In a must-read exposé of Fox News in the Trump era, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer reveals that Fox reporter Diana Falzone uncovered Trump’s hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election only to have the story killed by the network.
According to Mayer, Falzone began working on the Stormy Daniels story in March, 2016 and by October, she had confirmed, via sources and documents, that Trump had had an extramarital affair with Daniels and that there was a contract offering her a payout along with a nondisclosure agreement:
But Falzone’s story didn’t run—it kept being passed off from one editor to the next. After getting one noncommittal answer after another from her editors, Falzone at last heard from [Ken] 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.
Despite the discouragement, Falzone kept investigating, and discovered that the National Enquirer, in partnership with Trump, had made a “catch and kill” deal with Daniels—buying the exclusive rights to her story in order to bury it. Falzone pitched this story to Fox, too, but it went nowhere. News of Trump’s payoffs to silence Daniels, and Cohen’s criminal attempts to conceal them as legal fees, remained unknown to the public until the Wall Street Journal broke the story, a year after Trump became President.
LaCorte has dubiously claimed he killed the story on his own. He told Mediaite,
“So we had a manager saying it’s true. We had the woman at the center of the controversy still not talking about it — and the last time she publicly talked about it she denied it and sent a cease and desist letter. We had a long interview with an editor from The Dirty rehashing a story from 5 years ago in which he claimed to have heard from Daniels about the affair.”
... “If I had run that, I wouldn’t have been a good journalist.”
But Mayer reported that Falzone “also amassed e-mails between Daniels’s attorney and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, detailing a proposed cash settlement, accompanied by a nondisclosure agreement. Falzone had even seen the contract.”
Three months later, Falzone was demoted and subsequently sued the network. At the time, she seemed to believe the demotion was due to an essay she wrote about suffering from endometriosis. In any event, she has since settled and is barred by a nondisclosure agreement from discussing the matter.
That editor of The Dirty whose credibility was disparaged by LaPorte, Nik Richie, insists the story was killed “at the highest level” at Fox News. “I know because I was one of your sources,” Richie tweeted to him.
Mayer’s piece is full of jaw-dropping and important information. I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in the symbiotic relationship between Fox News and the White House read the whole thing. But I will have more on the piece in subsequent posts.
In case you’ve forgotten the details of the Stormy Daniels story, you can watch a refresher below, via The Washington Post.