He said, she said

Melania Trump at odds with the president over LeBron James

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump return to the White House in Washington, DC, from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on July 18, 2018. (TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Melania Trump praised NBA superstar LeBron James over the weekend and said she would be open to visiting his new public school, one day after her husband tweeted a derogatory comment about the basketball star’s intelligence.

Last week, James made headlines when his “I Promise” school — a project of the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools — opened its doors to 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders in Ohio. He has also been a  vocal critic of the president since he took office. In the CNN interview, James said of Trump, “I would never sit across from him.”

On Friday night, President Trump shot back: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”

The president’s tweet drew a firestorm of criticism, including accusations of race baiting. In response, CNN and Lemon both invoked the first lady’s #BeBest initiative. “Who’s the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages? #BeBest,” Lemon tweeted on Saturday morning.

By Saturday afternoon, Melania’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, had issued a statement lauding James’s efforts. “It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today. As you know, Mrs. Trump has traveled the country and world talking to children about their well-being, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behavior with her Be Best initiative. Her platform centers around visiting organizations, hospitals and schools, and she would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron.”

Another White House official, speaking anonymously to ABC News, said that Melania was not siding with the NBA great over her husband. “That wasn’t her taking sides — that was her office stick[ing] to what she is focused on, which is using Be Best for what it’s intended — to help children,” the official said.

It is not the first time that Melania has taken a stand apparently at odds with her husband, where the welfare of children is at stake. The first lady was reportedly influential in forcing the president’s hand to sign an executive order in June that prevents immigration officials from separating parents and children who illegally cross into the U.S. from Mexico. The following day she traveled to a border detention center in Texas, to get “a realistic view of what’s happening.”

On her return, she released a statement in which she said she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform”, adding that the U.S. needs to be “a country that governs with heart.” Following her remarks on the issue, all four living former first ladies spoke out denouncing the administration’s zero tolerance policy and the separation of migrant families.

Melania had earlier been seen to publicly pushback against her husband’s views, in her condemnation of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is also thought to have influenced his reversal on the severity of the nation’s opioid crisis.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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