ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill was wrong.
She was wrong to call President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.”
It hurts me to say that because I know Jemele.
I worked with her at the Orlando Sentinel several years ago.
I think she is a talented broadcaster, a provocative writer and one of the brightest stars in the ESPN universe.
But she was irresponsible when she went on the Twitter the other day and started ranting against President Trump.
“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” Jemele tweeted.
“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”
Publicly calling someone — and especially the president of the United States — a white supremacist is something you would expect from some random, anonymous yahoo on social media, not a respected journalist like Jemele Hill. Even if you privately believe Trump is a white supremacist, you simply don’t throw that term around publicly unless you have some sort of hardcore proof.
And what’s even worse is Hill is pretty much painting anybody who voted for Trump as a white supremacist. This is insulting to many good and smart voters who chose Trump not because he’s white, but because he represented a drastic change from a partisan American political system that many people believe is broken.
Said ESPN in a cover-your-butt statement Tuesday: “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
Personally, I would like to hear Jemele herself address her actions. After all, she’s the one who essentially compared the president of the United States to the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
What bothers me most about the political polarization in this country is not only that it’s infected the sports world, but two of the people I respect most in the sports world — Hill and former Orlando Magic and current Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy — have been so over-the-top irresponsible in their criticism of Trump.
If you’ll remember, it was Van Gundy a few months ago who compared Trump’s travel ban to “Adolf Hitler registering the Jews.”
Comparing the president of the United States to the most notorious dictator in world history is just flat-out wrong.
Comparing the president of the United States to a bunch of neo-Nazi, white supremacist wackos is just flat-out wrong.
If you think Trump is sometimes irrational and irresponsible, couldn’t the same now be said of many of his critics?
Mike Bianchi is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.