Yesterday, the Huffington Post ran a huge banner headline splashed across their home page explaining that they will no longer be cover Donald Trump in the Politics section, but instead only on the Entertainment page. As they explain in full --
After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won't report on Trump's campaign as part of The Huffington Post's political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump's campaign is a sideshow. We won't take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you'll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.
While I completely, in the fullness of my heart agree with the sentiment -- and have stated something similar here, that Mr. Trump is a joke of a person, isn't a serious candidate, and that I don't intend to spend much time analyzing his political positions -- I think this is a very wrong-headed move by the Huffington Post.
It's also very different from what I've said. If Donald Trump chooses to act like a clown on the political stage, so be it, then cover him like a clown on the political stage, as I intend to when it's called for. But he's on the political stage. Also, another big difference: I'm not a news website with a big paid news staff...
Donald Trump is a joke of a political candidate, someone who is only interested in the Donald Trump Brand. But he's a declared candidate, he's filed his official papers -- and at the moment, he's leading some polls for the Republican nomination for president -- including the Huffington Post's own "Pollster" that averages 100 polls. How a news organization can't cover him in politics is utterly beyond me.
While polls today have almost no meaning in relation to the final results, they do show what the public is focusing on right now. They also have significant meaning in that they're what "Fox News" will be using to determine who will be on their debate stage.
To be clear, I can see making the editorial decision that until Donald Trump registered as an official candidate, you'd only treat him as entertainment. Or until he reached more than two percent of voters' choice, you wouldn't deal with him as political news. But at this point, he's passed both thresholds.
There's no obligation for the Huffington Post or anyone to cover every single thing Donald Trump says. This is something so many news organizations tend to forget. Just because a political candidate opens his or her mouth, the words that fall out don't all need to be reported. With staff editors, you actually can pick and choose, and decide what is actual political news and what is Trump Bombast for personal attention. Berate him all you want when you feel it's deserved. Ridicule and sarcasm are powerful tools. Lambaste his faux pronouncements. Ignore when his words hit the totally pointless. But...he is a political news figure.
When Donald Trump made his outlandish, offensive statements about some Mexicans, it had a real-world impact on both politics and the business world. Notably, it got other Republican candidates to comment. It also got many major corporations to cut business ties. That's not entertainment news.
When Donald Trump appears at the first GOP debate, will the Huffington Post only report in their political coverage what the other candidates say? And will they put the Trump portion of a debate exchange on the Entertainment page?
I suspect that the Huffington Post will find places where coverage of Mr. Trump fits their political coverage and will explain that at such times it is deserving of being considered political news. The thing is -- they don't say they'll do that in their statement. What they, specifically and clearly, is that they will not cover Donald Trump as politics, period.
That's another problem with this decision. To make such a monumental news decision is deserving of a thoughtful explanation. But the Huffington Post gave it one dismissive paragraph. Five sentences. That might be all that Donald Trump deserves -- but their readers deserve more.
In fact, it's hard to see how this decision will even work. It's one thing to say, after all, that you're not going to cover him except on your "Entertainment section." The thing is - entertainment stores regularly make the Huffington Post's home page. Some even as banner headlines. Indeed, as I write this, the home page has a story about a movie trailer for a Leonardo DiCapprio film, there are separate stories about Taylor Swift, Amy Schumer and Kim Kardashian, and a trailer story for The X-Files TV series, along with stories about cute videos with puppies and kittens, and whether or not to refrigerate butter. To think that Donald Trump, even as a clown, doesn't fit somewhere into all that is hard to figure. Though if given the choice of finding space for a front page story on Donald Trump or butter, I might go with the butter.
Already, in fact, only hours after making their pronouncement, the Huffington story about Donald Trump on its home page -- the #3 story, in fact -- about Mr. Trump's response to the HuffPo proclamation. (The article itself was bizarre. It references that Trump notes he's #1 in the Huffington Post Pollster -- and the story dismisses this by saying how unimportant polls are at this point. Well...yes, they basically are, except -- as I said, that's how "Fox News" is determining who'll be in their debates...and also -- geez, if you think they're that unimportant to the point of disparaging your own, why waste readers' time and your money and have them at all??) But then, why have the story about Donald Trump #3 on your home page in the first place just hours after you just said you'd only write about him in the Entertainment section?!
The decision also plays into making Donald Trump a "martyr" to the "liberal media." In saying that they're not going to give Donald Trump political coverage, they are likely going to give him more political coverage elsewhere. Not that that is a concern of any publication, which makes its editorial decisions on what it thinks best. But it's worth at least noting the reality.
I think Donald Trump is a joke. He's not going to get the Republican nomination for president. He's interested in himself and the Trump Brand. He panders to racists. And he's not deserving of having every word out of his mouth covered as serious political commentary.
But he's a real political candidate. Who -- today -- is leading some polls as the favorite candidate for the Republican nomination for president. And to say you're not going to cover him except on your "Entertainment section" (which tends to repeatedly bleed to your front page) is something that is not only irresponsible, but -- as far as I can see -- unworkable.
In the end, here's how wrong the Huffington Post's decision is -- and what a big mistake Donald Trump made. He should have registered here as a California resident. Then he could have run for governor here. With his name recognition and ludicrous statements, he could have stood a serious chance to be the GOP candidate two years ago. And given our checkered celebrity-driven history, having occasional brain-freezes to vote for a Schwarzenegger or Reagan based on fame only with no experience at all, gotten elected. And then, as the actual Republican California governor, he would have been a formidable challenger this year for the Republican nomination to be president.
There's almost no difference between that Donald Trump and the pathetic joke running today who the Huffington Post says they will no longer cover as political news -- except the grace of Gad.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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