It's hard to believe that President Donald Trump didn't personally edit the supermarket tabloids this week.
They ignore facts, present opinions as reality, leap to improbable conclusions, and claim to be doing it all first and best – just like a certain occupant of the Oval Office. Trump and the tabloids, entwined in dewy-eyed mutual admiration – the rags insist he is making America great again; he has said they deserve a Pulitzer prize – are a marriage of minds, as this week's fact-challenged, reality-flouting, self-serving stories demonstrate.
Let's begin with the National Enquirer cover story under the screaming headline in giant print: "Hoda Fired!" referring to NBC's Today show anchor Hoda Kotb, reportedly axed as audience ratings fall. Except you may have seen her on the Today show this morning, because she hasn't been fired. The cover is a lie, as the story inside retreats to merely say: "Hoda's "Todays" Are Numbered!" Aren't everyone's?
The Enquirer throws logic out the window with another flight of fancy: "Revealed! The radical plan to rehire Matt Lauer!" Sure, the news anchor ousted in November amid sex harassment allegations is returning, just as the #MeToo movement gathers steam? Let's see.
"Flight 370 Wreckage Found!" yells another Enquirer cover headline. No, the missing Malaysia Airlines flight has not been found after four years. Wing fragments were discovered off the coast of Africa more than 18 months ago, but the plane remains missing.
That doesn't stop the Enquirer from claiming: "It was Murder!" blaming "deranged and depressed" pilot Capt. Shah for deliberately crashing the plane after his wife allegedly claimed she was ending their marriage. It's a theory based on rumor, supposition and circumstantial evidence at best, dismissed by aviation officials who cite the difficulty of flying an aircraft at 40,000 even if the pilot donned an oxygen mask while the remaining crew and passengers passed out, while enduring the decompression sickness that would have stuck as the depressurized jet soared quickly to cruising altitude.
"New Pam Anderson Health Horror!" cries another Enquirer headline claiming that treatment for hepatitis "has ravaged her body almost beyond recognition!" And to prove it the Enquirer shows three photos of the former Baywatch actress looking sensational for any 50-year-old, her hair lustrous, skin glowing and smooth, her figure still centerfold-worthy.
"She looks unnaturally aged and gravely ill," New York internist Dr. Stuart Fischer, "who has not treated Pam," tells the Enquirer. You have to wonder: has Dr. Fischer even seen these stunning photos of Anderson? The Enquirer is basically telling its readers: You see these beautiful pictures of Pam Anderson? Don't believe your eyes. She's really ravaged. Right.
Like Trump, the tabloids' self-promotion knows no bounds.
Under the tag-line "First to Know," comedian Robin Williams' "perverted pranks" are "Exposed!" in an "Enquirer Exclusive." Yet this story is lifted wholesale from Dave Itzkoff's new biography, Robin, as the rag proudly proclaims: "The National Enquirer has obtained an explosive new biography of the actor . . ." Yes, that's the same biography that you or I could obtain when it went on sale on May 15, eight days before the Enquirer claimed to have its "exclusive" story.
The National Examiner brings us its more modestly ambitious "Examiner Exclusive" – "The untold story behind Robin Williams' Suicide." Unsurprisingly, it's the oft-told story of his struggle with Lewy body dementia, sourced to "a new biography, Robin, by Dave Itzkoff . . . "
This word "exclusive," it does not mean what you think it means.
"World Exclusive" tags the Globe pictorial spread of actress Helen Mirren falling while at the Cannes Film Festival. Yes, it's the same photo you'd have seen days earlier on TMZ, in The Daily Mail, The Sun, Daily Express, and in publications and media outlets worldwide. It's a truly Trumpian proclamation, to brazenly claim a "world exclusive" in the face of all evidence to the contrary – and many readers won't know any better.
The Royals continue to preoccupy the tabloids, and this week the Globe dedicates its cover to Prince Harry's newlywed American bride Meghan Markle's alleged "Revenge on backstabbing Camilla!" Do they really have a spy within Royal quarters at Kensington Palace who eavesdrops and reports on private conversations between the Royals? Of course not.
The Globe was presented with the undramatic scene of Meghan and Harry at their first post-nuptial public event happily sharing the limelight with Prince Charles and Camilla. How does the Globe choose to explain this quartet wreathed in smiles? By claiming that Camilla wanted to shove Meghan into the background, sneering: "You're a nobody, a commoner who thinks she's latched on to the royal gravy train." It's the stuff of soap operas, and in the Globe imaginary palace, Meghan hit back, refusing to be side-lined. It's frankly astonishing that the Globe didn't report Meghan saying: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."
People and Us magazines naturally devote their covers and acres of newsprint to the Royal wedding. People gives up 38 pages to this story in its "special collector's issue" under the glaringly obvious headline "A Fairytale Wedding!" and Us tells us that the wedding is "Changing The Royals Forever" while making the unverifiable promise of "every spectacular photo inside." If five hours of live TV coverage didn't sate your appetite for Meghan and Harry, this week's Us and People will certainly do the trick.
Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Jennifer Garner wore it best, singer Teyana Taylor's favorite things about her NBA star husband Iman Shumpert "are his height and his man parts," that Olivia Culpo carries M&Ms, a book of poetry and lipstick in her Tod's Gommino purse, and that the stars are just like us: they snack on fruit, play pool, and use their cell phones on the beach. Riveting, as ever.
But what are the tabloids for if not to tell us how wonderful President Trump is, and this week the sycophantic Enquirer finds a new way to say so. Its two-page feature on "15 Strange Presidential Facts!" looks at the embarrassing or bizarre foibles of past Oval Office holders: George Washington was allegedly a "whiskey mogul," Abraham Lincoln used to be a bartender, Jimmy Carter claimed he saw a UFO, and Barack Obama once had a pet turtle.
And what bizarre detail does the Globe offer about Donald Trump? Not his sleazy affairs, nor the many allegations of his sexual harassment, his alleged rape of his first wife Ivana, his numerous bankruptcies, or his four-dimensional soufflé of hair. No, the Enquirer instead tells us that in 1987 Trump paid $29 million for the world's third-largest private yacht, with 11 luxury suites and 50 crew members, but never spent a night aboard, confessing: "It makes me nervous to relax."
It's ironic that now the world gets nervous when Trump can't relax.
Onwards and downwards . . .