Turning Tables on Tattletales: Exposing ‘Sources’ on National Enquirer With AM-Who’s Hot
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The National Enquirer has been tattling about celebrities for decades, enticing millions of supermarket shoppers with tantalizing headlines about lustful, jilted or diseased stars.
Now, inquiring minds are witnessing the tabloid under siege.
In recent weeks, CBS-TV’s ″60 Minutes″ did an expose, Los Angeles magazine uncovered a sources scandal, and Elizabeth Taylor and Roseanne Barr have filed lawsuits.
But National Enquirer Editor Iain Calder said last week the tabloid’s millions of readers - ″largest circulation of any paper in America″ - needn’t worry.
Readers can expect more juicy headlines on the order of ″Princess Di Pregnant, How She Used Food and Sex Techniques To Make Sure It’s A Girl.″
″You won’t see any difference in the way we cover stories,″ Calder said from his Lantana, Fla., office. ″It sort of goes with the territory. Every few years you suddenly get attacked.
″After all these stories are run, within a few days, the dust will settle.″
The current wave of Enquirer-bashing started with the October issue of Los Angeles magazine, which said the tabloid paid sources for stories they had nothing to do with.
The National Enquirer, with a circulation of 4.1 million, maintains it scrupulously investigates stories before publication.
″Basically, what your lawyers tell you is, ’Do you believe it and have you checked it?‴ Calder said.
Rod Lurie, who wrote the magazine article, said he obtained a 10-page list of Enquirer payments and sources. Many of the sources insisted they never supplied the information they were credited with, according to Lurie. Calder said the document was stolen.
″One by one by one by one, they all told me the same thing. They were paid for stories they had nothing to do with, yet, they were ’sources,‴ Lurie said.
One of those sources was Stuart Goldman, a writer charged with unauthorized entry into a Fox Broadcasting Co. computer in an unrelated case. He was identified as an investigative reporter in a ″60 Minutes″ piece on the Enquirer.
″I received about 12 checks for stories I didn’t work on,″ Goldman said. ″When I questioned it, they said, ’Don’t worry about it. You were probably shorted on other stories.‴
The Enquirer maintains its accuracy has been unfairly questioned.
″The phony sources story is ridiculous,″ Calder said. ″If we wanted to run phony stories using phony sources, we wouldn’t pay the amount of money that we pay for stories that are eventually killed.
″For every 10 stories, nine are killed. More than $850,000 is paid to free-lancers each year on stories killed.″
Lurie was amused by Calder’s response. ″For Mr. Calder to be questioning the credibility of my sources is ironic. He’s been paying good money to these sources for a long time.″
Calder believes he knows why the tabloid is under siege.
″There are a group of powerful celebrities that have put together a war chest and gone to Gavin de Becker to go after us,″ said Calder, who wouldn’t name names.
De Becker, a security consultant whose 120 clients include such stars as Michael J. Fox, Cher and Miss Barr, was one of 65 people interviewed by Lurie.
″No, there aren’t a specific group of clients bent on destroying the Enquirer,″ said de Becker. ″The idea of 100 major media figures gathering in a gymnasium ... shouting ‘Give me the head of the National Enquirer’ is absolutely ridiculous.″
But Cher attorney John Forbess predicted more legal woes for the tabloid.
″I think celebrities in general are getting more and more fed up with the outrageous nature of the articles being written,″ Forbess said. ″I think more lawsuits will be filed.
″With sources being paid for stories they had nothing to do with, attorneys will think again about filing a lawsuit.″
Carol Burnett, whose $1.6 million judgment against the supermarket tabloid was reduced to $800,000 on appeal, said her lawsuit apparently didn’t have much effect on Enquirer reporting ″because it’s still going on.″
Just last month, Miss Taylor filed a $20 million libel suit against the National Enquirer. The suit said Miss Taylor was hospitalized with near-fatal pneumonia when a front-page headline June 12 screamed: ″Liz Docs Furious. She’s Boozing It Up In The Hospital.″
And Miss Barr and husband Tom Arnold filed a $35 million federal racketeering lawsuit earlier this month against the National Enquirer and Star tabloids, both owned by New York-based Macfadden Holdings Inc., over the publication of love letters.
″The line in the sand has been drawn here, and the Enquirer and celebrities are going to be doing some battles in the ’90s,″ Lurie said.