Last week everyone’s favorite news source for celebrity hookups, celebrity breakups, celebrity op-eds, and 72-point headlines announced that it will not cover Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as part of its political coverage. Instead, Huffington Post Editorial Director Ryan Shea and Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim wrote, Trump’s exploits will appear in the 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.
This short, terse statement went viral pretty quickly — it showed up in my Twitter and Facebook feeds a good dozen times — and my fellow Lefties snorted approvingly at HuffPo’s principled stance and Trump’s buffoonery.
The problem is it’s not a principled stance at all, and it just underlines what a sordid shitrag the Huffington Post is and always has been.
That’s not to say that Trump’s campaign doesn’t qualify as entertainment. I am loving every moment of it. I watched about 20 minutes of one of his recent campaign events the other day and sat agape as he digressed on every digression and took every possible rhetorical detour to avoid discussing anything but himself. His “by the way”s had “by the way”s. He began his campaign by making a series of wildly controversial, totally unsupported statements, and is now talking exclusively about how unfairly everyone is attacking him, when he’s not unfairly attacking them back.
I don’t think Trump is going to win the nomination in the end, but he’s undeniably a newsworthy part of the race: he’s leading the crowded GOP field by five points, he’s going to be in the debates, he’s forced all the other candidates to respond to his statements, and he’s revealed just how many Americans would like a president belligerent enough to make George W. Bush look like Stuart Smalley.
A quick search of the Huffington Post reveals that in the week since they announced they won’t cover his campaign, they’ve run 48 articles about him. So they are still covering him just as breathlessly as everyone else — they’re just doing it from the imaginary high ground of labeling it Entertainment. (Ironic, considering that they covered the Taylor Swift/Nicki Minaj Twitter dustup like it was the Watergate hearings.) They’re having their cake and eating it too: they get to dismiss him while still collecting the sweet, sweet pageviews he’s driving.
I have seen it said that Trump is the Bernie Sanders of the right: the candidate whose positions are so true to the party’s base that he can’t possibly win a general election. The comparison is rather inexact, as Sanders is a walking spreadsheet with total command of the issues and a set of very specific policy proposals and solutions, and Trump speaks only in vague generalities, but there is a bit of truth to it.
Sanders’ supporters have complained that their man is not getting a fair shake from the media, that the fact that he’s drawn by far the biggest crowds of any candidate in the race in either party isn’t getting enough attention, and that that suggests that the media has already chosen Hillary Clinton, that the snub of Sanders puts the lie to any suggestion that there is a “liberal media.” (They have a point: if the media is so liberal, shouldn’t it be pushing the most liberal candidate?)
Ignoring or minimizing a candidate that has real support, even if that candidate’s views seem extreme, or it seems unlikely that he or she will win in the end, or if that candidate has weird hair, is putting a thumb on the scale of democracy. If Trump or Sanders or Martin O’Malley or Ted Cruz or Captain Kangaroo is such an odious candidate, let the voters decide that on their own.
The Huffington Post has always been a pile of crap. I stopped reading it about five years ago, despite the fact that I generally agree with it politically, because it’s no different than the Drudge Report or Newsmax or any of the craptastic right-wing news sources that seize on misstatements, take words out of context, and create scandals out of nothing to suit their agenda of demonizing the other side. But this self-serving, empty gesture of exiling Trump to the entertainment section — and then not even sticking to it for a week — makes me wish I still read it so I could quit again.
Also, I take exception to mentioning the Kardashians and The Bachelorette in the same breath. The Bachelorette is a work of art and I won’t have it smeared!