Jemele Hill vs the White House: Calling out White Supremacy


Chase Bagnall-Koger, Staff Writer

ESPN host Jemele Hill has been facing controversy over these past two weeks regarding a string of tweets she sent out criticizing President Trump and the Republican Party. On Sept. 11, she slammed Donald Trump as “the most ignorant, offensive president” of her lifetime, saying among other things that he is “a white supremacist who has surrounded himself largely with white supremacists.” Hill also mentioned that the reason the majority of black voters support democratic candidates is because “the other side [Republicans] have done nothing but endorse/promote white supremacy.” These comments sparked controversy and came to the attention of the White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday Sept. 13. Sanders regarded the comments as “outrageous,” calling them a “fire-able offense.” Although some may argue that these statements were only opinions, to make them at a press conference was an abuse of her position of power in the United States government. It is also quite hypocritical of her, since she represents Trump, to make these comments after Trump has made even more outrageous ones.

Particularly, the job of the Press Secretary is to communicate with the public regarding the policies/plans of the president that affect the nation, not to get someone fired. Although Hill’s comments were clearly not in favor of the president, she did not accuse him of any substantial crimes. Therefore, her comments violated no laws and were protected under the first amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech to all citizens. Sanders was out of line in suggesting that Hill should be fired for her remarks, because from a strictly legal standpoint, Hill did not commit any crime which could cause her to be fired. Though ESPN has distanced themselves from her comments, the status of Hill’s job should remain strictly between her superiors at ESPN and herself.

“I believe that the ESPN commentator was just voicing her opinion, and should not be fired for doing so. Despite the wishes of Trump’s press secretary, freedom of speech is an important right of everyone on the United States because each person has their own opinions which cannot be taken away from them,” freshman Nina Montero said.

On a regular basis, lots of people say insulting things about the president regardless of who it is. Sure, there’s been many people speaking out against Trump, but every president, no matter who they are, has people disagreeing with or insulting them. In fact, Trump should know about this due to the nasty remarks he made about Obama during his presidential campaign. Trump went on and called Obama the “founder of ISIS” and tweeted in August 2012 that “an extremely credible source” had called his office to say that Obama’s birth certificate was a fraud. More importantly, why is it acceptable for Trump to say that Obama faked his birth certificate and founded the largest radical Islamic terrorist group of the past decade, but it’s not acceptable for Hill to call Trump a racist?

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I try to be politically correct about these issues, so I believe that the ESPN commentator had the right to speak her mind but Trump’s secretary did as well. She wasn’t fired, so I believe they both had a right to freely express their opinions. It’s freedom of speech.”

— freshman McCall Horton

The double standards imposed between Trump and Obama have become a pattern.  Trump tweeted in 2015 asking “when will president Obama issue the words radical Islamic terrorism?” In addition, he brought it up again in his 2016 presidential campaign and on the Tonight Show in August 2016. Yet, Trump has refused to call out radical white terrorism/white supremacy even after the events that occurred in Charlottesville last month. Politics is a brutal field, and it’s expected for candidates to play hardball in order to succeed. However, if you are willing to suggest that the president is not truly a U.S. citizen or that he is a terrorist sympathizer, then you can’t complain when someone calls you racist.

Some people argue that because Hill is an employee of ESPN, it was wrong of her to voice her opinion of Trump because what she says represents the company. Hill’s opinion could alienate the company from people who strongly disagreed with her. Hypothetically, this could cause boycotts and a decrease in ESPN viewers. However, the tweets were sent from her own personal account outside of work hours and were clearly spoken as her own opinion. It’s not fair to tie everyone’s opinion to their workplace- if someone who works at a Starbucks tweets on a personal account about supporting a candidate, does that mean everyone at Starbucks does too? Even if there was any confusion, ESPN sent out a text the next day clarifying that Hill’s comments do not represent their stance on President Trump.

The attack on someone’s job by the White House is concerning to society because it’s a misuse of the platform the Press Secretary has. The use of a position of power to encourage the firing of someone who has committed no crimes is not an illegal act, but an immoral one. In addition, Sanders’ comments contradict the type of unfiltered free speech Trump’s campaign ran on. The right to express one’s thoughts without fear of punishment is a fundamental value on which our country was built and it must be upheld in the face of controversial comments.  In the future, it would be better for Sanders to leave the matter of employment between Hill and ESPN, regardless of her opinion on it.