Let's say at the outset that no one has proven Donald Trump was the source behind last week's National Enquirer gossip piece about extramarital affairs by GOP presidential rival Ted Cruz. If Cruz deserves the benefit of the doubt for his role (or lack thereof) in a super PAC ad campaign that featured a racy photo of Melania Trump -- despite Trump alleging that Cruz was behind it -- then Trump should get the same when it comes to a tabloid rumor -- despite Cruz alleging that Trump was behind it.
But let's also point out that Trump has a very friendly relationship with the Enquirer — so friendly, in fact, that Breitbart News ought to be jealous. And while we're at it, let's remember that there's a big difference between peddling dubious opposition research to a media outlet and coordinating with a super PAC. Both are sleazy, but the former carries no legal risk, while the latter would be a federal crime. It's quite simply more likely that a candidate would try to plant a scandal in the checkout-counter news rack than it is that he would chance a fine — and major embarrassment — by working with an outside group.
At a minimum, the Enquirer's unsubstantiated story about multiple Cruz affairs is the work of a publication with an obvious rooting interest in the election. Although the tabloid has printed sensational claims about other candidates — Jeb Bush had a cocaine habit in the 1980s; Hillary Clinton is on her death bed; Ben Carson crippled surgical patients for life — Trump has been conspicuously spared this treatment. (And New York magazine reported in October that Trump was behind the Carson story.)
What's more, a February issue of the Enquirer that promised exposés about multiple leading presidential candidates contained this faux revelation about the Republican presidential front-runner: "Donald Trump has also been hiding a secret — he has greater support and popularity than even he's admitted to!" Ouch indeed.
Trump has written several articles for the Enquirer during the campaign, including one that appears to have been recycled from 2011, when the tabloid was cheering the billionaire real estate mogul toward a White House run that he ultimately decided not to make. The contents are a glorious fusion of Trump's bombast and the Enquirer's gratuitous use of exclamation points.
Even in elementary school, I was an assertive, aggressive kid.
In the second grade, I punched my music teacher in the eye because I didn’t think he knew anything about music!
I'm not proud of that, but it's clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to make my opinions known in a forceful way. The difference now is that I use my brains instead of my fists!
As an adolescent, I was mostly interested in creating mischief. For some reason, I liked to stir things up and test people. I'd throw water balloons, shoot spitballs and make a ruckus in the schoolyard and at birthday parties.
Trump and Enquirer chief executive David Pecker are reportedly palsy — "very close," according to the New York Daily News, and "friends for years," according to New York magazine. Conservative radio host Michael Savage, a Trump backer, told listeners last week that "David Pecker flies to Florida from New York on Trump's private jet." In 2013, Trump even suggested Pecker ought to take over Time magazine.
The apparent coziness has spawned the #TrumpLovesPecker hashtag. A representative sample from Twitter:
Earlier this month, the Enquirer endorsed Trump for president. Its list of 10 reasons he is the "only choice for the White House" read like one of the candidate's stump speeches.
4. Only Trump can negotiate better terms for foreign trade partners so we can stop funneling billions to China.
7. He will chase down illegal immigrants and toss out the criminals who came streaming through our open borders.
10. Only Trump has the guts to stand up to foreign leaders like Vladimir Putin — and gain their respect!
Trump insists he didn't start the rumors about Cruz, but he's awfully close to the tabloid that published them. If nothing else, the Enquirer did a big favor for its favored candidate.