Sarah Huckabee Sanders Hit With Second Ethics Complaint Over ESPN Comments (Exclusive)

Group responds after White House press secretary doubles down on crusade against Jemele Hill

The Democratic Coalition, a group that filed an ethics complaint against Sarah Huckabee Sanders Thursday for essentially calling for ESPN host Jemele Hill to be fired, has filed a second grievance with the Office of Government Ethics Friday after the White House press secretary doubled down on her earlier comments, TheWrap has learned.

At the White House on Friday, Sanders called ESPN “hypocritical,” saying that the network once suspended anchor Linda Cohn over comments questioning the company’s business strategy, implying that political positions taken by ESPN personalities have driven away viewers.

“ESPN has been hypocritical,” Sanders said. “They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard.”

After Sanders second comments on Hill, the Democratic Coalition responded with a second complaint.

“Yesterday, in response to a tweet posted by ESPN host Jemele Hill where she called President Trump a ‘white supremacist,’” the complaint said. “White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “That’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

It went on to say: “Today, Sanders reiterated her previous statement by saying ‘I think the point is that ESPN has been hypocritical. They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard. ESPN suspended longtime anchor Linda Cohn, not too long ago, for expressing a political viewpoint… This is clearly a political statement. They should be consistent in whatever guidelines that they have set themselves in that front.”

For the second time, the coalition cited a federal law, which states that certain government employees — including any executive branch employee — are prohibited from influencing the employment decisions or practices of a private entity or company “solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.”

“We respectfully request that the U.S. Office of Government Ethics investigate these potential ethics violations and take all appropriate disciplinary actions against Ms. Sanders,” the complaint concluded.

In April, Cohn told WABC Radio’s that she “felt that the old-school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all these other changes” suggesting that politics were becoming too big a part of the network’s programming.

Although Cohn was not officially suspended, she faced disciplinary action since she was not authorized to appear on the radio show in which she was critical of ESPN — but not for expressing a political point of view.

Sanders clarified Friday that, while she Hill’s comments were indeed a “fireable offense,” she was not specifically calling on ESPN to fire her, adding, “That’s something for ESPN to decide.”

Sanders’ comments came just hours after Trump tweeted: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

Trump’s tweet appeared to be in response to SportsCenter host Jemele Hill, who on Monday called the president a “white supremacist” in a series of tweets.

The White House did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Matt Pressberg contributed to this report.