It is only fitting that a predatory phenomenon should have a predatory name. “Catch and kill” is when a publication purchases an exclusive story from a single source for the purpose of suppressing that story. It is a distinctly dishonest manipulation of any news cycle and, when practiced, is an instance when the American press really sometimes can be “the enemy of the people.”
According to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of “Catch and Kill” Ronan Farrow, there is a new allegation that Donald Trump sexually assaulted an underage girl. The story was caught and killed by National Enquirer chief David Pecker. “Maybe the claim is specious,” Farrow said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “that has been true of a number of these stories that were caught and killed. But the process of a collaboration to get the story and get rid of it – that is a potential violation of election law.”
The National Enquirer has now admitted that it committed numerous instances of catch and kill on behalf of Donald Trump, so many as it turns out, that Pecker became weary of both the necessity to catch and kill so many stories and the uncompensated expense.
Pecker and his subordinate Dylan Howard are now cooperating with prosecutors. In the agreement with prosecutors, where before they repeatedly lied about it (to Farrow and other journalists) saying that they were only exercising “journalistic judgment” by killing the stories, they now freely admit that they did it in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor. This is an instance of the Fourth Estate interfering with the First through Third, and represents a subversion of American Democracy every inch as insidious and deleterious as Russia’s interference – with the added bonus of it being a deplorable act of unpatriotic betrayal.
By the time the Stormy Daniels scandal came around and she tried to shop it to the National Enquirer, Pecker had had enough. They “punted it to Michael Cohen,” Farrow says, “and that’s why he [Cohen] had to set up all these infrastructures and shell companies to do it by himself.”
That a presidential candidate had so much to hide – his tax returns, a history of sexual assaults, a history of criminal activity, conspiracy and fiscal malfeasance with America’s enemies – and that he did so successfully represents a kind of perfect storm of concealment, compliments of people like David Pecker and the National Enquirer. Many of us saw Trump for what he was, even before he came down the escalator to announce his candidacy. But enough Americans were “fooled all of the time” to be deceived, unable to see past their own selfishness and bigotry that which was as plain as day to the rest of us.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.