Controversy arose earlier this week when ESPN host Jemele Hill posted a tweet on her personal account stating, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with other white supremacists.” Hill furthered her claim by calling Trump “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime” and “unqualified and unfit to be president.” She also affirmed that if Trump were “not white, he never would have been elected.” Responding to the criticism, the White House called for Hill to be removed from her position on the network, but ESPN ignored the request. However, a question had already surfaced: is Hill free to her opinion or has she crossed a line?
An even more controversial aspect of all this is a comment made by Fox Sports anchor Clay Travis when questioned about the uproar on CNN. Travis stated that the only things he believed in completely were “the First Amendment and boobs.” Although this outrageously sexist remark is not the first of its kind made by Clay Travis, reactions toward his comments have been severely less harsh than those toward Hill’s.
These closely occurring broadcast journalism controversies highlight modern racism and sexism in the workplace and in politics. When an African-American woman expresses her concern and disapproval of the president — and this expression is constitutionally protected — her job and well-being are threatened by both the White House and the public. But when a white man makes repeatedly degrading, sexist remarks, there is far less concern over it. It is concerning that this was only noticed through Hill’s media uproar.
However, since the founding of this country, we have prided ourselves on being a nation that grants freedom of speech — as long as said speech does not incite violence and is not slanderous. We have boasted that we are the home of the free and have fought against countless oppressive regimes in which citizens could be killed for speaking out against the head of state. So why now, in this instance, are we beginning to mirror those oppressive regimes we have fought so tirelessly against?
Hill is not the head of a major company where there are protocols against inappropriate comments. She is a newscaster — she holds a job that has been synonymous with expressing opinions. Additionally, her comments were made on her personal account and had no affiliation with ESPN.
Moreover, it is imperative to notice the double standard imposed on both Hill and Travis. When a white man exercises his freedom of speech by degrading women, he is not reprehended; however, when an African-American woman exercises her freedom of speech by criticizing a president, she is crossing the line. It is time that society sees Tray’s constant objectification of women as offensive, while it understands Hill’s encouragement to discuss Trump’s affairs — which are becoming more dubious than ever — as the only way to help the United States maintain its status as a champion of freedom.
Email Amelia Reardon at [email protected]