White House Stands By Criticism of Jemele Hill and ESPN: ‘They Should Hold Anchors to a Fair And Consistent Standard’

By A.J. Katz 

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As we reported earlier, Pres. Trump took to Twitter this morning to criticize ESPN for their decision not to discipline its 6 p.m. SportsCenter co-host Jemele Hill for referring to him as “a white supremacist” (at least not so far).

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about the president’s tweet and the administration’s desire to bash ESPN.

Reporter: The president today tweeted out that he wants to see ESPN apologize for what he called untruths. By him saying that, though, does that mean that he’s willing to apologize for “birtherism” claims that he called on for years?

Sanders: I think the president 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 a anchor, Linda Cohn, not too long ago for expressing a political viewpoint. The network’s public editor says there’s 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 they have set themselves in that front.

A few minutes later, another reporter asked Sanders to clarify her comments about ESPN:

Reporter: Quick clarification on the ESPN matter. You had said it was a “fireable offense” that is her saying she should be fired. Are you or the president saying she should be fired?

Sanders: That is not a decision I want to make. That is something for ESPN to decide. I think it is a fireable offense based on the standard that ESPN has set themselves by saying that people that go too far and make political comments have been suspended from their own network. I think that that is a consistency they should probably focus on.

Then things got a bit testy. NBC News’s Hallie Jackson tried to jump in to gain more information about the administration’s stance on ESPN, but Sanders decided to call on someone else. Jackson didn’t let that deter her.

Sanders: Hallie, I have already taken a question from you.
Jackson: Yes, I appreciate that.
Sanders: I am asking you to be respectful of your colleagues.
Jackson: You have not answered it. Could you?
Sanders: Go ahead. This will be the last question since we are tight on time.
Jackson: I want to call on a clarification because you said you don’t have advice for a private company, yet you’re giving advice to ESPN…
Sanders: It is not my decision to make for a private company. I was asked 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 in the own actions that they have taken about previous employees. I really don’t have much else to add on that front.