Trump rips Le­Bron James’ smarts hours be­fore rally in Ohio

The Western Star - - FOCUS N STEPHENVIL­LE -

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.

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