White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday struck back at ESPN host Jemele Hill for referring to President Trump as a “white supremacist,” calling the comment “outrageous” and saying she should lose her job.
Asked about Hill's tweets Monday evening, in which the sportscaster also said Trump's rise was “the direct result of white supremacy,” Sanders responded: “That's one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”
ESPN scolded Hill, who is African American, in a public statement distancing the network from her remarks, but it has not suspended her from her co-hosting gig on “SportsCenter.” The network, which has been accused by far-right conservatives of being too openly liberal with its politics, called Hill’s tweet “inappropriate” and noted her comments do not “represent the position of ESPN.”
In her tweets, Hill wrote that “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.” She said his “rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period,” and that 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.”
Sanders said she did not know whether Trump was aware of Hill's comments.
Trump has faced widespread criticism for his handling of the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of a counterprotester. The president did not immediately denounce the specific hate groups, including the KKK and neo-Nazis, which had organized the event, and he continued to equivocate even after condemning them, later saying there were “very fine people” on both sides.
Trump met privately at the White House on Thursday with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is African American, about the aftermath of the Charlottesville incident.
Sanders asserted Wednesday that Trump has been clear in his condemnation of hate groups.
Asked why Hill and her supporters don't think so, the press secretary said: “I know that the president has met with people like Senator Scott who are highly respected leaders in the African American community. He's committed to working with them to bring the country together. I think that's where we need to be focused — not on outrageous statements like that one.”