Some in the media have argued that The National Enquirer deserved Pulitzer Prize consideration for its investigative work into politician John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter. Although it's easy to dismiss The Enquirer as a tabloid collection of fabricated stories that offer little more than a distraction in the grocery store line, the weekly rag has actually broken some pretty big stories. Sure, headlines like "Stars with Cellulite!" and "Kirstie Alley: Only 4 Years to Live!" might not make anyone forget Woodward and Bernstein, but take a look at these Enquirer scoops:
1. Finding Ennis Cosby's killer
When Bill Cosby's son Ennis was senselessly murdered on the shoulder of a Los Angeles freeway in 1997, The Enquirer took an odd step to help solve the case: it offered a $100,000 reward for information that led to the arrest and conviction of Cosby's killer. Papers usually just announce rewards that other groups are offering, and to some this bounty seemed a lot like The Enquirer's practice of paying its sources — a major taboo in mainstream journalism.
The reward worked, though. Witness Chris So learned of the huge reward and led police to the revolver used in the slaying by killer Mikhail Markhasev. The Enquirer also obtained copies of jailhouse letters that pointed to Markhasev's guilt. Thanks in part to this evidence, Markhasev received a sentence of life without parole, plus 10 years.
2. Walking in O.J. Simpson's shoes
If you remember the O.J. Simpson murder trial, you surely can recall the infamous bloody footprint that was found at the crime scene. The print came from a Bruno Magli shoe, and the football star adamantly denied owning such a pair of kicks.
The Enquirer did some digging, though, and unearthed a photo of the Juice walking on the field at a 1993 Buffalo Bills game wearing a pair of Bruno Maglis. The paper then turned up a second photo of O.J. wearing the shoes. By the time his civil trial rolled around in 1996, Simpson was forced to admit, "I know I've had similar shoes."
3. Jesse Jackson's family tree grows
In 2001, The Enquirer broke a story about Jesse Jackson fathering an illegitimate daughter with staffer Karin Stanford in 1999. Once The Enquirer scheduled its story on Jackson's dalliances, mainstream media outlets around the country started picking up on the paper's scoop. By the time The Enquirer's issue made it onto newsstands, Jackson had already issued a statement confirming the facts of the story.
4. Bob Dole was once frisky
This story never really got any traction, but during the 1996 presidential campaign, The Enquirer unearthed a scoop about Republican candidate, illeist, and future Viagra spokesman Bob Dole having once had a mistress. According to Meredith Roberts, a Washington trade publication editor, she had been Dole's mistress from 1968 to 1970 during the candidate's first marriage.
Even though Dole was using a family values platform to oppose Bill Clinton, most papers chose not to run with this story. (There were allegations that Elizabeth Dole personally called the Washington Post and begged for the paper to kill the story.) The Enquirer, however, interviewed Roberts and eventually published the story. In those pre-Lewinsky days, though, most editors seemed to think a 30-year-old affair wasn't all that relevant, and the story never took off.
5. Gary Hart's political ship sails
"Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'd be very bored." Colorado senator and presidential hopeful Gary Hart issued this bizarre challenge to the media in a 1987 New York Times Magazine profile, just before his career spectacularly imploded.
Murmurs of Hart having an affair had been circulating around Washington, and the Miami Herald ran a story linking the senator to a Miami woman. Nothing concrete emerged until The Enquirer published a photo of 29-year-old model Donna Rice sitting in Hart's lap during a jaunt on Hart's yacht, Monkey Business. (Look closely and you'll see "Monkey Business Crew" written on Hart's shirt.) A week after The Enquirer published the picture of Hart and Rice, Hart dropped out of the 1988 presidential race.
6. The Enquirer catches O.J. again
You probably remember the firestorm of controversy that surrounded O.J. Simpson's "hypothetical confession" book If I Did It in 2007. The Enquirer actually broke the story of the book's existence in October 2006, complete with the correct title. Simpson's lawyers immediately denied that any such book project existed. Less than a year later, If I Did It hit bookstore shelves.
7. Rush Limbaugh comes clean
In 2003, The Enquirer ran a story in which conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh's housekeeper provided Limbaugh with a steady stream of OxyContin to feed his painkiller addiction. Although some media outlets turned up their noses at the Enquirer's scoop because the paper had paid housekeeper Wilma Cline for her story, law enforcement quickly confirmed that Limbaugh had purchased some 30,000 pills from Cline. Limbaugh then admitted on his show that he had a painkiller addiction and pledged to enter rehab.
They haven't all been winners, though. Here are some stories The Enquirer got wrong:
- Carol Burnett was not drunk in public with Henry Kissinger in 1976, and she won a $1.6 million judgment against the paper.
- The male family members of kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart were in fact not part of a gay sex ring.
- Cameron Diaz was not caught cheating on Justin Timberlake in 2005.
- Representative Gary Condit's wife did not attack missing intern Chandra Levy before Levy's 2001 disappearance.
- Similarly, in 2004, Condit himself settled a $209 million libel suit against American Media,The Enquirer's publisher, for an undisclosed amount.
- Clint Eastwood won $150,000 from The Enquirer in 1997 when the paper referred to a syndicated interview with the actor as "an exclusive."
- Actress Brooke Shields reached a settlement with The Enquirer after a reporter and a photographer from the paper checked her mother, who suffers from dementia, out of a New Jersey nursing home to gather information for a story.