Russian interference. Piss-tape kompromat. Montenegrin fake news factories. Shadowy billionaires on both sides of the political divide trying to ignite a culture war. There’s been one hell of an elaborate backstory contrived to explain the shock result of the 2016 US election, but a look through the lens of the National Enquirer suggests that some of it may have been a little more straightforward.
While mob boss Frank Costello gave the National Enquirer a connection to the less-reputable elements of society, in order to become a truly powerful publication it would need someone to introduce the Enquirer to the established corridors of power. Someone with the ear of a senator, an attorney general, a president. Which is exactly what it had in the rather lumpy shape of Roy Cohn.
Our story starts with American Media Inc’s oldest and most notorious title: the National Enquirer. As the industry’s most sensational scandal rag, the Enquirer is often blamed for setting the grim tone of modern celebrity reporting – but how did it become so influential? And, more importantly, how did the Enquirer’s ties to a botched Mafia hit-job in 1950s New York end up causing a tabloid boom in 1970s small-town Florida?