'Catch and kill': How a tabloid shields Trump from troublesome stories

How many other stories has the National Enquirer covered up to help President Trump?Ronan Farrow's ne...

Posted: Sep 27, 2018 11:13 PM
Updated: Sep 27, 2018 11:13 PM

How many other stories has the National Enquirer covered up to help President Trump?

Ronan Farrow's new reporting in The New Yorker forces the question to be asked. But it's a very difficult one to answer because the tabloid is secretive about its practices.

Farrow's report highlights a tactic called "catch and kill" -- where a publication buys the rights to a story and then buries the story as a favor to someone.

The Enquirer allegedly did this to conceal an extramarital affair by Trump, according to Farrow's report.

David Pecker, publisher of the Enquirer's parent company, American Media and chief content officer Dylan Howard did not respond to requests for comment from CNN. In a statement, the company said, "The New Yorker and Ronan Farrow's suggestion that AMI engages in any practice that would allow it to hold influence over the President of the United States is laughable."

Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, apparently memorialized the nine-month-long affair in a document that was shared with The New Yorker by one of her friends.

McDougal is legally forbidden from speaking out about it. She signed a $150,000 contract, called a "life-story rights agreement," granting the Enquirer's parent company American Media "exclusive ownership of her account of any romantic, personal, or physical relationship she has ever had with any 'then-married man,'" Farrow reported.

The Enquirer never published her account. It was "caught," and then it was "killed."

The context: Trump and Pecker are longtime friends and associates.

"This boils down to friendship. Pecker is taking care of his friends," former American Media spokesman Stu Zakim told CNN.

Zakim indicated that the Enquirer has buried other stories that might have hurt Trump.

"AMI has often paid for stories to take them off the market -- i.e., no one else can print it -- to protect David's friends. Trump is one of his close friends, so take the leap," he said.

Past media reports have described the Enquirer burying stories to help out other Pecker allies, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harvey Weinstein.

"Even though they're just tabloids, just rags, it's still a cause of concern," former American Media staffer Maxine Page told Farrow. "In theory, you would think that Trump has all the power in that relationship, but in fact Pecker has the power -- he has the power to run these stories. He knows where the bodies are buried."

In the tabloid world, knowing "where the bodies are buried" can be a compliment. Other publications and gossip columns sometimes engage in similar behavior -- scrapping an unflattering story about a celebrity in exchange for a cover photo shoot or other favors, for example. But the Enquirer's tactics are legendary within the wider media world.

The Enquirer's alleged "catch and kill" technique has been exposed by other news outlets in the past.

The Wall Street Journal first wrote about the Enquirer's agreement with McDougal a few days before the election in 2016. At the time, the Enquirer claimed that "AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump."

Back then, and again on Friday, Trump representatives denied that an affair happened.

But McDougal's claims are pretty clear. The Journal, citing anonymous sources, depicted an intense disagreement between McDougal's camp and the tabloid's camp: "McDougal expected her story about Mr. Trump to be published, people familiar with the matter said. American Media didn't intend to run it, said another person familiar with the matter."

Farrow's report on Friday added many new details, including McDougal's hand-written account of the affair.

In the past, Trump has been open about his backscratching relationship with Pecker and the Enquirer.

At one of his campaign rallies, he wondered aloud, "Why didn't the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer surprise for Edwards? And O.J. Simpson?"

Trump was referring to real scoops in the tabloid's past. But the publication -- known for its sensational headlines, designed to stick out in the supermarket checkout line -- has a questionable reputation.

Analysts have noticed a more political bent to the Enquirer's coverage in recent years, particularly when it comes to Trump and Trump's opponents.

The publication is unapologetically pro-Trump in its coverage, which may be a reflection of the president's relationship with Pecker.

Last June the MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski alleged that Trump and his aides used the possibility of a hit piece in the Enquirer to threaten them and change their news coverage. The two hosts essentially alleged a form of blackmail.

"We got a call that, 'Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys...' And they said, 'If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story," Scarborough said.

Scarborough said the calls kept coming -- from "three people at the very top of the administration" -- telling him to call Trump and grovel, just to make the Enquirer story go away.

Trump called the claim "fake news."

The Enquirer did, in fact, publish a negative story about the couple's past marriages. Howard said the story was accurate, and "at no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93556

Reported Deaths: 2810
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6974155
DeSoto541155
Harrison373272
Jackson338867
Madison320886
Rankin319075
Lee260667
Jones242078
Forrest239070
Washington217971
Lafayette208439
Lauderdale1999124
Bolivar179465
Oktibbeha175050
Lamar163134
Neshoba1536103
Panola144027
Sunflower141744
Lowndes139957
Warren138150
Leflore136980
Pontotoc123416
Pike121248
Monroe118865
Scott116425
Copiah116233
Coahoma112327
Holmes109258
Marshall107615
Lincoln106753
Grenada106135
Yazoo103829
Simpson101143
Union97824
Tate95137
Leake93937
Adams91936
Wayne87721
Pearl River86550
Marion84133
Prentiss81117
Covington80522
Alcorn77311
Itawamba76221
Newton75723
Tallahatchie75418
George74913
Winston72419
Tishomingo65837
Chickasaw65524
Tippah64216
Attala64125
Walthall59325
Clay57817
Hancock56121
Jasper55415
Noxubee54315
Clarke53539
Smith52314
Calhoun50612
Tunica47913
Montgomery45520
Claiborne45216
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41714
Perry40718
Quitman3745
Humphreys37315
Stone35511
Greene34517
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32511
Carroll31212
Amite31110
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2429
Benton2191
Franklin1893
Choctaw1795
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131405

Reported Deaths: 2292
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19015337
Mobile13066289
Montgomery8674173
Madison758375
Tuscaloosa7240114
Lee571359
Shelby568450
Baldwin506149
Marshall383543
Etowah335547
Calhoun333839
Morgan319726
Houston270822
Elmore254947
DeKalb235519
St. Clair223435
Walker222680
Talladega206926
Limestone199519
Cullman184517
Dallas174826
Franklin174328
Russell17132
Autauga169024
Lauderdale164633
Colbert160626
Escambia156225
Blount155114
Jackson150611
Chilton148527
Dale133043
Covington130927
Coffee12778
Pike11559
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113042
Clarke104917
Marion94228
Butler90938
Barbour8357
Winston70912
Marengo69919
Lowndes64827
Pickens63514
Bibb63210
Hale61528
Randolph60812
Bullock58714
Lawrence58520
Monroe5758
Geneva5724
Cherokee56516
Washington54613
Clay5427
Perry5376
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52311
Crenshaw52331
Macon47720
Henry4724
Fayette4219
Sumter41819
Lamar3462
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3236
Greene30015
Coosa1643
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 71°
Columbus
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 71°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 70°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather