The Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump Super PAC, has filed an ethics complaint against White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders with the Office of Government Ethics after she essentially called for ESPN host Jemele Hill to be fired.
Hill had referred to President Donald Trump as a “white supremacist” in a series of tweets, which she later deleted:
In response, Sanders said Hill’s criticism of the president was a “fireable offense by ESPN.” The network considered removing Hill from that evening’s program, but her co-host, Michael Smith, threatened to refuse to appear without her.
Coalition Chairman Jon Cooper condemned Sanders’ words in a statement:
“When Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for Jemele Hill to be fired by ESPN, she crossed the line and put herself in dubious legal territory. For Sanders to publicly call for the dismissal of a Trump critic is bizarre and disturbing, to say the least. If anyone is to be fired, it should be her.”
Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics cited a federal law which bars certain government employees (including those employed within the executive branch) from influencing the employment decisions or practices of a private entity (such as ESPN) “solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.” Breaking the law is punishable by a fine or up to 15 years in prison, or both, and could disqualify lawbreakers from “holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
Shaub noted that while Sanders’ comment wasn’t “solely” related to partisan political affiliation, it “certainly highlights the inappropriateness of using federal authority to influence private employment decisions.” He added: “Another important norm down the drain.”
But that might not be the only legal gaffe Sanders committed this week.
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