Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan defended ESPN’s Jemele Hill’s tweets that called President Trump a white supremacist and said he was unqualified to be president.
Hill’s halfhearted apology was good enough for Sullivan, said tweets from Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders were inappropriate.
It is, for example, wildly inappropriate for a presidential spokeswoman to call for the firing of a media person who criticizes the president.
It is shockingly inappropriate for the president of the United States to defend racists, as he seemed to do after the Charlottesville protests last month.
While Hill’s tweets “appeared out of nowhere,” they were, in fact, a long time coming, Sullivan said.
“I have to talk myself out of sending certain tweets several times a day,” Hill said in some particularly thoughtful remarks during a Sports Illustrated media panel in August.
“I know there are sports fans looking for me to provide them with an ‘escape,’ but as a woman and person of color, I have no escape from the fact that there are people in charge who seem to be either sickened by my existence or are intent on erasing my dignity in every possible way.”
So, when her social media posts get edgy, she said, “it’s reflective of all the emotion and conflict I feel.”
Sullivan also said that since Hill isn’t a reporter of straight news, she is required to share her views. Also because ESPN isn’t a conventional news organization that it gives Hill a lot of leeway.
The one thing that Sullivan got right was saying that Hill made a mistake in not making it clear that the opinions were her own and that she wasn’t representing ESPN, though she excused the misstep by saying that would be hard to remember in the “heat of the social media moment.”
Sullivan concluded her defense of Hill’s tweets by accusing President Trump of appealing to racism and sexism in America.
She also has a measure of truth on her side. Trump was elected in part because of his appeal to racism — yes, and sexism — in America. (And he’s carried that implicit promise to fruition; recall, for example, his Feb. 17 tweeted photo of his all-white Oval Office staff, almost all of whom were male.)