Without the slightest sense of irony or self-awareness, the National Enquirer gives away the secret to its journalistic excellence in this week's remarkable story under the headline: "How To Lie & Get Away With It."
In an article that could easily have been penned by Enquirer fan Donald Trump, the rag proclaims: "Face it – honesty isn't always the best policy!"
Its advice, borne out by decades of experience:
• "Sprinkle in some truth" to make lies "more plausible."
• "Keep it simple" without too many facts to complicate matters.
• "Play to your audience" by capitalizing on their knowledge and fears.
• "Don't show remorse or guilt."
• "Be prepared" and plan your lie in advance, not on the fly.
Following these sterling precepts, the Enquirer tells us that "Evil ISIS Plots Kidnap Horror" for pregnant Duchess of Sussex Meghan, with terrorist plans to cut her "unborn child from her womb!" The "plot" is nothing more than online postings on "terrorist chat forums" – presumably where terrorists gather online to discuss their favorite Star Trek episodes and debate which comic book heroes deserve their own movies. These chat forums allegedly include a photo of Meghan "with a blood red 'X' over her stomach." And we all know what a red "X" means: Cut the baby out! What else could it possibly mean?
The Enquirer piles on to the young Royals with its story "Harry & Meghan Cheat Death in Sabotaged Jet!" Their private jet was struck by lightning last week, and the rag claims: "Terrorists planted device to attract lightning bolts & blow up plane." An unnamed "highly placed British counterterrorism expert" tells the Enquirer that the jet would never have been hit without being sabotaged – but this is errant nonsense. Aviation experts believe that every commercial plane is hit by lightning at least once a year, and modern jets are designed to safely conduct lightning with no ill effect. It's a classic case of the Enquirer sprinkling in some truth and playing to its audience's ignorance.
The Enquirer in recent weeks has backed away from its slavish open adulation of Donald Trump since its corporate CEO David Pecker was granted immunity in exchange for cooperating in the investigation of the president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen for providing details on Trump's hush-money deals. But that hasn't dampened the rag's ardor for access to the White House, and this week the Enquirer places its lips firmly on the ample rear end of Fox News pundit Sean Hannity, known to regularly talk with and offer his expert guidance to Trump.
Under the banner of a "World Exclusive Interview," the Enquirer cover story brings us: "Sean Hannity: What Nobody Knows About Me!"
Does the Enquirer reveal Hannity's dealings as Michael Cohen's infamous "third client"? Do they expose the truth behind allegations that Hannity sexually harassed a Fox News guest?
Don't be ridiculous.
"Sean Hannity: Why I Love America!" is the headline above the three-page spread, as the Enquirer lifts the lid on his "inspiring rags to riches story." It's the story that "Nobody Knows," unless they read Enquirer stablemate the Globe, which wrote its own sycophantic puff piece on Hannity only three months ago.
"Fox News host Sean Hannity is living proof the American dream is alive and well!" begins the article that may in future years be studied by journalism students as an exemplar of balance, integrity and impartiality. "With determination, grit and boundless energy," the "dedicated family man" built a $200 million fortune, and admits: "I feel very blessed."
This is the sort of exposé that drives people to buy the Enquirer in their millions. Oh – my apologies. It's been quite a few years since Enquirer readership was in the millions. The most recent figures show circulation plummeting 18% last year to 265,000 readers, following a 15% fall the previous year. Making America Great Again evidently hasn't been so good for their bottom line, with parent company American Media Inc losing $72 million for the fiscal year ending in March. Strange – I don't recall reading about that in the Enquirer.
Branding Hannity "The Most Powerful Man on TV," the Enquirer gives him a page to hit back at Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who in a recent book reportedly accused the Fox News host of "using fear over facts" to influence viewers. Hannity retaliates, branding Senator Sasse "a con man, a liar, a fake and a phony!" Sounds like Sasse should be writing for the Enquirer.
The Globe continues writing about the British Royal Family as if they are characters in a soap opera, this week devoting its cover to the unsubstantiated claim that Duchess Meghan told Prince Charles that his wife Camilla has been having a secret affair with a Balmoral Palace gamekeeper for the past five years. It's been three years since the Globe reported that Camilla was cheating on Charles with an unnamed TV star, so clearly Globe reporters have been reading Lady Chatterly's Lover and decided that a gamekeeper makes a better fictional lover. Meghan supposedly saw a photo of Camilla and her lover – who would possibly show her such a thing, and why has no such photo ever appeared in the Royal-hungry tabloids? – and during an argument she told Charles that his wife was cheating. This story beggars credulity, but does a good job of hitting many of the Enquirer rules for story construction.
On a more serious note, the Globe reports "Elvis Haunting Wayne Newton!" Apparently the Las Vegas entertainer hears an "inner voice" that helps him pick songs for his show, and says "there's no question in my mind" that it's Presley speaking to him from beyond the grave. Because dead Elvis has nothing better to do in the afterlife than help Wayne Newton's song selection. You'd think the bigger story would be the fact that the tabloids have finally conceded that Elvis is dead, and not living in disguise in middle America.
To our rescue comes the National Examiner, with its front-page exclusive: "Michael Jackson Back From The Dead!" The gloved one has been "secretly kept in hyperbaric chamber for nine years," and "revived by cutting-edge science." Well, it would be, wouldn't it.
"Michael never fully expired," reveals an unnamed source, clearly borrowing from The Princess Bride playbook that one can be "mostly dead but not completely dead."
The good news: Jackson was "revived 18 months ago – and secretly working on songs and dance moves." Will he look like the zombies who danced alongside him in Thriller? We can only hope. Sadly, the Examiner makes no mention of the inevitable billion dollar lawsuit that must be coming as a revived Jackson sues his heirs and estate to reclaim his fortune.
Fortunately we have Us magazine's crack team of investigative reporters to tell us that Elizabeth Hurley wore it best, actor Sam Heughan's "favorite number is 5," that Today Show host Savannah Guthrie carries keys, ponytail holders and Tic-Tacs in her Clare V. bag, and that the stars are just like us: they drink coffee, buy groceries, and feed parking meters – just like they do in Us mag every week. I can't help thinking that some desperate celebrities must stand around feeding parking meters and sitting in coffeeshops all day in the hope that paparazzi will snap their picture.
Onwards and downwards . . .