Arianna Huffington: ‘Dereliction of Duty for a Media Organization Not to Have a Point of View on Donald Trump’

And why she didn't care for Bob Woodward's Trump interview.

When the Huffington Post announced back in July that it was moving Donald Trump to HuffPost’s entertainment pages, it was a decision that put journalistic cleavages on display. Some thought HuffPost’s move was as much a publicity stunt as Trump’s presidency itself, while others approved the break from convention.

Trump coverage would return to the news section of the Huffington Post following his proposal to prevent all Muslims from entering the United States, but with an editorial twist. “As we cover [Trump’s] daily campaign, we’ll constantly remind the public of what he stands for, citing references and providing links,” wrote Arianna Huffington at the time.

That turned into a standard editor’s note at the bottom of all posts about Trump:

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

During an appearance Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter asked Huffington about those editorial decisions, and whether the decision to place him on the entertainment page had been a “foolhardy move, given that he’s now the GOP front-runner.”

“Not at all,” she responded. “We think that he’s a little bit like Kim Jong-un. You know, he’s both a buffoon and he’s dangerous. So, we started covering him as a buffoon, until the day when he proposed that we ban 1.6 billion Muslims from entering the United States. From that point on, we started covering him as a clear and present danger, with an editor’s note at the end of each story.”

Stelter asked Huffington about that editor’s note. “How can you possibly defend having an editor’s note on stories about this candidate?”

Huffington responded with a defense that was also a critique of the media’s coverage of Trump, pointing to Trump’s rally behavior and history of birtherism as supporting evidence for the note. “These are, like, extreme statements,” she concludes. “And, unfortunately, the media are mainstreaming them.”

“By not challenging these statements again and again and again, [the media] are allowing them to become part of the conversation, to become part of the mainstream. We’re getting used to these absurdities, as Van Jones said.”

Huffington specifically called out Bob Woodward in the Trump interview he conducted jointly with Robert Costa Saturday night for avoiding those questions.

Perhaps there would have been time to ask about all that if they hadn’t spent a good chunk of the initial exchange trying to get Trump to answer the first question, an attempt, followed by follow-up after follow-up, to get Trump to explain state when he first thought about running for president.

Huffington Post’s coverage of Trump starts with a point of view, which Huffington defends to Stelter. “Brian, I think it would be absolutely a dereliction of duty for a media organization not to have a point of view on Donald Trump,” she tells Stelter.

Woodward and Costa’s approach comes without a point of view. When they begin, their questions aren’t tailored to the specifics of Trump’s candidacy. “Where do you start the movie of your decision to run for president?” asks Woodward. It is a question that could be asked of any candidate.

But something revealing happened during their follow ups, even though Woodward and Costa didn’t apply the type of pushback hosts Chris Matthews and Anderson Cooper used in their recent town halls with Trump, and which Huffington praised.

You could have created an opera buffa out of the absurdity of the exchange, of Trump’s inability to answer a direct, simple question.

The neutrality of Woodward and Costa’s stance, in this case, is what allowed Trump’s words to stand out so conspicuously. And unlike in most cases it wasn’t about a controversial statement, but the totality of his thought process: meandering, boastful, poll-obsessed, where everything about Trump and his people is superlative and no one else knows what they’re doing. His reflexive pivots toward megalomania were nothing new, but in that context, it really made you wonder if that is all there is to Trump.