ESPN’s Jemele Hill. (John Salangsang/Invision/Associated Press)

Some facts:

  • As a candidate for president, Donald Trump retweeted bogus statistics massively exaggerating the rate at which blacks murder whites. When asked about that move by then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump replied, “Bill, I didn’t tweet, I retweeted somebody that was supposedly an expert. … Am I going to check every statistic? I get millions and millions of people @realDonaldTrump. All it was is a retweet. It wasn’t from me.”
  • As a very public private citizen, Trump appealed for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York after the Central Park rape case made headlines. “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes,” wrote Trump in a 1989 ad that ran in various newspapers. The “Central Park Five” — a group of black and Latino teens — were later convicted of the crime, and years later exonerated. After the Central Park Five reached a settlement with the city in 2014, Trump wrote an opinion piece calling it a “disgrace.”
  • As a publicity-seeking reality TV star, Trump led the “birther” campaign against President Barack Obama, one of the most racist escapades in this century. As the Republican presidential nominee, Trump said in September 2016, “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”
  • As a brilliant self-taught campaign strategist, Trump said at his kickoff event, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Pressed later by CNN’s Don Lemon about the offensiveness of those comments, Trump responded, “Somebody’s doing the raping, Don.”
President Trump blasted ESPN "SportsCenter" host Jemele Hill in a tweet on Oct. 10, claiming that Hill "tanked" the network's ratings. Hill was suspended by the network for a tweet about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

These are just a few of the examples of our president’s refusal to apologize when confronted with his racism and bigotry. There are more.

That record notwithstanding, Trump on Friday morning tweeted this demand at ESPN:

At issue is the media hubbub of the week: ESPN’s Jemele Hill, a host of “SportsCenter,” wrote a series of tweets earlier this week calling out the president for his racism.

Corporate drama has ensued. First came a statement from ESPN:

“Inappropriate” covers a lot of turf. What it doesn’t cover is “incorrect” or “inaccurate.” As this blog has already explained, her description of Trump and his approach to race rests on a string of convincing examples, the most recent being his belief that there were “very fine people” on both sides of August’s Charlottesville clashes.

ESPN being ESPN, however, things didn’t end there. It’s been under fire from conservatives for sensationalizing openly gay NFL draftee Michael Sam; for bestowing a big award on Caitlyn Jenner; for moving its ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic from Trump National Golf Club; and for firing baseball analyst Curt Schilling after he posted his feelings about transgender bathroom laws. In a column last December about ESPN’s emergence as a political football, Public Editor Jim Brady wrote that some consumers were alienated by the company’s brushes with politics. Included in the column is this quote from Hill herself, “In 2012, there wasn’t quite this level of chatter. This time, you’ve got one candidate who is so polarizing, and, because of the racist and xenophobic views associated with him, it’s made it difficult to stay quiet about it.”

That was a mealy-mouthed way of saying that Trump is a racist. Hill’s views have clearly hardened in the intervening nine months. And that has turned into a management issue for ESPN. On Wednesday, Hill tweeted out these thoughts on the matter:

ESPN also played the statement game:

Upshot: Hill stands by her tweets. Asked to comment on this matter, an ESPN spokesman referred this blog to the tweet above. As for this sentence: “My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light” — the Erik Wemple Blog has no idea what that means. The comments and the public way she made them painted ESPN in the light of having an employee who is paying close attention to the racism of the president of the United States.

President Trump blasted ESPN "SportsCenter" host Jemele Hill in a tweet on Oct. 10, claiming that Hill "tanked" the network's ratings. Hill was suspended by the network for a tweet about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

But ESPN is a goliath. It has been known as “Disney’s cash machine,” though cord-cutters are hurting it. It crawls with PR experts and executives with a lot of time to worry about optics. The line about “My regret …” is the patent product of all these folks: They have to come up with something.

According to ThinkProgress, ESPNers attempted to kick Hill off the air on Wednesday but didn’t get any support from potential fill-ins. ESPN struck back, saying that it never “asked” other anchors to do the show.

Now the president has asked for an apology. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Wednesday that Hill’s tweets constitute a “fireable” offense. On Friday, she reiterated that sentiment and cited ESPN’s record of discipline against it. “The point is that ESPN has been hypocritical. They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard. ESPN suspended a longtime anchor, Linda Cohn, not too long ago for expressing a political viewpoint. … This is clearly a political statement.” Cohn got in hot water for criticizing her bosses in public.

Hill, meanwhile, has spent the better part of a week negotiating with her higher-ups to craft statements regarding a series of tweets that stand on top of a fetid pile of evidence extending back years and years. Through all the noise, those tweets remain on Hill’s Twitter account for anyone who wishes to view them. She may apologize to her employer for some platform foul, but she’s not apologizing to a president she sees as a racist. She recently told the Ringer, “I get an enormous satisfaction when I see somebody delete a tweet. And if I make you delete your account, I’m throwing a party. That’s even better. I’m like, I’m running you out of this social media neighborhood. You’re not running me out of it.”

The firestorm Jemele Hill has faced for her comments on President Trump shows the White House and big brands care more about the word "racist" than they do about racism, says Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)