lebron james
Credit: Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

Here is how Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist for the Washington Post, describes the recent spat between Laura Ingraham and LeBron James:

The white-lady conservative commentator took issue with a black NBA superstar’s liberal political views by attacking his intelligence and his message to kids, and told him to “shut up and dribble.” Really? When is the last time Ingraham refreshed her thought or material? As for James, his critique of Trumpism includes a platitudinal invocation of “the People,” and his chief retort to Ingraham is that she’s a minor celebrity compared to him and he refuses to shut up because, “I mean too much to society.” Honestly? Measurable narcissism is hardly a measure of social import.

This is how Jenkins begins her effort to establish an equivalency between these two individuals. Ingraham’s material is stale. His is unimaginative and egomaniacal. If there is any distinction in the content, merit or morality of their comments, Jenkins is mostly concerned to paper that over. Their dispute is “dumbish,” a “non-dialogue,” and the “insults they’ve traded…are so empty, redundant and overworked that they leave your brain feeling like a dust bowl.”

You can read Jenkins’s whole column and not discover any words that James used other than “the People.”

What’s more, their backgrounds and accomplishments are similar enough that they have enough in common to make it a great idea for them to sit down together in good faith and see what they can learn from each other. James may have a high-school education while Ingraham has a degree from Dartmouth, but their mothers are similar—one worked as a retail clerk and the other as a waitress. And while James is arguably the best basketball player who has ever lived, Ingraham has built “an audience in the many millions.” If James had to overcome a difficult and impoverished childhood, Ingraham had to “to break through the all-male shock jock culture of radio.”

If there are any problems or concerns in Ingraham’s background or belief system, this is ignored in favor of celebrating her “brassiness” and her James-like ability to show “composure under pressure, when it counts the most.” But if we step back for a moment, we’ll realize that a black athlete expressed some political opinions and a white conservative told him to “shut up and dribble.”

If we really want to ignore the context and worth of everything thing else these two people said, then we should just focus on how the spat started. She told James to shut up and play basketball.

But since Jenkins won’t tell you, I’ll point out here that Ingraham also said that it’s “unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball.” And when James spoke about “the People,” it was to express the opinion that President Trump “doesn’t give a f*ck” about us.

Laura Ingraham is a white nationalist who considers herself an acolyte of Patrick Buchanan. When Trump briefly ran for the Reform Party nomination against Buchanan in 1999, he called Buchanan a “Hitler-lover,” and with good reason. Buchanan had published a book that argued the United States should have left Hitler alone to do his thing. She spent her time in college opposing affirmative action in college admissions with the infamous Dartmouth Review. Here’s how the Harvard Crimson described the Review’s activities in a 1988 column:

THE editors of The Dartmouth Review were getting testy. The readers were bored, Pat Robertson was running amok in the primaries, and things were looking generally sour for Dartmouth’s conservative vanguard. Something had to be done.

Then someone had an idea: “Why don’t we provoke a racial incident? When we are criticized, we can scream racial double standard and make martyrs of ourselves.”

Was this what really happened behind the doors of The Dartmouth Review? Who can say? But something inspired those journalistic commandos to demonstrate, once again, that racial insensitivity is alive and well in Hanover.

The editors of the Review felt “compelled to write an article bringing public attention to the inferior quality…” of Black professor William Cole. Although the Review offered him an opportunity to respond to their charges, they thought it necessary to explicitly warn the professor not to use the words “motherfucker, ass, and bullshit.”

The Review struck again when three staffers marched on Cole’s classroom after one of his lectures, bringing with them a camera and a tape recorder. Confronted with members of a publication which obviously had malevolent intentions–a publication that once printed that he “…looks like a worn out brillo pad..,”–Professor Cole became enraged. During the ensuing shouting match, Review staffers took photographs of Cole’s outburst and tape-recorded him cursing. The Review reported that Cole broke the photographer’s $230 flash unit, although that sum inexplicably grew to $300 in an interview two days later.

With the publication of the Review’s attack on Cole came a heated debate. Blacks and others in the Dartmouth community charged that the attack was racially motivated, while The Review insisted that they were victims of a racial double standard–that any criticism of blacks, however warranted and fair, is construed as a racial attack.

The author of the original “brillo pad” hit-piece on Professor Cole? That was Laura Ingraham, in 1983.

The Harvard Crimson had her schtick nailed in 1988, but unfortunately that didn’t prevent her from enriching herself and gaining an audience in the millions. She’s still attacking accomplished black people and then crying double standard when she’s accused of racism. And Sally Jenkins calls this “brassy” and thinks she’s enough of a peer to LeBron James that he should accept her invitation to come on her show.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com