‘The National Enquirer’ Hid Donald Trump’s ‘Catch-And-Kill’ Stories In A Secret Safe
The National Enquirer kept the hush money stories that could have potentially undermined then-candidate Donald Trump locked in a special safe to protect their relationship with him, alongside with other “catch-and-kill deals.”
Five people familiar with the National Enquirer‘s parent company, American Media Inc., who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because they had signed non-disclosure agreements, said the safe was controlled by David Pecker, the company’s CEO.
The report came out just hours after Pecker was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in the investigation into Cohen in return for information on hush money payments made to two women, who allegedly had an affair with Trump, before the 2016 election.
The “catch-and-kill deals” involved winning exclusive rights to people’s stories with no intention of publishing them in order to keep them out of the news. Jerry George, a longtime National Enquirer reporter, said Pecker introduced the practice, reported the AP.
“It’s ‘I did this for you, now what can you do for me,'” George said. “They always got something in return.”
American Media Inc. general counsel Cameron Stracher earlier denied using the practice related to Trump in a letter. “AMI states unequivocally that any suggestion that it would seek to ‘extort’ the President of the United States through the exercise of its editorial discretion is outrageous, offensive, and wholly without merit,” he wrote.
Pecker and chief content officer Dylan Howard removed the Trump stories weeks before Trump’s inauguration, fearing they’d become a “liability” after details about the $150,000 payment to former Playmate Karen McDougal were reported by The Wall Street Journal. It is “unclear” whether they moved the documents to another location or destroyed them.
During the 2016 election, the National Enquirer endorsed Trump for president — the first time the magazine had ever endorsed a presidential candidate. Trump’s coverage was so favorable that The New Yorker magazine said the Enquirer embraced him “with sycophantic fervor.” Positive headlines for Trump were matched by negative stories about his opponents, including Hillary Clinton.