Jemele Hill, an award-winning journalist who has been outspoken about President Trump and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, said on a podcast released Wednesday that she did not regret calling Trump a “white supremacist” in September 2017.
“I thought I was saying water is wet,” Hill said on Dan Le Batard’s “South Beach Sessions” podcast. “I didn’t even think it was controversial.”
“I was in the middle of a Twitter conversation. I was replying to somebody. If I was really trying to make a bold statement, I would have added the damn president. I didn’t. I was just talking casually with somebody,” she said. “It wasn’t even original. That’s what is so crazy. I got famous for saying something that wasn’t original. It wasn’t new. It was not breaking news. I thought we all decided this after Charlottesville.”
Hill, now a correspondent for the Atlantic, has also called Trump a “bigot” and “unqualified” and “unfit” for office. She’s consistently stood by her comments about the president in interviews and online.
At the time of her tweets, Hill worked for ESPN hosting the 6 p.m., hour of “SportsCenter” with Michael Smith. The network did not discipline Hill for the message but made clear she was not speaking on behalf of the company. Two days later White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called Hill’s comment a “fireable offense.”
Hill was suspended from the network for two weeks in October 2017 after suggesting that her Twitter followers could boycott businesses that associated with the Cowboys over Jones’s hard-line position on players' behavior during the national anthem. By this past summer, she had announced her departure from ESPN and landed at the Atlantic soon after.
Hill joined ESPN in 2006 as a national columnist and made television appearances on “SportsCenter,” “First Take,” “Around the Horn” and “Outside the Lines.” She hosted a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama in July 2016 about race relations, policing and racial equality.
ESPN has a history of harsh punishments for staffers who cross the NFL. The network suspended and then fired columnist and TV personality Bill Simmons in 2015 after intense criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Hill told Le Batard that she was prepared to face punishment from ESPN or public backlash after her comments about Trump.
“I knew almost immediately that, if I did face some kind of permanent discipline, if I did lose my job, if I was immediately suspended, I was okay with it,” she said.
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