Stephen A. Smith’s non-apology for his comments on ‘Hannity’ about Trump and Black people did not help

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Stephen A. Smith’s non-apology was insulting. Many in the community were deeply angry with him for what he said on “Hannity” last week. In his apology, he said he heard us, but he was defensive, aggressive and gaslighting. He said he had been misconstrued and taken out of context. How, Sway? How? He went on “Hannity” and we heard every word. The problem is not that he was misunderstood. It’s that he was comprehended completely. He wasn’t taken out of context at all. It would make just as much sense to say he was hacked.

Smith said, “When you see the law being exercised against him [Trump], it is something that Black folks throughout this nation can relate to with some of our historic, iconic figures.” Wow. The idea that Trump is the victim in all of this is cute. And it’s crazy to think that Trump is anything like some of our historic, iconic figures who had the law used against them like the Black Panthers, Dr. King, Marcus Garvey and more.

We understood exactly what Smith meant but, in his fauxpology, he actually wagged his finger at us to underscore how offended he was at being misunderstood. That was amazingly tone-deaf.

There are a few lessons that Smith should learn here. One, a professional communicator cannot say he was misconstrued and taken out of context. Your whole job is to be clear, bro. If you blame us for misunderstanding you, that means you failed at the most basic part of your job. It’s like saying LeBron forgot how to dribble.

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Also, Smith has to realize that doing politics isn’t easy. I will never tell him to stick to sports, but if you want to do politics, you have to do a lot of reading and a lot of processing. Don’t just skim a bunch of op-eds before the segment. Consume lots of books about political science and American history so you can understand the larger context of what’s really going on. 

If you get the opportunity to talk about politics on TV, you should take it as a serious responsibility. Talking about politics on TV can impact the country in ways far different than talking about sports. When you’re analyzing politics, you can shape the ways people understand the political realm and influence who they vote for, who they donate to or who they advocate for to their friends and family. Talking about why the Lakers lost is fun but extremely less consequential.

It’s critical to take your opportunities to talk about politics on TV seriously and try to say thoughtful things that could be valuable for the collective consciousness. Instead, Smith seemed to be auditioning to be the new Jason Whitlock. It was genuinely gross. 

Part of the blame is on TV producers who book people like Smith to talk about politics because they have entertainment value. There’s no real value in having Smith talk about Black people and Trump. As we’ve seen, he doesn’t even know the right answer. But if he says the wrong answer in a fun way then people will watch, right? “Hannity” isn’t a real news show; it’s an entertainment show that masquerades as a news show. It’s as real as “The Colbert Report” was but with that show, the audience knew Stephen Colbert was kidding. Hannity’s audience doesn’t know that it’s not real. 

I also hope Smith learns that you should not go on TV and act like you speak for the Black community. That’s inherently insulting. Especially when you’re saying Trump was right about what he said about Black people. 

Smith’s main point in his original hit — a point that we understood very clearly — was that Trump seems relatable to Black people because of the criminal trials he’s going through. This is an asinine point. It’s not the product of careful research. It’s a cockamamie idea that’s insulting. Also, I know of no Black people in their right mind who think that. I’m not sure why Smith is on TV saying that Black people feel like that.

Black people have had a difficult and painful relationship with the justice system that is a byproduct of racism and white supremacy. Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” lays this out in amazing detail. Trump’s many trials are the product of him being a wealthy white man who thought he was above the law. Black people know this. To suggest that we like Trump because of his trials is to suggest that we’re too stupid to see there’s no connection between those two things.  

I need Smith to fall back from his foray into talking about politics. Not because he doesn’t have the right but because he’s not ready. He hasn’t put in the work. Just like Bronny James ain’t ready for the NBA, Smith ain’t ready to be on cable news talking politics. He needs to get in the mental gym and put up some serious reps. Read books (that’s books plural), watch documentaries, dig into long articles, talk to experts. Educate yourself.

The “Hannity” appearance was a steaming hot mess. Like, Hannity passed Smith the ball and Smith drop-kicked it into the stands. He could, one day, be ready to discuss politics but today is not that day.

Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

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