Journalist Piers Morgan set off a firestorm of controversy for his tweets criticizing the late Muhammad Ali who died on Saturday.
According to The Huffington Post UK, Morgan tweeted that he felt Ali was more racist than Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Twitter users were quick to criticize Morgan.
“The rest of Twitter was quick to offer Morgan a tall glass of all-American Shut Up juice,” said Tommy Christopher of the website Mediaite.
Ali, who died on June 3, was well known for being a civil rights activist as well as a boxer. He was highly critical of the compulsory draft for the Vietnam War saying at the time, “My enemy is the white people, not the Vietcong.”
Richard Beech of the website Joe, criticized Morgan for using the news of Ali’s death as an opportunity “to raise his own profile.”
Beech noted that even with Ali’s successful boxing career, he would still be refused service in restaurants, because of segregation laws.
“He was well entitled to use his profile to call out oppressive actions and behaviors of white people in the U.S.,” said Beech. “To compare him to Trump, who has waged a campaign of fear and hatred against Muslims (among other groups) in order to gain support among white voters in America, is far, far wide of the mark.”
The English journalist later would try to clarify his previous statement in another tweet.
“Why would stating that Muhammad Ali made a lot of inflammatory, race-charged statements in his life be remotely controversial? He did,” said Morgan.
“Maybe if people just ignored attention-seeking Piers Morgan, he’d go away. Forever,” said Twitter user Angela Kay.
“Self-appointed expert on black culture that he is, Morgan has taken this moment of widespread mourning to educate the internet on the subject of reverse racism. Surprise,” said Claire Lampen of the website Mic.
Piers Morgan’s controversial statement is quite the opposite of a more complimentary tribute to Muhammad Ali he wrote on Saturday for the Daily Mail, where he shared an anecdote of meeting the boxing legend in Beverly Hills and feeling “the extraordinary power of Ali’s presence.”
“Where he was different was in his ability to rise above the fray of normality and consistently be exceptional. Whether in the ring, or out of it,” said Morgan, who did, however, note that he had flaws, like everyone else.
Morgan continued, “He dared us all to to dream big, take risks and fight for what we believe in.”
Mic. reported that following the former America’s Got Talent judge’s “tone-deaf” statement, he followed up with what was described as a more sarcastic apology on Twitter saying, “I’m sorry for ‘saying inflammatory things for attention’. That’s the last thing Muhammad Ali would have condoned.”
However, Piers Morgan wasn’t the only celebrity to cause controversy on Twitter regarding Muhammad Ali’s death.
According to The Mirror, Lord Alan Sugar of the British version of The Apprentice made a joke in response to Morgan’s tweet on Saturday that read, “I met Muhammad Ali once, for a few seconds. Like all who did, I shall never forget it.”
Sugar retorted back with, “I bet that must have been his only regret that knowing who you are that he didn’t floor you.”
Many Twitter users described Sugar’s remark as a case of “bad timing” and felt that it was inappropriate to use Ali’s death to attack Piers Morgan, who has been declared his “rival.” Sugar, however, did tweet a tribute to Ali earlier that day.
“Muhammad Ali he was the greatest, not just a great boxer but he fought for racial equality. Sad Loss to the world R.I.P.,” wrote Sugar.
Since the announcement of his death, friends, fellow boxers, and even President Obama have paid tribute to Muhammad Ali in the form of statements and social media posts.
“God blessed him because he was such a sweet person,” said Rahman Ali, Ali’s younger brother. “He was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful man, he will be missed.”
[Photo by Fredrick M. Brown/Getty Images]