Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s airing the tabloid conspiracy theory that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father associated with JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald put his cozy relationship with the National Enquirer, which has paid dividends in 2016, in the spotlight yet again.
Cruz fired back Tuesday at the Oswald “scoop,” which the New York City-based supermarket tabloid published as its cover story, accusing Trump of using the notorious tabloid as his personal “hit piece to smear anybody and everybody” in the 2016 race. He noted that the paper, which is run by Trump’s friend David Pecker, has also attacked his family: in late March, an off-the-wall Enquirer story made unsubstantiated claims that Cruz had extramarital affairs with five women, including a former staffer.
It’s widely known that Pecker, the Enquirer CEO, is a personal friend of Trump’s, a relationship an anonymous Enquirer source told New York magazine is “very close.” The tabloid endorsed Trump’s campaign for President in March, which appeared to be the first time it had ever endorsed a presidential candidate.
Sources echoed those sentiments to the New York Daily News, with one unnamed person saying because “Trump is a big friend of Pecker” there wouldn’t be any “John Edwards-type investigations,” referring to the Enquirer’s breaking news of the former Democratic presidential candidate’s affair, which effectively ended Edwards’ political career.
Trump also tweeted Pecker would be a “brilliant choice” to service as CEO of Time magazine in 2013.
When the Enquirer’s Cruz sex scandal story hit, Trump denied any involvement but didn’t go as far as to torpedo the story about his rival “Lyin’ Ted.”
“I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week’s issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it,” he wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post. “I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer.”
He went to say while the tabloid was “right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”
While the Enquirer has repeatedly hammered Trump’s GOP opponents—and claimed Democrat Hillary Clinton is on her deathbed—Trump has been spared the tabloid’s scorn.
After Trump planted seeds on the campaign trail last fall that then-rival Dr. Ben Carson “almost killed a guy” and had numerous medical malpractice suits lurking in his past, the Enquirer dropped a cover story that blared: “Bungling Surgeon Ben Carson Left Sponge in Patient’s Brain!” New York Magazine reported the Trump campaign was a source for the Carson story; both the campaign and Pecker denied that account.
Early in the GOP race, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush found himself in the paper’s crosshairs, too. In June 2015, when Bush was still viewed as the party frontrunner in a crowded race, the Enquirer claimed Democrat Hillary Clinton had intel that Bush once ran in Miami cocaine smuggling circles and cheated on his wife with an ex-Playboy Bunny.
Three months later, the tab published photos of Bush’s daughter Noelle, “a former druggie,” purportedly “loafing” on a smoke break at work. The story described her as “overweight” and “dowdily dressed.”
And the day before the Republican primary in Wisconsin, the paper dropped a “presidential shocker” that claimed Cruz had ties to the “D.C. Madam,” the head of a high-rent escort service.
By contrast, The Enquirer has for years celebrated the real estate mogul on its pages. In 2015, the paper ran a three-part series penned by Trump as a chummy look at “The Man Behind The Legend!” Earlier this year, the tabloid heaped praise on “the man who has energized millions of voters with his no-nonsense and businesslike run for the White House” and claimed Trump has “quietly donated a huge chunk of his fortune to charity.”