In his piece published Wednesday, Sargent argued that Trump “goes out of his way to attack prominent African Americans,” including Ball and professional football athletes.
“Trump’s rage-tweets about LaVar Ball are part of a pattern. Trump regularly attacks high-profile African Americans to feed his supporters’ belief that the system is rigged for minorities,” Sargent wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
To which the president replied the following day with his campaign slogan. In response, Sargent retweeted Trump’s tweet with a comment: “Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. President.”
It’s unclear if Trump’s tweet was meant to agree with or acknowledge Sargent’s points that his behavior on social media fits a racist pattern against African Americans, or if it may have been sent by mistake. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some on Twitter immediately took notice.
The president has spent the last few days engaging in a war of words with Ball, who has accused Trump of inflating his role in freeing his son, UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball, and two other teammates. The three were arrested for shoplifting while in Hangzhou for a tournament earlier this month.
Trump said that during his 12-day trip to Asia, he personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the case of LiAngelo Ball and his two teammates.
After returning to the United States, Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to himself in the third person: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you to President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”
Asked by ESPN later about Trump’s role in securing his son’s release, LaVar Ball said: “Who? What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”
During a testy interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Monday night, Ball again questioned Trump’s role in his son’s freeing.
“It wasn’t like he was in the U.S. and said, ‘Okay, there’s three kids in China, I need to go over there and get them,’” Ball said. “That wasn’t the thought process.”
In response, the president fumed, often in the form of predawn tweetstorms. At one point, he said he should’ve let LiAngelo Ball and his teammates stay in jail.
At about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Trump called LaVar Ball an “ungrateful fool,” who, if not for his personal intervention, would have spent several Thanksgivings with his son locked up in China.
“It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence — IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair,” Trump said.
Curiously, the president resurrected attacks on the NFL a few minutes later:
Sargent wrote that the immediate segue to football players, whom Trump has repeatedly criticized for kneeling during the national anthem, shows a clear pattern of a public attack on prominent African Americans.
“It is true that in some of these cases, Trump was attacked or at least criticized first. But it’s hard to avoid noticing a gratuitously ugly pattern in Trump’s responses, in which Trump vaguely suggests either that his targets are getting above their station, or that they’re asking for too much and are insufficiently thankful for all that has been done for them,” Sargent wrote.
The president has repeatedly said that kneeling during the national anthem, meant to protest racism and police brutality, is disrespectful to the flag and to the country.
Last month, Trump drew criticisms over his condolence call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed with three other soldiers during an ambush in Niger.
Myeshia Johnson said that during the call, the president told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” She also said that Trump couldn’t even remember her husband’s name.
Trump disputed the slain soldier’s widow’s account, saying in a tweet: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”