During the recent unpleasantness that was the 2016 presidential election much was made of the fact that the vast majority of newspapers endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton against the winning Republican, Donald Trump. A major exception, one that was ignored by the media, probably did more for Trump than all the New York Times or Washington Posts did for Clinton. Though it would be too much to claim that the National Enquirer carried the election for Trump, it certainly did much to express Middle America’s feelings for the Republican candidate.
The special relationship between the National Enquirer and Donald Trump goes back years. David Pecker, chief executive officer and chairman of American Media Inc., publisher of the Enquirer, is a good friend of the president-elect.
“I have known Donald Trump for 25 years and I am proud to call him a friend,” Pecker said. “I support his candidacy for President and greatly admire what he has achieved in a relatively short period of time as a non-politician.” Trump himself (or his ghost writer) wrote an article for the August 12, 2015 issue, which detailed his presidential platform: “I am the only one who can make America great again. We are in serious trouble - economically and from a security perspective - and we need leaders who are intelligent, truthful and tough in order to negotiate deals with countries like Mexico and many others. America is being laughed at by the rest of the world - and things must change before it’s too late.”
“Our readers have a great affection and fondness for Donald Trump,” Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard said. “It’s a readership that is disenfranchised. They do not like the political establishment. They see Donald Trump as someone who will champion their cause, just like the National Enquirer has championed their cause for many decades.” Howard, Pecker and their tabloid did much to help Trump’s campaign. In March of last year, the Enquirer endorsed Trump, the first time the tabloid endorsed a candidate in its 90-year history. It has since published sleazy stories about Trump’s opponents: According to the Enquirer, Ben Carson was a “bungling surgeon,” Jeb Bush had “sleazy cheating scandals” and, most notoriously, Ted Cruz’s father was linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Once Trump and Clinton became their respective parties’ candidates, the paper ran a series of cover stories attacking “crooked Hillary” - some written by professional Clinton hater Dick Morris - while extolling Trump and his campaign to “make America great again.” In this Howard insisted that the Enquirer only heeded public opinion. “My duty is to my readers.”
Trump’s affair with the tabloids was noticed by Clinton, who accused her opponent of spreading “dark conspiracy theories” taken from the pages of “supermarket tabloids.” “This is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like gospel,” she said. Most of the time, Democrats ignored the Enquirer, to their candidate’s detriment. At the same time that Clinton fans crowed about her endorsements millions of Middle Americans, who would never read the editorial page of the New York Times, glanced with approval at the Enquirer covers on their way through their supermarkets’ check-out lines. How much did the Enquirer affect their vote? Or did the Enquirer’s anti-Clinton and pro-Trump articles just confirm their already-held beliefs? We shall never know.
Since the election, the National Enquirer continued its pro-Trump covers, though it has gradually returned to celebrity gossip as the basis of its existence. But there is no question that favorable stories about Trump and his family will continue to grace the tabloid’s pages. Future issues will no doubt feature stories about Trump’s White House, wife Melania’s fashion and housekeeping, Donald Jr. and Eric’s political aspirations - Trump will be the first president since the elder George Bush to have sons - and the political marriage of daughter Ivanka and businessman Jared Kushner. In this the Enquirer is right. For better or worse, the Trump presidency will be worth covering.