White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemingly doubled-down yesterday to some degree on her criticism of ESPN.
Earlier this week, Sanders asserted that the series of tweets by ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, which included accusing President Trump of being a white supremacist, constituted a fireable offense. The president himself used his Twitter feed yesterday morning to call for ESPN to apologize "for untruths."
Alongside Michael Smith, Jemele Hill is the co-host of the ratings-challenged 6 p.m. Eastern time edition of SportsCenter (SC6 or The Six) on the "Worldwide Leader in Sports." Hill reportedly receives a seven-figure salary from ESPN.
Although most of America may never have heard of Jemele Hill prior to the Monday tweetstorm, she has received a tremendous amount of support from the sports industry and the social justice cohort on Twitter for her anti-Trump online activity. Hill subsequently apologized to ESPN (but not to Trump).
During yesterday's White House press briefing, a reporter following up on the Trump tweet about ESPN wondered if the president should also apologize for his involvement in birtherism (i.e., fringe allegations that Barack Obama was born outside the U.S. and thus constitutionally ineligible to serve as president). Sanders responded in this manner.
"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 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 political 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."
Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis (who blew up the internet yesterday after his CNN appearance with Brooke Baldwin) broke the story that ESPN suspended longtime SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn last spring for suggesting in a WABC radio interview that the downward trend in ESPN viewership was partially the result of too much coverage of social or political issues.
Jemele Hill apparently faced no discipline for her tweets, although the ThinkProgress blog claims that the network unsuccessfully tried to remove her from the Wednesday evening SC6 broadcast, but potential fill-ins refused to cooperate.