ESPN head to staff: ‘ESPN is not a political organization’

ESPN's chief is defending the network after intense backlash this week, including a stream of White House criticism over anchor Jemele Hill calling President Trump a "white supremacist."

"We have issues of significant debate in our country at this time," ESPN president John Skipper wrote in a memo to staff on Friday reported by multiple media outlets.

"In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position," he continued, noting, "ESPN is about sports."

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"ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express," he said.

"At the same time, ESPN has values," Skipper continued, writing ESPN is "committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse work force has the equal opportunity to succeed."

The White House continued to hammer ESPN on Friday, calling it "hypocritical" for what it deems a double-standard in how the network handles conservative and liberal employees.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during the daily briefing that ESPN once suspended longtime anchor Linda Cohn while distancing itself but not firing Hill this week.

Cohn said earlier this year in a radio interview that the network had lost subscribers in part due to its politics, while Hill lashed out at Trump on Twitter earlier this week, saying his rise to the Oval Office was attributable to racism.