In the mash-up of Mein Kampf and Benny Hill that is now the United States of America, it is fitting that the latest conservative outrage — that Donald Trump was called a white supremacist by a black lady — would be brought to a close by someone saying “boobs” repeatedly on TV.
You may have heard that ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill tweeted that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists”; that Trump himself reacted, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”; and that Trump’s spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared this a “fireable offense” during a White House press briefing.
While Huckabee Sanders reiterated her call for Hill’s head, ESPN distanced itself from its reporter’s remark, and later the president of ESPN, John Skipper, basically told his on-air staff to keep their mouths shut about Trump and any other political subjects.
As anyone who has ever tried to accommodate a bully will have guessed, that didn’t slake the bloodthirst of the brethren who flopped to the field grabbing their knee, claiming Hill had fouled them and should be thrown out of the game.
“ESPN WON’T PUNISH HOST WHO WENT BALLISTIC ON ‘WHITE SUPREMACIST’ TRUMP,” hollered WorldNetDaily.
“ESPN GIVES JEMELE HILL WRIST SLAP AFTER CALLING PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP A ‘WHITE SUPREMACIST,’ ” howled Breitbart. “Instead of firing her, it appears she was given only a stern talking to.… Hill gets absolutely nothing for calling Trump a racist,” seethed Breitbart writer Warner Todd Huston while strangling his Valerie Jarrett doll.
“Slap on the wrist,” agreed the Washington Times, denouncing ESPN’s “meek statement” and reminding readers that ESPN hadn’t been as easy on conservatives; for example, “in 2011, ESPN yanked the song ‘Are you ready for some football?’ from ‘Monday Night Football’ broadcasts after country singer Hank Williams Jr. compared then-President Obama to Adolf Hitler.” Come on, it’s not like he compared him to Jimmy Carter!
Some rightbloggers complained that since ESPN had previously fired Curt Schilling, that meant they ought to fire Hill — you know, one of “theirs” for one of “ours” (“ESPN double standard?” — Fox News; “The Worldwide Leader in…Hypocrisy” — Bernard Goldberg). ESPN had let Schilling go after repeated warnings for a series of incidents, whereas this was Hill’s first “offense,” but that did not soothe conservative rage.
“It is all the more reason the network is going downhill fast,” said Hannah Simmons of the Daily Caller, adopting Trump’s call-your-opponent-a-loser strategy. “Due to identity politics, they’ve become a caricature of themselves,” said Red Alert Politics.
When other black presenters on ESPN rebuffed the network’s offers to take Hill’s place — a touching and, given the cutthroat nature of the industry, remarkable show of solidarity — Breitbart characterized it as “HOSTS REVOLTED,” and Warner Todd Huston returned to sputter, “ESPN essentially got bullied, cowed, and held hostage by the politically correct monster that they helped create.… They were so paranoid of reaping the whirlwind from their fellow PC travelers, for putting a white host on television, that they had to reverse course and cave,” as his Valerie Jarrett doll lay in pieces on the floor.
Eventually the brethren had to dig up some conservatives of color to complain on their behalf: “In its first ‘press release’ on white supremacy, black conservative group condemns ESPN’s Jemele Hill,” reported the Washington Post, referring to statements by the right-wing think tank Project 21 saying Hill was The Real Racist, and calling her part of “a triple-protected group in this country” because “she is African American, she is female, and she is liberal,” because, as everyone knows, black liberal women get all the breaks.
As to whether Hill had been correct in saying Trump is a white supremacist, rightbloggers found the question not only absurd but literally unspeakable, notwithstanding the president’s bizarre and extended solicitousness of white supremacists at Charlottesville and other clinical symptoms, not to mention Trump supporters’ relative softness toward white supremacists and their views.
At National Review, Deroy Murdock argued Trump was not a white supremacist because, for one thing, “Trump’s winning coalition was more diverse than Romney’s” — that is, Trump got 8 as opposed to 6 percent of the black vote, which Murdock helpfully pointed out was “one-third more.” Also, Murdock said, “While visiting a Houston storm shelter, [Trump] played with and kissed black children and posed for photos with their parents,” which if nothing else proves that Trump knows he’ll need a few more votes in 2020 than self-acknowledged racists can provide.
It may be relevant that, shortly before the Hill episode went down, Ta-Nehisi Coates argued in an essay for the Atlantic that Trump is a white supremacist, and conservatives reacted as viciously to that as to Hill’s tweet. (Well, not quite as savagely; after all, Coates is male.) At the Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway suggested Coates was a bad writer (yeah, I know! Mark Hemingway!) and noted that Woodrow Wilson was even more racist than Trump, which he seemed to think was some sort of burn. Commentary was so flummoxed it actually went out and got a black guy to yell at Coates.
But it all worked out in the end: Apart from the personal satisfaction (not to mention red meat for the don’t-call-it-white-supremacist base) they got from shaking their fists at Hill, conservatives got a climactic thrill from one of their celebrity yokels saying “boobs” in front of a liberal black guy and a liberal lady on TV and making them mad.
On a CNN panel on Hill’s remarks, after bothsidesing for Curt Schilling, Clay Travis of Fox Sports Radio said, “I’m a First Amendment absolutist — I believe in only two things completely, the First Amendment and boobs.” Host Brooke Baldwin and guest Keith Reed expressed astonishment, so Travis expostulated, “Two things that have only never let me down in this entire country’s history — the First Amendment and boobs.”
“THE MEDIA IS NOW ANTI-BOOBS,” yelled Alex Cypher of BitChute (warning: autoplays highly annoying voice). “CNN’s Tariq Nasheed Claims That Liking ‘Boobs’ Makes You a White Supremacist…Seriously,” lied Conservative101 (Rasheed said Travis was trolling which, duh).
“Right now I’m playing the world’s smallest violin over this liberal indignation,” said Kim Quade at Victory Girls. “We all desperately need to laugh once again. And I’m still snickering over Clay Travis. He said ‘boobs.’ ” (Reminds me of the end of Albert Brooks’s Memoirs of an Opening Act routine: “ ’Member when he said ‘shit’?”)
“CNN being profoundly offended because a dude said boobs is why Trump won,” tweeted the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro. Later, Shapiro longformed that liberals were hypocrites because “where was CNN’s outrage when women decided to knit ‘pussyhats’? Nowhere.” Pussyhats, you may remember from the Women’s March last January, are pink hats with little cat ears on them, which conservatives frequently mistake for a sex organ.
Dumb as it was, the Travis episode seemed to dissipate conservative rage at Hill — perhaps because, though the PC nannies made it hard for them to express their contempt for her as an African American, they could still at least indirectly express their contempt for her as a woman. Times being what they are, though, there’ll be another such contretemps soon enough. Maybe by then it’ll be time to break out the Brawndo. (It’s what plants crave.)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 18, 2017