2018 Dec 17, 9:55pm
1,214 views 11 comments
... the intent of a $150,000 payment American Media Inc. gave the woman in August 2016 "was to suppress the model's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election."Without naming Trump, prosecutors released a nonprosecution agreement with American Media that said the transaction was made "in cooperation, consultation, and concert with ... one or more members or agents of a candidate's 2016 presidential campaign."
The most powerful print publication in America might just be The National Enquirer. It functioned as a dirty-tricks shop for Donald J. Trump in 2016, which would have been the stuff of farce — the ultimate tabloid backs the ultimate tabloid candidate — if it hadn’t accomplished its goal.The Enquirer’s power was fueled by its covers. For the better part of the campaign season, Enquirer front pages blared sensational headlines about Mr. Trump’s rivals from eye-level racks at supermarket checkout lanes across America. This stroke-of-genius distribution apparatus was dreamed up by the man who made The Enquirer the nation’s biggest gossip rag: its previous owner, Generoso Pope Jr.The Enquirer’s racks, under the current chief, David J. Pecker, were given over to the Trump campaign. This was a political gift even more valuable than the $150,000 that The Enquirer paid in a “catch-and-kill” deal with the former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of an affair with Mr. Trump.Wondering what The Enquirer’s covers were worth to the Trump campaign, I called Regis Maher, a co-founder of Do It Outdoors, the national mobile and digital billboard company. He said a campaign with that level of national prominence would cost $2.5 million to $3 million a month.“It’s such a powerful placement,” Mr. Maher said. “Everybody’s gotta go to the grocery store.”With the news last week that The Enquirer had admitted to federal prosecutors that it made the catch-and-kill payment to influence the election, it’s worth stepping back and appreciating the unlikely role played by the supermarket tabloid and its parent company, American Media Inc., in electing the 45th president of the United States.Now that federal prosecutors have cleared away some of the fog that shrouded the 2016 campaign, it’s easy to see that The Enquirer was more than just a publication that puffed up Mr. Trump while going after his rivals.It was the real-world embodiment of the fantasy online world of trolls, Russian and domestic, who polluted the political discourse. From its perches at Publix and Safeway, it was often doing the same job as Alex Jones, of the conspiracy site Infowars, and the more strident Trump campaign surrogates on Twitter and Facebook.The Enquirer spread false stories about Hillary Clinton — illnesses concealed, child prostitution, bribery, treason. Each cover trumpeting these tales was arguably more powerful than a tweet from an account with millions of followers.It’s a shame it went this route, because The Enquirer was built to cover Mr. Trump’s wild ride. If it had only stuck with its original mission — digging up dirt on the rich and famous, without a care for the rules of traditional journalism — it would have had the tabloid story of a lifetime.During the 2016 campaign season, The Enquirer puffed up Mr. Trump while going after his rivals, and its reach went beyond that.Instead, it refused to unlock its vault of Trump tips and stories as it promoted him as America’s savior. Actually, make that the world’s. As one Enquirer report in early 2016 had it — from “a source close to Donald’’ — even President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia wanted him to win the White House.“It was like a double whammy,” Jennifer Palmieri, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign communications director, told me. “They could have been covering all of Trump’s misdeeds. But, instead, not only were they not reporting on that, they were a pipeline from dark-net conspiracy theories to grocery-store lines.”With its online cohorts, American Media Inc. helped build a distortion machine that so polluted election news cycles that, for its more receptive audiences, Mrs. Clinton not only deserved to lose the White House, she deserved time in the big house.Before making her its main target, the machine chewed up Senator Ted Cruz. It ran unsubstantiated allegations of extramarital affairs against him at a time when he was proving himself Mr. Trump’s most stubborn Republican challenger.The only person quoted by name in the affairs piece was Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump, who was quoted as saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” (Mr. Stone, who communicated with top campaign officials through the election, is under investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.)One passage in the Cruz story caught my eye. Citing a report in Radar Online — a gossip outlet also owned by A.M.I. — The Enquirer claimed that “an individual purporting to be a representative of the hacker group Anonymous posted a disturbing Twitter video that threatens to expose ‘very dirty secrets,’ including information about Ted ‘visiting prostitutes.’”Here’s an odd thing. Radar attributed the provenance of this supposed Anonymous video to an obscure Twitter handle with only a few thousand followers that has since gone dormant. A review of the account’s activity found tweets and retweets of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messages relating to Europe, as well as a critique of the United States policy on Libya linked to a video from RT, the Russian state-financed cable network.It makes you wonder if the inquiring mind of Mr. Mueller would like to know more about The Enquirer than he has let on. (Federal prosecutors in New York have led the investigation of A.M.I.)Once Mr. Cruz was out of the way, two people familiar with A.M.I.’s operation told me, the company pulled up files on the Clintons that it had collected over decades — some two dozen cardboard boxes filled with promising material.A.M.I. began a painstaking effort to sort through the old clips and tips concerning “pay-for-play” deals, rumors of affairs and Vince Foster conspiracy theories. But as the campaign wore on, The Enquirer’s covers favored stories similar to those coursing through Infowars, Russian trolldom and, increasingly, your uncle’s Facebook feed.For the better part of the 2016 campaign season, Enquirer front pages blared sensational headlines about Mr. Trump’s rivals from eye-level racks at supermarket checkout lanes across America.According to one headline, Hillary was “Corrupt! Racist! Criminal!” In another, she was “Eating Herself To Death!”The Enquirer also reported — make that “reported” — that she had suffered “three strokes,” had “liver damage from booze,” and was prone to “violent rages.”A couple of weeks before Election Day, as Russian bots pushed a narrative into Facebook of a “Clinton body count,” an Enquirer cover line screamed: “Hillary Hitman Tells All.”The false narratives built to a frenzy that included an appearance by the A.M.I. chief content officer Dylan Howard on Infowars and a cover promising that Mrs. Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin were “Going to Jail” for “Treason! Influence Peddling! Bribery!”Inside were the unsubstantiated claims that Mrs. Clinton had “covered up a child sex scandal” — which echoed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy — and that her relationship with Ms. Abedin had “lesbian undercurrents.”For those who were seeing the same bilge online, The Enquirer’s headlines and stories may have increased their doubts about the Democratic nominee. For those seeing such stuff for the first time, right next to the gum and candy, the false coverage may have been revelatory.Placement on nationwide checkout lines was perhaps Mr. Pecker’s greatest gift to Mr. Trump, and it’s something that he inherited from Mr. Pope.Watching his circulation plateau as his readers moved to the suburbs in the 1960s, Mr. Pope struck a deal with major grocery chains: He would build new racks to put magazines at eye level near the cash registers, arguing that more sales for him meant more profit for them, too.“It gave us complete exposure, saturation, whatever you want to call it,” his son Paul David Pope told me on Friday.As the younger Mr. Pope’s history of the family business, “The Deeds of My Fathers,” shows, The Enquirer was known to pull off an occasional “catch-and-kill” deal in the old days, including one involving Senator Edward M. Kennedy in a bid for access to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. But the tabloid usually raised hackles not because the stories it published were false, but because of its methods. This was a publication so hungry for celebrity dope that it sneaked a reporter — disguised as a priest — into Bing Crosby’s funeral.
From its perches at Publix and Safeway, it was often doing the same job as Alex Jones, of the conspiracy site Infowars, and the more strident Trump campaign surrogates on Twitter and Facebook.
Trump derangement syndrome strikes again.
Onvacation saysTrump derangement syndrome strikes again.Is that what you get after Trump dick sucking and swallowing his seed?
. Conspiracy theories really only need a click bait half life of thirty seconds to turn a profit.
Well before they repealed all those laws and regulations news was at least a sober business.I remember the 1950s and 1960s.
Gollee, you're so OLD.