More Powerful Than a Russian Troll Army: The National Enquirer

More Powerful Than a Russian Troll Army: The National Enquirer


It’s a shame it went this route, because The Enquirer was built to cover Mr. Trump’s wild ride. If it had only stuck with its original mission — digging up dirt on the rich and famous, without a care for the rules of traditional journalism — it would have had the tabloid story of a lifetime.

During the 2016 campaign season, The Enquirer puffed up Mr. Trump while going after his rivals, and its reach went beyond that.

Instead, it refused to unlock its vault of Trump tips and stories as it promoted him as America’s savior. Actually, make that the world’s. As one Enquirer report in early 2016 had it — from “a source close to Donald’’ — even President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia wanted him to win the White House.

“It was like a double whammy,” Jennifer Palmieri, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign communications director, told me. “They could have been covering all of Trump’s misdeeds. But, instead, not only were they not reporting on that, they were a pipeline from dark-net conspiracy theories to grocery-store lines.”

With its online cohorts, American Media Inc. helped build a powerful distortion machine that so polluted election-season news cycles that, for its more receptive audiences, Mrs. Clinton not only deserved to lose the White House, she deserved time in the big house.

Before making her its main target, the machine chewed up Senator Ted Cruz. It ran unsubstantiated allegations of extramarital affairs against him at a time when he was proving himself Mr. Trump’s most stubborn Republican challenger.

The only person quoted by name in the affairs piece was Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump, who was quoted as saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” (Mr. Stone, who communicated with top campaign officials through the election, is under investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.)

One passage in the Cruz story caught my eye. Citing a report in Radar Online — a gossip outlet also owned by A.M.I. — The Enquirer claimed that “an individual purporting to be a representative of the hacker group Anonymous posted a disturbing Twitter video that threatens to expose ‘very dirty secrets,’ including information about Ted ‘visiting prostitutes.’”

Here’s an odd thing. Radar attributed the provenance of this supposed Anonymous video to an obscure Twitter handle with only a few thousand followers that has since gone dormant. A review of the account’s activity found tweets and retweets of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messages relating to Europe, as well as a critique of the United States policy on Libya linked to a video from RT, the Russian state-financed cable network.


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