Let's give credit where it's due: The National Enquirer "world exclusive" has scooped everyone with its latest cover story: "ISIS Kill Plot Foiled! Sniper Caught Stalking Prince George!"
They even have the astonishing photograph of the sniper leaning out of a window overlooking Prince William walking his princely son to school, as the story reveals: "This chilling image shows the heart-stopping moment that little Prince George cheated death!" The man in the window "appears to be holding a rifle and looking down at the two royals," the Enquirer breathlessly reports on its cover, captioning its photo: "Under the gun!"
The true measure of the Enquirer scoop is revealed, however, in video footage that was filmed of Prince George's first day at school, when the "gunman" can clearly be seen in the window holding not a gun, but either a camera or a smartphone, quite clearly photographing the arrival like any other paparazzi. Footage shows the "sniper" holding the camera up for several seconds, before bringing it down to rest on the windowsill, perhaps for a steadier image if shooting video. Not a gun in sight, and – surprise, surprise! – no arrests. So how was this camera-toting "gunman" part of an "ISIS kill plot?" Like wild horses over the hills, the Enquirer editorial imaginations run amok.
We're treated to a double-helping of fact-free exclusives as this week's tabloids give us not one, but two weeks' worth of reality-challenged stories. The tabloids must be taking their annual vacation, because this week's newsstands are heaving with two completely separate issues of the National Enquirer, Globe, Us, Star, Life & Style and Closer magazines, dated July 9 and July 12 respectively, with their typical disregard for the Gregorian calendar's actual passage.
There are twice as many stories, which means double the flagrant inaccuracies, while paradoxically offering less than half the usual impoverished level of truthiness.
The second Enquirer cover brings us their latest despatch from the front lines of the Brad Pitt-Angelia Jolie divorce: "Brad wins custody as . . . 79-lb Angie Collapses!"
Yet buried deep within its story, the Enquirer admits that Jolie never collapsed at all, but simply "turned white as a ghost and became dizzy" while recently touring "war-ravaged Iraq" in June. Could it be jet lag, sleep deprivation, hypoglycemia, exhaustion or flu that caused Jolie to briefly turn pale? Of course not. "Kidney failure bombshell" screams the Enquirer cover, according to an unnamed insider. Right.
"JFK Jr. Autopsy Cover-Up – It was Murder!" yells the cover of this week's Globe, promising "proof bomb destroyed plane!" Evidently the plane's wreckage covered "an unusually broad debris field . . . consistent with the detonation of an explosion," declares an unidentified "expert" (expert in what . . . plane crashes? . . . mid-air explosions? . . . undersea debris fields?) It's a nice conceit, but not borne out by the facts: when JFK Jr.'s plane was found three days after the crash in the waters off Martha's Vineyard in 1999, recovery divers found the wreckage at a depth of around 120 feet, strewn over a debris field of 120 feet – entirely consistent with a high-speed impact with water. No cover-up autopsy. No "proof" of an explosion.
Fake news fills the Enquirer, which yet again trots out its beloved tag line "First To Know" above an "Enquirer Exclusive" interview with actress Drew Barrymore's first husband, Jeremy Thomas. But this isn't the first interview with Thomas since their brief marriage ended in 1994, and I should know, because I had the first exclusive interview with the Hollywood bar owner weeks after their separation – 24 years ago. And he doesn't say anything new now that he didn't say in 1994. Nice to see the Enquirer catching up with all the latest news.
The Globe is equally au courant in a week when even ancient news is spread thin to cover two vacuous editions, bringing us a staggering nine pages of "Drunk & Disorderly Stars!" It's a page-filling excuse for raking over the old coals of celebrities behaving badly. Heather Locklear, Brittany Spears – they're talking about you.
Ryan Gosling has suffered "Brain Damage Horror!" panics next week's Enquirer, though the story inside merely says that he may have suffered a concussion on the set of his latest movie. Yes, concussions can lead to medical problems, including brain injury, but that hardly merits the Enquirer stating categorically in this week's Enquirer that Gosling ". . . suffered brain damage filming his next flick . . . "
The Enquirer must be digging out dust-covered stories from the bottom of its drawers, because it brings us the "Enquirer Exclusive" from FBI files claiming that "Steve Jobs Tried to Blow Up Apple HQ!" Is it really an exclusive if every other media outlet reported the same FBI files six years ago? I doubt it. What's more, Jobs never tried to blow up Apple's HQ. Yes, he allegedly phoned in a fake bomb threat to clear the Apple building at the time the board of directors was meeting to discuss firing him, which may be criminally stupid, but it's not the same as actually planting a bomb. Old news, told incorrectly.
The National Examiner joins in the fun with the "world exclusive" report that Princess "Diana's Killer Found!" Evidently international arms dealers, angered by Diana's campaign against land mines, put out the hit on her. Alright, I'll play along – who was her killer?
Explains the Globe: ". . . a mercenary and crack sniper known by codename Arrow." Right. Arms dealers hired a marksman to get Diana's driver drunk, persuade a gang of paparazzi to chase her at high speed, and tampered with the car's brakes? They probably did so for the same reason that I always hire a crack sniper to work as my car mechanic: sharpshooters always know their way around a carburetor. Makes perfect sense. And now Arrow has been "Found!" presumably we can put him behind bars? I won't hold my breath.
People magazine sticks to the facts, but dispenses with anything of interest in its cover story on Chip & Joanna Gaines' "Baby Joy!" Apparently the stars of TV's Fixer Upper have just had their fifth child. Honestly, I couldn't give a darn about their first four fixer-upper kids, and I don't feel any different about No.5 either.
At least we can be grateful there is only one People magazine this week. No such luck with Us, which brings us two equally lightweight issues. Comparing Meghan Markle to Princess Diana, this week's Us cover tells of "Meghan's Triumph – The New People's Princess," while next week's Us cover offers Reese Witherspoon saying of daughter Ava: "She's My Best Friend!" Yes, apparently that's going to be huge news next week. I can't wait.
Fortunately we have Us magazine's crack investigative team bringing us double the usual air-headed nonsense, telling us that Olivia Culpo and Brooke Burke both wore it best, that Mira Sorvino "would eat spaghetti marinara and chocolate cake" for her last meal on earth, that Eddie Cibrian secretly wants "to be a cowboy," that Nate Burkus and Jeremiah Brent carry monogrammed diapers in their three-month-old son's camouflage diaper bag, that Jackie Cruz "can't live without" her Gucci belt bag, and that the stars are just like us: they shop for home goods, hug their pets, go makeup-free, eat ice cream, relax in the shade, shop at the Family Dollar store (seriously, Shaquille O'Neal, did you really need to save a few cents?), test makeup, and grocery shop. Whew!
Onwards and downwards . . .