White House ratchets up its attacks on 'hypocritical' ESPN

The White House on Friday hammered ESPN, calling the network “hypocritical” for what it says is a double-standard in the way it treats conservative and liberal employees. 

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted the network suspended longtime anchor Linda Cohn, who said earlier this year in a radio interview that left-wing bias at the network had contributed to a loss of subscribers.

The latest political controversy at ESPN involves Jemele Hill, who this week called President Trump a white supremacist. The network distanced itself from the anchor but did not fire or suspend her.

“The point is that ESPN has been hypocritical, they should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard,” Sanders said. “ESPN suspended a long-time anchor, Linda Cohn, not too long ago for expressing a political viewpoint. The network's public editor has said there is a perception that ESPN has become political and that it harms the network. This is clearly a political statement, they should be consistent in whatever guidelines they have set themselves in that front.” 

Over the weekend, Hill, who co-hosts the “SportsCenter” spin-off “SC6 with Michael and Jemele,” lashed out at Trump and his supporters over Twitter. She called Trump a “white supremacist” and said his rise to the White House was directly attributable to racism. 

Sanders has described Hill’s remarks as a “fireable offense” and Trump on Friday demanded an apology for the “untruth” over Twitter. 

The network has been under fire for months from the right, which says ESPN has been infusing left-wing politics into its sports coverage. Last month, the network reassigned a college football commentator from a University of Virginia game in the wake of the Charlottesville protests because the man had the same name as Confederate Gen. Robert Lee. 

Hill has apologized to ESPN for dragging it into a political fight but has not apologized to Trump.

The network said it accepts Hill’s apology and will not punish her.

"Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies that she was in any way speaking on behalf of ESPN,” a spokesperson said. “She has acknowledged that her tweets crossed that line and has apologized for doing so. We accept her apology."

The White House has been criticized for meddling in a private media company’s affairs, but Sanders on Friday was unapologetic. 

“I think it is a fireable offense, based on the standard ESPN set themselves by saying that people that go too far and make political comments have been suspended from their own network. I think that is a consistency they should probably focus on,” she said. 

“It is not my decision to make for a private company,” Sanders added. “I made a comment, I am standing by it. I think they need to stand by the standard they have set.”