Trump Escalates ESPN's Jemele Hill Controversy: "Apologize for Untruth!"

The president tweeted Friday morning that the sports network should apologize.

A few days after his spokesperson addressed the controversy from the briefing room podium, President Trump, without using specifics, said that ESPN should "apologize for untruth" in a tweet on Friday morning.

Trump is, without doubt, referring to a mini-controversy that's been brewing within right-wing media outlets and amplified by the White House. On Monday, Sportscenter co-host Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter that "Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists."

While Hill has not deleted the offending tweet, she has released a statement saying that she apologizes for fostering the perception that she's speaking for her employer.

ESPN has also said in a statement that the tweet crossed a line, though the network has not suspended her, which has irked conservatives and their media outlets. In her press briefing on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders poured gasoline on the fire by saying that the tweet was a fireable offense, reportedly triggering an ethics complaint filed by an anti-Trump super PAC. 

Sanders addressed the controversy from the White House podium again on Friday. "I think the point is that ESPN has been hypocritical," she said. "They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard."

Asked again about her comments about Hill's tweet being a "fireable offense," she responded: "That's not a decision that I'm going to make. That's something for ESPN to decide."

The rest of Trump's tweet deals with a criticism that's been growing in recent months, particularly among conservative media outlets: the notion that ESPN is liberal and is paying a price for that liberalism in slowing ratings.

"ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming)," Trump tweeted. "People are dumping it in RECORD numbers." While ESPN is losing subscribers, there's no evidence that it's connected to any left-wing bent in coverage.

On Thursday, the left-leaning ThinkProgress reported that ESPN considered keeping Hill and her co-host, Michael Smith, off the air on Wednesday, but ESPN strongly denied the report. 

While it's unusual for a member of the mainstream media to use language as blunt as Hill's, she's received generous support from across the industry, and it doesn't appear that she will actually receive the suspension that some people  including the occupants of the White House  seem to think deserves.