President Trump turned his wrath on basketball superstar LeBron James Friday night, and Republican Ohio Governor John Kaisch is among those coming to the defense of the Akron native.
Trump tweeted James was interviewed "by the dumbest man on television," CNN anchor Don Lemon, but that he "made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do." The president ended his tweet by saying "I like Mike!" - seeming to side with Michael Jordan in the debate over whether he or James is the greatest NBA player of all time.
James has long been critical of Trump. In his interview with Lemon that aired Monday, he said he'd consider running for president if he believed he was the only person who could stop Trump from being re-elected. James opened a school for underprivileged children in Akron this week. Trump traveled to Delaware County on Saturday for a campaign rally. James said during the interview believes Trump is using sports to divide Americans. "What I've noticed over the past few months ... he's kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that's something that I can't relate to," James said he "can't sit back and say nothing." When asked what he would say to Trump if he was face-to-face with him, James said "I would never sit across from him." James first saidTrump is using sports to divide Americans at a press conference in September 2017, when Trump claimed he had disinvited Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors to the White House.
Kasich tweeted Saturday: "Rather than criticizing @KingJames, we should be celebrating him for his charity work and efforts to help kids. By the way, all-around he’s better than Michael Jordan. That’s a fact."
A number of athletes defended James. Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe tweeted Saturday: "It should be beneath the dignity of a sitting POTUS to take racist shots at D. Lemon and Lebron James." NBA player Karl-Anthony Towns tweeted: "So let me get this straight: Flint, MI has dirty water still, but you worried about an interview about a man doing good for education and generations of kids in his hometown?" Michael Jordan issued a statement through his spokesperson to the Associated Press via text. It said: "I support LeBron James. He's doing an amazing job for his community."
A spokesperson for Melania Trump says it appears James is "working to do good things" and that the first lady would be willing to visit the new school. The statement from Stephanie Grisham says, "It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation." The statement notes that Mrs. Trump has been promoting her Be Best campaign and talking to children about the "importance of responsible online behavior." Grisham adds that the first lady "would be open" to visiting James' school. The statement doesn't criticize the president.
Trump did not mention James at the rally, but argued Republicans need to control Congress by casting the midterms as a referendum on himself. Trump pitched for Troy Balderson, the GOP candidate running in a special election this coming Tuesday.
He defiantly questioned the idea that historically, the party that controls the White House suffers in the midterms, declaring "but I say why?" Trump also brought to the stage Republican Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, calling him "a tough cookie." The crowd chanted "speaker of the House," a reference to the possibility that Jordan will seek the speakership after November's midterm elections. Jordan is embroiled in a controversy over whether he new about the alleged sexual misconduct of a late Ohio State University team doctor and student-atheletes.