US & Canada

Trump lays into ESPN anchor suspended over tweets

Jemele Hill Image copyright Getty Images

US President Donald Trump has pilloried a cable sports anchor who is suspended after politically charged tweets.

He tweeted: "With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have 'tanked,' in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!"

Ms Hill was reprimanded last month for calling Mr Trump a white supremacist and is now off air for two weeks after appearing to urge an NFL boycott.

ESPN said she made a "second violation of our social media guidelines".

Mr Trump also called on Tuesday for the NFL to be stripped of tax advantages if it cannot stop players demonstrating during the national anthem.

He tweeted: "Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!"

Trump defends Pence NFL protest walkout

The demonstrations, which protesters have said highlight police brutality and racial injustice, have spread in recent weeks after Mr Trump called for the NFL stars to be fired.

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Media captionWatch: The history of anthem protests in the US.

ESPN did not specify how Jemele Hill, who is African-American, fell foul of its policies this time.

But on Sunday she argued that fans should shun an NFL team's advertisers after its owner vowed to punish any of his players who kneel or sit during the Star-Spangled Banner.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Sunday warned his players they would be benched if they did not stand for the flag.

Ms Hill, co-host of the SportsCenter programme, tweeted: "Jerry Jones also has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don't kneel, some will see them as sellouts."

She added: "If you feel strongly about JJ's statement, boycott his advertisers."

Ms Hill later posted: "Just so we're clear: I'm not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives."

ESPN said in a statement about Ms Hill on Monday: "She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet.

"In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision."

Last month Ms Hill was disciplined after calling President Trump "a white supremacist", a "bigot" and the "most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime".

In a statement then, the network said her "inappropriate" remarks did not represent the company and that it had addressed the issue with her.

The president went on the attack on Twitter again after that incident, saying that ESPN "is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming)".

"People are dumping it in RECORD numbers," he added. "Apologize for untruth."

Shares of all companies that broadcast NFL games - from ESPN-owner Walt Disney to Comcast, Fox and CBS - have been falling amid an industry-wide slump in viewing figures.

ESPN's subscribers have tumbled from a 2011 peak of 100 million to 88 million today in the latest Nielsen estimates, according to Sports TV Ratings.

Its ratings have plummeted even more sharply, with average total viewers falling more than 19% from 2014-16, reports Variety.