National Enquirers AMI Defies #MeToo, Defends Piggish Behavior



Disgruntled employees.

Horsing around.

Thus the National Enquirers Donald Trump-friendly parent company, American Media Inc.which also owns RadarOnline, Star, Us Weekly, Soap Opera Digest, Mens Fitness, Mens Journal, and other popular magazines and celebrity gossip sheetsdismissed Tuesday nights sensational Associated Press expos detailing allegations of lewd and intimidating workplace misconduct by the companys chief content officer, Dylan Howard.

It was a brazen, some would say tone-deaf, act of corporate defiance against the zeitgeist, in which once-invulnerable alpha maleseveryone from Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose to Matt Lauerare being held accountable by brave women and a few good men coming forward to testify against these celebrated authority figures sexual misconduct and abuse of power with colleagues and underlings. (The indefinite suspensions Wednesday of WNYC radio personalities Jonathan Schwartz and Leonard Lopate are only the latest examples.)

AMIs stout defense of the 35-year-old Howardan Australian import who reportedly forced female employees to watch pornography and listen to him describing his sexual exploits and speculating about their sex lives, and nicknamed himself Dildo while running AMIs Los Angeles office in 2012comes at an especially inopportune moment.

Time magazine just named The Silence Breakersthat is, the army of women, and some men, who have gone public in recent weeks with the alleged misconduct of the likes of NBCs Mark Halperin, NPRs Michael Oreskes, and Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, among many othersas its 2017 Person of the Year.

Meanwhile, Howards past collaboration with Harvey Weinstein to discredit the movie moguls accusers was front and center in Thursdays exhaustive New York Times report on how the Hollywood producer used his clout, connections and cash to thwart press investigations of alleged misconductwhich Weinstein denies, claiming all his sexual encounters were consensualthatran the gamut from groping to rape.

With regard to Howards activities on behalf of Weinstein, AMI has taken a more traditional stance, releasing a chagrined statement of innocence that places the blame on the mogul instead of its chief content officer: AMI apologizes for any part it unwittingly played in Mr. Weinsteins well documented manipulation of his business and personal relationships in his efforts to combat his accusers.

Its in this environment that AMI spokesman Jon Hammond was toiling Tuesday to dismiss and deride the APs report, based on interviews with 12 former employees, as the unfounded complaints of the disgruntled.

Ditto an AMI lawyer, Cam Stracher, who minimized Howards allegedly loutish behavior, which included expressing the desire to create a Facebook account for a female underlings vagina, as what you would call horsing around outside the office, going to bars andthings that are not uncommon in the media business.

In a brief phone interview with the AP, Howard himself called the complaints against him baseless.

Howards boss, AMI Chief Executive David Pecker, is a longtime Trump friend and ally who seems to have put the National Enquirer at the service of the candidate and now presidentweaponizing the supermarket tabloid against Trumps adversaries, whether it was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries or Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski as they ramped up their criticism of his presidency.

In this context, AMIs retort is decidedly Trumpian.

Theyre saying it didnt happen, and if it happened, its not a big deal, said author and womens rights activist Jaclyn Friedman, whose latest book is titled Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power, and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All.

Maybe they were thinking, Look, who is the National Enquirers audience? Theyre more conservative folks, folks who arent as well-educated perhaps. The Zeitgeist has not reached every corner of the United States. Who else is defying the Zeitgeist right now? Roy Moore is defying the Zeitgeist. Donald Trump is defying the Zeitgeist. The National Enquirer has a pretty accurate read on who their audience is, and they can get away with it.

Dawn Bridges, a former top communications executive for Time Inc., Al Jazeera America, and the music industry, told The Daily Beast: This is sort of in the same vein as Dustin Hoffman saying this is what goes on during film productions, or Geraldo Rivera saying the news business is a very flirty business. But things have changed I spent my twenties in the 1990s running around the world with rock stars and the stuff that went on then would not pass muster today. The old-world rules dont apply today.

Former Time Warner executive Ed Adler, a partner in the PR powerhouse Finsbury, called AMIs response to the APs report an extreme outlier compared to how other media companies such as NBC Universal and CBS, among others, have handled such allegations.

Yet, against all odds and the consensus view of the media elite, defiance and denial worked like a charm for Trump during the presidential campaign, when he brushed aside the multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault of nearly two dozen women.

A PR expert would never have recommended the things that Trump has said and done over the last year and half, Adler told The Daily Beast. Things that you would prescribe as the right way to handle certain issues are not accepted by everyone in todays media world. If you analyze what Trump has done or said, a PR expert would never have recommended it, but it seems to have worked for him.

Referring to the Times account of Howards collaboration with Weinstein, Dawn Bridges said, The National Enquirer has never been held up as paragon of great American world-class journalism, and theyre already in the middle of this particular story. Not to express a bit more sensitivity to the situation, given everything thats going on at the moment, seems a bit surprising.

Bridges added, however, that by deriding the allegations against Howard, AMI could be following the playbook that has worked for Trump during his four decades as a tabloid-ready public figure.

Maybe its the Trump philosophyride out the Access Hollywood scandal because the core Trump supporters werent going to change their opinion of Trump or their hatred of Hillary because of the tape, Bridges said. Maybe the core National Enquirer audience doesnt care about journalistic purity, and maybe all of this is just inside baseball for people in New York media circles.

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