Trump rips James’ smarts be­fore Ohio rally

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JONATHAN LEMIRE

Ahead of cam­paign­ing in Ohio on Satur­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump un­leashed a with­er­ing at­tack on the state’s fa­vorite son, sav­aging NBA star 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 ap­peared James was “work­ing to do good things on be­half of our next gen­er­a­tion” and that the first lady would be open to vis­it­ing his new school for at-risk chil­dren. The state­ment didn’t crit­i­cize the pres­i­dent.

Trump blasted James late Fri­day af­ter an in­ter­view aired 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 tweet was Trump’s first at­tack on the player, who just opened a school for un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren in his home­town of Akron.

The tweet also came hours be­fore Trump trav­eled to Colum­bus, Ohio, for a rally north of town in sup­port of the Repub­li­can in a spe­cial U.S. House elec­tion Tues­day, turn­ing his crit­i­cism of James into an at­tack on a fa­vorite son of the state.

“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 cur­rent pro­fes­sional ath­letes, in­clud­ing Jor­dan, jumped to James’ de­fense.

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“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 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. He rou­tinely deems Demo­cratic Rep. Max­ine Wa­ters of Cal­i­for­nia, who is also black, as “low IQ” – an in­sult he re­peated dur­ing the Ohio rally Satur­day night.

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, called the “I Prom­ise” school. Ev­ery stu­dent re­ceives free tu­ition, 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 the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s forced­fam­ily-sep­a­ra­tions pol­icy and Mrs. 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.

James played for more than a decade – in two stints – with the Cleve­land Cava­liers and de­liv­ered a ti­tle to the cham­pi­onship­starved re­gion in 2016. Although he de­parted for the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers this sum­mer, the su­per­star re­mains very pop­u­lar in the Buck­eye State, and Trump’s at­tack could be a gift for the Demo­crat in Tues­day’s spe­cial con­gres­sional race.

“I don’t have to tell *any­one* what Le­Bron James means to Ohio,” tweeted Demo­crat Danny O’Connor, who was run­ning against state Sen. Troy Balder­son.

The White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest to clar­ify Trump’s re­marks. But even some Trump al­lies chided him.

Jour­nal­ist and Trump con­fi­dant Ger­aldo Rivera broke with the pres­i­dent to say he wished Trump “turned other cheek re @KingJames & @don­le­mon While I dis­agree with their con­clu­sion that @POTUS is us­ing sports to di­vide Amer­ica along racial lines, they’re both sin­cere & in­tel­li­gent men. Le­Bron just pledged mil­lions for a school for un­der­priv­i­leged kids.”

Along with Jor­dan, other ath­letes spoke out in sup­port of James.

Pro Foot­ball Hall of Famer Shan­non Sharpe tweeted: “It should be be­neath the dig­nity of a sit­ting POTUS to take racist shots at D. Lemon and Le­bron James.” NBA player Karl-An­thony Towns wrote: “So let me get this straight: Flint, MI has dirty wa­ter still, but you wor­ried about an in­ter­view about a man do­ing good for ed­u­ca­tion and gen­er­a­tions of kids in his home­town?”

Be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics, Trump fre­quently praised James, and his own fam­ily tried to re­cruit him to the New York Knicks in 2010. But com­ment­ing on some­one’s in­tel­li­gence, in­clud­ing his own, has long been a Trump trope. He has been crit­i­cized for com­pli­ment­ing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (“smart cookie”) and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin (”very smart”) and has been known to praise him­self as “a very stable ge­nius.”

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WHO’S THE REAL DUMMY? A MAN WHO PUTS KIDS IN CLASS­ROOMS OR ONE WHO PUTS KIDS IN CAGES? #BEBEST

Tweet from CNN an­chor Don Lemon

PHIL LONG AP

Le­Bron James earned the wrath of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump late Fri­day af­ter an in­ter­view re-aired in which the NBA star was crit­i­cal of the pres­i­dent. CNN an­chor Don Lemon “made Le­bron look smart, which isn’t easy to do,” Trump tweeted.

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