Trump launches attack on LeBron James hours before rally in Ohio
The president derided the intelligence of the NBA star and philanthropist in a late-night tweet.
US president Donald Trump has unleashed a withering attack on Ohio’s favourite son, NBA star LeBron James, hours before taking part in a campaign rally in the state.
Mr Trump derided the intelligence of one of the nation’s most prominent African-American men in a late-night tweet.
He attacked James after seemingly watching an interview the former Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star carried out earlier in the week with CNN anchor Don Lemon, in which he deemed Mr Trump to be divisive.
Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2018
Although James has long been a Trump critic, calling the president “U bum” in a 2017 tweet, the Friday night tweet was Mr Trump’s first attack on the player, who has just opened up a school for underprivileged children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
Mr Trump wrote: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
The president 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’ defence.
Jordan said: “I support LeBron James. He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”
Later, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump said it appeared that 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.
Mr Trump, who will spend Saturday evening at a rally for a fellow Republican outside Columbus, has long denounced the media – CNN in particular – and rarely lets a slight go unnoticed.
Let’s get it kids!! Love you guys https://t.co/kY88geedus— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 4, 2018
However, the attack on LA Lakers player James, who was being interviewed by another black man, to some resembled a racial dog whistle and came just days after Mr Trump deemed Democratic representative Maxine Waters of California, who is also black, as “low IQ”.
Ohio governor Josh Kasich, a Republican who has been critical of Mr Trump, tweeted: “Rather than criticizing @KingJames, we should be celebrating him for his charity work and efforts to help kids.”
Mr Trump has repeatedly been questioned about his views on race, from deeming many Mexican immigrants “rapists” during his first campaign speech for the Republican presidential nomination, to placing blame on “both sides” for the violent clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, a year ago.
James, who campaigned for Mr Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and has not been shy about using his celebrity for social causes, took part in the interview from the public school he opened for underprivileged children 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 Mr Trump, though he would talk to former president Barack Obama. James’ publicist declined to respond to Mr Trump’s tweet, but on Saturday afternoon, James retweeted a post from the “I Promise” school and said: “Let’s get it kids!! Love you guys.”
Don Lemon responded to the president, invoking both the administration’s forced-family-separations 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” Mr Lemon tweeted.