One shocking headline you won’t see in the National Enquirer:
“TABLOID RAG RATS ON STUNNED PREZ”
It would not be fake news.
The Enquirer, which has aggressively adulated Donald Trump and savaged his enemies, is abandoning the president to save itself from criminal charges.
Last week, the paper’s parent company, America Media Inc., officially confessed to what the Wall Street Journal reported before the 2016 election: The Enquirer paid $150,000 to former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal to buy and then bury her allegation of an affair with Trump in 2006-2007.
AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story to prevent it from influencing the election,” stated prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
Trump is – or had been – close pals with AMI chief David Pecker, who’d pushed Trump for years to run for the White House, and then used the Enquirer to promote his candidacy.
To avoid being charged with campaign-law violations, Pecker flipped three months ago and began cooperating with the feds. He corroborated detailed information offered by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, now bound for prison.
According to the “non-prosecution” agreement signed by AMI, Pecker met with Cohen “and at least one other member of the [Trump] campaign” in August 2015.
According to multiple news sources, that other person in the room was the candidate himself.
Pecker offered to help identify and squelch “negative” stories about Trump’s “relationships with women.” Using a tabloid practice known as “catch and kill,” the Enquirer would buy the exclusive rights to such stories, effectively silencing the accusers while never publishing a word.
A few months after the Cohen meeting, for instance, the paper paid $30,000 to a doorman at Trump Tower who said Trump had fathered a child with a former housekeeper. The doorman reportedly passed a polygraph test, but Pecker spiked the piece.
In addition to killing the McDougal story, prosecutors say, Pecker and AMI warned Cohen that porn actress Stormy Daniels was about to go public with a tawdry account of a liaison with Trump.
Cohen quickly devised a $130,000 payoff to buy Daniels’ silence, a plan that ultimately bombed just as badly as the McDougal payoff.
For a while, everybody played along and lied their asses off, including Cohen, Pecker, Enquirer editor Dylan Howard and, of course, Trump.
Then the truth leaked out, the scheme fell apart and the Enquirer’s journalistic reputation lay in ruins.
That last part is a joke, by the way.
In fairness, not every blockbuster published by the tabloid is fake, and it doesn’t usually go as easy on politicians as it did on Trump.
The campaign-killing photo of married Democratic frontrunner Gary Hart with Donna Rice in the Bahamas was real. The account of presidential candidate John Edwards’ extramarital affair was largely accurate, and fateful.
But Pecker’s bro-mance with Trump spawned “news” stories that were not only phony, but vicious, even by septic tabloid standards. It was the Enquirer that trumpeted a bogus connection between John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the father of Sen. Ted Cruz.
At the time the story ran, Cruz was Trump’s main rival for the Republican presidential nomination. The Washington Post reported that, throughout the campaign, the Enquirer shared advance copies of pro-Trump stories with Cohen.
Ironically, Pecker’s zeal to help his buddy get elected has brought only misery to the embattled, ever-seething president. Prosecutors assert that the hush money paid to Daniels and McDougal should have been reported as campaign contributions, since it was meant to affect the outcome of the election.
AMI’s deal with prosecutors will spare Pecker and his editor from punishment, leaving Cohen alone to take the fall for the fiasco. And while it’s true that he flopped as a fixer, he was part of a team.
While Trump loved all the splashy attention he got from the Enquirer, today he’s probably wondering if he should have spent more time sucking up to the dull old Wall Street Journal.
These days, if you pick up the Enquirer at the supermarket, you’ll see headlines about Meghan and Harry, William and Kate, Joe and Mika, A-Rod and J-Lo, Blake and Gwen or, inevitably, Kim and Kanye.
Not one scandalous peep, squeak or murmur such as this:
“DAVID DUMPS DAZED DONALD AND MOVES ON”