The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion What a dumb weekend

President Trump on Aug. 4 called CNN "fake" and MSNBC "corrupt" but praised Fox News personalities during a rally for congressional hopeful Troy Balderson. (Video: The Washington Post)
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President Trump tells us that he doesn’t watch CNN, except for those numerous moments when he does. He managed to catch wind of CNN host Don Lemon’s interview with NBA icon LeBron James — in which James accused Trump of divisive politics. “You know, we are in a position right now in America more importantly where this whole — this race thing is taking over, you know,” said the NBA star. “And because — one, because I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us.”

Two black men chatting about the shortcomings of “the first white president,” as Ta-Nehisi Coates has described Trump. That’s enough to prompt … a late-night tweet:

Scramble the content-management systems! Major news outlets had no choice but to write it all up, complete with the quote from a representative from the presidentially favored NBA legend Michael Jordan: “I support L.J. He’s doing an amazing job for his community.” That’s right — news outlets were forced to seek a statement from a retired NBA great about how he felt about being cited favorably in an otherwise hateful presidential tweet. “MJ prefers King over president,” headlined the Chicago Tribune.

As ever, the media struggled with the racial implications of the tweet. The New York Times, for example, went with this treatment:

The latest attacks, directed at prominent black people, appeared to widen the racial divide that Mr. James spoke about on CNN. “I would like to know why he considers these two successful black men ‘dumb,’” Torrey Smith, a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, said on Twitter. “I know why.”

Then again, Trump has attacked various white people — including Karl Rove, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Cheri Jacobus — for being “dumb” or “dummy.” So is it racism or general presidential misanthropy that’s behind his Lemon-James tweet? Let the debate rage.

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Trump’s tweet wasn’t the only dumb story in the media world this weekend. The swipe at James — the former Cleveland Cavalier who recently signed with the Los Angeles Lakers — came a day before Trump held a rally in Delaware, Ohio. There, he decided to unfurl an inventory of the “the guys that we love” — that is, Fox News stars who support his cause, whatever that cause is. After plowing through some names — including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo, “the great Lou Dobbs” and the incomparably sequacious Steve Doocy of “Fox & Friends — Trump caught himself: “I’m in trouble, ’cause I know I left out probably 10,” he said. On his Saturday night Fox News program, Jesse Watters — who is also a steady pro-Trump voice on the network’s daily roundtable program “The Five” — joked, “Well, Judge Jeanine’s very upset because she was not mentioned there by the president, I think I heard her throw a glass in the green room.”

Pirro replied on Twitter:

By the end of his show, Watters was clarifying that it was all a joke. Surely it was. More serious were the racist comments of a guest that Watters had on to discuss the hiring of technology reporter Sarah Jeong by the New York Times. In her Twitter history, Jeong had written many, many derisive comments about white people, sparking a backlash against the newspaper. (The New York Times has stood by Jeong, saying that she was using the language of her online harassers.) Springboarding off the news, Watters invited comedian Terrence K. Williams to riff on the matter.

And riff he did: “There is something wrong with them fortune cookies that Ling Ling’s eating,” said Williams. Perhaps enlightened by the response to his own racist segment about Chinatown, Watters recognized Williams’s words for what they were, and cut off the dialogue.

Also: The Newseum apologized for peddling “fake news” shirts in its gift shop. This ardent supporter of the First Amendment had initially defended the items, saying in part, “As a nonpartisan organization, people with differing viewpoints feel comfortable visiting the Newseum, and one of our greatest strengths is that we’re champions not only of a free press but also of free speech.” In its apology, the Newseum said, “A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people.”

Such things now need to be affirmed. A perfect quote for such a dumb weekend.