The National Enquirer announced Friday it had hired former Clinton operative-turned-right-wing firebrand Dick Morris as its new chief political correspondent. Reached by phone, Morris had some compliments for his new employer.
“Their circulation is huge and their willingness to run stories that are embarrassing to the conventional wisdom is enormous,” Morris tells Washingtonian. “They’re the ones who exposed John Edwards.”
But Morris has less to say about some of the Enquirer‘s more recent political coverage—like its report last month that that Ted Cruz‘s father was somehow involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Asked about that report, Morris’s tone changed somewhat: “I’m not a spokesman for the National Enquirer,” he says. “I’m not going to defend the National Enquirer, that’s not my job.”
In its press release announcing Morris’s hiring, the Enquirer made clear why it is bringing him into its fold: to cover Hillary Clinton, the likely general-election opponent of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, whom the Enquirer—and Morris—have backed for months.
The Enquirer‘s political unit already includes veterans of the New York Daily News, New York Post, Daily Mail, and Maxim—all of whom have already churned out stacks of stories of varying levels of dubiousness. (Recent headlines include “Hillary Clinton Caught With Lesbian Lovers,” “Bill Clinton Brain Damage—Attacks Obama Again,” and “John F. Kennedy’s Secret Son Endorses Donald Trump.”)
In Morris, though, the Enquirer is adding a former Clinton confidant who has made it his life’s work to bring the Clintons down since resigning as Bill Clinton‘s campaign manager two months before the 1996 election after tabloids—including the Enquirer!—reported he had solicited prostitutes and fathered a child out of wedlock. Morris and the Clintons go back to Bill Clinton’s earliest campaigns in Arkansas, where Morris arrived as a hired gun from New York. In his 2007 book about Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge, Carl Bernstein wrote that Morris and Hillary Clinton were “managers of the Permanent Campaign from 1980 to 1990” and had an “unusual bond sealed by a mutually aggressive approach to the political process.” It was Hillary Clinton who brought Morris to the White House after the Democrats lost their congressional majorities in 1994.
“Dick Morris’s record speaks for itself,” Dylan Howard, the Enquirer‘s editor-in-chief, tells Washingtonian. “He was a New York Post columnist, he has been a contributor to many different networks.”
Since resurfacing in 1997, Morris has published a stream of books lambasting both Clintons (and eventually President Obama) and been a regular talking-head in right-wing media, though that hasn’t always panned out well for him. His longtime residency on Fox News expired in 2013 after he had been very wrong about the 2012 election—at various points during that race, he predicted Obama would drop out and that Mitt Romney would win in a landslide—and had often talked up the prospects of candidates who advertised on his personal website. (Morris now appears on the right-wing channel Newsmax.)
Until this week, Morris was also a columnist for The Hill, where he furthered his knack for bad predictions. Last October 20, he wrote a column that strongly suggested Vice President Joe Biden would enter the race for the Democratic nomination. A day later, Biden announced he would not seek the presidency. The Hill dropped Morris upon hearing of Morris’s new role with the Enquirer. “In light of Dick Morris’ new position at the National Enquirer The Hill has decided to discontinue his column at The Hill. We wish him well,” the Capitol Hill publication said.
Morris has also been a steadfast Trump backer, which should make him fit right in at the Enquirer. When asked if its political coverage was all in the overt service of Trump, Howard says “no one other than the National Enquirer’s reporters, editors, and investigators” dictate its content.
“What I would say is that the National Enquirer‘s presidential coverage over the last year has reflected the great heritage of the great journalism the National Enquirer has been known for,” Howard says. “The type of journalism other organizations don’t do.”
For his part, Morris said he wasn’t going to the Enquirer specifically to boost Trump. “I’m supporting Donald Trump, but it’s got nothing to do with him,” he said. “I hope I’ll work there longer than five months”
Still, it’s no stretch to say the Enquirer has leaned all the way into its role as the Trump campaign’s house organ. David Pecker, the chief executive of the Enquirer‘s parent company, is a close friend of Trump’s, and the publication frequently slimed his primary opponents before setting its sights on Clinton. Howard also says the paper is about to publish the results of a poll it commissioned which found that 60 percent of its readers would vote for Trump over Clinton, which would be Trump’s greatest margin in a head-to-head poll. By comparison, Real Clear Politics’s most recent average of polls gives Clinton, who is still fending off Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, a 1.5-percentage point lead over Trump, with a Fox News survey as the only poll to give Trump even a marginal advantage.
But Morris is a logical extension of the National Enquirer‘s tilt. “To me Dick Morris is the most feared voice in politics for the knowledge he has,” Howard says. “We intend to leverage his decades of experience to deliver quality enterprise reporting for the National Enquirer. Few people can say they were as close to the Clintons as Dick Morris. To me he’s the ultimate Washington insider.”
So does that mean Morris will double down on the Enquirer’s most outlandish accusations against the Clintons when his first column runs next week?
“I’m with the National Enquirer for two reasons,” he said, again citing its circulation—the Alliance for Audited Media says the Enquirer moves an average of 371,925 copies per week—”and their willingness to tell the truth.” But when asked what that “truth” is, Morris said he wanted out of the interview and ended the call.
Says Howard: “Watch this space.”