Jemele Hill tweeted an assassination reference during the State of the Union, but says it wasn't a threat

The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill tweeted a reference to the assassination of Malcolm X during President Trump’s State of the Union Tuesday night. She has since deleted the tweet and claims it was meant to be light-hearted not a genuine call for violence. Fox News sets up the story:

It all started when Showtime’s Desus Nice tweeted that he would like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to interrupt Trump’s speech by yelling, “Whose mans is this?”

Hill, who famously called Trump a “white supremacist” in 2017 before her exit from ESPN, is now a writer for The Atlantic. She responded to Nice with her own vision fof what the freshman lawmaker should shout.

“Nah, she gotta yell: GETCHO HAND OUT MY POCKET,” Hill tweeted.

Here’s a screenshot:

Even if I’d seen that at the time I wouldn’t have caught the reference but other people did. The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 took place as he was about to give a speech in Manhattan to about 400 people. Someone in the back of the room reportedly shouted the n-word and then “Get your hand out of my pocket.” This was apparently part of a prearranged plan to distract security and seconds later someone came to the stage and shot Malcolm X with a sawed-off shotgun. Two more men ran forward and followed up by firing multiple shots from pistols. All of this was recreated in the film Malcolm X which you can see below.

Jemele Hill didn’t deny the reference was to the assassination of Malcolm X but did deny that she meant to incite any violence at the State of the Union. She says she has always used that phrase “in lighthearted ways.”

Last August, Jemele Hill left ESPN under a cloud after getting herself in trouble on Twitter. She called President Trump a white supremacist and, around the same time, discussed ways to boycott the Dallas Cowboys. She was taken off the air at ESPN just over a year ago and moved to a job at an ESPN blog called the Undefeated. During her tenure there she wrote about two pieces a month. ESPN finally agreed to buy out her contract and a short while later she was hired by the Atlantic.

It’s obvious that Hill wasn’t actually calling for the assassination of the president. However, she was making an assassination “joke” which would seem out of place at most blogs, much less coming from a staff writer for the Atlantic. God knows if someone on the right had suggested a patron shout “Sic Sempter Tyrannis” when President Obama was headed to the theater, not many in the media would have found it a) lighthearted or b) harmless. Instead, there would be concern about the dark-hearted impulses on the right in general and probably calls for that person’s employer to can them.

More to the point, how is this any different from the joking comment about abortion that got Kevin Williamson fired from the Atlantic last year? In case you’ve forgotten, immediately after he was hired a mob formed to demand his firing over an old tweet about abortion. Here’s how Williamson described it:

The purported reason for our “parting ways,” as Mr. Goldberg put it in his announcement, had nothing to do with what I’d written in my inaugural piece. The problem was a six-word, four-year-old tweet on abortion and capital punishment and a discussion of that tweet in a subsequent podcast. I had responded to a familiar pro-abortion argument: that pro-lifers should not be taken seriously in our claim that abortion is the willful taking of an innocent human life unless we are ready to punish women who get abortions with long prison sentences. It’s a silly argument, so I responded with these words: “I have hanging more in mind.”

Trollish and hostile? I’ll cop to that, though as the subsequent conversation online and on the podcast indicated—to say nothing of the few million words of my published writing available to the reading public—I am generally opposed to capital punishment. I was making a point about the sloppy rhetoric of the abortion debate, not a public-policy recommendation.

Williamson wasn’t literally calling for the death of anyone. He was offering a snappy, trollish response, not very different at all from what Jemele Hill was doing. That the Atlantic will, presumably, continue to employ her shows there is a big difference in the standards applied to left and right. Frankly, even if they fire Hill today, the cases aren’t comparable. If Hill is disciplined it will be for something she did while an employee, i.e. making the company look bad. Williamson was fired for something he said years before she was hired.

As if we needed any more evidence, this is just one more case where the rules are different for people on the left. Here’s teh assassination scene from the film Malcolm X (note that the n-word is used here so this is definitely NSFW):