The White House encouraged ESPN to fire Jemele Hill after the anchor tweeted disparaging remarks about President Donald Trump. The network allegedly did try to pull the SportsCenter host, according to a report from ThinkProgress.
Hill was caught in the middle of a firestorm when she tweeted that Trump was a white supremacist, ignorant and unfit for the job of commander in chief. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Hill’s tweets were a “fireable offense,” and several conservative publications started a social media movement for that to happen.
ESPN issued a statement on Tuesday, reprimanding Hill for her comments but didn’t issue a suspension. According to Think Progress, they did, however, try to remove the host. The network reportedly tried to keep Hill off the air on Wednesday evening, but her co-host Michael Smith refused to do the show without her, sources said. They also said that the producers reached out to two other black ESPN hosts, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, to ask them to serve as fill-ins for the show, but Eaves and Duncan refused to take the place of Hill and Smith. Faced with the possibility of having to replace Hill and Smith with white co-hosts (which would’ve caused a firestorm), sources said ESPN then called Hill and asked her to come back on her show.
ESPN refutes these claims.
“Yesterday was a hard and unusual day, with a number of people interpreting the day without a full picture that happened,” Rob King, the senior vice president for news and information at SportsCenter, told ThinkProgress. “In the end, ultimately, Michael and Jemele appearing on the show last night and doing the show the way they did is the outcome we always desired.”
“We never asked any other anchors to do last night’s show. Period,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz emailed ThinkProgress after they published their report.
Hill did not address the controversy during the show Wednesday night, but she did release a statement on Twitter. She did not apologize for her statements, nor delete the tweets, but apologized for painting ESPN in an unfair light.