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Sage Steele says ESPN told her not to deviate from Biden interview 'script'

Former ESPN host Sage Steele said the network instructed her to follow a “script” when conducting a pre-taped interview with President Biden in 2021. 

“That was an interesting experience in its own right because it was so structured,” Steele said in a recent interview with Fox News Digital. “And I was told, ‘You will say every word that we write out, you will not deviate from the script and go.’” 

Steele’s interview with Biden in March 2021 was centered on the sports industry’s transition back to normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic and the hesitation by some athletes to receive the vaccine as it was first being rolled out. 

The interview caught attention after Biden said he would “strongly support” Major League Baseball moving that year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of a Georgia law that tightened voting restrictions. 

Steele told Fox News Digital the interview was essentially “scripted” by ESPN executives. 

“To the word. Every single question was scripted, gone over dozens of times by many executives … editors and executives,” she said. “It was very much, ‘This is what you will ask. This is how you will say it. No follow-ups, no follow-ups. Next.'”

“I knew this was a lot bigger than just the wonderful editors I worked with,” she continued. “This went up to the fourth floor, as we said, where all the bosses, the top executives, the decision makers are, the president of our company, the CEO, where they all worked.”

She said she was not sure whether ESPN sent the questions to the White House ahead of the time, but she is confident that is “what happened.” 

“I think it’s really heartbreaking that the people who love Joe Biden and say they truly care about him have allowed it to get to this point,” Steele said. “So, I’m not even looking at this from a political angle or my beliefs in anything. This is the human side of it.”

“And when someone is struggling, we allow them to continue to be in the spotlight and put them out there in the first place when they knew there were issues? Of course, they had to know,” she added. “So, it’s a humanity thing with me where I don’t care where anyone stands and what they vote for or who they believe in. Do you really care about that person? As a father, as a husband, as an everything.”

ESPN declined to comment. The Hill reached out to the White House for comment. 

Steele left ESPN last August after nearly 16 years with the network, saying at the time she wants to exercise her First Amendment rights “more freely.” 

She filed a lawsuit against the network and its parent company in 2022 over allegations that her free speech rights were violated. Steele alleged the sports media outlet retaliated against her for comments she made in an appearance on the “Uncut with Jay Cutler” podcast. 

Steele told Jay Cutler, a former NFL quarterback, that her company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate was “sick” and “scary.” In response, ESPN removed Steele from programming for a week over her comments. 

Updated at 5:28 p.m.

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