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Melania praises basketball star LeBron James following Donald Trump’s insult

In a tweet, Trump took aim at LeBron James and cable TV news personality Don Lemon. His tweet called Lemon the “the dumbest man on television,” and then said Lemon “made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”

world Updated: Aug 05, 2018 21:19 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Melania Trump,LeBron James,Donald Trump
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James celebrates a basket against the Boston Celtics during the second half in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, in Boston. (AP Photo)

Just hours after United States President Donald Trump insulted LeBron James, first lady Melania Trump issued a statement supporting the basketball star and praising the work he is doing with children. She did not mention her husband. But the context was clear.

The spat between James and Trump began after the Los Angeles Lakers player, in an interview to CNN by anchor Don Lemon on Tuesday, said the President was “trying to divide our sport, but at the end of the day, sport is the reason why we all come together”.

When asked what he would say to Trump if he was sitting right here, James said, “I would never sit across from him.” But, he added, he would be open to sitting with former President Barack Obama.

Trump took to Twitter to vent on Friday night, presumably after he watched a rebroadcast of the interview. “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!” he posted, referring to NBA legend Michael Jordon in the final sentence.

As backlash built on Saturday, Lemon shot back in a tweet. “Who’s the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages?” he posted, referring to a school that James has started for at-risk children in his hometown and the Trump administration policy of separating children from families crossing into the US illegally.

Lemon ended the tweet with the hashtag “#BeBest”, a reference to Melania’s initiative focusing on children.

Others too weighed in. Trump’s former rival Hillary Clinton backed James as a “great family man” and “incredible ballplayer” who “gives back to his community, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind”.

Even Michael Jordan — known for his reluctance to comment on political and societal matters in his prime — weighed in. “I support LJ,” Jordan, now the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, said in a statement released through his publicist. “He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”

Melania’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham followed up soon with a statement: “It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the first lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today.

“As you know, Mrs Trump has travelled the country and world talking to children about their well-being, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behaviour with her Be Best initiative,” she said. “Her platform centres around visiting organizations, hospitals and schools, and she would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron (the school started by James).”

Trump has chosen to ignore it thus far. He tends to not let go of these publicly aired differences from members of his own family and recently followed up on his daughter Ivanka Trump’s publicly distancing herself from her father’s tirades against news media.

First Published: Aug 05, 2018 11:06 IST