ESPN provides Barack Obama with an hour-long, commercial-free commercial for free in primetime that advertises the president’s views on race.
“The President and The People: A National Conversation,” a townhall-style event with an audience — at least in part — hand picked, simulcasts on ESPN and ABC at 8 p.m. Eastern this Thursday.
“With the nation on edge in the immediate aftermath of horrific events in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, Disney Media Networks will host a landmark town hall discussion with President Barack Obama and Americans who have been directly affected by recent events,” the network release reads. “World News Tonight Anchor David Muir will moderate a frank and intimate conversation about race relations, justice, policing and equality, produced by ABC News. It will include many of the people whose lives have been changed forever in the last week as the nation sees these issues play out through their eyes.”
Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN’s His and Hers and a Christmastime visitor to the president at the White House last year, works alongside Muir on the broadcast. Hill’s Twitter account features a picture of the president and first lady posing with her and her husband and a pinned tweet noting her December visit to the White House.
Though Hill hosts a show ostensibly about sports, her viewers know the ins-and-outs of her beliefs in the political arena better than her cheering interests in the sports stadium. She recently asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, “Why are we taking him seriously?” In the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Hill tweeted that Americans lacked standing to criticize Islamic views on homosexuality. “So in a country where we have done everything possible to undermine the LGBTQ community,” she wrote, “we are suddenly lecturing Islam on homophobia. Oh.”
But Hill appears on no topic as controversial as she does on race. When citizens of Baltimore looted and vandalized in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, Hill remarked on television, “A lot of times riots have been a catalyst to a greater movement.” Earlier this week, the host of the midday ESPN program criticized off-duty cops for walking off a security detail in response to WNBA players wearing Black Lives Matter shirts. “If I’m the Minnesota Lynx,” she declared, “I say, ‘Good. Good riddance.’”
The decision to install Hill on the politicized broadcast comes after the Worldwide Leader in Hypocrisy instituted a purge at the network that included firing baseball analyst Curt Schilling for a social-media post in support of keeping males out of the women’s room and demoting football talking-head Mike Ditka immediately after he opined on a radio program in March that “Obama is the worst president we’ve ever had.”
Earlier this year, a network edict strictly forbade politicking by on-air talent during campaign season. “Our audiences should be confident that our news decisions are not influenced by political pressures,” the notice informed, “or by any personal interests.”
Did Hill not get the memo? Did ESPN not read their own memo?