On Friday afternoon, the White House repeated their call that ESPN should fire Jemele Hill, an ESPN anchor who called President Trump a bigot on Twitter.
Trump himself joined the fray on Friday morning, tweeting that ESPN should “apologize for untruth.” Later at the press briefing, a reporter asked if that meant Trump would apologize for his untrue claims that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
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
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not address the birther claims and stood by what she said Wednesday when she called for Hill’s firing.
“I think the point is that ESPN has been hypocritical. They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard,” Sanders said Friday. “ESPN suspended longtime anchor Linda Cohn not too long ago for expressing a political viewpoint.”
But Cohn was not actually suspended for expressing a political viewpoint at all. Instead, she was suspended after saying she agreed with a radio host who said he thought ESPN had lost some viewers for being too political.
Sanders was explicitly asked by another reporter if she stood by her comments from Wednesday that Hill should be fired, and Sanders said she does.
“That’s not a decision that I’m going to make,” Sanders said. “Again, I think it is a fireable offense based on the standard the ESPN has set themselves.”
The briefing was ESPN-ified as Sanders sparred with reporters who pushed on the question.
“You said you don’t have advice for a private company, yet you’re giving advice to ESPN,” one reporter said.
Sanders cut her off, saying, “I said not It’s not my decision to make for a private company. I was as specific about that individual, I made a comment, I stand by it. I think ESPN needs to stand by the standard that they have set.”
The third day of ESPN briefings comes after ThinkProgress exclusively reported Thursday evening that ESPN tried to replace Hill with a another host, a move that Hill’s colleagues rejected.
News also broke Thursday evening that the Democratic Coalition Against Trump had filed an ethics complaint with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics against Sanders, citing a federal law that makes it a crime for an employee in Sanders’ role to influence a private employment decision.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) September 15, 2017
“Even in Donald Trump’s America, there’s still such a thing as free speech,” Jon Cooper, the chairman of the coalition said in a statement. “For Sanders to publicly call for the dismissal of a Trump critic is bizarre and disturbing, to say the least. If anyone is to be fired, it should be her.”
Hill has not deleted any of her tweets about Trump from Monday evening.
“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself [with] other white supremacists,” she tweeted, adding that he is an “an unfit, bigoted, incompetent moron” who is “unqualified and unfit to be president… [I]f he were not white, he never would have been elected.”
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 14, 2017
And although Hill has said she regrets the impact her comments had on the company, she tweeted that they reflected her beliefs.