Huffington: It's Too Late for Media to Take Trump Seriously

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Arianna Huffington.
Arianna Huffington. Credit: The Huffington Post
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Arianna Huffington, who recently stopped editing the digital news publication that bears her name, said at a panel discussion that it's too late for the media to course-correct and take Donald Trump's chances of winning the presidency seriously.

"It's late, it's really late. The tumor is all over the body politic," she said, likening recent tough coverage of Mr. Trump's campaign to performing chemotherapy after a cancerous tumor has already spread. "The lies have taken root."

Ms. Huffington spoke Wednesday at the Carnegie-Knight Forum, which was gathered to discuss a multi-part, Shorenstein Center report on media coverage of the election. She said "the media has a huge responsibility for what's happening in this country right now," referring to Mr. Trump's rise and the distinct possibility of his election.

But Marty Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, disagreed with Ms. Huffington, and let her know. "We're not all the same, as you well know," he said. "We're all different. The Huffington Post is part of the media, and you have your own role, and other people have their own role."

"The Huffington Post has infused an editorial viewpoint on Mr. Trump in even news stories about him, which include an editor's note describing him as "a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther." The company previously classified coverage of the Republican candidate as entertainment, but then reversed course.

Mr. Baron said he doesn't like the term "the media," which he said is a "crazy term to use" and "a crazy way to look at it."

Media coverage of the campaign is only one factor, and does not make or break individual candidates as much as they, themselves, do, he said.

Referring to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the Republican primary in February, Mr. Baron said, "He collapsed because he wasn't a good candidate. He collapsed because his message, as much as he had one, didn't resonate with the American public." The media, he said, was not responsible for the outcome of his campaign.

Mr. Baron also took issue with the idea that media outlets have not sufficiently focused on candidates' policies and "the issues."

"It's not as if the voters don't have access to the issues," he said. "[The candidates] all have their websites. You would think those things would the most trafficked things on the internet. But they're not, because people don't go to them."

Ms. Huffington criticized the concept of false balance, and the perception that journalists should always play it down the middle. "Our job is to be very clear where the truth lies, and the truth sometimes lies on one side or the other," she said. "It doesn't always lie in the middle."

She also accused outlets like The New York Times of resorting to euphemism in describing Mr. Trump and his worldview. In May, two Times reporters wrote that Mr. Trump takes a "a reductive approach to ethnicity," which Ms. Huffington said "is just pure, unadulterated unncessary euphemism."

"'A reductive approach to ethnicity' sounds almost playful," she said.