The White House on Wednesday suggested ESPN should fire “SportsCenter” co-host Jemele Hill over her “outrageous comments” about President Donald Trump.
In a series of Twitter posts on Monday, Hill labeled Trump “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
She called Trump “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime” and attributed his rise to white supremacy. “He has surrounded himself with white supremacists — no they are not ‘alt right’ — and you want me to believe he isn’t a white supremacist?” she tweeted.
“He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader,” she said. “And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that she’s unsure whether the president has seen Hill’s tweets, but she said ESPN should take action.
“I’m not sure if he’s aware, but I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN,” Sanders said.
Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail about immigrants and other topics drew charges of racism, bigotry and xenophobia from opponents, criticism that followed him to the White House, most notably in his reaction to white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members who assembled in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month. Trump received support in 2016 from members of such groups who believed he employed language and themes similar to their own.
Trump initially failed to condemn the hate groups by name after the rally, and while he eventually did, he was later criticized for emphasizing that he believed both the hate groups and counter protesters who clashed with them were to blame for violence that ensued.
Sanders insisted Trump “was clear in his initial statement” condemning “hatred, bigotry, racism of all forms,” adding that he “continues to stick to that message” and has “been very consistent in that fact.”
She said the president would also sign a joint resolution that advanced through Congress this week condemning white supremacy. Asked why influential African-Americans would say such things if Trump had been clear in condemning bigotry and racism, Sanders declined to speak for Hill.
She pointed out that Trump had met earlier Wednesday with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, an African-American lawmaker who previously said the president’s “moral authority” was “compromised” by his Charlottesville response.
“I know that the president has met, again, with people like Sen. Scott who are highly respected leaders in the African-American community,” Sanders said. “He’s committed to working with them to bring the country together. I think that’s where we need to be focused, not on outrageous statements like that one.”
ESPN distanced itself from Hill in a statement on Tuesday. “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN,” the company said. “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”