ESPN's Jemele Hill said President Donald Trump's reference to standing for the national anthem in his State of the Union address was a form of "racial pornography" to stoke his base.
Trump, who said last year that NFL players who fail to stand for the national anthem should be fired from their teams, said "we stand for the national anthem" Tuesday night during his address to Congress.
MSNBC host Al Sharpton asked Hill, who was among Trump's numerous critics for his NFL stance, how she felt about Trump's comments that he said "came out of nowhere."
"I wasn't surprised, and I think this is going to be probably a constant thing for the president, because it's a very easy dog whistle, it's low-hanging fruit," she said. "It's what I like to call racial pornography, because it's a way to stoke his base. Look, in a weird way, I think it's kind of weirdly brilliant because he has been able to hijack the entire conversation and to make this about patriotism."
Hill found herself at the center of a feud with Trump last year amid a larger debate about Trump's rhetoric against NFL players who protested the national anthem. She called Trump a white supremacist in a tweet storm, leading to a reprimand from ESPN, and later she was suspended by ESPN for violating the network's social media guidelines by recommending a boycott of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' advertisers.
The Free Beacon reports:
Hill became the subject of controversy for a series of tweets she posted criticizing Trump in September of 2017, calling him "ignorant" and a "white supremacist," while adding he is "unqualified" and "unfit" to be president.
ESPN released a statement shortly after she made these tweets, calling Hill's posts "inappropriate." Hill issued a statement saying that the tweets expressed her personal beliefs and painted ESPN in an unfair light.
ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks less than a month later when she tweeted about Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones's statements that he would bench any player who knelt during the national anthem. She recommended that fans who disagreed with Jones' statements boycott companies that advertised with the Cowboys.
Trump responded on Twitter two days later, saying Hill contributed to ESPN's falling ratings.
Hill has left her SportsCenter anchor position to write for the progressive ESPN blog The Undefeated, which "explores the intersection of race, sports and culture." Her last show was Friday.
She told Sharpton the move was "100 percent" her own decision.