Sports commentator Stephen A. Smith rebuked his co-host Max Kellerman after he gave a very one-sided account of the debate over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
The pair launched into a fiery debate on their show, “First Take,” while talking about controversial comments from Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher about the police shooting that inspired rioting and looting in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Urlacher claimed in a social media post that Blake had been reaching for a knife when police shot him. While a knife was recovered in the car, it has not been established if Blake was reaching for it when he was shot.
“He’s susceptible to low-quality information it seems to me,” Kellerman said of Urlacher.
“If you exist in a Fox News silo or a Facebook silo of extreme right wing propaganda, what you will notice, and by the way this even makes its way into the mainstream. When a Black man is killed by law enforcement, the stories that come out about him, especially with those silos with low-quality information, paint him as a very bad person. And focus on, even if he was in commission of a crime at the moment he was shot, focus on the worst aspects of their lives, and dehumanize them,” he explained.
“Whereas Kyle Rittenhouse, white militia, 17-year-old kid, drove to Kenosha and killed two people, in cold blood, two protesters,” Kellerman added. “In cold blood, including the second person, who tried to stop him from killing more people, and drove all the way home and was arrested the next day. Finally, the cops were practically aiding him, they gave him water when they first saw him.”
Kellerman claimed that some of the media was humanizing Rittenhouse, and added that they “do the same to white terrorists, who blow up government buildings and shoot up schools.”
Smith was displeased with Kellerman’s framing of the issue and the debate quickly got heated.
“You know you’ve got to be careful about generalizing. When you talk about low-quality information, you’ve got to be specific about that,” Smith said.
“Excuse me, just like you brought up Fox News,” Smith continued as Kellerman tried to interrupt, “there are people that could look at CNN or MSNBC and they’re going to have their opinions about those networks.”
“No, this is not an issue of opinion, Stephen A.,” responded Kellerman. “I’m talking about independent fact-checking organizations and the quality of the information…”
“Max, you’re not right,” interrupted Smith, “Hold on. No, no. We listened to you! We heard you, alright! But the point is do you know that Brian Urlacher got that information from Fox News? Do you know that? How do you know what television network he was watching? That’s the point!”
“No, I didn’t, and I didn’t say he did,” replied Kellerman.
“Don’t even bring it up. Alright then! You said low-quality information, you mentioned Fox News. I watch them all, I watch them all!” Smith said.
“No, but I saw certain facts,” continued Kellerman, “certain facts that he was incorrect about, including he reached for the knife, because that’s where it’s framed in low-quality information news silos.”
Part of the debate was circulated on social media:
“Listen, I saw ‘certain facts’ everywhere,” continued Smith. “There are a multitude of outlets, we heard you. See, that’s your problem! Cause you like to talk and then what you don’t want to do is hear the other point, because you want your point to be stuck with everybody.”
Kellerman said that Smith was misrepresenting what he said, and continued decrying Fox News and Facebook.
“I don’t want people doing that on ‘First Take,’ I don’t want people doing that on ‘First Take’! Period!” said Smith.
While ESPN posted more of the segment between Kellerman and Smith on its YouTube account, their video omitted the portion where Smith defended Fox News and other outlets. Similarly, the Twitter version of the exchange omitted Smith’s later comments where he explicitly denounced the police shooting of Blake.
Kellerman made headlines on Thursday when he made similar comments about fans of SEC college football being “easy to propagandize and almost immune to facts,” in regards to the coronavirus pandemic.
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