Fox News host Laura Ingraham traded her dog whistle for a megaphone on Thursday night, disparaging LeBron James’ “barely intelligible, not to mention ungrammatical, take on President Trump.” Ingraham cued up a short clip from a video James, Kevin Durant, and Cari Champion made for the James-owned media platform Uninterrupted, a venture Ingraham dismissively referred to as an “ESPN podcast” despite it not being on ESPN and not being a podcast. In that clip, James says Trump “doesn’t understand the people, and really don’t give a fuck about the people,” while Durant adds that “our team, as a country, is not ran by a great coach.”
Ingraham’s reply: “Must they run their mouths like that?”
It’s hard to argue with anything James and Durant are saying, and if you’re offended by their words then you should probably look for one of those safe spaces that Fox News is always talking about. The fact that Ingraham would say something vile and racist isn’t all that newsworthy. It does, though, present an opportunity to give some publicity to James and Durant’s Uninterrupted video, which is worth watching in full.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the James/Durant conversation gets really interesting the moment after Ingraham cuts off the clip and chides them to stop running their mouths. It’s at that point that James talks about how his status as a rich celebrity doesn’t insulate him from racism. He recalls an incident from over the summer when vandals spray-painted a racial slur on the front gate of his home in Brentwood, Calif. “No matter how far—money or access or how you become in life as an African-American man,” he says, “they will always try to figure out a way to let you know that you’re still beneath them. … You either cave into that notion or you just chalk it up and say, you know what, I’m gonna paint over this goddamn gate and I’m gonna make it taller.”
Thanks to Ingraham, you don’t have to look far to find evidence to support James’ point. Later in the segment, the Fox News host called James ignorant and mocked him for not going to college. “It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” she said.
The ironic thing here is that there’s a lot for conservatives to embrace in that Uninterrupted video, like when James talks about admiring the “cool as hell” neighborhood cop as a child. At one point, James—an enormously successful, self-made businessman and father of three—tells Durant that growing up without a father made him understand the importance of family values: “I wanted to have kids early to prove to my father that the way you did it was the absolute wrong way to do it.”
Ingraham, for her part, elevated the discourse by shouting, “JUMB DOCK ALERT!”
To be fair, James does do one thing in the video that is, dare I say, unforgivable. Around the 14-minute mark, James asks Durant to describe his journey “from high school … to Texas, to OKC, to now being in Golden State.” Regrettably, he passes right over Durant’s one season with the Seattle Supersonics before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City, an omission that erases that storied, woebegone franchise from history.
As a role model, he should know better.
Update, Feb. 16, 7:45 p.m. ET: Fox News passes along this statement from Laura Ingraham, who says she is not racist and merely enjoys telling all kinds of different celebrities to shut up:
In 2003, I wrote a New York Times bestseller called “Shut Up & Sing,” in which I criticized celebrities like the Dixie Chicks & Barbra Streisand who were trashing then-President George W. Bush. I have used a variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics. I’ve told Robert DeNiro to “Shut Up & Act,” Jimmy Kimmel to “Shut Up & Make Us Laugh,” and just this week told the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich to “Shut up & Coach.” If pro athletes and entertainers want to freelance as political pundits, then they should not be surprised when they’re called out for insulting politicians. There was no racial intent in my remarks - false, defamatory charges of racism are a transparent attempt to immunize entertainment and sports elites from scrutiny and criticism. Additionally, we stated on my show that these comments came from an ESPN podcast, which was not the case - the content was unaffiliated with ESPN.
Update, 8: 13 p.m.: And now Kevin Durant has chimed in: “To me, it was racist.”