Attack dogs at the Huffington Post?

Alberto A. Martinez

Arianna Huffington. Photo Credit: Rappaport Center.

MEDIA MEME:

Trump rudely called Arianna Huffington “a dog.”

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED:

It’s true, he did. But news commentators did not point out that previously Arianna Huffington herself repeatedly referred to news bloggers as dogs. That was her compliment for her many unpaid writers. And she had disparaged a top NBC journalist by calling him a dog. She also insulted in print other individuals as pigs. Nearly nobody cared that Huffington labeled individuals as dogs and pigs. Her online newspaper ridiculed and demonized Trump for years before he finally called her a dog. This word is often used by many people to describe various kinds of journalists. Other critics too had called Huffington a dog. Even a prominent admirer called her the toughest dog of all. She was flattered by the comparison and published it.


 

After Megyn Kelly portrayed Donald Trump as a misogynist, in the first Republican Debate of 2015, fact-checkers rushed to check whether Trump had really called any women “dogs.”

In April 2015, Trump used Twitter to criticize Arianna Huffington, editor of the Huffington Post. He asked: “Why is it necessary to comment on [her] looks? Because she is a dog who wrongfully comments on me.”

Clearly—one should not insult people by calling them dogs.

This insult would be particularly sexist if Trump used it only on women; if he did not insult some men for their looks and did not call them dogs too. Yet Trump used the insult “dog” more often for men. For example:

  1. Trump wrote: “Mitt Romney had his chance to beat a failed president but he choked like a dog.” (June 2016)
  2. Trump wrote that Ted Cruz “lies like a dog— over and over again!” (February 2016)
  3. Trump complained that National Review writer Brent Bozell “came to my office begging for money like a dog.” (January 2016)
  4. Trump criticized NBC journalist Chuck Todd, by writing that “sleepy eyes @chucktodd will be fired like a dog.” (July 2015)
  5. Trump said Glenn Beck “got fired like a dog” by Fox News, and that “he is irrelevant.” (December 2015)
  6. Trump griped: “why is it necessary to comment on @ariannahuff looks? Because she is a dog who wrongfully comments on me.” (April 2015)
  7. Trump chastised rapper Mac Miller: “You ungrateful dog!” (January 2013).
  8. Trump complained that medical doctors “are a bunch of money-grubbing dogs.” (in a book of 2004)

There are more examples too. It is to Trump’s credit that he used the very same generic word, dog, when referring to Huffington, rather than using the widely despised five-letter word that refers to a female dog. That could have been the end of him.

Likewise, Trump also criticized many men for their looks. To give just one example, he described one loudmouth employee as: “a short, fat, bald-headed guy with thick glasses and hands like Jell-O.”

As with Trump’s insult to Huffington, he called rapper Mac Miller a dog only after Miller had insulted him. Miller’s song of 2011, titled “Donald Trump” sold more than a million copies. But then Miller heard that Trump was running for President, so Miller called him a “dick,” a “motherfucker,” and a “fucking douchebag.” So then Trump called him a dog.

Anyhow, Trump blamed Arianna Huffington for what she published about him. Her newspaper had ridiculed Trump countless many times, with condescending words such as “moody,” “crabby,” “misery,” “mad,” “bluster,” “bad temper,” and that was just in one editorial, in 2012.

On March 18, 2015, before Trump announced he’d run for President, another Huffington Post editor wrote: “We do not plan to take it even a little bit seriously.” They promised that their editorial position would never change. Because, for Trump to win, “most of the planet’s population would have to be dead, or unconscious, or raptured, or kidnapped…”

Raptured! That is, only if all the good people on Earth were swept up to God’s heaven would Trump have a chance of becoming President of the United States. The Huffington editor summed it up: “Trump running a presidential campaign is, in short, not a thing that you will need to expend even one scintilla of concern over, ever.”

They were utterly wrong. Political commentators are often stunningly incompetent when they try to make predictions. Millions of people did become very concerned about Trump during the election, and more so when he won.

Only after Huffington’s online newspaper had ridiculed and attacked Trump incessantly, did Trump finally call Arianna Huffington “a dog.”

So, he used this insult on men more often than women. And he insulted her because her online newspaper mocked and insulted him constantly. But there’s another issue. Arianna Huffington herself also criticized another journalist as a dog, and she insulted several men as pigs.

In a book of 2003, Arianna described some men as pigs. For example:

  1. Arianna Huffington described John Rigas as a “Family Pig.”
  2. She called Dennis Kozlowski the “Boss Pig.”
  3. She described Jack Grubman in a “Portrait of a Pig.”
  4. She called Albert Dunlap the “Pink-Slip Pig.”
  5. She called Samuel Waksal a “Doctor Pig.”

Etc. Maybe you agree with her that some of these men are pigs, for whatever reason. But the point is that Arianna Huffington insulted people she dislikes. (Is that ok? Since she did it, could Trump do it too?) For example, she disparaged the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writing:

  1. “I’m well aware of the attack dog nature of the CEI.”

She also insulted some individuals by calling them dogs:

  1. Arianna Huffington called Richard Perle “the frothing pit bull of the Bush administration’s dogs of war.”

She first wrote this in 2003, and repeated it in 2004 and 2007. Likewise, when she mocked at length the prominent NBC journalist Tim Russert, for not being aggressive with an interviewee, she called him a dog:

  1. Arianna Huffington complained: “returning to form, Bulldog Russert just gives up.”

She wrote this in 2005 and repeated it in her book of 2008. Did she say this to ridicule Russert’s appearance, or just his behavior?

Likewise, by mid 2015, Huffington had earned Trump’s dislike so he called her a dog. The media then jumped to assume the worst: that he called her a dog because she’s a woman. But actually, the word dog is a common way to refer to various kinds of journalists:

  1. Reporters who hide politicians’ personal indiscretions are criticized as “lapdog journalists.”
  2. Mass media journalists who protect dominant political institutions are called “guard-dogs.”
  3. Journalists who expose government waste and illegal activities are known as “watchdog journalists.”
  4. Reporters who persistently chase a celebrity or a story are known as “press hounds.”
  5. Reporters who find evasive people or who track the scent of a difficult story are praised as “bloodhounds.”
  6. The adverb doggedly and the adjective dogged are often used for reporters.
  7. Some aggressive news commentators are described as “attack dogs.” In 2007, the veteran CBS news anchor Dan Rather complained that journalists were becoming attack dogs and lapdogs instead of watchdogs.
  8. News commentators claim to be able to hear unspoken racist messages known as “dog-whistles.”
  9. Arianna Huffington herself repeatedly praised bloggers (or “new media journalists”) as “pit bulls.”

She said that when something matters to bloggers “they chomp down hard and refuse to let go. They’re the true pit bulls of reporting. The only way to get them off a story is to cut off their heads (and even then you’ll need to pry their jaws open).”

Imagine if Trump had said that! News commentators would have claimed that Trump had literally proposed to assassinate reporters. They would have been seriously outraged.

Anyhow, Arianna Huffington wrote that in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, etc. Similarly, I think Trump’s insult for Huffington refers to that same kind of journalists: online pit bulls, or more generally, “attack dogs.”

Trump was not alone in his criticism. For example, in 2011 Peter C. Glover of American Thinker criticized the Huffington Post as a “hard-left media attack dog.”  In 2008, John Barnhart of Free Republic wrote: “Arianna Huffington is not only a self-indulgent liberal attack dog…”

She was even compared to a dog by one of her prominent admirers. In February 2016, Professor Jeff Jarvis of Medium.com riffed on Arianna’s claim that bloggers are pit bulls. Jarvis wrote:

Bloggers, on the other hand, are attack dogs. When they sink their teeth into the ankle of a bad guy, they don’t let go. That is what we still need today: Arianna as alpha dog in a pack of bloodhounds that will stay on the trail of every Donald Trump lie and utterance of demagoguery…

Jarvis told Arianna that her reporters are “not the same as you and your Rolodex dogging issues and idiots.”

In turn, Arianna approvingly republished Jarvis’s essay on Huffington Post. Then Jeff Jarvis replied:

I appreciate all you are doing. But these liars, misogynists, miscreants, fools, and assholes still need more dogs on their trail. No tougher dog than you!

Nobody complained that Professor Jarvis described Arianna Huffington as a dog. I don’t know of anyone who complained that she repeatedly called Richard Perle and Tim Russert dogs.

Such words are very common in journalism and politics. Like other news commentators, Huffington claims to hear unspoken racist messages known as dog-whistles, even by Trump.

Politico disparaged MSNBC’s news commentator Chris Matthews as a “highly opinionated attack dog.” Other writers also call him a dog. Next, many news outlets referred to Carly Fiorina as an attack dog, including The New York TimesForbes, Salon, The Guardian, NPR, NBC, National Review, and The Boston Globe. Likewise, The Telegraph and Newsweek referred to Bill Clinton as an attack dog. Etc.

Yet people were offended that Trump once called Arianna Huffington a dog for publishing false statements about him.

To put things into perspective, we should remember that dog is not even a gross insult. Dogs are Americans’ most loved animals. Even with Trump some words that he used as insults, he also used sometimes as compliments. Being an “an absolute animal” can meant that you’re a great businessman. Being a “junkyard dog” meant that you’re a good fighter. Being “top dog” was also good. To “work like a dog” was good too, according to Trump. Etc.

But before ending, we should note that Arianna Huffington was not entirely undeserving of criticism.

In 1973, she attacked the Women’s Liberation movement and compared it with Nazism. She said that Women’s Lib “would transform only the lives of women with strong lesbian tendencies.” She added: “The frenetic extremism of Women’s Lib seeks not to emancipate women, but to destroy society.”

Imagine if Trump had said that, ever.

In 1978, Huffington denounced Social Security and proposed that all government welfare programs should be eliminated.

In 1981 and 1987, Arianna Huffington published books that plagiarized material from other authors’ works. Lydia Gasman, a professor at the University of Virginia, called Arianna Huffington an “intellectual kleptomaniac” and told Vanity Fair that “What she did was steal twenty years of my work.

In 1994, Arianna Huffington claimed to volunteer for a nonprofit organization that cared for homeless and abused children in Santa Barbara. But the director of the organization, Lilliana Hensel said that it was a lie: “No, she has never volunteered here…. She’s never given a penny to us and never worked with the children… It’s using needy children in a needy situation for political gain, and it’s really disgusting.”

In 1994, Vanity Fair reported that Arianna Huffington had servants who quit because they were treated “like slaves,” they said. She diverted one of her female employees, a researcher, to do menial tasks. The employee cried many times and said “Arianna was so cruel—mean and nasty to everyone in the house.” Finally the employee quit and considered making “a T-shirt that said, I quit the bitch.”

In 1995, Arianna Huffington argued that immigration to the US should be reduced: “Until we get rid of multi-culturalism, we cannot afford to have the high levels of present immigration.” She complained that “illegal immigrants” who are on welfare reduce the services available to citizens, and specified: “I’m talking about the fact that an illegal, pregnant woman can walk into any California doctor and get all the services paid for free. Yes, I am talking about that.”

In 2005, Arianna Huffington founded the Huffington Post, claiming that it would serve as a platform for “citizen journalists” to write articles. But most of these workers were unpaid.

Meanwhile, her website generated millions of dollars in ads revenues. The Guardian criticized the Huffington Post as the “grand master” of “blurring the line between advertising and editorial. … via sponsoring schemes.”

Huffington Post nominated writer Mayhill Fowler for two Pulitzer Prizes, yet paid her nothing for her years of work. Finally, Fowler quit, and complained about Arianna Huffington: “I cannot help but feel that, at the end of the day, as I thought I was proving myself to her to be worthy of journalism, she on her part was milking me for everything she could get before letting me go.”

After six years of benefitting from the labors of unpaid “citizen journalists” and “pit bulls,” Arianna Huffington sold the Huffington Post to AOL in 2011, for $315 million. She remained as President and Editor-in-Chief, and received $21 million for herself, while her unpaid bloggers received nothing. It triggered a backlash from writers who accused her of having exploited their free labor.

Journalist Chris Hedges denounced Arianna: “Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class.”

An L.A. Times columnist accused Huffington’s website of committing “many of the worst abuses of the old economy’s industrial capitalism — the sweatshop, the speedup and piecework; huge profits for the owners; desperation, drudgery and exploitation for the workers.” The reporter noted that much of the content in Huffington Post is “stolen,” plagiarized from other news media.

Not only did Arianna benefit from the labors of unpaid bloggers, her Huffington Post even sold unpaid internships in auctions, for as much as $14,400.

Consequently, the SHAME project denounced Arianna Huffington in their efforts to “Shame the Hacks Who Abuse the Media,” charging her for “consistent patterns of labor exploitation, strategic plagiarism, deception and hucksterism.”

SHAME wrote: “The Huffington Post has done some excellent investigative journalism, but violates basic journalism ethics by allowing corporate propaganda, lobbyists for dictators, bankers and quacks to share the same space with reporters.”

Arianna Huffington also used casual phrases that nobody seemed to mind. But if they had been uttered by Donald Trump, they would draw analysis, critiques, and disgust. For example, Arianna exulted: “One of my favorite sayings is ‘100 per cent is a breeze, 99 per cent is a bitch.’”  She also remarked: “Payback is a bitch-slap.”

And payback is what Trump received. He paid for calling her a dog.

Nearly all articles in the Huffington Post about Donald Trump attacked him, endless many. Also, to treat him as a ridiculous joke, all articles about Trump were placed in the “Entertainment” section of the website, instead of in “Politics.” And if that was not enough, Arianna herself penned an “Editor’s Note” that was appended to every article about Trump in the Huffington Post:

“Editor’s note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.”

The Huffington Post published articles detailing Trump’s transgressions.

A list of his misogynist remarks noted that Trump criticized a journalist by writing this on her photo: “The Face of a Dog!” It was an example of “the most outrageous” things that Trump had said about women.

 

Alberto A. Martinez is a professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Next, Chapter 8:  “The Face of a Dog!” No, not really.

 

3 Comments on Attack dogs at the Huffington Post?

  1. LOL when I read that Arianna had an ex-employee who had a shirt that said, “I quit the bitch”. HUFFPO pays only a tiny group of its writers. I heard it’s the most trafficked blog on the internet. They use Blogger. I think it should be called FluffPo because of how they mix fluff pieces with politics. Cute puppies and angry frothing activists who are always offended by this or that word. But hats off to Arianna, she sensed how to make big $$$ out of PC shaming conservatives with unpaid workers class act.

  2. the Huffington Post is trash, it really is. I used to read it until i realized that they regularly break every standard and norm of journalistic integrity. Biased and manipulative. They’re not a newspaper, it’s a massive blog where anyone who’s allowed to write for it unloads their opinions without being checked by a competent editor. The sad thing is that they include many pieces by intelligent people who elsewhere write good pieces but write garbage for the HP. Rabid opinions are fine, everyone has a right. But the HP presents them as journalism! Pseudo intellectuals that pretend to care about equality and human rights but in fact don’t even try to be thoughtful.It’s amazing that hip millennials eat it up with their overpriced lattes. I think it’s important to teach young people especially that the Huffington is trash. And I don’t even like Trump.

  3. I had no clue that Arianna was such a wreck. Trump should start a TrumpPost to give her back some of her compost.

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