It’s hard to refute the Huffington Post’s readers’ note. As far as compressed summations of Trump’s general awfulness go, however, this blog prefers a paragraph written by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank under the headline “Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”
Trump led the “birther” movement challenging President Obama’s standing as a natural-born American; used various vulgar expressions to refer to women; spoke of Mexico sending rapists and other criminals across the border; called for rounding up and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants; had high-profile spats with prominent Latino journalists and news outlets; mocked Asian accents; let stand a charge made in his presence that Obama is a Muslim and that Muslims are a “problem” in America; embraced the notion of forcing Muslims to register in a database; falsely claimed thousands of Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey; tweeted bogus statistics asserting that most killings of whites are done by blacks; approved of the roughing up of a black demonstrator at one of his events; and publicly mocked the movements of New York Times (and former Washington Post) journalist Serge Kovaleski, who has a chronic condition limiting mobility.
Even so, the Huffington Post may well be creating some precedential problems here. Say a politician endorses Trump, as has Sarah Palin. Does she now get a readers’ note for associating herself with Trump’s bigoted worldview? How about a politician who shows merely a pattern of xenophobia? Readers’ note — yes or no? In stating that the policy will kick in for anyone who proposes a Muslim ban, the website appears to be saying that it’ll do this only if someone comes along who’s just as deplorable as Trump. So this should be a one-off situation.
These matters are worth throwing on the mat and wrestling over. After all, news organizations have long struggled with how much contextual truth-telling to load into their coverage. It’s a logistical challenge that got more tricky when the Internet placed a premium on frequent postings. Do you throw a background paragraph about the lowlights of a candidate for every single post about him or her? Newsrooms have twisted themselves in knots over that question.
In any case, the “readers’ note” solution has far more merit than the category solution — i.e., Huffington Post’s decision over the summer to place Trump coverage in its “Entertainment” vertical. Not a good move, acknowledged the outlet in December, when it moved the real-estate mogul back to “Politics.” In a post titled “A Note on Trump: We Are No Longer Entertained,” Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington wrote, “So as we cover his daily campaign, we’ll constantly remind the public of what he stands for, citing references and providing links.” Pledge fulfilled.