Trump personally ordered the National Enquirer's hits on Ted Cruz's dad and Marco Rubio, Michael Cohen claims

Rachel Maddow interviews Michael Cohen
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/MSNBC)

The National Enquirer's role in boosting Donald Trump in the 2016 election, from burying stories of his extramarital affairs to attacking his rivals, has sort of faded from view during the 2020 election, with the diminished tabloid under new editorial management if not new ownership. But Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, has some allegations about the Enquirer and its publisher, David Pecker, in his new book, Disloyal: A Memoir. And they caught the eye of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

"You write that the president personally approved that insane story in the National Enquirer that was basically that Ted Cruz's dad killed JFK," and that "in fact, President Trump personally demanded that that photo of ... Ted Cruz's dad appear on the front page of the Enquirer," Maddow told Cohen on Tuesday night. "Do you know if Sen. Cruz knows that Donald Trump approved that personally and made that happen personally?" "Well, he does now," Cohen quipped.

"You also say that the Enquirer, one after another, did hit pieces on all of President Trump's primary rivals," Maddow said. "Was the president involved in okaying all of those stories, too?" Cohen said yes, "David Pecker would reach out to me and he would give me a list of things that he was intending to do in order to squash Ted Cruz's or Marco Rubio's rise. Whoever was rising in the polls, that's who became the person that we needed to knock out of the race." When Pecker sent him the "salacious rumors" about the rising candidates, Cohen said, he would discuss the smears with Trump, Trump would approve them, and Pecker would run them. Maddow called that "a remarkable campaign contribution to the Donald Trump for President campaign."

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You don't have to take Cohen's word. "What's so interesting about the Enquirer in general is that it's had a reputation for being sleazy for so long," a person who was a target of the tabloid told the Los Angeles Times in May, when top editor Dylan Howard was forced out. "Then Trump came along. It's ridiculous how they became an extension of Trump."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.