WASHINGTON, D.C. — White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the comments of an ESPN sportscaster about President Donald Trump “outrageous” and “a fireable offense” when asked about it during Wednesday’s press briefing.
Sanders was asked:
You mentioned a couple times today — you’ve sort of emphasized diversity in the West Wing. You talked about the President being very clear after Charlottesville in denouncing all hate. I just wanted to read a comment from an influential African American sportscaster from ESPN yesterday, who said, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy, period. He’s unqualified and unfit to be President.”
Why do you think — do you have a reaction to that? And is the President aware of that comment?
“I’m not sure if he’s aware, but I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN,” responded Sanders in a firm tone.
ESPN’s Jemele Hill was the sportscaster the reporter was referring to. She tweeted the message in question on Monday night, September 11. Only the first sentence quoted by the reporter on Wednesday appeared in one of Hill’s tweets from Monday.
She also tweeted that evening, “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”, “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”, and “Donald Trump is a bigot. Glad you could live with voting for him. I couldn’t, because I cared about more than just myself.”
ESPN issued a very brief statement addressing Hill’s comments that appeared to be a mere slap on the wrist:
ESPN Statement on Jemele Hill: pic.twitter.com/3kfexjx9zQ
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) September 12, 2017
The reporter in Wednesday’s White House press conference asked Sanders a follow-up question: “If the President was so clear, as you said, why do you think influential African American figures are saying things like this?”
“I’m not going to speak for that individual,” Sanders said clearly. “But I know that the President has met, again, 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.”
Trump met with Senator Tim Scott early Wednesday to discuss several issues including the President’s comments on Charlottesville and Scott’s reaction to those comments. According to a White House readout of the meeting, the two discussed “the Administration’s relationship with the African American community, the bipartisan issue of improving race relations, and creating a more unified country.” The statement adds that Trump looks forward to continued dialogue with the Senator as well as the African-American community and leaders from diverse communities nationwide.
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