ESPN host and my one-time OBF colleague Jemele Hill achieved media martyrdom at about 2:45 p.m. yesterday.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Hill committed what should be considered “a fireable offense by ESPN” for tweeting “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/other white supremacists.”
Hill is now guaranteed employment for life at ESPN. No matter how low the ratings tumble on the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter she shares with Michael Smith — it was ranked 70th Thursday among all cable shows before the Weather Channel dominated cable for five days — she’s keeping her ESPN job for as long as she wants.
Until Sanders spoke, this was merely a back-and-forth, intra-media squabble over the obscene double-standard ESPN and multiple other media companies have toward their employees who share political views.
We all know the drill there: One set of views is acceptable and one isn’t.
Private employers are not bound by the First Amendment. But companies like ESPN that pretend to practice journalism should be. It is fundamentally wrong when any organization whose very existence depends on the First Amendment doles out punishment for the crime of offering a political opinion or observation.
Now the narrative is this: Hill has been bullied by the Bully Pulpit. The White House — in essence — said Hill, who is African-American, should be fired. We have all the makings of a Category 5 Sanctimony Storm.
And I thought the only fireable offense at ESPN these days was voting for Donald Trump. (Note: This excludes the very talented souls who lost their jobs recently because of ESPN’s sagging ratings, declining profit margins and cable cord-cutters.)
Trump and his supporters are not the first group tagged as white supremacists by Hill during her time at ESPN.
Celtics fans were.
In June 2008, Hill was suspended by ESPN after she wrote, “rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim.” In the same piece, she said her antipathy toward the Celtics was, “admittedly, to some degree … about race.”
In her subsequent apology, she/the ESPN PR department wrote, “I pride myself on an understanding of, and appreciation for, diversity — and there is no excuse for the appalling lack of sensitivity in my comments.”
The Trump administration is not the first to attack media-types by name, although it has raised the practice to an art form.
Richard Nixon’s enemies list included CBS…