ESPN on Tuesday issued a statement disavowing host Jemele Hill’s tweets calling President Donald Trump “a white supremacist,” “a bigot” and “unqualified and unfit to be president.”
“The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN,” the Disney-owned sports media giant said via its media relations department’s Twitter account. “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
Beyond the statement, it was not clear Tuesday if Hill would face discipline for her Monday night Twitter activity.
Hill’s tweets about Trump remained online as of this writing and on Tuesday she co-hosted “SC6,” the 5 p.m. edition of “SportsCenter,” as usual.
The tweets about President Trump spun out of Hill’s link to a report about performer Kid Rock (aka Robert Ritchie). Flirting with a U.S. Senate run in Michigan, Rock wrote on Facebook he “loves black people” and accused the “extreme left” of “trying to use the old confederate flag BS” to label him a racist.
“He loves black people so much that he pandered to racists by using a flag that unquestionably stands for dehumanizing black people,” Hill tweeted.
In a Twitter discussion stemming from that, Hill over several tweets wrote that Trump was “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists” and that he “is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.”
“The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it’s of no threat to you,” Hill tweeted. “Well, it’s a threat to me.”
In response to someone on Twitter vowing not to watch “SC6” unless ESPN fired her — stating “U have the right 2 have ur opinion but u mix it with ur job it isn’t right” — Hill on Tuesday tweeted, “Do you know the difference between twitter & TV?”
ESPN has pushed back against conservative critics, sensitive to accusations it and its personnel infuse politics into coverage in service of a left-leaning agenda.
Some of the backlash from the right can be traced to the 2015 Espys, when ESPN gave its Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner.
In June, ESPN released a study it commissioned that found the vast majority of viewers detected no bias in its content and 64 percent of those surveyed believed ESPN was striking the right mix of sports news and political issues.
While 30 percent detected a bias and 63 percent of that subgroup (about 19 percent of the total) found ESPN too liberal, about 30 percent of those sensing bias (roughly 9 percent overall) thought it was too conservative.
But charges of media bias have become common with 62 percent of the U.S. adults surveyed in a Gallup poll released in April saying they thought the media favored one political party or another, up from around 50 percent in 2000.
Fighting that perception is one reason media organizations seek to rein in employees from political activities and entering hot-button frays through social media.
Here in Chicago earlier this year, sportscaster Mark Giangreco of Disney-owned ABC-7 was suspended after a tweet in which he referred to Trump as a “cartoon lunatic” and America as “a country full of simpletons.”
Some felt the punishment was too harsh for something expressed off-air. Others felt it wasn’t harsh enough.
Station management at the time said this was “appropriate action” because “Giangreco’s Twitter comments are not in line with ABC 7 Chicago’s non-partisan editorial standards.”
Giangreco deleted the anti-Trump tweet. He also deleted another that responded to former ESPN baseball analyst and major-league pitcher Curt Schilling’s post that CNN should be called “LPNN” — the “LP” standing for “liberal propaganda” — with Giangreco’s proposing to “change Fox News to Nazi News.”
ESPN last year fired the conservative Schilling for what management deemed insensitive social media posts targeting, not a politician, but transgender people. ESPN stressed then it was “an inclusive company.”
Schilling now contributes to right-aligned Breitbart.com, which was among those calling for Hill’s dismissal Monday.
Breitbart said in its report of Hill’s tweets that they “most certainly would result in her firing, if she was a conservative. Since she’s basically the opposite of that, we’ll have to wait and see how ESPN handles it.”
Deadspin.com took the opposite tack. Its headline: “ESPN Issues Craven Apology For Jemele Hill’s Accurate Descriptions Of Donald Trump.”
On the same night Hill was tweeting about Trump and white supremacy, singer Hank Williams Jr. returned to the opening of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” telecasts this season after a six-year absence.
Williams, who had been part of “MNF” from 1989 to 2011, was dropped after an appearance on Fox News in which he likened President Barack Obama playing golf with Republican House speaker John Boehner to Adolf Hitler taking to the links with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(c)2017 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.