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Race factored into ESPN's decision not to fire Jemele Hill, Disney CEO says

Chairman and CEO of Disney Robert A. Iger and special correspondent at Vanity Fair Nick Bilton speak onstage during Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on October 3, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Bob Iger, the CEO of ESPN's parent company Disney, explained Tuesday that the racial context surrounding ESPN host Jemele Hill's tweets calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist informed his decision not to fire her.

Iger's explanation

“It’s hard for me to understand what it feels like to experience racism,” Iger said at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit. “I felt we needed to take into account what other people at ESPN were feeling at this time and that resulted in us not taking action.”

Iger also said the events of the past several months in America have outraged many people, and that the promises of the U.S. Constitution, fought for through the Civil War and the civil rights movement, have been "the opposite" of what Americans have seen recently.

What Hill has said since the tweets

Hill, in a column she wrote for ESPN's The Undefeated on Sept. 27, admitted that Twitter wasn't the best place for her to express her political opinions because it blurs the line between her personal and professional roles, and said she regretted that her words had brought criticism to her company and colleagues.

Still, she doesn't back away from the her opinions on Trump. She said her criticisms of the president were not about politics; they were about right and wrong.

"I can’t pretend as if this isn’t a challenging time in our country’s history," Hill wrote. "As a career journalist, I can’t pretend that I don’t see what’s happening in our world. I also can’t pretend as if the tone and behavior of this presidential administration is normal. And I certainly can’t pretend that racism and white supremacy aren’t real and that marginalized people don’t feel threatened and vulnerable, myself included, on a daily basis.

"This is not a time for retreating comfortably to a corner," she continued.

Is Iger posturing for a 2020 run?

Speculation has come and gone for years now about whether Iger has aspirations of running for president. With Iger commenting on recent events such as the Las Vegas shooting (gun control) and national anthem protests, the question of whether Iger is prepping for a presidential run have resurfaced.

Iger hasn't said he wants to run, but he very conspicuously hasn't said that he won't run when directly asked about it.

“Well, here's what I've ruled in,” Iger said to Bloomberg Television. “I've ruled in the fact that I have a full-time job right now, and I love this job, and I'm committed to it, and I'm spending all my time on that and on my family.”

He might not have a full-time job in a few years, however. He originally planned to retire in the summer of 2018, but recently extended his contract through July 2019. If he steps down then, he could be stepping right into a presidential campaign, if he chooses to.

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