We’re used to seeing Stephen A. Smith getting into heated conversations on TV, it’s just that, usually, those debates are about sports and take place on ESPN. Thursday, however, brought a change of pace and place: Fox News viewers found Smith debating political issues — with, among others, Ted Nugent.
The Nuge, of course, has long carved out a persona as a conservative figure. Smith’s own political leanings are less clear, but he was happy to take issue with the notion, expressed by Nugent and “The Fox News Specialists” host Eric Bolling, that President Trump’s Twitter habits were doing him any good.
“If you are the president of the United States of America, you are 70 years of age, and you are tweeting — literally competing with 15- and 17-year-olds, that is a problem,” Smith said. He was reacting to Bolling’s assertion that Trump’s woes were the result of Republicans caving into pressure by Democrats, by pointing out that the president had brought much of his difficulties on himself with some ill-considered posts.
“Every time he tweets, he gives added fuel for them to come after him,” Smith said. When Bolling asked what was wrong with the president getting his message out to “100 million people” (Trump’s personal and official presidential Twitter accounts have a combined 47.3 million followers), the ESPN personality began to raise his voice in a manner familiar to “First Take” viewers.
“Did you just ask that question with a straight face?” Smith said to Bolling. “You just asked the question, what is wrong with Twitter, while mentioning Donald Trump’s name in the same sentence — you don’t have a problem with his tweeting?”
Claiming that he’s known Trump “for 15 years,” Bolling said his advice for the president was, “Keep tweeting, you hit a 100 million people. And you know what you do? You go around the fake news, because 90 percent of the news media can’t stand the man.”
While Bolling was saying this, Smith was interjecting, “That’s terrible advice, horrible advice.”
Nugent, whose seminal album, “Cat Scratch Fever,” was released 40 years ago this month, soon jumped in. He said of Trump, “He’s not competing with 15-year-olds, he’s circumventing the fake news networks that will not give any honest representation, so he’s using social media. Whether you like it or not, his truth is getting out there, in spite of the media that hates him.”
“I applaud that beautiful soliloquy you just gave me,” Smith told Nugent, before wondering what the musician’s point had to with Trump’s penchant for using Twitter to insult those he perceives as enemies. “You’re a grown man, you’re president of the United States,” Smith said.
Noting Trump’s history as a sports fan and former owner of a USFL team, Smith said, “I never had a problem with him, until he campaigned and he conducted himself the way that he conducted himself.” Smith added, “If you’re going to be the leader of the free world — I’m not getting into his politics, per se, because I’m certainly not as qualified as a lot of aficionados out there — but you have to conduct yourself like a statesman. Because when you don’t do that, you give ammunition to those who are going to come after you.”
Meanwhile, more than a few observers were using their own Twitter accounts to express amazement at what was taking place on Fox News.
Some may have been surprised to see a sports pundit such as Smith on “Specialists,” but those who have noticed some unusual bookings by the show, which debuted this month, were less taken aback. Joe Namath has been a guest, and he and former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove discussed, among other things, U.S. relations with Russia and North Korea.
“This is a major problem, and the leader of North Korea is a bit squirrelly, you know?” Namath said (via Vice Sports). “I don’t know, Karl mentioned bringing China on board — it’s going to take a combined effort of countries, and I like the idea of what you said about embargo, and other countries need to get involved other than just the United States.”
A few days later, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was on to discuss health care policy with, among others, pro wrestler and bodybuilder Tyrus (who wrestled in the WWE as Brodus Clay, and whose real name is George Murdoch).
On Thursday’s episode, Nugent and Smith participated in an exchange over the former’s assertion that he could tell the Fox News audience what “We, the people” thought of Trump and his tweets. “I hang with them every day,” Nugent said. “I hang with them at the feed mill, at the hardware store and at deer camp, and I know what they think, and they like him.”
“Hey, all of us ain’t living in an ivory tower, we walk the streets here, I do it all the time,” Smith replied, “and I hear quite a different story sometimes.”