President Trump has a bit of an obsession with Time magazine. Recently The Washington Post reported that Trump created a fake Time magazine cover, featuring himself alongside laudatory headlines, and put it on display at eight of his properties. Fake news, it seems, isn’t a problem if Trump is in control.
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) June 27, 2017
Soon, Trump may not have to go to such great lengths to generate positive coverage in Time or any of the other publications owned by Time Inc.
Two outspoken allies of Trump are positioning themselves to take over Time Inc. One is Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who bankrolls a SuperPAC promoting Trump’s agenda and has a major stake hold in Breitbart. The other is David Pecker, the longtime CEO of American Media, Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, and personal friend of Trump.
Last week, Trump attacked Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Bryzinski, including deeply personal attacks on Bryzinksi’s intelligence and appearance. Scarborough and Bryzinski responded by saying that top White House staffers had threatened them, saying the National Enquirer would publish a damaging article about their romantic relationship unless Scarborough called Trump and apologize for his critical coverage.
Trump denied the accusation — even though Scarborough says he has the texts to prove it — but in the process mistakenly admitted to having some control over what the National Enquirer publishes.
Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
A long-time fan of tabloid news, Trump developed a friendship with National Enquirer owner David Pecker. Despite the magazine’s long history of scrutinizing celebrities, socialites, and politicians, the magazine has remained partial to Trump. The Wall Street Journal reported that the National Enquirer purchased a story from former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who alleged she had an affair with Trump during his marriage to Melania. Pecker paid McDougal $150,000 dollars but never published the story. It was an apparent effort to keep McDougal from talking to other media outlets.
The National Enquirer even endorsed Trump for president, a first for the magazine, while also trashing his rivals like Clinton, who was greeted with this front-page headline on the day before the election: “Hillary: Corrupt! Racist! Criminal!”
With the tabloid business struggling, Pecker is looking to expand his business empire by acquiring Time Inc., which includes Time, Fortune, and People. Just before Time Inc. separated from Time Warner in 2013, Trump tweeted a series of tweets suggesting his friend David Pecker be named CEO.
David Pecker would be a brilliant choice as CEO of TIME Magazine — nobody could bring it back like David! http://t.co/lLMjQh2iz9
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2013
.@TIME Magazine should definitely pick David Pecker to run things over there – he'd make it exciting and win awards!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2013
In a recent New Yorker article, Jeffrey Toobin speculates Pecker will try buy Time Inc., but not on his own. Pecker would need a deep-pocked business partner to join him. Someone who already has those deep-pockets, however, is Robert Mercer, who recently purchased 2.5 million shares of Time Inc.
The Mercer family is closely tied with Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist in the White House. Bannon has served as the Mercer’s unofficial political adviser, encouraging Robert Mercer to invest $10 million into Breitbart News, Bannon’s online news site that relentlessly promoted Trump’s candidacy.
The Mercers also donated over $20 million directly to Republican candidates and PACs in 2016. The family gives a roughly similar amount on an annual basis to far-right organizations. Mercer’s daughter Rebekah is now leading a SuperPAC created to support Trump’s agenda.
If Pecker or Mercer were to gain control of Time Inc., it could tilt several major publication in a strongly pro-Trump direction. The next time Trump is looking for a flattering magazine cover to hang up at his golf clubs, he might not have to make it himself.