Relationship between Trump, Enquirer goes beyond headlines
By DAVID BAUDER and JEFF HORWITZ
Associated Press Writers
Thursday, August 23
NEW YORK (AP) — The plea deal reached by Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen has laid bare a relationship between the president and the publisher of the National Enquirer that goes well beyond the tabloid’s screaming headlines.
Besides detailing the tabloid’s involvement in payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to keep quiet about alleged affairs with Trump, court papers showed how David Pecker, a longtime friend of the president and head of Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., offered to help Trump stave off negative stories during the 2016 campaign.
Court papers say that Pecker “offered to help deal with negative stories about (Trump’s) relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”
The accusations threaten Pecker’s company, American Media Inc., both legally and in the court of public opinion.
The relationship between Trump and the Enquirer has been cozy for decades. Former National Enquirer employees who spoke to the AP said that negative stories about Trump were dead on arrival dating back to when he starred on NBC’s reality show “The Apprentice.”
In 2010, at Cohen’s urging, the National Enquirer began promoting a potential Trump presidential candidacy, referring readers to a pro-Trump website Cohen helped create. With Cohen’s involvement, the publication began questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace and American citizenship in print, an effort that Trump promoted for several years, former staffers said.
The Enquirer endorsed Trump for president in 2016, the first time it had ever officially backed a candidate. In the news pages, Trump’s coverage was so favorable that the New Yorker magazine said the Enquirer embraced him “with sycophantic fervor.”
Positive headlines for Trump were matched by negative stories about his opponents: an Enquirer front page from 2015 said “Hillary: 6 Months to Live” and accompanied the headline with a picture of an unsmiling Clinton with bags under her eyes.
Campaign finance laws generally prohibit corporations from cooperating with a campaign to affect an election, though media organizations are exempted from that restriction so long as they’re performing a journalistic function. AMI’s problem, said campaign finance expert Richard Hasen, is that Cohen’s prosecutors don’t appear to think hush money payments qualify as journalism.
“AMI and Pecker have not been charged, but they might be charged,” he said. Though a novel legal case might be made that paying sources for silence is in fact standard tabloid reporting practice, he said, Cohen’s plea agreement doesn’t give that theory much weight.
The Cohen case outlined a tabloid strategy known as “catch and kill,” or paying for exclusive rights to someone’s story with no intention of publishing it in order to keep it out of the news altogether.
McDougal reached a deal to be paid $150,000 for her story about an alleged affair in 2006 and 2007, prosecutors said. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, negotiated a $130,000 payment through Cohen for her story — and both were successfully buried until after the campaign.
When negotiations lagged on the Clifford deal shortly before the election, her lawyer told the Enquirer that she was close to reaching a deal with another outlet to tell her story. An editor at the tabloid, in turn, texted Cohen to say something needed to be done “or it could look awfully bad for everyone,” according to court papers.
The deal was quickly reached, and Cohen agreed to make the payment.
In court on Tuesday, Cohen said that he had agreed to work with Pecker to make the deals “in coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office” — clearly Trump.
AMI did not respond to requests for comment.
The accusations raise the question — can the Enquirer, indeed all of American Media, really be considered a media company when people become more familiar with its political activities?
Through an aggressive acquisition strategy, AMI has lately cornered a large part of the celebrity publication market. Besides tabloids like the Enquirer, Star and Globe, it also owns Us Weekly, In Touch and Life & Style.
“I think AMI is probably squirming,” said Jerry George, a former editor at the Enquirer, on Wednesday. “They’ve painted themselves into a corner.”
Despite a reputation for fanciful stories, the Enquirer has a history of some aggressive political reporting; the tabloid’s stories on John Edwards and Gary Hart helped end the chances of both men becoming president.
The Enquirer’s willingness to bend journalistic rules and potentially the law on Trump’s behalf tarnishes that reputation, George said.
And while a juicy political scandal involving adult film star, hush money and the President of the United States might seem like ideal tabloid fare, the Enquirer is steering clear. On the tabloid’s web site Wednesday, the emphasis was on celebrity news — an old story about feuding on the set of “Golden Girls” and squabbling between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Horwitz reported from Washington.
Confederate monuments to get slavery, civil rights context
By MARTHA WAGGONER and GARY D. ROBERTSON
Thursday, August 23
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Three Confederate monuments on the North Carolina Capitol grounds will feature signs with historical context about slavery and civil rights, following a decision by a state historical panel that said a monument honoring African-Americans also should be added
The state Historical Commission decided Wednesday against moving the monuments, despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s request to do so. Members said even if they supported relocating the monuments, a state law means they must stay in place.
The commission voted 10-1 to reinterpret the three monuments with adjacent signs about “the consequences of slavery” and the “subsequent oppressive subjugation of African American people.” It urged construction of a memorial to black citizens, which has been discussed for years, as soon as possible. The group of academics, amateur historians and preservationists also acknowledged that the monuments erected decades after the Civil War near the old 1840 Capitol are imbalanced toward the Civil War and the Confederacy.
After the decision, Cooper decried a 2015 law passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature that sharply restricts where state and local government officials can relocate such memorials and all but bars their permanent removal. He also said the toppling of the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam” on Monday night at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was an example of what happens when people feel their leaders won’t act on their concerns.
“The actions that toppled Silent Sam bear witness to the strong feelings many North Carolinians have about Confederate monuments. I don’t agree with or condone the way that monument came down, but protesters concluded that their leaders would not – could not — act on the frustration and pain it caused,” Cooper said.
Commission member Samuel Dixon, part of a five-member committee that recommended the added context, said the 2015 law limited what the commission could do.
“I believe the monuments need to tell the truth and based upon the law that we have today I do not think we can move them,” said Dixon, an Edenton lawyer. “But I think we can … tell a better story and tell a full and inclusive story.” Dixon voted with the majority.
But commission member and Bennett College professor Valerie Johnson, who is black, said removal would be appropriate because of the monuments’ links to the Jim Crow era.
“The monuments represent the commitment of North Carolina to uphold the Confederacy. These monuments are a continual visual presence of the ideology of white supremacy,” said Johnson, who voted against portions of the commission resolution. “Removal is not erasure. It is creating a space that reflects all North Carolinians and their contributions to our state.”
The commission’s vote came about 36 hours after the “Silent Sam” statue was toppled. The bronze figure of an anonymous soldier was pulled down from its stone pedestal by protesters who used banners to mask their action.
The statue had been under constant, costly police surveillance after being vandalized in recent months. Many students, faculty and alumni argued that “Silent Sam” symbolized racism and asked officials to take it down.
Republican legislative leaders praised the committee’s recommendations and its civil discourse in contrast to what Senate leader Phil Berger called “mob rule” in Chapel Hill.
The 2015 law “provides for collaborative solutions to use our state’s history to unite, rather than divide, our citizens,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a release.
One woman who interrupted Wednesday’s meeting by shouting was led out and put in a police car. Police kept a heavy presence around the building and the monuments.
Frank Powell with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in North Carolina couldn’t say whether the group would support the “contextualizing” of the monuments, saying he had concerns about the possible wording. Commissioners repeatedly emphasized that slavery caused the Civil War, but Powell said that oversimplifies what were its many causes.
Still, Powell said, the commission’s decision was “the best outcome we could have hoped for under the circumstances.” The commission and a state department will decide on the re-interpretation language.
The monuments on the Capitol grounds include the Capitol Confederate Monument, dedicated in May 1895; the Henry Lawson Wyatt Monument, dedicated in June 1912; and the North Carolina Confederacy Monument, dedicated in June 1914.
Cooper asked last September that they be moved to the Bentonville Battlefield site about 45 miles (72 kilometers) away. His request followed a violent white nationalist rally over a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the toppling of a Confederate statue outside a Durham County government building by demonstrators.
Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc
Colts’ longtime announcer retired after using racial slur
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
Thursday, August 23
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An off-the-air racial slur prompted the immediate retirement of longtime Indianapolis Colts radio voice Bob Lamey last weekend, team officials and Lamey’s attorney confirmed Wednesday.
Local attorney James Voyles issued a statement acknowledging the 80-year-old Lamey used “inappropriate” language during a conversation with a friend at a local radio station and apologized immediately.
“Bob does want to acknowledge that while repeating a story while off-the-air last week to a friend at a local radio station, he used an inappropriate word that had been used in the story,” Voyles’ statement read. “Bob immediately apologized to the people involved for the comment and would hope that this error in judgment would not tarnish his long-held reputation in the sports community where he has been known as an accurate and passionate reporter.”
A report on a local television’s station website, WTHR.com, claimed an employee at Emmis Communications heard the comment and reported it to the radio station’s human resources department, which then contacted the Colts.
It’s not the first time Lamey’s words have caused controversy. But what happened last week the Colts found intolerable. The announcement of Lamey’s retirement after 31 years with the Colts came Sunday.
He was replaced on Monday night’s radio broadcast by Matt Taylor.
Initially, the Colts attempted to paint his departure as the celebration of a Hall of Fame broadcasting career that spanned five decades. But after word leaked about the conversation and Voyles issued his public statement Wednesday morning, the Colts immediately took a different tack.
“In regards to Bob Lamey … first and foremost, the Colts deplore and do not tolerate the use of any racial slur — in any context,” Colts chief operating officer Pete Ward wrote in an email. “Bob has had a long and storied history in our community, but he made a serious mistake. The Colts are deeply disappointed the incident took place and offer our sincerest regrets to all who were impacted by Bob’s lapse in judgment.”
Ward went on to say that the Colts only decided to comment after Lamey made his account.
Previously, there had been praise for Lamey as his retirement was announced on the weekend.
“Bob Lamey is a legend and icon,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said in Sunday’s release. “(His) name is synonymous with Indianapolis Colts football.”
Former players weighed in, too, as Lamey said simply “it’s time” to retire.
Players such as former punter Pat McAfee and right tackle Ryan Diem immediately weighed in on Twitter to praise Lamey. Reggie Wayne, the Colts’ second-leading receiver all-time, told local news station Fox 59 that Lamey was “the absolute best.”
Lamey’s previous outbursts included use of an expletive during a broadcast at the end of a Colts loss to the San Diego Chargers in September 2016. The next day he apologized to fans on the air and asked for their forgiveness.
He came close to uttering the same word during Indy’s come-from-behind win over New England in the 2006 AFC championship game after running back Dominic Rhodes lost the ball near the goal line.
“He fumbled the freakin’ football,” Lamey said before realizing teammate Jeff Saturday recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.
There was another off-the-air outburst in December 2010 when Peyton Manning threw four interceptions in a loss to Dallas. Lamey privately questioned whether the NFL had “figured out” Manning and contemplated whether he should be benched in favor of backup Curtis Painter.
But his most recent comments were too much for the Colts.
“Bob publicly acknowledged that last week he repeated an inappropriate word when telling a story,” Ward wrote. “He immediately apologized to the people who heard him use the word, and then promptly retired as the Colts play-by-play announcer.”
Lamey served in that capacity for 31 seasons, from 1984-91 and again from 1995-2017 and was a fixture on local airwaves since the mid-1970s.
He broadcast games for the city’s hockey team, the WHA’s Racers, from 1974-77 — finishing those duties just before Wayne Gretzky joined the team. He served as the play-by-play man for the Indiana Pacers from 1977-84, and he also was part of the Indianapolis 500’s radio broadcast team for years.
For 23 years, Lamey served as the sports director for WIBC radio, and in 2008, Lamey was inducted into the Indiana Sports Broadcasters and Writers Hall of Fame in 2008.
Taylor, who has done sideline and studio work for the team, had taken over as the Colts’ play-by-play voice on the preseason broadcasts. Greg Rakestraw, another local radio announcer, will replace Taylor in the television booth.
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Returning the favor: Bengals’ Dalton donates to Buffalo
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, August 22
CINCINNATI (AP) — Whenever Andy Dalton is spotted by a Bills fan, he’ll hear another “thank you” for helping Buffalo break its long streak of playoff futility.
This weekend, Dalton and his foundation are saying “thank you” in return.
Dalton, his wife Jordan and their foundation will donate to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo while the Bengals are in town to play a preseason game on Sunday.
Dalton became one of the most popular sports figures in Buffalo on New Year’s Eve when his 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with 49 seconds left sent the Bengals to a 31-27 win in Baltimore. The fourth-down pass eliminated the Ravens and gave the Bills their first playoff appearance since 1999.
Buffalo’s playoff drought was the longest in the NFL and the longest among the four major professional sports in North America. Immediately, Dalton began getting donations to his foundation from fans in Buffalo. He’s been thanked in person countless times by Bills fans over the months.
“I’ve heard I should run for mayor,” Dalton said . “I’ve heard I’ll never have to pay for anything in Buffalo. So we’ll see.”
It wasn’t a fad. Donations continued after the Bills lost their playoff game against Jacksonville. So have the in-person shows of gratitude.
“If I go anywhere and there’s somebody from Buffalo, they’re going to come up to me and tell me they’re a Bills fan or they come from Buffalo or have some tie to Buffalo,” Dalton said. “That hasn’t gone away since the play happened.
“It’s really cool and crazy that it’s a completely different fan base that has a lot of love for me, and obviously for Tyler, too.”
On a fourth-and-12 play, Dalton found Boyd open just inside the Ravens 25-yard line. The receiver slipped through an attempted tackle on his way to the winning touchdown, which set off a wild celebration in the Buffalo locker room.
Dalton said that as of this week, his foundation has received 17,000 donations for more than $450,000 that can be traced to the Buffalo area. The Andy and Jordan Foundation helps seriously ill and physically challenged children.
Boyd estimates he has received more than $100,000 in donations that went to a youth sports league in his hometown of Clairton, Pennsylvania.
Dalton thinks the Bengals will be warmly welcomed Sunday when they take the field for the third preseason game. The teams have deepened their connection in the offseason: The Bengals traded with the Bills for left tackle Cordy Glenn and signed linebacker Preston Brown, and the Bills signed former Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron and center Russell Bodine.
“If you’re looking at social media, I think there will be a pretty good ovation,” Dalton said.
Bills coach Sean McDermott is touched by how fans have responded to Dalton, and also by how the Bengals quarterback is giving back to Buffalo.
“What a strong moment,” McDermott said. “It gives me chills just to think about it. So many times … you get, ‘Hey, this is this team and that team,’ and you kind of get on your own individual islands and everyone’s on their own island and team.
“But what a great testament to paying it forward and what Andy and his wife have decided to do and give back to our community that gave to them.”
FOCUS ON LINE: The right side of the Bengals’ offensive line struggled against the Cowboys last week, but coach Marvin Lewis was upbeat about it Wednesday, saying the line overall is much better than a year ago.
“I feel really good where we are, no doubt about it,” Lewis said.
MUM ON EIFERT: Lewis declined to tip his hand whether tight end Tyler Eifert would make his preseason debut in Buffalo. He had another back procedure last season and wasn’t cleared to practice when training camp opened. Eifert was one of only three active Bengals who didn’t get into the game at Dallas.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
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Column: Baseball is a mess, but Smoltz has ideas to fix it
By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Columnist
Wednesday, August 22
A lot of baseball fans are wondering what happened to the sport.
John Smoltz believes he knows. And he wants to do something about it.
The former Atlanta Braves great will get that chance as a member of the MLB competition committee that is looking into the problems facing the game. By the time spring training comes around next year there could be new rules helping to make baseball great again.
Here’s hoping they start with the universally hated shift.
“I think the shift is single-handedly killing the game because now you’ve got everybody lifting the ball over the shift,” Smoltz said. “If you were rewarded for hitting the ball and there was no shift you would have more action. You’d have guys not just basically trying to hit the ball over the fence.”
In a perfect world — and, of course the game has never been perfect — there would also be limits on pitching changes, the way players are put on the disabled list, and a number of other things.
But baseball has always been a slow game to adapt. While other leagues have been proactive in changing rules to stay relevant — especially in the new era of analytics — baseball tends not to change until circumstances finally lead to no other alternative.
That means that, at least for now, we have baseball as it is. And it’s not the sport Smoltz played for 21 years, the game that enshrined the pitcher into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2015.
“The game has gone to a very slow and stagnant pace,” Smoltz said. “It’s going to become unwatchable and I think that’s when you’re going to see both the commissioner and others in Major League Baseball trying to make changes to get the game back to its exciting form.”
Smoltz knows where he’s coming from. He’s not only one of the game’s greatest pitchers — one of only two pitchers to ever have both a 20-game winning season and one with more than 50 saves — he’s also a student of baseball and a broadcaster with both the MLB Network and Fox Sports.
That’s why the conversation co-host Jim Litke and I had with him on the PodcastOne Sports Now podcast this week was so enlightening. Smoltz not only understands the problems of the game from the fan’s perspective, but the player’s too.
He’s worried fans will desert the game, yes. But he’s also worried about players becoming expendable because of analytics, which he believes will not only cost them money but shorten their careers.
Up to now players have largely resisted any changes in the game, secure in the thought they’re getting their share of the cash cow. But that could change, Smoltz says, as they become more aware of what is happening — especially on the pitching side — because of analytics.
“It’s hard pressed for me to think that at the end of the day this is not just a cheaper version of baseball,” he said. “You can operate your team paying guys less and utilizing them in their younger years when they’re not making so much. Burn and churn and just keep shuffling the deck in the bullpen. But in the long term it’s not sustainable.”
Also not sustainable, Smoltz believes, is the blind allegiance to analytics that pervades baseball these days. While information is essential to the game, he said it should never come at the cost of basic baseball wisdom collected over more than a century of playing the game.
That allegiance likely cost the Los Angeles Dodgers a World Series last year. And while the Houston Astros also relied heavily on analytics, manager A.J. Hinch used his gut when it mattered most to put the Astros in a position to succeed.
Smoltz also noted that the most recent World Series winners were teams that put the ball in play and put pressure on the other team’s defense. Those teams went against the current trend of uppercut swings for the fences and pitchers who throw as hard as they can until they can’t throw any more.
“Organizations don’t care (now) if you strike out, they just don’t want you hitting the ball on the ground,” Smoltz said. “All pitchers are trying to throw as hard as they can above the belt. That’s what you’re going to get, swings and misses, strikeouts and homers. Until a team proves me wrong you can’t win the World Series doing that.”
You also can’t win fans either, and who can blame them. Hitters are on a pace this year to strike out more than they get hits, and the average time between balls in play is nearing four minutes.
The Cubs exemplified that this week by scoring just one run in five straight games — and each run was a solo home run. In five games the Cubs had 35 hits — and a whopping 46 strikeouts.
The game needs to change, and fast. Luckily there are people like Smoltz who know ways to do just that.
Hopefully, the rest of baseball is listening.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
Listen to PodcastOne Sports Now at https://bit.ly/2MMkWuW