Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote passionately in defense of ESPN host Jemele Hill on Wednesday, and the headline on page C-2 screamed “At a time like this, shutting down Jemele Hill’s voice is dangerous.” Sullivan concluded “At a time in America when authoritarian tendencies are rising, shutting down voices such as Jemele Hill’s is worse than inappropriate. It is dangerous.”
The "authoritarians" are apparently represented by Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said Hill calling Trump a "white supremacist" surrounded by white supremacists was a "fireable offense." Until Sanders said this -- after she was asked by reporters -- the liberal media had ignored the controversy, since they find no controversy at all in calling Trump a racist.
Nowhere in Sullivan's 819-word harangue was any attempt to address how ESPN has fired a string of conservative voices for saying something conservative, from Rush Limbaugh to Curt Schilling to Britt McHenry.
Sullivan no longer writes an ombudsman-type column that accounts for all points of view, as she attempted to do at The New York Times. Under Post editor Martin Baron, she's assigned to just blow a liberal horn, channeling radical leftists imagining all kinds of conservative evil, and the overall employee-speech practices of ESPN aren't to be evaluated.
That’s because, naturally, Sullivan feels Hill “has a measure of truth on her side. Trump was elected in part because of his appeal to racism – yes, and sexism – in America....Prominent voices who point that out shouldn’t be silenced, especially the voices of women of color.” They need to be granted a minority set-aside for commentary, some....affirmative privilege.
She eagerly quoted Hill being "woke" and proclaiming "as a woman of color," she can't just talk sports on ESPN, but is mandated by her race and gender to lecture the backward white people who love sports. "I know there are sports fans looking for me to provide them with an 'escape,' but as a woman of color, I have no escape from the fact that there are people who seem to be either sickened by my existence or are intent on erasing my dignity in every possible way."
Liberals at the Post can only applaud over Hill tweeting “The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy” and Trump is an ignoramus whose rise is “a direct result of white supremacy. Period.” Vote for Trump? You're a white supremacist. (Apparently no one "erases your dignity" when they smear you like that.)
Here is where Sullivan really got going on precisely who is inappropriate in this exchange:
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.
It is tragically inappropriate for media behemoths to tout the diversity of their workforce and then hush what those diverse voices want to say on the most important matters of the day. That’s especially a problem when those staffers are encouraged to opine and engage on social media.
If you're Sarah Sanders, you have to wonder how it is that journalists can call for you to be sacked (or your boss to be impeached) and that's just the "news" business, but she can't make a suggestion from the briefing-room podium on how "private companies" ought to behave. Isn't that argument beyond strange coming from the statists, who impose all manner of employment dictates on private companies?
But then there's that third one about the "media behemoths" must always toe a "diversity" line and never "hush diverse voices" from opining on social media. That's where it would have been obvious to note the troubling fact that Schilling and McHenry were dumped for being "inappropriate" on social media. "Diverse voices" apparently never includes conservative voices, white or non-white.
Elsewhere at the Post website, in the Early Lead sports blog, former ESPN host Bill Simmons offered a rhetorical happy dance over Hill's tweets:
I enjoyed how brilliantly Jemele checkmated her bosses. She knew ESPN couldn't punish her for speaking candidly, as a black woman, about a president whose pattern of behavior toward women and minorities speaks for itself. She used her platform and it worked. Now she has a higher profile than she did three days ago. She seems more fearless and genuine than she did three days ago. She doubled down on a fan base that already liked her and openly shunned the other side. And she flipped her relationship with ESPN - now, the company needs Jemele Hill more than she needs the company.