The White House said on Wednesday that ESPN reporter Jemele Hill committed a “fireable offense” by calling Donald Trump a white supremacist, a stance many see as hypocritical given Trump’s very public prior accusations that Barack Obama is racist.
On Monday, the new SportsCenter co-host took to Twitter to call Trump “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” As Variety noted, the sports network publicly admonished Hill but made no move to either suspend or fire her.
That stance was met with some resistance by the White House. In a press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Hill committed a “fireable offense,” which was widely seen as a call for ESPN to fire the anchor.
Aaron Blake of the Washington Post noted the irony of the White House’s stance in an article published Wednesday afternoon, writing that Trump very bluntly and unabashedly called Barack Obama a racist during Obama’s terms in office.
“It’s one thing if Trump were as pure as the driven snow. But even if you set aside the accuracy of such claims, which is a matter of opinion, Hill calling Trump a racist is hardly far afield of the tactics Trump himself has employed during his political rise. He even called his predecessor — you guessed it — a racist.”
In 2012, Trump responded to a conservative media outlet that unearthed video of an Obama speech mentioning controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright by claiming that Obama was a racist and that the media was protecting him.
Blake noted that Donald Trump’s claims that Barack Obama faked his birth certificate were also a racially charged attack, and Trump has continually hinted that Obama may have allegiances outside the United States. That was the case after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last year, when Trump suggested that Obama may have nefarious reasons for not condemning Islamic terrorism.
“So apparently calling Trump a racist is bad, but calling Obama a racist and suggesting he is a secret Muslim who is lying about his birthplace and might sympathize with terrorists is okay?” Blake posed.
There is criticism of the White House’s stance beyond those pointing out the apparent hypocrisy, Newsweek noted. Former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub noted on Wednesday that Trump may be in violation of a federal law prohibiting government employees from influencing the hiring or firing practices of a private entity “solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.”
Despite the harsh rebuke from the White House, there is no public indication that ESPN is planning to fire Jemele Hill over her claim that Donald Trump is a white supremacist.
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