The homepage of the Huffington Post on Friday morning featured the smug mug of Donald Trump under the headline "Trump Towers," which linked to a chart showing the loquacious real estate baron with a 21.7-point lead in an average of 33 Republican presidential primary polls. This was part of a Trump-themed package that included an original story about why his proposed ban on Muslim entry to the United States is unlikely to hurt him among GOP voters and a Washington Post story (thank you) about why attacks on the Republican front-runner only make him stronger.
Missing, as far as I could tell, was any sign that anything has changed since Monday night, when Arianna Huffington declared "we are no longer entertained" in the hours after Trump issued his call for a Muslim border block. Huffington wrote that Trump's campaign is not just a comedic "sideshow" anymore — that same label being the stated reason why HuffPo decided in July to put Trump stories in its entertainment section instead of politics — but has "curdled and congealed into something repellent and threatening."
"We believe that the way we cover the campaign should reflect this shift," Huffington said. "And part of that involves never failing to remind our audience who Trump is and what his campaign really represents."
We're only a few days into this supposed "shift," but the new Trump coverage looks an awful lot like the old Trump coverage — which was of course pretty tough already.
There was Friday's story about the new Trump2Voldemort extension for Google Chrome, which replaces every mention of The Donald with a reference to the "Harry Potter" villain; Thursday's article about the dismay of FDR's granddaughter at hearing Trump cite — positively — the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; and Wednesday's piece about how Mitt Romney could still thwart Trump without entering the race.
It's not that any of these failed to live up to Huffington's vow to "remind our audience who Trump is and what his campaign really represents." It's that they were basically indistinguishable from HuffPo's prior coverage.
The one noticeable difference is that some Trump stories in recent days have appeared under the politics banner. This was expected, given Huffington's Monday missive.
But whatever. The labels don't matter much. At HuffPo, you can find Trump-related stories under politics, media, technology, comedy, religion and more. You can also find them on Twitter or Facebook (social media drives about a third of all Internet traffic) or through a Google search. Do readers really care about the section head at the top of the page or even notice it? I doubt it.
Huffington's message on Monday was a symbolic repudiation of Trump's campaign rhetoric — just like putting him in the entertainment section in the first place was symbolic. But that's all it was.