Given the political overtones of the story about ESPN switching announcer Robert Lee away from a college football game in Charlottesville, not to mention how viral it went, it should have been no surprise that it came up on Fox News. Sure enough, Tucker Carlson discussed the topic on his show Tuesday, and then again Wednesday with a panel that included Clay Travis, the sports personality who broke the story.
Perhaps it also should have been no surprise that Britt McHenry was also on the panel. The former ESPN reporter, an anchor at WJLA before then, has been espousing the sort of conservative opinions that play well with many in Fox’s audience.
After Carlson introduced McHenry as having said she was fired by ESPN for her conservative views, she told him, “I can tell you as a former employee that ESPN does do its due diligence in trying to protect the physical safety of its employees,” citing its efforts on her behalf during a playoff hockey game she covered shortly after a video emerged showing her belittling an employee of a towing company.
“So I would like to believe, because that would be the only logical consideration, that maybe that was discussed behind the scenes,” she continued, “but I think it’s more of a reflection of society right now, and how left-wing and PC it’s gotten, that even your name, given at birth, or the possibility of a meme on the Internet, is a reason to make a personnel change.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 24, 2017
An ESPN spokesman initially said in a statement, “We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”
Later on Wednesday, the network’s president, John Skipper, elaborated on the decision to pull Lee from a Virginia home game against William and Mary game on Sept. 2. “There was never any concern — by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee’s name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game,” Skipper said.
“Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether — in these divisive times — Robert’s assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling. Since Robert was their primary concern, they consulted with him directly. He expressed some personal trepidation about the assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, opted for that game — in part because he lives in Albany and would be able to get home to his family on Saturday evening.”
“I’m disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda,” Skipper continued, “and sincerely appreciate Robert’s personal input and professionalism throughout this episode.”
That last comment appeared to be directed at Travis, and the latter took the opportunity on Carlson’s show to respond. “Every reasonable person can see an Asian guy who’s alive today, and realize that it’s not a dead Confederate general from 1870,” he said, as Carlson and McHenry chuckled.
“This is the problem with ESPN and their leadership,” Travis continued. “They talk to us like we’re a bunch of idiots and imbeciles, and sell crap and expect us to see it and think, ‘Oh my god, how lucky we are that ESPN is treating us this way.’ This is not true. This is a lie.”
Travis threw doubt upon ESPN’s claim that it made a mutual decision with Lee to reassign him, saying, “ESPN is the most powerful sports media company in the world. … Do you really believe the guy making $75,000 a year makes the decision about whether he’s going to call the game?”
“I just think this climate is sending the wrong message,” McHenry said earlier in the segment. Noting Travis’s suggestion that ESPN was favorable toward Colin Kaepernick in its coverage of the ex-49ers quarterback, she referred to her own recent online disagreement with Kevin Durant, in which she took issue with his stated intention to skip a possible visit by his NBA champion Warriors to the White House.
“If you dare speak up, a lot of Americans are sick of being labeled a bigot if they don’t agree with whatever’s on the left with some of these athletes and agendas,” she said to Carlson.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 24, 2017
After her Fox News appearance, McHenry posted a photo of herself from the set, with a lengthy caption in which she recalled being a “22-year-old intern” at the network who “dreamed of one day ‘making it.’ ” She added, “Nine years later, I got to go live, on-air on @foxnews,” but pointed out that she didn’t have a “permanent” position with the network.
“People have told me I’m crazy to go in a different direction, and maybe they’re right,” McHenry wrote. “But I believe in this, and passion is what should drive all of us.
“As far as my former employer goes, I know there are good people there who had the best intentions of protecting their employee. It’s about us as a society. The extreme left-wing PC agendas need to stop.”
I used to walk these halls carrying coffee and giving scripts to Brit Hume as a 22 year old intern. I worked in the political unit in 2008, and dreamed of one day "making it." Nine years later, I got to go live, on-air on @foxnews. Before articles come out, no this isn't permanent. I'm appreciative Tucker Carlson invited me on and enjoyed the experience. Listen, I'm here to tell you, no matter how bad it seems–layoffs, viral videos, tears–it always gets better. People have told me I'm crazy to go in a different direction, and maybe they're right. But I believe in this, and passion is what should drive all of us. As far as my former employer goes, I know there are good people there who had the best intentions of protecting their employee. It's about us as a society. The extreme left-wing PC agendas need to stop. Onward and upward #keepfighting