(CNSNews.com) - The liberal Huffington Post last week relegated its coverage of Donald Trump's presidential campaign to its "entertainment" section, and on Wednesday, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" asked a Huffington Post reporter -- why?
"It's because he's a lounge act," Sam Stein explained. (Stein was quoting The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart, who moments earlier said that Trump's "lounge act is working.")
"Well, he's a candidate in the fact that he's filed paperwork," Stein continued, "but I think we're all concluding here that this is a campaign that's basically sustained by media attention, right?
"We made an editorial decision in this case that Donald Trump is a candidate who is...sustained by media attention, right? This is essentially a campaign that would not exist -- would not be at this stage in the polls if it weren't for the fact that we're now ten minutes into this morning's show" (and still talking about Donald Trump).
Stein pointed to a study showing that 37 percent of nightly news coverage over the past month has been devoted to Donald Trump.
"Now Jonathan called him a lounge act. I think that we're just making an editorial judgement that we need to treat him as the lounge act that he is. Now you can still get any Trump news you want on our Website. We're not saying we're not going to cover the guy. But we're not also passive observers in this process. We're making editorial judgements that any newspaper can make."
"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough noted that Trump is number one in recent Republican polls, he's been a public figure for many years, and he had a top network television show: "We could go down the list of all the things he has done. The media is not creating Donald Trump," Scarborough said.
The media is "sustaining Donald Trump," Stein clarified. "And I think Donald Trump knows that the media is sustaining him, which is why he goes out and he does things like call McCain a, not a war hero; why he gives cell phone numbers out. (Trump's latest stunt was to give out Sen. Lindsey Graham's cell phone number on the air.)
"This is someone who very clearly recognizes, and probably he's strategically brilliant to do this, that in this crowded primary field, it makes sense to constantly be on the headline. That's my theory," Stein said.
(Many would argue that the media "sustained" Barack Obama, liberal host Mika Brzezinski chimed in later.)
Some of the issues Trump has raised, such as immigration, are "substantive political issues," Stein conceded. "But when the stuff coming out of Trump's mouth is pure vitriol, when it's the middle finger to the political process, when he's giving out cell phone numbers, we have made an editorial decision that it's not politics. It is political entertainment."
People in early primary states are turning out to see Donald Trump because they're "genuinely angry," Scarborough suggested, as he asked "Morning Joe" regular Mike Barnicle to weigh in on that.
"The electorate is angry, Joe," Barnicle agreed. "But the people in New Hampshire and South Carolina, I would submit, are not being prompted by the n ightly news to go out and see Donald Trump, but they are being encouraged to go see Donald Trump because he is a sideshow.
"They know he is never, ever, ever going to be president of the United States, but they might get a few chuckles in the midle of a hot summer out of going to see him."
Later on "Morning Joe," NBC's Chuck Todd explained Trump's appeal to some Americans this way:
"What we're seeing here, I think, both parties are seeing its populist base flex its muscle in differnt ways -- Trump is tapping into it. I kind of think we need to move on from Trump the personality and focus more on the kind of people who are attracted to Trump."
Who are those people? Scarborough asked.
"It's people that have felt marginalized by a lot of things, Joe," Todd responded. "They have felt marginalize by this economy. They have felt marginalized by the political establishment. They have felt marginalized by the media. So guess what? When we marginalize Donald Trump -- they sit there and say, 'Yep. Just like me.'"
According to Todd, "If it wasn't for Donald Trump, the biggest story of the summer would be Hillary Clinton's problems solidifying herself inside the Democratic Party. It would be the Bernie Sanders boomlet..."