Asked right away about her Trump tweet, which White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described at the time as “a fireable offense,” Hill explained that it came in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s seeming reluctance to criticize the white supremacists involved.
“I probably did what you shouldn’t do when you feel emotional, a little angry, which is go to Twitter,” Hill said. “I got into a dialogue with a Twitter user, and obviously everybody has seen the tweets, you know what I said. I did not expect in that moment that it was going to become what it became. … It just kind of escalated from there, then it leads to the president personally calling me out.”
Asked by co-host Meghan McCain, the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), if Hill stood by what she had said, and if she thought that “Trump’s supporters are white supremacists,” Hill replied, “I still stand by what I said. I don’t think his supporters are white supremacists.”
In her tweet, Hill had said that Trump was “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself [with] other white supremacists.” She told McCain that the president’s supporters “have the benefit of privilege to be able to distance and dissociate themselves from certain issues,” while she, “as a woman of color,” feels “vulnerable to certain behaviors, certain policies and certain things that he’s said and done.”
Hill asked that Trump supporters try to understand the reasons behind her sense of vulnerability. “It’s not about calling you out, necessarily, it’s about the fact that in this time, and in this moment, it feels like people of color are under attack,” Hill said to audience applause.
McCain brought up Ben Carson, Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who she said “is obviously not white,” adding, “Would you consider him a white supremacist?”
After Hill said she would not, McCain pressed her on the assertion that Trump was surrounded by white supremacists. “I wasn’t talking about Ben Carson. I think we know the names that I was talking about,” Hill replied, mentioning former White House adviser Steve Bannon and saying she could “go down the list of people who have at the very least played footsie with white supremacists.”
Hill had previously said that “Twitter wasn’t the place to vent my frustrations” about Trump in a September essay for The Undefeated, in which she explained, “My criticisms of the president were never about politics. In my eyes, they were about right and wrong. I love this country. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t want it to be better.”
Co-host Sunny Hostin brought up the tweets about the Cowboys, which Hill posted in the wake of team owner Jerry Jones’s claims that his players would be benched if they did not stand for the national anthem. After she was suspended for what ESPN said was a second recent violation of its social media policy, Trump tweeted, “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked, in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”
Hill told Hostin and the rest of the “View” panel that she “probably wouldn’t do that again,” noting that “Twitter’s not a great place for nuance.” She said she “wasn’t specifically calling for a boycott of the NFL or of Jerry Jones,” but she understood how it could be “interpreted that way.”
“Let’s keep it 100, my employer is in business with the NFL, and some of those same advertisers that Jerry Jones has, they’re also advertisers of ESPN,” Hill said. “So I very much understood why I was suspended. It was not related to the Trump tweets, it was more or less related to that and putting the company in a tough position.”
Hill said that what she “should have done, especially because we were having all these national conversations,” was go to ESPN and ask to “write a column about it instead … with more breadth and more depth, [to] explain my position.”
Her role with The Undefeated should allow her to write many more columns on issues related to various national conversations, including, in all likelihood, more than a few that involve Trump. In January, Hill thanked ESPN for “graciously” working with her to effect a return to her “true love,” which “always has been writing, reporting and commentary.”