The 'National Enquirer' And Trump
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Another one of President Trump's longtime allies has been granted immunity by prosecutors - David Pecker, chairman of American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer. According to a number of media outlets, Mr. Pecker's now willing to testify about money paid to two women who say they had affairs with the President, stories the National Enquirer, which usually feasts on the foibles of celebrities, did not publish. We're joined now by someone who used to work for David Pecker. Jerry George is former senior editor and LA bureau chief for the Enquirer. Mr. George, thanks so much for being with us.
JERRY GEORGE: It's my pleasure.
SIMON: How close have Mr. Pecker and Donald Trump been?
GEORGE: They go back many, many years, preceding David's taking over as CEO in the late '90s. I think their friendship is probably 20 years old.
SIMON: What's this practice called catch and kill? And what do you know about any of those stories?
GEORGE: OK. To be clear, I left the company five years ago. But even then, Donald Trump was considered presidential timber. And as such, the Enquirer, under the guidance of David Pecker, was committed to protecting him, to sparing him any bad publicity. Any stories that they ran were sanitized and were approved verbatim by The Trump Organization.
SIMON: It sounds like David Pecker had an investment in Mr. Trump.
GEORGE: Yeah, it certainly appears that. David Pecker isn't a journalist. He is a businessman, a very savvy businessman. And his concern is always the next acquisition and who's going to fund it. And I think that's where his affection for Donald Trump comes in.
SIMON: Why would David Pecker want or need immunity? I mean, as far as I know, he wasn't under any criminal investigation or suspicion.
GEORGE: Obviously, there is concern, probably from the board of directors, that laws were broken. And he's protecting his interest.
SIMON: What kind of laws?
GEORGE: Political campaign contribution laws have been mentioned. But, you know, this whole scandal runs the gamut of phony information being propelled. I remember a story about - Hillary Clinton had six months to live. And on the cover, there was a - you know, a horrendous picture of Hillary literally looking as if she was ready to die.
SIMON: The Associated Press and some other places have reported that the Enquirer had a safe full of catch-and-kill stories, including, but perhaps not limited to, Donald Trump. Do you know anything about that safe? Is it real?
GEORGE: Yes. You know, but I think they have kind of exaggerated its value because any contract regarding source agreements, of course, would be on computer. And the legal department would have their own hard copies.
SIMON: Mr. George, I have to ask you - I mean, as you know, with respect, you were not working for The Christian Science Monitor. Were you proud of the work you did there?
GEORGE: I was proud of a lot of the work I did. But by my own admission, I was complicit in at least one catch-and-kill story - certainly not my proudest professional moment.
SIMON: May we ask about that story?
GEORGE: Certainly. It was a story regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger during his gubernatorial race. And it was a romance story - an affair with a younger actress. Yeah, I was complicit in that, and I'm not proud of it.
SIMON: Jerry George, a former editor at the National Enquirer. Mr. George, thanks so much.
GEORGE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.