In an op-ed for New York Daily News which sought to identify a “bright line beyond which [mass media] censorship takes hold,” Ralph Nader criticized The Huffington Post’s decision to file all news about Donald Trump’s political campaign under its entertainment category rather than covering Trump in its politics section like it does for the rest of the 2016 candidates.
“The Huffington Post, which carries my column, announced that it is excluding Trump from its political coverage and instead filing all stories about the man leading the Republican field, according to the most recent polls, under entertainment,” wrote Nader, who called Trump’s rise in the polls a “teachable moment for the mass media” and theorized that “failing to take Trump seriously could set a dangerous precedent for future candidates with fresh ideas, looking to shake up the controlling status quo.”
“If [The Huffington Post] existed in the 1980s, would they have done this to that B-list actor, Ronald Reagan? … Imagine the stories an outlet would have lost if they’d cut him out of their political coverage.” Nader added, “Moreover, how is HuffPo going to ‘entertain’ its readers when Trump is the only Republican candidate who trashes despotic trade treaties or renews his previous commitment to keep Social Security and Medicare intact, or calls for more military aggression, a giant wall on the Mexican border or more corporate welfare? … Like it or loathe it, it is a political agenda.”
Nader also leveled criticism at Fox News for limiting its prime time debate to only 10 candidates and called the network’s choice to include candidates on the basis of their poll numbers “a serious blow to the other candidates, some of whom started later and haven’t been bankrolled by big money.”
Nader also blasted the Commission on Presidential Debates’ exclusion of independent candidates from general election presidential debates, calling the organization the Republican and Democratic “duopoly’s lovechild.” The five-time independent candidate for president wrote, “Without independent wealth, third party or independent candidates don’t stand a chance of reaching millions of voters unless this system is changed and they are invited, with equal footing, onto the debate stage.”
Nader also pointed out how non-viable political candidates have in the past shaped American politics and argued that excluding them from media coverage could prevent anti-establishment political views from taking hold, “Journalists who facilely call it an editorial judgement to exclude such candidates need a history lesson on how pioneering long-shots, who never won national elections, challenged and eventually changed the agendas of the entrenched parties. Have we forgotten the anti-slavery Liberty Party in 1840 or the numerous parties advocating for women’s suffrage, the rights of farmers and workers, and election reforms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?”
Nader concluded his op-ed with a warning for the mainstream media posed as a question: “It is time to end this political bigotry and engage in some modest discussion about what is newsworthy and what is just ditto-heading the political oligarchy? Or is the press waiting for a third-party run by a jilted Trump to teach them these lessons?”
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