ESPN Denies Trying to Replace Jemele Hill on Wednesday's SportsCenter Broadcast
ESPN is denying a report from ThinkProgress that it tried to replace Jemele Hill on Wednesday night's 6 p.m. ET broadcast of SportsCenter.
Hours before Hill and co-host Michael Smith hosted their show, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Hill's Monday night tweet calling President Trump a "white supremacist" was a "fireable offense." ThinkProgress reports ESPN tried to keep Hill off–air on Wednesday night, but that Smith refused to host the show without his regular co-host. ThinkProgress also reports ESPN asked two other black personalities, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, to host the show, but they declined.
ESPN, however, is pushing back against the ThinkProgress story.
"We never asked any other anchors to do last night's show," an ESPN spokesperson told SI. "Period."
ESPN senior vice president for news and information Rob King told ThinkProgress that Hill and Smith co-hosting their show was "the outcome we always desired."
“Yesterday was a hard and unusual day, with a number of people interpreting the day without a full picture that happened,” King told ThinkProgress. “In the end, ultimately, Michael and Jemele appearing on the show last night and doing the show the way they did is the outcome we always desired.”
ThinkProgress provided additional details in a subsequent story published Friday afternoon, including that Hill was asked to go home late Wednesday morning, at which point Smith said he wouldn’t do the show without his co-host. The follow-up story also says that ESPN was not necessarily looking to replace Smith and Hill with two other black hosts and also approached white anchors to see if they were available to host the show.
ESPN’s denial issued Thursday night, ThinkProgress argues, is based on “the fine distinction” between asking anchors to host the show and asking anchors if they are available to do so.
Hill tweeted Wednesday night that her comments represented her "personal beliefs" and that she regretted that her "comments and the public way [she] made them painted ESPN in an unfair light."