Would it surprise you to find out that Trump’s White House has something of an incestuous relationship with the Fox media empire? No? Well, would it surprise you to find out that Fox News caught and killed the Stormy Daniels hush money story before the election? Also no? Fair enough. Regardless, we now have it on good authority that Fox News reporters bent to the whim of chairman Rupert Murdoch to ensure the porn actress pay-off didn’t create any unwanted friction for the Republican candidate.
In a sprawling investigation for The New Yorker, Jane Mayer digs up some troublesome links bound to make even the most complacent fans of Fox question whether the outlet has become merely a mouthpiece for the Oval Office. One of Mayer’s most infuriating findings was a Fox News pass on the Stormy Daniels hush money story:
Diana Falzone, who often covered the entertainment industry, had obtained proof that Trump had engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with a pornographic film actress calling herself Stormy Daniels. Falzone had worked on the story since March, and by October she had confirmed it with Daniels through her manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, and with Daniels’s former husband, Mike Moz, who described multiple calls from Trump.
Mayer then details the depths of Falzone’s research, describing how she went on to read through e-mail chains between lawyers, see details in proposed cash payments and even view NDA contracts. Falzone had an air-tight, guaranteed front-page story. And yet it didn’t run:
After getting one noncommittal answer after another from her editors, Falzone at last heard from LaCorte, who was then the head of FoxNews.com. Falzone told colleagues that LaCorte said to her, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” LaCorte denies telling Falzone this, but one of Falzone’s colleagues confirms having heard her account at the time.
Falzone’s work was duly noted, and then dumpstered. Her piece wouldn’t run, as Fox didn’t want to give Trump any added friction on his way to the polls—as if this scoop would have hit any harder than did the Access Hollywood tapes.
But Falzone continued to dig on the Daniels case, and she found more incriminating evidence. Nearly a full two years before the story finally broke in the Wall Street Journal, Falzone found that the National Enquirer had made a “catch and kill” deal with Trump on the porn star affair article. She pitched her editors at Fox News, and heard nothing back. Shortly after her attempts, she was demoted. This spiteful demotion prompted her to sue Fox, and now means that she can’t speak about her experiences there, as her eventual settlement included a nondisclosure agreement.
Mayer’s piece includes many more catty allegations that are, unfortunately, utterly unsurprising: Trump tried to use the Department of Justice to quash the AT&T-Time Warner deal out of disdain for CNN, Rupert Murdoch is very close with Jared Kushner, Fox likely gave Trump debate questions ahead of time, and Roger Ailes enforced strict supervision on women who didn’t respond to his sexual harassment with silence.
That Mayer’s investigative work is so commendably excellent—and yet her article seems to only confirm what anyone who’s been paying half-hearted attention to Trump’s Twitter for a few years could have readily assumed—is grim. As Trump once said himself before a crowd of Iowan fans, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Let’s hope journalists as talented as Mayer continue to try and prove him wrong.