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The White House is suggesting that ESPN fire SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill after she called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist” earlier this week.
When a reporter asked if Trump was aware of Hill’s tweets during Wednesday afternoon’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she thought Hill’s comments were “outrageous” and grounds for ESPN to terminate the veteran host’s contract.
“That is one of the more outrageous comments that anybody could make,” Sanders said. “And certainly is something that is a fireable offense by ESPN.”
Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 11, 2017
Earlier in the week, Sanders reportedly defended Trump against Hill’s word choice, pointing out that he recently met with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is Black, and other “highly respected leaders in the African-American community.” She also said that he is “committed to working with them to bring the country together.”
“That’s where we need to be focused,” she said at the time. “Not on outrageous statements like [Hill’s].”
Twitter seems, by and large, to disagree with Sanders’ take. Beyond the impracticality of using a government platform to call for an individual journalist’s termination during the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it’s striking many citizens as an issue of free speech.
“If free speech means anything, it means being allowed to criticize the state without fear of state reprisal,” tweeted the Atlantic‘s Adam Serwer.
I demand ESPN gives her a raise. https://t.co/uHVmhwXv8y— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) September 13, 2017
Today, the White House press secretary used the people's podium to call for the firing of an individual citizen, @jemelehill. Take that in.— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) September 13, 2017
Hill has not tweeted since Tuesday morning.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.