Huffington Post to cover Trump as an entertainer, not a politician

Donald Trump in 90 Seconds
Donald Trump in 90 Seconds

The Huffington Post will continue to cover Donald Trump, but the popular news site is done treating him like a legitimate presidential candidate.

In a note to readers on Friday, two top editors for HuffPost said that coverage of the brash billionaire's campaign will be a part of the site's entertainment section.

"Our reason is simple: Trump's campaign is a sideshow," wrote Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim and editorial director Danny Shea. "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."

In a separate statement, Grim said that the site had "erroneously been covering [Trump] as an actual presidential candidate."

"Now, the impact he's having on the Republican Party and the immigration debate is itself a real thing, and we'll cover that as substance, but anything that tumbles out of his mouth will land on the Entertainment page," Grim said.

HuffPost trumpeted the announcement on its homepage with a headline that borrowed Trump's signature line from "The Apprentice": "You're fired!"

Trump responded dismissively to HuffPost's decision.

"The only clown show in this scenario is the Huffington Post pretending to be a legitimate news source," Trump's campaign said in a statement released Friday evening.

trump huffington post

The decision comes a day after a reporter for the site interviewed Trump on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. That story was published Friday in the entertainment section.

The move also comes as the real estate mogul and reality television star is leading most of his Republican rivals in the polls. In fact, Trump touted his top spot on HuffPost's own polling aggregator just a couple weeks ago.

"We believe he's partly the media's creation," said Arianna Huffington, the HuffPost's editor in chief and co-founder.

She said the site's editors have been having a "lot of internal conversations about how to cover Trump."

It also came up when Huffington met with outgoing Bloomberg Digital editor Josh Topolsky. She said Topolsky asserted that Trump coverage should be relegated to the entertainment section.

When Huffington had a subsequent meeting with her lieutenants, they all supported the idea, she said.

Trump wouldn't be the first celebrity to pull off an unlikely electoral triumph. Just ask voters in Minnesota and California, where former pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger served as governors.

jesse arnold
Former governors Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger

The liberal site drew applause from some conservatives and Republicans for the move.

"I don't always agree with the [Huffington Post] but today, I salute them," tweeted Rick Wilson, a GOP media consultant.

The reaction in the media world, however, was mixed. Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at New York University, called the decision "brilliant" and said that HuffPost moved "against automatic thinking and herd behavior in campaign coverage."

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple called the decision a "Trumpian stunt" by the Huffington Post.

James Warren, the chief media critic for the Poynter Institute for the Media Studies, said that HuffPost had erred in its decision.

"You might think Trump is a buffoon," Warren wrote. "But he may have, for the moment at least, touched some nerve of dissatisfaction, perhaps partial explanation of his decent showing in some early Republican polls."

Related: Trump's list of media winners and 'losers'

CNNMoney's Brian Stelter contributed to this report

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