In a tweet over the weekend, President Donald Trump called CNN’s Don Lemon “the dumbest man on television.”
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
Lemon did not respond to the president’s tweet right away. But last night, during his first show since the president launched his attack, he took the president to task for his history of racially charged statements, his habit of coddling white supremacists, and his tendency to undermine the free press.
Donald Trump, said Lemon, “divides by race and tries to conquer decency by smearing and besmirching the truth.”
“As a journalist, I don’t really like being the story here,” Lemon said, “but because of how important it is for each of us to stand up for what is right and what is decent, I’m going to tell you exactly how I feel starting right now.”
"President Trump is trying a divide and conquer strategy. … He divides by race and tries to conquer decency by smearing and besmirching the truth and the people who fight to uphold it." – CNN's @DonLemon responds to Trump's personal attacks on him and LeBron James (@KingJames) pic.twitter.com/fhLrPBjc8S
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) August 7, 2018
Lemon, who called Trump’s comments toward him and Lebron James a “hateful, nasty swipe,” added:
Unlike this president, who lashes out wildly at anyone who criticizes him, I have pretty thick skin. And LeBron James, in addition to being a brilliant black man, a superstar in his sport, and a hero to his community, is taking the high road, which is exactly where he belongs.
Elsewhere, he said:
The president has called a lot of people stupid. Some of those people are white. But I would just like to note that referring to African Americans as dumb is one of the oldest canards of America’s racist past and present that black people are of inferior intelligence.
To support this point, he quoted a tweet from Keith Boykin, who listed the insults Trump has used to refer to people of color. Trump, for example, notoriously referred to Haiti and African countries as “shitholes” during a meeting in January. He also called Mexicans “rapists”––and often––while on the campaign trail. He even insisted that the Central Park Five, four African American juveniles and one Hispanic juvenile who were convicted of a rape and assault they did not commit, were guilty anyway, even though a convicted rapist and murderer already serving a life sentence in prison confessed to the crime and DNA evidence confirmed his guilt.
In Trump's World:
LeBron James: dumb
Don Lemon: dumb
Maxine Waters: low IQ
black countries: shitholes
black athletes: SOBs
Black tenants: unwelcome
Black workers: lazy
Central Park 5: guilty
Nazis: very fine people
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) August 4, 2018
Lemon continued: “Notice a pattern? This president constantly denigrates people of color and women, too,” before referring to more comments Trump made about California Representative Maxine Waters. He reminded viewers that Trump spent years “denying the legitimacy of America’s first black president” by propagating “birther” conspiracy theories.
“Let me not mince words here,” Lemon said. “This president traffics in racism. And is fueled by bullying.” He noted that around the nation, people of color are being “attacked by their fellow citizens who feel emboldened to be publicly racist, because the president is.”
Praise for Lemon––and reaffirmation of the points he made during his broadcast––has poured in since the president’s attack.
Don Lemon is a brilliant journalist & Labron James is a conscientious, smart athlete. For Trump to call them names is like an ignorant slaveholder calling Frederick Douglass dumb.
— Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II (@RevDrBarber) August 6, 2018
Trump racist NYC housing
Central Park 5
Africa/ Haiti shithole
Puerto Rico hurricane
Build the wall
Charlottesville’s very fine people
— Billy Baldwin (@BillyBaldwin) August 7, 2018
This weekend’s vile attack on LeBron James & Don Lemon reminds me of accusing Obama of “wiretapping.” Also in the mix of meanness when he called countries “Shitholes” & his horrible mistreatment of Puerto Rico. Kidnapping kids of color& insulting Maxine Waters. #RampantRacist
— Barbara Malmet (@B52Malmet) August 6, 2018
Here is the remarkable program-opening monologue by @donlemon I mentioned earlier.
Furious, and cold. https://t.co/57IEjvDLnq
— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) August 7, 2018
The president has not responded to Lemon’s comments yet, though the likelihood that he will is high.