Fox News host Laura Ingraham spent a segment of Friday’s show defending herself against charges of racism. She was just making a joke, a pun, a funny aside, really, when she said that Cavaliers basketball player LeBron James should just “shut up and dribble.” She was offended when he said in a video that President Donald Trump “doesn’t understand the people, and really don’t give a f--- about the people.”
She could have apologized in that non-apologetic way famous people have of being sorry in the off-chance someone was offended. But why do that when you’ve got a made-for-TV ratings hit? There’s James, whom she went after for trying to go pro a year early, and for his "barely intelligible, not to mention ungrammatical," way of speaking versus a right wing anchor of the sort Fox cloned until its sexual harassment scandal sent it’s most famous scurrying for higher ground.
While James was growing up poor and fatherless to become a successful businessman, model father, and pillar of the community, Ingraham was becoming rich and famous by way of Dartmouth College where she was known for hunting and bagging liberals as an editor at the conservative Dartmouth Review. Her most hateful stunt was sending a reporter to infiltrate a gay group on campus taking down names and addresses. Ingraham then wrote letters outing those students to their parents. She regretted that publicly when she found out many years later that her brother was gay and later that his partner was dying from AIDs, as if treating a gay person properly was possible only if you had one in the family. She didn’t discover a black relative so she never took back attacking an African American professor for being himself, including having hair resembling “a used Brillo pad.”
In taking after James, Ingraham is in step with Trump whose favorite sports figures are white owners, coaches and quarterbacks. Commenting While Black violates the unspoken sports ideal where whites sit in the expensive seats watching blacks throw a ball for their entertainment expecting them to always be seen and not heard. For weeks, Trump took time away from TV watching and golf, with Ingraham’s approval, to urge owners to fire any African-Americans who dared to take a knee to protest police killing unarmed black men on behalf of those who don’t have a voice. Does anyone think that the first to kneel, Colin Kaepernick a record-setting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, being benched is not Trump’s dream come true?
Ingraham found two black commentators to come on Friday night to confirm that she was right to take on the uppity James deemed “a clown” who should be “fired by the NBA” and extol Trump as the jobs president for blacks. Ingraham spent a lot of time expanding on a statement put out earlier by Fox that with “shut up and dribble” she was simply paying homage to her book Shut Up & Sing. She believes a polemic of 15 years ago is such a cultural touchstone, like Star Wars or Harry Potter, she can drop a reference into conversation and everyone gets it. To make her point, she cited another of her bon mots like telling Jimmy Kimmel to “Shut Up & Make Us Laugh,” and this week counseling San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich to “Shut up & Coach.” Of course, both of them were spouting liberal sentiments at odds with Trump on health care and guns. She granted herself immunity to criticize anyone who veers into her lane of political punditry, rightly reserved for her and the High Church of Fox. She had no criticism when another sports celebrity, Tim Tebow former Denver Broncos quarterback who appeared in a pro-life commercial famously broadcast during the Super Bowl in 2010.
On this long weekend celebrating President’s Day, maybe Ingraham will have time to watch more of the video where James admired the cop on the beat in his childhood neighborhood and how he works hard at being the good father his absent father was not. Foretelling what was to come, he brought up how some people, no matter what you become in life, will always remind you that you are beneath them recalling the racial epithet spray painted on the front gate of his house.
For his part, James posted "#wewillnotshutupanddribble" on his Twitter Friday night along with a picture of a neon sign that read "I am more than an athlete."
Away from the klieg lights Ingraham might ask what Ronald Reagan, her former idol and boss, would do. There’s no explaining how she got from him to a blowhard nationalist with a spotty relationship to the truth like Trump, except in her desire to be with a winner and pass Fox’s loyalty test. James vowed to repaint the fence and build it taller. Let’s tune in Tuesday to see what Ingraham is going to do.
Editor's Note: This column has been updated to correct an error. It previously stated that Ingraham's brother had suffered from AIDS. It was her brother's partner.