Spike Lee responds to Donald Trump calling his Oscars speech a 'racist hit'
Donald Trump's name was not spoken once during the 2019 Academy Awards. However, there were a few references to The-President-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In the opening monologue, Maya Rudolph said, "There’s no host, there won’t be a popular movie category, and Mexico is not paying for the wall." As you might recall, during his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly claimed that Mexico would pay for a wall at the US-Mexico border. That did not happen. (Spoiler alert.)
After failing to secure border wall funding through Congress, Trump declared a national emergency - a dubious claim since he himself admitted, "I didn't have to do this." The president's hope, apparently, is to siphon border wall money from other programs, like military reconstruction projects and drug forfeiture funds. However, critics say Trump's national emergency is a manufactured crisis and an abuse of executive power. 16 states have filed lawsuits, and the wall's fate will likely be tangled up in court for years.
...so, no, Mexico is not paying for the border wall.
Later on during the Academy Awards, Spike Lee received his first-ever competitive Oscar: Best Adaptive Screenplay for the provocative film BlackKlansmann, about an African-American police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 70's. For decades, the Academy snubbed the director of critically acclaimed films like Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X and The 25th Hour. But after losing for so long like his beloved New York Knicks, he finally scored a victory. The 61-year-old was so thrilled that he jumped into Samuel L. Jackson's arms for a massive hug on stage.
During his acceptance speech, Lee honored Black History Month and thanked his grandmother, who "saved 50 years of Social Security checks to put him through college." Then he turned to politics and addressed the upcoming election. "The 2020 presidential election is around the corner," said Lee. "Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there."
The Jungle Fever director did not say Donald Trump's name, but apparently his ears were buzzing. In an early morning Twitter tirade, the president called Lee's speech a 'racist hit.' "Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes," Trump tweeted, "or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts,etc.) than almost any other Pres!"
On Monday night, Entertainment Weekly asked the writer-director about Trump's characterization of his acceptance speech. "Well, it’s okee-dokee, you know," said Lee. "They change the narrative. They did the same thing with the African-American players who were kneeling, trying to make it into an anti-American thing, an anti-patriotic thing, and an anti-military thing. But no one’s going for that."
(Lee is referring to Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protest of police brutality and racial inequality, in which he knelt during the national anthem at NFL games. Trump and likeminded critics have sought to characterize this protest as disrespectful to the American flag, and by extension, military veterans.)
In news that will not shock you, Spike Lee is an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, whom he refers to as 'Agent Orange.' During last year's promotional tour for BlackKlansmann, he slammed Trump for his response to the Charlottesville tragedy. (In the summer of 2017, a rally for white supremacists and Neo-Nazis turned violent, as one of their ilk plowed his car into a crowd of peaceful protestors, injuring 28 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.)
"The president of the United States had a chance to denounce hate," Lee told CNN last August. "The whole world saw what happened, and he didn’t do it." He went on to say that Trump has given the "green light" to racists to spout their hateful rhetoric. "Since [Trump] has gotten into the White House it is not even a dog whistle, it’s a bullhorn."