“I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN,” Sanders said during Wednesday’s press briefing.
Asked by The Washington Post’s David Nakamura why an influential African American sportscaster might make such a comment, Sanders said, “I’m not going to speak for that individual, but I know that the president has met, again, with people like Senator [Tim] Scott, who are highly respected leaders in the African-American community.”
Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, met with Trump Wednesday at the White House, in part to discuss the president’s controversial comments following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month that sparked deadly violence. After Trump at a news conference said there was “blame of both sides” for the violence, Scott told Vice News that the president’s “moral authority” had been “compromised.”
Trump is “committed to working with [leaders of the black community] to bring the country together,” Sanders said on Wednesday. “I think that’s where we need to be focused, not on outrageous statements like” the one by Hill.
“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” she tweeted.
Hill went on to call Trump “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” and said “his rise is the direct result of white supremacy. Period.”
In a statement on Tuesday, ESPN said Hill’s comments about Trump “do not represent the position” of the cable network. “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate,” the statement said.
ESPN has taken heat in recent years from conservatives who say the network has stuck its nose in politics and pushed a liberal agenda. “ESPN’s double standard shows when hosts speak out,” read a Wednesday headline on Fox News.
To make its point, Fox pointed to ESPN’s firing of analyst and former professional baseball pitcher Curt Schilling in May 2016 over a demeaning anti-transgender Facebook post by him.
The post, apparently in response to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT bathroom law, included a meme showing a man dressed in revealing women’s clothing. With it Schilling commented: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
In a statement announcing Schilling’s termination, ESPN said it was “an inclusive company” and that his conduct was “unacceptable.”
Schilling had long made his conservative viewpoints known before the offending post.
This article has been updated with Scott’s meeting with Trump on Wednesday and details of Schilling’s 2016 firing by ESPN.