Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of the digital news outlet BuzzFeed, gave writers on his staff permission to label Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a racist, given the candidate’s recent proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. as a counterterrorism measure. In a memo sent out Tuesday, Smith informed his staff that it was "entirely fair" to refer to Trump as a "mendacious racist," according to a CNN Money report.
The words "mendacious," an adjective describing someone who habitually tells lies, and "racist" are in line with the company’s ethics guidelines because Trump has said “things that are false, and [is] running an overtly anti-Muslim campaign,” Smith stated in the memo. "BuzzFeed News' reporting is rooted in facts, not opinion; these are facts," he wrote.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) December 9, 2015
Reporters and editors at BuzzFeed have not been given permission to comment on Trump or other presidential candidates in a partisan way, in articles and social media content, Smith added. "Our coverage reflects the facts of his campaign, and you aren't going to get in trouble for stating them," he wrote.
The BuzzFeed editorial policy memo emerged after Trump called Monday for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." The billionaire real estate mogul’s proposal has been panned by Republicans and Democrats, along with Muslims leaders and activists around the world.
But BuzzFeed isn’t the only major U.S. publication speaking out on Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric. Tom Brokaw, the veteran journalist at NBC News, called Trump’s proposal “dangerous,” in an editorial published Tuesday. The Philadelphia Daily News, a tabloid, ran a cover image comparing Trump to Hitler, over his remarks.
The Huffington Post, which in July announced a decision to cover Trump’s presidential campaign as entertainment instead of politics, said it would no longer do so in light of the anti-Islam rhetoric. “On the heels of Trump's proposed change for America, we will be changing how we cover him at the Huffington Post,” Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group, wrote in an editorial Tuesday. “So we will no longer be covering his campaign in [the] Entertainment [section]. But that's not to say we'll be treating it as if it were a normal campaign. ”
The backlash against Trump continued Wednesday morning, as members of the public condemn the candidate’s rhetoric with posters and social media websites.
— 11Alive News (@11AliveNews) December 9, 2015
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) December 9, 2015