- Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images
In the immediate aftermath, accusations flew about why the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports” had to lay off employees. Many blamed ESPN’s perceived liberal bias, with the network seen as pushing conservative-minded viewers away and often dipping its toes into “politics” (i.e., topics that some people are uncomfortable discussing but that may or may not actually have any direct ties to real politics).
Those accusations were raised again against ESPN Radio’s “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” when it interviewed comedian Hasan Minhaj, the “Daily Show” correspondent who hosted this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
Le Batard immediately fired back at the complaints, noting that the show had interviewed several well-known people with conservative viewpoints, including President Donald Trump.
“Many of you are inevitably complaining that we talked to a ‘Daily Show’ correspondent and we talked politics, allegedly. Just so you know though, all of you who complain that the other side isn’t represented here, we’ve talked to Geraldo Rivera a number of times. We’ve talked to Donald Trump. We’ve talked to Curt Schilling. We’ve talked to Bill O’Reilly. So, if you want to believe that, that’s fine. We just like talking to interesting people about interesting things. If you want to object to what we just did there, that’s fine that you object to it. But I’m bored by you.”
It is also worth noting that ESPN has also twice divorced frequent Trump-basher Keith Olbermann and continues to employ conservative columnist Will Cain.
Le Batard went on to say the accusations of liberal bias are just coming from people who are “bothered” by ESPN’s attempt to offer a diversity of viewpoints.
“There are more minorities on ESPN with strong voices than at any time in the history of the company,” Le Batard said. “That has evidently made some people bothered.”
Le Batard, who is of Cuban descent, qualified his remarks by saying it is possible that some people “just don’t like” those minority voices, including his own and those of other prominent minorities at the network, including Stephen A. Smith, Bomani Jones, Michael Smith, and Jemele Hill. He called it “unusual” and “suspicious” that so many of the people complaining about the liberal bias at ESPN were white and that the people they wished had been fired during the layoffs were all minorities.
“I’m not saying if you don’t like us, that makes you racist,” Le Batard said. “I am saying that it is unusual, suspicious, weird, that so many of the people who want us fired tend to be white and so many of the people you want fired from ESPN tend to be the minorities who come with voices now that they haven’t had before.”
Smith, who is arguably the face of a personality- and debate-driven ESPN these days, was often named as somebody who should have been fired.
— Kelly (@kellyinvegas) April 29, 2017
Le Batard’s father, who serves as a cohost and a bit of comic relief on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable,” has been a frequent subject of these attacks also.
it’s amazing ESPN cut all these jobs yet I’m still stuck watching a rambling old man mix Spanish and English together on the lebatard show
— Wolftooth (@followBODplz) April 28, 2017
Le Batard also discussed ESPN’s recent announcement that Beth Mowins would become the first woman to call an NFL game in 30 years and said it was an example of people being bothered by ESPN trying to increase diversity in an industry that has long been mathematically dominated by white men.
“You’re allowed to not like it. You’re allowed to not want a woman to talk her sports with you. You’re allowed to find it weird. But the thing that is actually weird is that in 2017, this is still something you notice, when a woman is doing [an NFL] game. And if ESPN is forcing that agenda down your throats, why is that bad? Like, I ask you genuinely curious. Why would that be bad if ESPN says, ‘You know what, we are going to rectify what has been for a long time, a mathematical, lopsided, stats game’?”
- Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for ESPN
In addition to Le Batard’s radio show, which is simulcast on ESPNU and ESPN2, the show most often cited as an example of ESPN’s overall liberal bias is the new “SC6,” an hourlong “SportsCenter” hosted by Smith and Hill, a show that takes up 1.04% of the total air time on ESPN’s top four networks.
As a frequent viewer of “SC6,” I have never felt there was a political agenda or liberal bias. That doesn’t mean others can’t feel differently. But I do wonder if people complaining have actually watched the show for any significant amount of time.
And as Le Batard points out, it is suspicious that people keep pointing to the one show that happens to have two black hosts.