David Pecker and The National Enquirer: When a Tabloid Becomes a Political Tool 

We still don’t know why David Pecker risked his career, his company and any shred of public regard to help Donald Trump

David Pecker
David Pecker (Getty Images)

Has there ever been a more tragically named media mogul than David Pecker, the fallen chieftain of the National Enquirer, the sleazy dealmaker for Donald Trump turned snitch on the stand? 

Just think of the abuse a young Pecker must have endured in middle school. The slings and arrows, the cruel insults, the forced jocularity. And the opportunity for revenge once he wielded a million-readership tabloid magazine with the ethics of Joseph Goebbels. 

I’m just kidding. I have no idea if being made fun of as a kid led David Pecker to traffic in inventing stories that ran as fact, to quash factual stories to help Donald Trump win an election and, most incredibly, to shamelessly confess all of it on the stand last week.

But honestly, a motive would help.  

Because we still don’t know why David Pecker risked his career, his company and ultimately any shred of public regard to help Donald Trump. The “catch and kill” scheme hatched in August 2015, which led Pecker to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the rights to and then kill stories that would harm Trump — a one night stand with Stormy Daniel, and a year-long affair with Karen McDougal — is still a mystery.

Pecker said on the stand at last week’s trial that he regarded Trump as a “mentor.” This he said while sitting a few feet away from the man his testimony was meant to convict. Perhaps he looked forward to going to the White House as an honored guest. (“Me! David Pecker! At the White House!”)

We do know that the National Enquirer was publishing trash, week after week. Peddling stories to the American public that Pecker knew, and that his editor Dylan Howard, and a deputy editor Lachlan Cartwright, among others, knew were false. 

I also knew they were false, at the time. Because I’m not an idiot. I vividly remember seeing a National Enquirer cover story while standing in line at the supermarket in the campaign run-up to the 2016 election: “HILLARY: 6 MONTHS TO LIVE! Cruel Bill Forces Her To Stay On Campaign Trail.”

“These covers came with doctored images of Clinton looking frail,” wrote Cartwright in a confessional New York Times magazine piece recently.

He explained what he called “a drumbeat of fictitious health crises” about the then-Democratic candidate: 

“With the help of so-called medical experts — typically publicity-hungry pundits who understood what we wanted to hear — and the assistance of a talented art department, we tried to kill her off in print almost weekly. She would appear with her eyes made baggy and the colors in the images desaturated.”

I remember seeing this and thinking to myself: Why doesn’t Clinton sue? These were so obviously invented. I thought these stories were libel (user warning: not a lawyer.) But I don’t recall her ever responding to these lies, including a literally insane cover accusing her of having a lesbian love affair with her deputy Huma Abedin, which Cartwright gamely admits now was totally absurd. (“Hillary & Huma GOING TO JAIL!” was the cover line, with bullet points claiming, among other things, a “Secret hospitalization & truth about GAY AFFAIR!” )

We tried to kill her off in print almost weekly.

former National Enquirer editor Lachlan Cartwright, about Hillary Clinton

Remember, that at one time the Enquirer was up for a Pulitzer Prize, for uncovering presidential candidate John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter, which Edwards lied about, repeatedly, before withdrawing from the race.  

Is the story of David Pecker and the National Enquirer an extreme example of media in our time? Or an anomalous story of greed and corruption and some other hero-worship thing I still cannot put my finger on? 

It might not matter. Because the American public will not pay close enough attention to any of this to discern the difference between the Enquirer and The Daily Beast, where Cartwright went to work later, or the Daily Mail or the New York Post or the News of the World. 

They just know it’s in print. 

I’m bemused and disgusted to know that I apparently work in the same profession as that guy. David Pecker. 


11 responses to “David Pecker and The National Enquirer: When a Tabloid Becomes a Political Tool ”

  1. Robert Avatar

    This essay is a bit disingenuous. Even in Elementary School in Alabama, I knew, along with everyone else, that the National Enquirer was the Pro Wrestling version of the news. We read it like we read The National Lampoon. Elvis spotted with Aliens stuff.

  2. Semolina Pilchard Avatar
    Semolina Pilchard

    In every field, every profession, there is the ultimate and the banal. You are to journalism what Golda Meir or Martin Luther King was to empathetic strength and resolve. Pecker is to journalism what Ronald McDonald is to haute cuisine.

  3. Adrian Avatar

    Free drinks and food lifetime at Mar a Lago is enough for David.

  4. Arthur reaulo Avatar
    Arthur reaulo

    He who has not sin toss the first comment about others .Your hated is nothing new you need to ravish others for money truth is not a factor.so make up a story. You decided this. Because you have no moral code. God will definitely know you and decide your Fate.

  5. William Avatar

    This is a pot calling the kettle black argument that shows an extreme bias towards one side of media that doesn’t follow the official talking points. While I think that hiding evidence is bad, what Sharon fails to understand is that her false sense of higher moral purpose falls apart when looked at it with a broader microscope. It was not that long ago that all mainstream media was calling the Hunter Biden laptop fake news and Russia disinformation. It is both sad and ironic how low the bar has fallen for all of mainstream media, to include tabloid journalism. I could only hope that one day that these sanctimonious keepers of wisdom develop a sense of integrity and morals, so that I can once again read news and not an agenda filled talking point.

  6. LJHOVA Avatar

    “Because I’m not an idiot.”

    Are you sure about that?

  7. Dale Davis Avatar
    Dale Davis

    So the National Enquirer was reputed to publish false stories. It didn’t take me long to see they were trash before I stopped buying them. Sadly, much of the American public kept buying it, which enabled it to stay in business. It’s pretty much the same, today, with some of the trash political pundits churn out, and the American public swallow.

  8. Thomas Jefferson Avatar
    Thomas Jefferson

    It’s amazing how anyone can throw shade at the National Enquirer for being pro-Trump, but fails to mention the other 10,000 media outlets that have been clearly promoting liberal propaganda on behalf of the US Government. 

  9. Bob Avatar

    This was not a scheme developed in 2015, Pecker testified he has done it since the 90’s.

  10. ProgNarr Avatar

    Author having a TDS session.

  11. Richard Rogers Avatar
    Richard Rogers

    Funny when people of the same profession publish news about another in the same profession and think they are smarter than the other, but if the truth is known, she is just as bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.