ESPN host Jemele Hill has described President Donald Trump as a white supremacist, asserting the president only weathered several controversies during the 2016 election because he was white. The network has distanced itself from Hill's comments, drawing criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
On Sept. 11, Hill blasted Trump during a series of tweets that were an offshoot of an social media discussion about rapper Kid Rock and his use of the Confederate flag. Hill is an anchor on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
"Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself [with] other white supremacists," Hill tweeted, according to The Daily Caller. "The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it's no threat to you. Well, it's a threat to me."
Hill, who is African American, asserted that Trump's administration was uniquely dangerous for people of color and that his "rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period."
The ESPN anchor cited several of the president's controversies, such as a lawsuit filed against him for housing discrimination in the 1970s, his comments about the acquitted Central Park Five and his response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"You just don't want to believe it because it's too unpleasant," Hill continued. "But that doesn't change the facts. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected. Donald Trump is a bigot."
Hill's comments drew pushback from some social media users and were met with a rebuttal from her own network. On Sept. 12, ESPN released a statement on the matter.
"The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN," the network said. "We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate."
ESPN's response to the controversy only drew more criticism from conservatives, who asserted that Hill should have been reprimanded for her tweets. The sports network has been previously criticized by right-wing groups for allegedly being intolerant of conservative points of view.
"She didn't get fired [because] disney and ESPN are fine [with] liberal racism vs conservative logic," tweeted former ESPN analyst Curt Schilling. "Only naysayers to that are liars."
In April 2016, Schilling was fired from ESPN after he shared a social media post that was deemed prejudiced against transgender people. Some conservative viewers have asserted that ESPN is alienating its right-leaning audiences, citing Schilling's firing and a series of network layoffs on April 26 as evidence that the sports channel is turning off some viewers and losing business as a result.
"It's a sign of the times," former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson told The New York Times. "I think people are looking for bias, and opinion, and information that in some way involves some hidden signal or indication that there's a political bias in one direction or another."
The controversy following Hill's tweets has even sparked debate among sports analysts, New York Daily News reports.
"If I said anything of equivalency to Obama, I would have been gone much sooner than I was," tweeted former ESPN staffer Britt McHenry, who has previously accused the network of laying her off for her conservative politics.
"If Obama bragged about grabbing women by their vaginas, you wouldn't have to say much, Britt, because he wouldn't have been elected," Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated tweeted in response.