A Reporter's Guide to the Crime of Making Politicians Look Good

The case against Trump sheds light on the shady practices of the Enquirer and the media environment that enabled his rise. The DA has accused Trump of taking part in a scheme to turn the National Enquirer and its sister publications into an arm of his 2016 campaign. The indictment detailed three "hush money" payments made to a series of individuals to guarantee their silence about potentially damaging stories in the months before the election. Because this was done with the goal of helping his election chances, the case implied, these payments amounted to a form of illegal, undisclosed campaign spending. In 2014, I was working at The New York Daily News when an editor told me that Philip Seymour Hoffman had been found dead in his apartment. Our crime reporters tracked down the name of the person who found the body, David Bar Katz, a friend of Hoffman's, but all our attempts to reach him had not borne fruit. Soon, The National Enquirer hit newsstands with an "exclusive" interview with Katz. He said that he and Hoffman were "homosexual lovers" and that he watched Hoffman freebase cocaine the night before his death. The story quickly unraveled as The Enquirer had been talking to a David Katz, a freelance TV producer based in New Jersey. After being bombarded with calls from reporters and consuming several beers, he later told The New York Post, he decided to have some fun. The actual David Bar Katz sued A.M.I for $50 million. In March 2014, Dylan Howard, who had been pulled over from Radar Online, and I started talking about the possibility of my coming to The Enquirer as his No.2. During a booze-filled night at the Electric Room, a nightclub in the Meatpacking District, he walked me through the offer. A $60,000 bump in compensation-which worked out to a 75 percent raise. I started as executive editor of The Enquirer and Radar Online in mid-May. Soon, I learned that Howard, even if he wanted to, wouldn't be changing the operation; Pecker really ran the place. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, there were "cover meetings," when Howard and the editors of The Enquirer's sister titles would go before Pecker and several of his top lieutenants to show a few options and analyze sales figures. If one title had a week-to-week decline, Pecker became apoplectic. I would walk through the back of the newsroom near Pecker's office and hear him screaming through the walls. Sometimes Pecker would suggest a preferred cover line, forcing us to twist a story to fit the language. In that paranoid environment, all anyone cared about was not incurring Pecker's wrath and being fired. On the afternoon of March 29, 2015, a source told me about a woman named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez who went to the N.Y.P.D. after being groped by Harvey Weinstein in TriBeCa. I called Howard and was struck by his response: He seemed less interested in the story than in the identity of my source. Unknown to me at the time, Weinstein had all but secured a guarantee that we would never report on his sexual transgressions. The DA has accused Trump of taking part in a scheme to turn the National Enquirer and its sister publications into an arm of his 2016 campaign. The indictment detailed three "hush money" payments made to a series of individuals to guarantee their silence about potentially damaging stories in the months before the election. Because this was done with the goal of helping his election chances, the case implied, these payments amounted to a form of illegal, undisclosed campaign spending.

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