Trump and Pecker met more than two decades ago, when Pecker, then the president of Hachette, entered into a “custom publishing” venture with Trump. This was, essentially, a Trump fanzine that Hachette published and Trump distributed in his hotels and casinos. Over the subsequent years, Pecker has continued to do Trump’s bidding, though he’s had no formal business dealings with the developer turned politician. This was especially true during 2016, when the Enquirer repeatedly savaged Trump’s opponents (especially Hillary Clinton) and extolled Trump.
Pecker’s assistance to Trump went beyond merely giving good press. As I recount in my piece, a woman named Karen McDougal, Playboy’s playmate of the year in 1998, began shopping a story that she had an affair with Trump after his marriage to Melania. Pecker swooped in and, according to the Wall Street Journal, paid McDougal a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, purportedly for writing fitness columns for Pecker’s other magazines. In fact, as Pecker acknowledged to me, a condition of McDougal’s hiring was that she not bash Trump or American Media. Pecker’s explanation for this action was straightforward. He did it, he said, because “the guy’s a personal friend of mine.”
Thus, it’s certainly possible that there was some connection between the Enquirer story about Scarborough and Brzezinski and Trump’s quest for favorable coverage from “Morning Joe.” Bizarrely enough, Trump’s most recent tweet suggests that he served as the middleman between the anchors and the magazine, though he denies that he did ultimately intervene. What’s not in doubt, I think, is what Pecker would have done if Trump had asked him to refrain from publishing. Pecker would have followed Trump’s wishes. Pecker is not just a publisher. He regards himself as a kind of father of the Trump Presidency. As Pecker told me, “I’d tell him every time I’d see him. I’d say, ‘Who cares about governor or mayor, you should be President. They love you. These people love you.’ ”