Investigators Eye The National Enquirer AKA The Pro-Trump Tabloid
President Donald Trump is known to have many connections with the country’s major media executives, and American Media Inc., which is the nation’s top tabloid publisher, is no different. One of the former Trump casino executives is part of the four-man board of directors, and a campaign adviser also joined the company after the elections. The chairman, David J. Pecker, is also a close friend of President Trump.
During the days of Trump’s campaign, the company’s flagship tabloid, The National Enquirer, started headlining political issues. They regularly featured Trump in their covers, with headlines like “Proof! FBI plot to impeach Trump!” and “Trump’s Plan for World Peace!” Even then, Trump’s lawyer Michael D. Cohen and Mr. Pecker strategized on how to protect Trump as well as lashing out at his political enemies.
Under the magnifying glass
Because of its outspoken support for the President, American Media Inc has now been included in a sweeping federal investigation of Mr. Cohen’s activities which include efforts to head off potentially damaging stories about the President during the election campaign. The Enquirer had also bought a story about an extramarital affair that happened years earlier but chose not to publish it, which is a very uncharacteristic move on the tabloid’s part.
The federal inquiry can bring serious legal ramifications for the president and his campaign committee, and it also brings to light some questions about AMI’s First Amendment protection and its history in supporting President Trump somehow opens the door to scrutiny which is usually reserved for political organizations. Federal prosecutors served a search warrant to Mr. Cohen this week, which request all communications between him, Mr. Pecker, and Dylan Howard, the business’ chief content officer.
According to the New York Times, the company has been in touch with Mr. Cohen, as it wanted to make a deal to get the rights to a former Playboy model’s story about a possible affair with the president. AMI is also facing a Federal Election Commission complaint which claims that the payment of $150,000 to the former Playmate, Karen McDougal, represents an illegal campaign contribution. AMI is still in the process of responding.
AMI has claimed they have done nothing wrong and at the same time said that their cooperation with the investigators goes no further than its constitutionally protected status as a news organization. According to Cameron Stratcher, an AMI lawyer, it is easy to look down at what celebrity magazines produce and then assume that they are not protected like other mainstream media. However, the First Amendment still applies to them, as it was intended to protect all speech against government intrusion.
The National Enquirer had an average paid circulation of 260,000 copies per week in the second half of 2017. According to the publisher’s data, there is a 13% drop from the first half average. However, most of the tabloid’s sales come over the counter at $4.99. The Enquirer provides a politician with a useful platform for campaigning, as average Americans are easily familiar with the supermarket checkout lane.
AMI’s reach and control
The family that controlled AMI prior to Mr. Pecker, the Popes, secured prime placement for the media company in racks located at the grocery store cash registers. The company now also owns The Globe, Us Weekly, OK! and other titles that also benefit from this deal. In a statement released by the company, they said that if they were shown to help the president during the campaign, it was because of the audience of The National Enquirer, which was one of the most supportive of Trump’s candidacy during the campaign. It also added having Trump on the cover increased the sales of the Enquirer.
Mr. Pecker has always been open about his view that AMI has had good reason to ally itself with the president. As he told The New Yorker last year, he considers an attack on President Trump an attack on AMI itself, which he considers them to be one and the same. He has also remarked that after AMI bought Ms. McDougal’s story, they agreed to feature her in health and fitness columns in non-gossip magazines like Hers and Flex.
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