Generoso Pope Jr. couldn’t have imagined the Republican primary 0f 2016 in his wildest dreams. Pope saw the National Enquirer, the newspaper he pulled from the wreckage of a New York broadsheet, more as a window on America’s underbelly than on the contest to run it.
But even if the primary hadn’t resembled a slow-motion explosion in a fish-guts factory, the close friendship between Donald Trump and American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker would have assured the Enquirer a place in it. As Ben Mathis-Lilley has cataloged for Slate, the tabloid lovingly covered Trump’s opponents in slime: Carly Fiorina is a “Homewrecker” who “Lied About Her Druggie Daughter”; Jeb Bush “Snorted Cocaine On Night His Dad Became President”; and “Bungling Surgeon Ben Carson Left Sponge In Patient’s Brain!”
Trump, who’s somehow escaped this treatment, has even written for the Enquirer.
But by far the Enquirer‘s biggest target has been Ted Cruz. The US Senator whose face has been scientifically proven to make people uncomfortable has received extra-special care and handling from the Enquirer, which has reported he’s had multiple affairs and that it had tied his father to the plot to kill John F. Kennedy.
The story raged after Trump complained in an interview with Fox News that the Cruz-JFK story “was reported, and nobody talks about it.” That’s a step toward the kind of impact Enquirer Editor-in-Chief Dylan Howard said he wanted back in 2014: “I want to break the next John Edwards story,” he told Joe Pompeo.
The team behind the Cruz-JFK scoop is an interesting bunch, judging by their Internet trails: Mike Jaccarino came to the Enquirer after stints at the New York Daily News, the Press of Atlantic City, and the Jersey Journal. Sharon Churcher spent nearly two decades at Britain’s Mail on Sunday. Mike Hammer held high positions at Maxim, Stuff, and Shock. Douglas Montero worked at the New York Post, and Belinda Robinson got her email address published by Scientology critic Marty Rathbun. And J.R. Taylor, whose byline can often be found on summaries of reporting on the Enquirer‘s website (usually, you have to go buy a copy if you want to read the whole story; my experience suggests CVS is a good bet), appears to be the same person who wrote about rock music for the alt-weekly New York Press long ago, and his LinkedIn page is actually fun to read.
But good luck finding out what the Enquirer has in store for the general election. A call to American Media’s PR contact, Eric Klee, remains unreturned. Howard replied quickly to an emailed interview request, promising to be “back in touch ASAP.” Three and a half hours later, Jon Hammond, the chief strategy officer of a firm called Galvanized, emailed Washingtonian to say “I am afraid that Dylan is not available for an interview at this time.” Asked if anyone else could discuss the Enquirer‘s plans for political coverage from now until November, Hammond replied, “I am afraid that Dylan would be the only person able to speak on behalf of The Enquirer’s editorial efforts.”
So for now, all we have are the tag pages for Democratic candidates on nationalenquirer.com to guide us. The Enquirer has suggested that Bernie Sanders may be a “Putin Plant” and has challenged Hillary Clinton to “Step up to the stethoscope” and undergo a physical examination to dispel doubts about her health cited by “Experts at Politico and The Washington Times,” as well as from Ed Klein, who, incidentally, had lunch with Trump Monday.