Journalist Jemele Hill takes no satisfaction in having called former president Donald Trump a white supremacist ahead of the curve.
“While, I guess on one hand, you could I guess say that I should take some level of ‘I told you so’ into this, I don’t really see it that way,” Hill told TheWrap during a recent interview. “It’s depressing, to be honest, to think that how much he changed the political climate in this country and how a lot of the tone and mentality that has been mainstreamed because of the way he conducted himself in office will have long term ramifications on our political climate.”
In the five years since Hill tweeted those fateful words, which drew criticism from her then-employer ESPN and the former president himself, she says she looks back with regret — not for calling Trump a white supremacist, but for being right.
“Now people say it like they’re saying his last name. Like ‘I think his last name is white supremacist’ with a regularity in which people say it. It’s one of those things I wish I wasn’t right about,” she said. “Given the leadership position, given how important it is, for the person in that office, who’s a world leader, the last thing you want is to say you live in a country that was run by white supremacist and then so infected our American political climate that we will never maybe in my lifetime be up under the stain he has left on the office of the president.”
Hill shared these thoughts along with many others in a recent interview with TheWrap about her new book “Uphill.” The memoir, released October 25, traces Hill’s life story and journey before and after Trump’s presidency.
“This was a process that started back in 2019. It was at that time at that point that the book might be out within like another year or something like that, but obviously, the pandemic hit, and it kept pushing back the time, more and more,” she said. “One year went into two years, and then we’re going to two and a half plus years. I understood the reasoning because now my book publisher really wanted me to be able to go out on book tour and do what I’m doing now, which is engaging people talking about the book and you know, really being out there publicly.”
While it did feel emotional to write “Uphill,” Hill didn’t find it too difficult or challenging to write about some of the toughest times of her life.
“There’s some difficult subject matter in there, but the difficult parts from a pure writing standpoint were not hard to write because so much of that was fresh in my mind. The way things happen when you think about something that was painful, it’s not hard to trigger and conjure where that pain is coming from,” she added. “I certainly had to have some difficult conversations with my mother in terms of getting certain details and asking her about, frankly, what were some of the worst moments of her life. And those were not easy conversations to have, but when it came to the actual writing of it, even though it was emotional to do it, that part was actually easy to write.”
“Despite the many setbacks, it wound up being the perfect time. And just from a writing perspective, I’m also glad I had that time as well, because, you know, it’s my first book, and there’s a lot of care and patience that I took in writing it,” she continued. “Obviously, I’m very transparent about some very difficult issues that I faced in my childhood. And so I wanted to be assured that I got those things right, and that the story felt right and it felt like the narrative that I felt like my story deserves so there was so much that went into it, it was exhilarating, but an emotional experience writing it.”
Hill applies that same patience to the TV show she is currently working on with Gabrielle Union, detailing her learned appreciation for trusting the process in Hollywood. Production has not yet started on the series, but she’s hopeful the series — which was first announced in 2020 — will be moving forward soon. Union will help portray a very loosely inspired story based on Hill’s friendship with the co-founder of their production company, Kelly Carter.
“One thing about living in LA is you have to learn to develop an appreciation for the fact that it takes a long time to make — I remember when the I think it was the creator of ‘Squid Game’ talked about how it took 10 years to get that made, or even the series ‘Yellowstone,’ which is very popular. I mean, they got no’s everywhere in Hollywood and finally got it made, it’s one of the most watched series on television,” she said. “I remind myself of these things because it is an arduous process, partly because you want to get it right and you want to make sure that everything’s in the best place they can be.”