Donald Trump is finally out of the Entertainment section of the Huffington Post -- just not for the reason he might have imagined.
The left-leaning HuffPo said in July, shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for president, that it would not even dignify his campaign by posting stories about it under the "Politics" banner.
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.
But in a Monday night post, editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington wrote that Trump shall henceforth be off the Entertainment pages (though she notably didn't say exactly where stories about him will appear). The decision was not based on the Republican front-runner's months-long position atop the polls; it is not a grudging acknowledgment that the real estate magnate with the big wallet and bigger mouth is, in fact, a legitimate contender. Instead, the move was prompted by Trump's call, earlier in the day, for the United States to completely close the immigration process to all Muslims.
Trump's campaign is no longer entertaining, Huffington wrote, but has "morphed into something else: an ugly and dangerous force in American politics."
Putting Trump in the Entertainment section in the first place was more symbolic than substantive. HuffPo’s stories about him have always read like political pieces, and I doubt that visitors to the site have noticed any difference.
The move also was a not-so-subtle bet that Trump mania would quickly fizzle out and that HuffPo would be able to say, “See, we told you he shouldn’t be taken seriously.” Huffington lost that bet long ago; her announcement Monday looks like a second attempt at dismissiveness after the first try failed.
So we will no longer be covering his campaign in Entertainment. But that's not to say we'll be treating it as if it were a normal campaign.
Our decision in July was made because we refused to go along with the idea, based simply on poll numbers, that Trump's candidacy was actually a serious and good faith effort to present ideas on how best to govern the country. We continue to believe this to be true -- and will continue to let it guide our coverage -- but much has changed.
This was Trump's second public run-in with a media mogul in a matter of hours. He also got into it on Twitter with Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, who composed just the fourth tweet of his life in response to a string of critical tweets by Trump.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 7, 2015
We'll wait to see how HuffPo's supposed change manifests itself in the site's coverage, though it's difficult to envision a dramatic difference. Huffington says the shift "involves never failing to remind our audience who Trump is and what his campaign really represents," but her writers already do this regularly. As she noted, HuffPo has taken Trump to task for the Muslim database thing, the 9/11 rooftop celebrations thing, the Obama birther thing, and many other things.
Reading Huffington's declaration, I got that feeling you get when a movie character says, "No more Mr. Nice Guy," and you think, "Umm, this character was never Mr. Nice Guy."
HuffPo's coverage of Trump is going to get more critical? It's hard to see how.
Huffington made a strong statement in her post, and she deserves credit for being so transparent about her publication's editorial philosophy. But it will probably turn out to be more about posturing than a tangible shift in coverage.