On Thursday, two morning show hosts, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's Morning Joe, reported that top White House staff members tried to strong-arm them into groveling to the president. If they didn't call the president, White House aides warned them, the National Enquirer would publish an ugly story about them. The two had been chummy with DJ Trump in the past, but have been harsh critics of him on their show. That apparently hurt his feelings so badly he had to ask someone else to bully them into apologizing. In a parallel universe, Donald Trump is a mean girl at a middle school whose life is a dumpster fire.
We're only one paragraph into this story, and it's even more bizarre than the spelling of the word "bizarre." Your first question may be, "Why on Earth would the leader of the free world care enough about the opinion of two morning show hosts enough to merit one of his underlings threatening them?" But really, we should be asking, "How can Trump kill a story in The National Enquirer? Does he have a stake in it?" Which may sound like something to ask in a poorly translated cartoon of reality, but here we are.
No, Trump doesn't have a controlling stake in The Enquirer, but he does appear to have a special relationship with its CEO, David Pecker. Pecker and Trump have been friends for a long time now, and the Enquirer consistently ran negative stories about Trump's opponents during the election while keeping an uncharacteristically sunny tone when it came to Trump. The Enquirer denies any impact of Trump-Pecker love on their editorial decisions. But this is a publication that rarely prints anything positive about anyone, and yet has been conspicuously rosy about Trump. Usually, their covers are just claims that a public figure has done something terrible and/or is dying. If they ran a cover on Mother Teresa, it would be "Her secret double life torturing orphans" and "Could she die AGAIN?" But Trump's covers are all suspiciously positive:
In fact, it's one of the only mid-sized media outlets that existed prior to 2008 that endorsed Trump's political run. Well, them and TMZ. In an uncharacteristic move for a celebrity gutter press outlet, TMZ dove into national politics by supporting Trump at every turn during the campaign and beyond. In fact, their coverage of Trump was so one-sided that one staffer characterized it as "gross." And that's from a person who goes to bed every night praying for a video of celebrities getting into a fight or a new set of leaked nudes from a starlet. Think about what it would take for that person to realize, "This has become too trashy for me." They draw their line on a planet millions of light years away, and somehow this crossed it.
Now, I'm not saying that we here at Cracked are the absolute pinnacle of investigative journalism. I'm aware that our equivalent of the Watergate scandal would be a compelling argument that Jafar was the assumed identity of Salazar Slytherin after leaving Hogwarts for the Middle East. But while we have a deep love of pop culture, we do at least have to fact-check the topics we write on. (If I'd misspelled "Slytherin" above, I would have been beaten within an inch of my life by the editorial staff.) That simply isn't the case with tabloids like The National Enquirer and TMZ, whose one and only goal is to create an entertaining facsimile of the news. They operate in a space where the accuracy of a statement isn't even a consideration.
"Why are tabloids suddenly mixing politics into their coverage of how Brad and Angelina are divvying up their secret alien sex cult?" you might ponder as you begin to forget which reality you actually call home. It isn't a coincidence that tabloids are supporting Trump, the reality-star-turned-president. Let's not forget that he used to call Page Six under a phony name and give them tips pretending to be a publicist. He's a tabloid person. He's most at home with the tabloids because he entered politics from the tabloid dimension. Past presidents merely adopted the bullshit. He was born in it, molded by it. Tabloids are how he thinks, talks, and probably how he cries out during sex. "EXPOSED! YOU WON'T BELIEVE I'M TOUCHING YOUR BOOBS."
And that's the point here: Our reality keeps splitting because we're being invaded by a force that doesn't really tell the truth and doesn't really lie -- the very idea of the truth is alien to it. To Donald Trump, there is only what is convenient to say and what isn't. It would be supremely stupid for a president to threaten two morning show hosts over an apology phone call, but that's only if you believe there is one reality that endures over time. If you run a tabloid that is never expected to be consistent from one issue to the next, or to make accurate predictions, or to print retractions when you get something wrong, if you see history as rearranging itself whenever you recite the incantation "FAKE NEWS," then there is no reason not to just live in whatever reality is most convenient at the moment. Of course Donald Trump, The National Enquirer and TMZ are in bed together. They share the same infinitely malleable worldview. To the rest of us, it's going to be a long road until we go Twelve Monkeys crazy.
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