David Pecker’s American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer and other tabloids, rejected as “laughable” a new New Yorker exposé on Friday suggesting that it sought to hold “influence” over President Trump by burying a story from a woman who claimed to have had an extramarital affair.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
Farrow, who published his new exposé in the New Yorker on Friday, said the key takeaway was how Pecker and his American Media used the threat of damaging stories as leverage over powerful celebrities — including the president.
“They know where the bodies are buried. They can hold this story over the president,” Farrow said on NPR after reporting ex-Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal’s claims of a nine-month affair with Donald Trump in 2006. (A White House spokesperson denied an affair with McDougal in a statement to the New Yorker: “This is an old story that is just more fake news.”)
The New Yorker also detailed McDougal’s $150,000 deal with AMI — whose CEO and chairman, Pecker, has called Trump “a personal friend.”
The company bought exclusive rights to McDougal’s story in August 2016 but never published it, an arrangement that six former AMI employees said was a common practice known as “catch and kill.”
“The reason that we thought this was an important story was not because of the underlying affair per se,” Farrow said of Pecker’s strategy of buying stories in order to kill them. “This system affords the person who catches the story, in this case, the executives of American Media, leverage over the celebrity. In this case, that leverage is with respect to this sitting president of the United States.”
Farrow, added, “Really, the important ramifications of this story are the way in which it illustrates a system used by some of the most powerful men in this country that includes leveraging tabloid media institutions.”