Proving that bipartisanship is not always a good thing, the National Enquirer provided to Democrat Harvey Weinstein the same reputation-management services that it furnished to Republican Donald Trump.
The New York Times reports that the Enquirer's work for Weinstein included an attempt to “catch and kill” an Italian model's account of an alleged groping by the Hollywood mogul. The idea was to pay Ambra Battilana for the exclusive right to publish her story — then not publish it. Battilana did not sell; the Enquirer told the Times that her price was too high.
The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the Enquirer had better luck when it paid $150,000 to catch and kill the story of a former Playboy playmate who claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Trump. In an interview published by the New Yorker in July, Enquirer publisher David Pecker confirmed that he had stopped Karen McDougal from going public during the presidential campaign.
“When her people contacted me that she had a story on Trump, everybody was contacting her,” Pecker told New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Toobin. “At the same time, she was launching her own beauty-and-fragrance line, and I said that I’d be very interested in having her in one of my magazines, now that she’s so famous. Once she’s part of the company, then on the outside she can’t be bashing Trump and American Media.”
Toobin wrote that he “pointed out that bashing Trump was not the same as bashing American Media,” the Enquirer's parent company.
“To me it is,” Pecker replied. “The guy’s a personal friend of mine.”
The Times's Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg and Steve Eder wrote on Tuesday that Weinstein similarly “was known in the tabloid industry as an untouchable 'FOP,' or 'friend of Pecker,’ ” noting that such “status was shared by a chosen few, including President Trump.”
Trump has returned the favor, repeatedly suggesting that Time magazine ought to hire Pecker as its chief executive.
“I've always said, 'Why didn't the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards?’ ” Trump said at a news conference last year, referring to the tabloid's revelation that former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards fathered a child with a campaign videographer.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski reported in June that Trump, as president, has continued to wield his clout at the Enquirer as a weapon.
“This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked,” Scarborough and Brzezinski wrote in The Washington Post. “We ignored their desperate pleas.”
Weinstein, too, exploited the threat of unflattering articles, according to the Times:
After two actresses, [Ashley] Judd and [Rose] McGowan, made veiled mention of misconduct by Mr. Weinstein in 2015 and 2016, [Enquirer editor Dylan] Howard came to his aid. The Weinstein Company told the editor about Ms. McGowan’s allegations and said “it might be a good article for him to pursue,” according to [Sallie] Hofmeister, the producer’s spokeswoman. She said that Mr. Howard was never asked to “dig up damaging information on actresses.”
Mr. Howard dispatched a reporter at the entertainment news service Coleman-Rayner, which works with American Media, to collect hostile commentary about Ms. McGowan. “This is killer. Especially if my fingerprints r not on this,” Mr. Weinstein wrote in an email obtained by the Times and first reported in the New Yorker.
When the Times initially chronicled decades of alleged harassment and assault by Weinstein, in October, Trump said he was not shocked by the news.
“I've known Harvey Weinstein for a long time,” the president told reporters. “I'm not at all surprised to see it.”
Trump's remarks indicated that he might have heard rumors about Weinstein — a possibility that now seems more likely, given that the president and the producer had a mutual friend in the National Enquirer.