In these trying times of mixed messages from the government in the middle of a worsening public health crisis, the truth can seem like a foreign language for those who take the White House at its word. That could explain why Jemele Hill’s very truthful series of tweets about NFL owner Robert Kraft. The award-winning journalist reminded her 1.2 million followers — and apparently plenty of others — that while Kraft’s gesture of sending a plane to retrieve a bulk order of much-needed masks from China is indeed noble, it can’t be lost on America that the billionaire head of the New England Patriots was only doing so because of a perilous lack of leadership displayed by an unqualified President Donald Trump whose candidacy he still supported nonetheless.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that a private plane belonging to Kraft — who last year was busted in a Florida massage parlor brothel for what the Smoking Gun called a “rub-and-tug” from a prostitute — returned from China “carrying most of an order of 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.” The need for masks cannot be understated as even hospitals have reported an extreme shortage among health workers treating patients for the COVID-19 respiratory illness.
The larger point Hill was trying to make is that Trump hasn’t allocated the same type of emergency resources to states led by Democratic governors as he has for states led by Republican governors. That’s just a matter of fact as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has had to practically beg for more aid — namely ventilators — to help address the outbreak in New York City, Trump’s hometown that is also considered the epicenter in the United States.
In other words, Kraft’s benevolence, while welcomed, wouldn’t be needed had he and other conservatives not encouraged, supported and voted for Trump’s candidacy for president — a presidency that ignored clear warnings of an impending public health crisis one year after disbanding a federal pandemic unit that President Barack Obama put in place to battle highly contagious diseases in the United States. Hill expounded on that idea in a subsequent tweet that responded to someone telling her that now was not the right time to voice these types of grievances.
“If we don’t critically think about how we got here, we will be back here again,” Hill correctly replied.
Hill, the NABJ journalist of the year in 2018 who is also a staff writer for the Atlantic and host of her own “Unbothered” podcast, was catching a lot of heat on Twitter for her commentary that seemed to be void of any lies. But because the tweets were posted on the same day that more than 1,000 people died of coronavirus complications in the U.S. — underscoring the need for the masks that Kraft’s plane brought to Boston — at least one person suggested Hill should focus on being more “uplifting” during a time of massive deaths and grief.
Hill responded in part by saying she wasn’t the wrong one. Rather, it was the billionaires who she said “need to understand that their money can cause irreparable damage. Good deeds do not offset structural inequity and damn sure not abuse of power. The reason Mass doesn’t have supplies is because it’s a blue state. That’s wrong.”
She was probably referring to Trump’s delayed enactment of the Defense Production Act, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency describes as “the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of resources from the US industrial base to support military, energy, space and homeland security programs.” In this case, the supplies would be medical in nature, such as the aforementioned masks as well as gloves and other protective gear designed to prevent diseases from spreading. Had Trump enacted the Defense Production Act weeks earlier as he was advised to do, perhaps not as many people would be dying in the U.S. Not only that, had he not lied to the American public that the coronavirus was a “hoax” and downplayed it’s severity, perhaps some more lives could have been saved.
In the meantime, there was still a decided lack of masks, something that all New Yorkers on Thursday were advised to wear outside. The shortage has prompted individual citizens, like Kraft and former NBA star Stephon Marbury, to dig into their own pockets to pay for masks that the government should have already secured via taxpayers’ money and been providing for all Americans.
When challenged again about her motive behind her tweets, Hill didn’t back down.
“Nowhere did I say the gesture wasn’t needed,” Hill tweeted about Kraft’s plane bringing the masks to America. Politics aren’t a game. Bad policies ruins [sic] lives. Bad leadership, as we’ve seen, literally kills people.”
Hill is no stranger to Kraft or Trump, two billionaires who wanted NFL players punished for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem to bring awareness to anti-Black social justice issues. She covered Kraft as a reporter for ESPN for years and was attacked by Trump after she tweeted 1) that his presidency was a “direct result of white supremacy” and 2) that he is “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
ESPN suspended her over for the tweets and she ultimately left the network for bigger and brighter professional pastures; but not before Trump lashed out over Hill’s freedom of speech and tweeted, “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked.’”