Jerry George worked at the National Enquirer and it’s parent company, AMI, for 28 years, until he left in 2013. He knew CEO David Pecker and the inner workings of the Enquirer intimately. Last week Cohen prosecutors claimed that Pecker and Cohen struck a deal in 2015, shortly after Trump announced his candidacy on how to deal with negative Trump stories but George says that AMI was the “official organ” of Trump long before that. Here are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Huffington Post:
HuffPo: The prosecution in the Michael Cohen case claimed this week that there was a coordinated campaign between AMI and Cohen from the beginning of Trump’s campaign to catch and kill negative stories about Trump. Did that surprise you?
George: Well, it’s obvious that the Trump presidency is crumbling, and I think American Media was a pillar of it and is certainly complicit in any collusion. Thanks to AMI smothering anything that was negative about him, he gained the traction to become presidential timber and a more appealing candidate.
HuffPo: When the first Karen McDougal story broke back in October 2016, AMI said to The Wall Street Journal that it has never paid to kill damaging stories about Trump, and now it seems that is not so. Do you have any idea why they would say something like that?
George: I think it’s just basic corruption. David Pecker’s last interest is in reporting the facts. He’s traditionally not a journalist. He’s a businessman. It’s a company that is motivated by greed, not public interest and not perpetuating the values of the fourth estate.
Oh yeah, going back to whenever Pecker took over, the late ’90s, suddenly we stopped reporting negative stories on Donald Trump, and there were many! In the old days, Trump was good copy. His foibles, his divorces, his romances, his sexual escapades ― and then all that stopped.
HuffPo: You told a reporter that Trump stories sometimes had changes attached to them labeled “per Pecker.” What were some of the changes you would see with those sort of stories?
George: Just minor things. If Trump was referred to as a billionaire, the fix would come back: “multi-billionaire.” It was all blowing smoke ―
― to feed his ego.
To make him seem grander.
Now this next part is really something. Essentially the Enquirer was doing what we would call “sponsored content” for Trump, around here or any publication with the slightest credibility, but not calling it that. Fox News wasn’t the first.
HuffPo: And some reporters you knew worked on Trump stories that were run by the Trump Organization.
George: Every story was run by Trump’s attorney, which it turns out was Cohen, or by reps with his organization.
HuffPo: How do you know that?
George: I know it because we talked to editors who ran them, and they would come back with fixes. They were given not only copy approval and headline approval and photo approval, but they would actually be sent pages, covers to show how the story was displayed and if they didn’t like the photo or the headline or the prominence, they had input, and it was always acted on. American Media was very, very accommodating.
George ends on a hopeful note.
HuffPo: Do you think AMI readers will care about something like this?
George: I think you can fool the public for just so long. I think that for years the editorial board of American Media has been talking down to its readership and certainly it included the Trump base as part of their readership, but it’s becoming more and more obvious how corrupt this administration is and I think ultimately the readers are going to turn on them.
Pecker was just granted immunity. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the vault and how Pecker justifies it, since right now it looks like Pecker can only protect one career, his or Trump’s and it’s a no brainer which way that’s going to fall.