At a Disney shareholder meeting today, CEO Bob Iger faced a tough question about the behavior of Joy Behar and also Jemele Hill. The question was asked by Justin Danhof of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative group based in Washington, DC. Here’s a portion of Danhof’s question:
ESPN has seemingly become a 24/7 anti-Trump tirade network which reached its pinnacle last fall when host Jemele Hill called President Donald Trump a white supremacist. Mr.
Iger, you admitted to intervening to make sure that ESPN’s leadership didn’t fire her for these defamatory remarks. What kind of message does that send to other company employees? Just last month, Hill again publicly declared that President Trump and his supporters are white supremacists.
Also consider the February 13th broadcast of ABC’s “The View.” Co-hosts Joy Behar and Sunny Hostin – in an effort to bash Vice President Mike Pence – suggested that Christianity is
“dangerous” and that faithful Christians suffer from a “mental illness.” In response, the show’s advertisers have come under tremendous pressure to sever ties with these anti-Christian bigots.
This pattern shows that the company is willing to take a reputational and financial hit, just so long as it is in service to bashing conservative or religious Americans. That’s shameful.
What do you have to say to the tens of millions of Christians and President Trump supporters that your networks have so blatantly offended and ascribed hateful labels?
Specifically, do you think that having a Christian faith is akin to a dangerous mental illness? And do you believe that President Trump and his supporters are white supremacists?
The National Center also posted audio of the question being asked along with Iger’s response (listen below). It shows that Iger replied, “Um, I don’t know where, where I start.” He continued, “First of all Joy Behar apologized to Vice President Pence directly. She made a call to him and apologized, which I thought was absolutely appropriate.
“I happen to take exception with what she said. I don’t think it was right and I was glad to hear that she apologized.
“On the Jemele Hill issue, the only thing I have to add to that, because I have said some things publicly, is that Jemele Hill was spoken with and disciplined for the things that she said or the things that she tweeted. I-I’m going to leave it at that.
“And in terms of your depiction of ESPN and a variety of other things you said, I know you’ve been to other meetings in the past. You and I have agreed to disagree on these issues. Not that some of the things you raise don’t have some validity but I don’t agree with everything that you said. Thank you, I respect your right to say them.”
I’ll give Iger some credit for not trying to dodge here, though he didn’t really answer at least one of the questions. After Joy Behar’s comments about Pence’s faith became news, the View did devote a brief segment to dealing with them. Co-host Whoopi Goldberg let slip during the discussion that, “I’m trying to get out of this—this is what they’ve asked me to do.” In other words, the hosts were told to devote time to backing away from Behar’s statement.
Behar herself never apologized directly or mentioned that she had apologized directly to Pence. She said her remark was a joke and added, “I don’t mean to offend people but apparently, I keep doing it.” She also identified herself and her extended family as Christians and denied she was trying to denigrate them or herself. Iger said he felt Behar’s statement was wrong and was glad she apologized which seems fairly clear.
What about the other question. Does Iger believe Hill was right about Trump and his supporters? He doesn’t exactly say here, only saying that Jemele Hill was disciplined. That’s true, she was suspended last year, but that happened after she seemed to suggesting a boycott of the Dallas Cowboys on Twitter, not after her comments about President Trump.
In fact, after her comments about Trump, Iger said Disney didn’t take action because Hill and others at ESPN were upset with Trump’s Charlottesville comments. So he actually defended her at the time and his suggestion now that she was disciplined is a bit misleading (she was but not for those comments). In January, ESPN announced that Hill would no longer be a co-host of her show and would instead take a job writing about the intersection of race and sports for an ESPN site called the Undefeated.
There was some speculation last year that Iger might be hesitant to fire Hill because she had supporters on the left (including Al Sharpton) who Iger may need to court if he decided to run for president in 2020. Maybe that’s why Iger is drawing the line where he is and refusing to defend the president or his supporters directly.
Here’s the audio of the question and Iger’s response.