former President Barack Obama. James’ publicist declined to respond to Trump’s tweet, but early Saturday afternoon, James retweeted a post from the “I Promise’’ school and said, “Let’s get it kids!! Love you guys.’’
Lemon responded to the president, invoking both the administration’s forced-familyseparations policy and first lady Melania Trump’s social media etiquette campaign.
“Who’s the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages? #BeBest’’ Lemon tweeted.