For the second time in three days, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders criticized ESPN for its response to SC6 host Jemele Hill’s tweets about Donald Trump being a white supremacist.
During a press briefing Friday, a reporter asked Sanders whether Trump’s demand that ESPN apologize for “untruths” about him mean that the president would be willing to apologize for his repeated insistence that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Here was the exchange:
Reporter: The president today tweeted out that he wanted to see ESPN apologize for what he called “untruths.” By him saying that though, does that mean that he’s willing to apologize for birtherism claims that he called on for years?
Sanders: I think the president has made plenty of comments on that front. I think the point is that ESPN has been hypocritical. They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard. ESPN suspended a longtime anchor Linda Cohn not too long ago for expressing a political viewpoint. The network’s public editor has said that there is a perception that ESPN has become liberal and that has harmed the network. This is clearly a political statement. They should be consistent in whatever guidelines that they have set themselves in that front.
The statement comes two days after Sanders said that Hill’s criticism of the president was “a fireable offense.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 15, 2017
In case you’ve somehow missed it, this saga started when Hill tweeted earlier this week that Trump was a white supremacist and “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.” After some fuss by ESPN’s conservative critics, the network issued a statement calling Hill’s tweets “inappropriate.” Sanders’ comment Wednesday further inflamed the situation, and by Thursday the story was national news.
Hill eventually apologized not for what she said but for how her tweets put ESPN in a difficult situation. Later, Think Progress reported that ESPN had attempted to hold Hill off air on Wednesday, letting her do her show only when the network could not find a replacement. Trump lashed out at ESPN on Friday morning, bringing the story back to the White House briefing room.
ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
Linda Cohn, whom Sanders mentioned Friday, was recently suspended for commenting that ESPN’s layoffs in April were in part due to the network’s alleged political leanings, though it seems likely that this discipline owed more to Cohn’s criticism of the company than to her political ideology.
Over the years, ESPN has been criticized by people of all political persuasions for inconsistency in how it disciplines its employees.