The joke is over.
Five months ago, the Huffington Post announced its decision to relegate all coverage of Donald Trump's presidential campaign to the "entertainment" section, because in the words of its editors, "Trump's campaign is a sideshow."
But, for HuffPo, that changed on Monday when Mr. Trump called for a "total" ban on Muslims trying to come into the US.
Trump's "vicious pronouncement makes abundantly clear [his campaign has] morphed into something else: an ugly and dangerous force in American politics," Post founder and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington wrote in a blog post Monday evening announcing that the organization will no longer be covering his campaign in the entertainment section.
The Huffington Post's decision, along with comments from a variety of other news organizations and commentators, reflects a shifting attitude toward the billionaire businessman's campaign.
Trump's increasingly divisive and contentious rhetoric – following the Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., attacks, he called for US mosques to be shut down, a database to track Muslims, and now, a ban on Muslims entering the US – has more commentators taking Trump seriously, and raising alarms over his rhetoric.
"Now...the 'can you believe he said that?' novelty has curdled and congealed into something repellent and threatening," Ms. Huffington wrote, "laying bare a disturbing aspect of American politics."
That alarm has been reflected across the web.
"...[S]lowly but surely the entertainment factor has been on the wane and the fear factor has been on the rise," the Daily Beast's Barrett Holmes Pitner wrote back in August. "What he and his supporters say can no longer be considered a joke."
American liberals were not alone in denouncing Trump's proposal.
"This is not conservatism," House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference with House Republicans Tuesday. "What was proposed was not what party stands for or country stands for."
Even former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was widely criticized by liberals for his interpretation of the Constitution as it applied to terror suspects, is not a fan. "His whole notion that somehow we need to say no more Muslims and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in," he told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
How did the perception of Trump shift? It may be a realization of the extent of his claims and the impact he's had on the national conversation. On Friday, Trump reached a new high in the polls: A CNN-ORC International survey showed Trump at 36 percent among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Trump's nearest GOP competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, trails him by 20 points.
As Huffington explained in her blog post, Trump's rhetoric "affect[s] the tenor of the conversation, frequently moving the line between what's considered mainstream and what's considered unabashedly extreme and unacceptable."
That's especially concerning when a recent PolitiFact analysis found that 75 percent of his so-called factual statements are “mostly or entirely false.” The other 25 percent were “half true” or “mostly true," while his score in the flat-out “true” column was zero.
Trump's comments also play into the game plan of Islamic State, some commentators have pointed out, giving it and other extremist organizations fuel to divide Muslims from western societies by inflaming a sense rejection among Muslims in the west, theoretically driving them to global jihad.
"It’s like ISIS propaganda that they couldn’t even buy themselves," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said.
And while Trump's proposed crackdowns on American Muslims may seem far-fetched, America has traversed this territory before, when more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry, more than half of whom were US citizens, were incarcerated in internment camps under the orders of President Roosevelt shortly after Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
"You can stop laughing now," an op-ed in the Guardian said. "The clown is no longer funny; the joke is now a sinister threat."