The tabloids can be rattlesnakes – provoke them at your peril.
Newly-minted Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow finds that out this week to his chagrin, as the National Enquirer exposes his alleged "Sex-and-Drugs Shocker!" As this column exclusively revealed two weeks ago, Farrow is secretly investigating America's supermarket tabloids with a view to exposing "how the sausage is made," according to a source. In April the Enquirer branded Farrow a "hypocrite" for purportedly "covering for his pervert uncle," a story I described as "a warning shot across his bow."
This week the Enquirer comes at Farrow with all cannons blazing. Only last month Farrow came out as gay – a public admission quite possibly driven by the knowledge that the Enquirer was about to out him – and now the magazine claims to have obtained "a chain of intimate text messages" which allegedly reveal that "Ronan got down and dirty with a Brazilian male model – admitting to using cocaine and describing his passion for having sex while high on pot and poppers!"
The rag again brands Farrow "a huge hypocrite," this time for allegedly "using his position of power and influence to promise a second Brazilian hunk professional favors . . . an echo of the charges he made against slimeball [Harvey] Weinstein in his groundbreaking reporting!"
Setting aside the fact that Farrow's sexuality is his own business, that he is entitled to hook up with whomsoever he pleases, and that his cocaine confession (if true) is that he tried it only twice "and hated it both times," the allegation that he offered to help further a potential lover's writing career by making introductions is far from the same as Weinstein raping and assaulting women and threatening to end their career if they refused to acquiesce. Expect to see Ronan Farrow's private life, including that of his family and mother Mia Farrow, eviscerated by the tabloids in coming months as they try to scare him off. It may get ugly.
Elsewhere, the tabloids continue to stretch journalistic standards of evidence and proof, never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Angelina Jolie's son Maddox "Begs to Live With Brad!" reports the Enquirer, claiming that the ex-couple's 16-year-old son "is through with living with his adoptive mom after she visited and prayed at the grave of Pol Pot – the murderous dictator who killed 3 million Cambodians."
Maddox, adopted from Cambodia, was in that country with his mother while she directed her film First They Killed My Father, a drama about the horrors of Pol Pot's bloody regime. He is well aware of her loathing for the dictator. And Jolie's visits to Pol Pot's grave allegedly occurred before Maddox was even born, the Enquirer admits. The story unravels when the Enquirer source reveals it's all based on assumption: "Maddox must have been livid when he'd learned what his mother had done!" Must he? "It has to be galling to Maddox," says the unnamed source. Must it?
Equally dubious is the Enquirer report that a "terror bomb" plot to attack Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's coming Royal wedding in England has been "foiled by Harry and Meghan stand-ins." Absurd on the face of it, the report claims that a Special Air Service officer and his wife played the roles of Harry and Meghan during practice drills for possible terrorist attacks on their wedding day, and that "the massive operation effectively shut down any terrorist threat." Seriously?
British police and armed services know that the only way to prevent a terrorist threat is to clear the streets of all pedestrians, clear every building along the processional route of occupants, sweep every rooftop for snipers, and have bomb-sniffing dogs scour every inch of the route – and that's not going to happen. Authorities train to react efficiently in the face of a terror attack, but they aren't about to stop hundreds of thousands of people from cheering on the newlyweds, and the threat of a terrorist slipping in among them is a risk they try to minimize but can never fully escape.
President John F. Kennedy could have told the Enquirer that much, if the paper's latest cover story is accurate: "There Were 3 JFK Shooters!" screams the front page headline. "Stunning new forensic video analysis" supposedly proves that "4 bullets killed Prez!" We've seen these conspiracy theories repeatedly for the past 54 years, and the supposed enhancement of the famed Zapruder tape is still open to interpretation and argument. It's an interesting theory, but that's all it is; it proves nothing.
Much the same could be said for the Globe report that pop icon "Prince Was Murdered!" The supposed evidence? "Newly discovered death scene photos . . . prove the Purple Rain legend was MURDERED!" Let me ask again: what is the evidence? "These photos prove the musician's overdose death was staged, says private investigator." The "newly discovered death photos" were actually released by the sheriff's department, which had them all along. They were never lost, never "discovered." And why might Prince's body appear "staged," laying sprawled on his back outside the elevator in his Paisley Park home in Minneapolis, his right arm draped across his waist?
Perhaps it's because Prince was found dead inside the elevator, as the Carver County Sheriff explained at the time of his death in 2016, and that deputies and paramedics attempted to revive him. Clearly he was dragged out of the elevator, where it would be harder for paramedics to attempt CPR in a confined space. Does the Globe mention Prince's death inside the elevator, or the fact that paramedics moved him? Of course not. Why let the facts spoil a story? And the Globe, classy as ever, publishes the full death scene photos that almost every other news organization chose to blur, pixilate or black out.
Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Reese Witherspoon wore it best, that Jersey Shore reality TV star Jenni 'JWoww' Farley "can pound tequila and never get a hangover," that TV's S.W.A.T. actress Stephanie Sigman's Free People tote is "full of my dog's hair" along with lipstick and pepper spray, and that the stars are just like us: they hail taxis, drink smoothies, and make shopping lists. Shocking, as ever.
Equally shocking is Us magazine's cover story: "Inside Charlotte's 3rd Birthday!" which exposes Prince William's daughter's deepest, darkest secrets: she had a birthday cake, her "favorite dinner and a lot of presents" as she celebrated her third year. Well, I never saw that coming.
"The greatest gift of all, perhaps, arrived a week earlier when Kate gave birth to Prince Louis," the mag continues. "Charlotte is really enjoying having a younger brother to play with," says a source. Sure. Because we all know what fun a three-year-old can have playing games with a newborn baby that can't walk, crawl or talk, and can only feed or cry.
And that, seriously, is the extent of the cover story. Yes, Us adds that Charlotte is "definitely a girly girl" . . . "has a very active imagination" and "she's always got her eye on something." I'm sure her optometrist will be delighted to hear that. Great reporting, as ever.
Onwards and downwards . . .