Sanders, who characterized Hill’s statement as a “fireable offense” on Wednesday, had this to say when a follow up question was posed earlier today (Friday):“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. The network’s public editor has said that there is a perception that ESPN has become political and that has harmed the network.”
“I think ESPN needs to stand by the standard that they have set in their own actions that they have taken about previous employees,” Sanders subsequently reiterated.
The president himself weighed in, tweeting from his @realDonaldTrump account, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in record numbers. Apologize for untruth!”
But ESPN executives have a lot to consider given the response welling up from inside the African American community as those like Al Sharpton have stepped up in her defense.
Sharpton has said that he and his National Action Network will boycott the network if ESPN fires Hill over the tweets.
“Let’s not forget ESPN is regulated by the FCC,” Sharpton told TMZ. “The FCC commissioners are appointed by the White House so it’s a whole different level of intimidation on media outlets when you have a press secretary [calling for a reporter’s job]”
Then directing his comments to Hill, Sharpton encouraged her to stay strong, adding, “If they take you out, many of us in the civil rights community will stand up for you and take ESPN off our service.”
The Washington Post reported that the network had tried to take her off the air on Wednesday following the incident but that the two black sports journalists they contacted to take her place declined and that Hill’s SportsCenter co-host Michael Smith said he would not go on without her.
ESPN has denied the report. In a statement, the network said, “Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies that she was in any way speaking on behalf of ESPN. She has acknowledged that her tweets crossed that line and has apologized for doing so. We accept her apology.”
The statement references Hill’s initial apology, which read: “My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs. My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional”.