As a lifelong cinephile, every chapter in Donald Trump’s political saga evokes an immediate, consistent response.  “I feel like I’ve seen this movie before.”  Former American Media, Inc. CEO David Pecker’s testimony in the Trump election interference trial is no different with one exception.  Pecker’s description of his agreement to support Trump’s 2016 campaign represents a déjà vu double feature.

Secrets and Lies

During coverage of the New York trial, multiple pundits harkened back to the days when they accompanied their mothers to the grocery store.  Each recalled seeing The National Enquirer while waiting to check out.  Their memories included examples of the outrageous front page headlines about women giving birth to alien babies and freaks of nature.  No one took it seriously. How then could a tabloid with so little journalistic integrity possible flip the outcome of the 2016 election?

As we know, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  And all it took was one or two verified stories to cloak the Enquirer in the credibility it had seldom enjoyed.  Case in point, the October 10, 2007 front page report that announced 2008 Democratic candidate for president John Edwards fathered a love-child with a campaign worker.   The narrative was initially viewed as just more Enquirer sensationalism.  However, once Edwards remained in the news as a potential Barack Obama vice-presidential running mate, mainstream media outlets picked up the story.

On August 8, 2008, Edwards admitted having an affair with Rielle Hunter, who had been hired to produce behind-the-scenes videos following Edwards on his quest for the presidential nomination.  On August 18, New York Times reporter David Carr gave the Enquirer, somewhat begrudgingly, its due credit.

There are some stories, especially ones that occur in the bedroom, where mainstream media outlets sometimes can’t venture—or at least they can’t find it in themselves to lead the charge. But it would be hard to argue that the body politic is not enriched by the recent revelations that Mr. Edwards is not who we thought he was, even balanced against the many stories the Enquirer gets wrong.

Then National Enquirer publisher (drum roll) David Pecker must have realized this was a turning point in his tabloid’s history.  With its new-found credibility in the political arena, the Enquirer could no longer be ignored by more reputable media outlets.  As we learned yesterday in a New York courtroom, this enabled actual fake news produced under the agreement between Pecker, Trump and Michael Cohen in June 2015 to rapidly move from the tabloid rack at the checkout line to the nightly news and cable outlets.

All the President’s Men

In 1972, they were called “dirty tricks.”  Among the first was the infamous “Canuck Letter.”  At the time, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president.  The saga begins with a handwritten letter to William Loeb, editor of the Manchester Union, postmarked from Deerfield Beach, Florida and signed by a Paul Morrison.  It accused Muskie of denigrating Franco-Americans by laughing when a campaign aide referred to them by the slur “Canucks.”  Without fact checking the source, Loeb published the letter on the front page with an editorial in which he wrote, “We have always known that Sen. Muskie was a hypocrite, but we never expected to have it so clearly revealed.”

In an emotional response at a February 26, 1972 rally, Muskie states, “The letter is a lie,” and called Loeb “a mudslinging, vicious and gutless coward.”   In what was considered unacceptable in those days, Muskie was reported to have tears in his eyes, a perceived sign of weakness.  Despite efforts to dismiss his emotional outburst, Loeb continued the attack until primary election day, and even though Muskie was the victor, the damage was already done.  During the Florida primary, bumper stickers warned Democratic voters, “Vote for Muskie or he’ll cry.”

Although the author of the letter was never definitively identified, Donald Segretti a young staff member on the Committee to Re-elect the President, took responsibility and sent Muskie the following:

October 11, 1973

Dear Senator Muskie:

I wish to personally apologize to you, your family, and your staff for activities in the 1972 Presidential campaign. Such activities are wrong and have no place in the American political process.

I trust that my public statements to that effect and my guilty plea will prevent others from getting involved in such activities in the future.



Postscript:  The Common Denominator

The reason this movie keeps getting played over and over again is the fact each has the same executive producer–Roger Stone.  He was the Nixon whisperer in 1968 and 1972, the Trump whisperer in 2016 and thanks to a Trump pardon will still be spreading mischief in this election cycle.

For what it’s worth.

One thought on “PeckerGate

  1. We continue to be amazed and disheartened by the apparently ongoing and disgusting “ events” in the US. My great fear is that Trump’s behaviour is a reflection of American attitudes . We are glad to know at least one American ( you) who sees things differently..

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