President Donald Trump demanded an apology from ESPN on Friday “for untruth,” days after one of the sports network’s highest profile employees called the president “a white supremacist.”
“ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming),” Trump tweeted Friday morning. “People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”
Trump’s tweets were the president’s first comments on the dispute between the White House and ESPN’s Jemele Hill, a black journalist who co-hosts “SportsCenter.”
Hill called Trump “a white supremacist” on Monday. She accused him of surrounding himself with white supremacists and said he is “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime” whose presidency is “a direct result of white supremacy.”
“He is unqualified and unfit to be president,” she said. “He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday called Hill’s tweets “outrageous” and suggested they amounted to a “fireable offense.”
“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 told reporters Wednesday.
ESPN distanced itself from Hill in a statement Tuesday, saying her comments don’t represent the company’s position. The company later said Hill apologized for crossing the line and appearing to speak on behalf of ESPN.
Hill addressed “the elephant in the room” with a statement Wednesday in which she did not apologize but expressed regret for painting the network “in an unfair light.”
“My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs,” she said.
Trump has continued to face criticism for his response to a fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month. The president received bipartisan backlash after failing to explicitly condemn the white supremacists, KKK members and neo-Nazis who clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville. He eventually did but doubled down on his original stance blaming “both sides” for violence that occurred.
He told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday that he maintained that position during a meeting Wednesday with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the upper chamber’s lone black Republican who had criticized the president for his response.
“I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said,” Trump recalled telling Scott.