Conservative Opinions Back Many into Restrictive Spaces

Last Thursday, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham sharply criticized LeBron James for his commentary on President Donald Trump. Among other things, James said that the president doesn’t get and couldn’t care less about “the people.” Additionally, James added that when he was growing up there were always three people that he looked up to for inspiration: the President of the United States, and the most prominent sports figure and musician at the time. James went on to insinuate that currently the President doesn’t foment inspiration.

In a response on her Fox News television program The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham attacked James’ grammar and asked why James must “run his mouth.” She added “Unfortunately, a lot of kids — and some adults — take these ignorant comments seriously. Look, there might be a cautionary lesson in LeBron for kids: this is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA. And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball.” She punctuated her take by telling James to “Shut up and dribble” and to keep the political commentary to himself. In the backlash to her monologue, Ingraham released a statement citing incidents where she criticized other celebrities (The Dixie Chicks, Robert DeNiro, Jimmy Kimmel, and Gregg Popovich) in a similar manner.

I have numerous issues with Ingraham’s comments. To Ingraham, the right to express a political opinion comes with the conditions that you are educated past high school, speak with infallible grammar, and don’t play basketball. Roughly only 27 to 40 percent of Americans hold a bachelor degree or higher. Does this mean that all of these individuals aren’t entitled to express their political opinions? I also think it would be safe to assume that most Americans do not speak with proper grammar on a consistent basis.

More importantly, I actually believe that Ingraham’s response was the most telling part of this incident. She legitimized her critique of James by mentioning her criticism of other celebrities. It is important to note that everyone that she mentioned is either a liberal or someone who has expressed some liberal opinion. Although Ingraham has mostly invited individuals in the political realm on her nationally syndicated radio show, she has invited celebrities in the past. Within the past six months, some of Ingraham’s guests have been Joy Villa (singer and songwriter), Roger Simon (Academy Award-nominated screenwriter), Adam Carolla (comedian) and Ed McGlasson (former football player-turned-pastor). All of these guests are right leaning in their politics. So there is a contradiction in Ingraham’s words and her actions. By delegitimizing the opinions of celebrities who have different beliefs than hers just because they are ‘celebrities’ and welcoming individuals who are also ‘celebrities’ but share similar convictions to her own, Ingraham, in her monologue attacking James, wasn’t disdainful because he was a celebrity, rather, her monologue was fueled by the fact that James is a liberal.

Most people who gave opinions on Ingraham focused on the premise that her remarks bordered on being racist. While they may or may not have, I believe this view is ignoring a more problematic dynamic. For Ingraham, and many of her colleagues at Fox News, an opinion, regardless of if it comes from a public figure or a ‘formal’ political commentator, doesn’t deserve merit unless it is conservative in nature.

This is worrisome not only because of the fact that it silences the voices of numerous Americans but also because it is attributing to the erosion of the tradition of political discourse in the U.S. Whether you agree with someone’s views or not, every citizen of the U.S. is entitled to express an opinion — it doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, matter where this opinion originates.