Puneet Varma (Editor)

National Enquirer

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Editor in Chief

First issue

Total circulation(2016)

American Media Inc

The National Enquirer (also commonly known as the Enquirer) is an American supermarket tabloid published by American Media Inc (AMI). Founded in 1926, the tabloid has gone through a number of changes over the years.


The Enquirer openly acknowledges that it will pay sources for tips, a practice generally disapproved of by the mainstream press.

The tabloid has struggled with declining circulation figures because of competition from glossy tabloid publications.

In May 2014, American Media announced a decision to shift the headquarters of the National Enquirer from Florida, where it had been located since 1971, back to New York City, where it originally began as The New York Enquirer in 1926.


In 1926, William Griffin, a protégé of William Randolph Hearst, founded the paper as The New York Evening Enquirer, a Sunday afternoon broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout New York City, using money lent to Griffin by Hearst. As partial payment of his loan, Hearst asked Griffin to use the Enquirer as a proving ground for new ideas. Hearst took the ideas that worked in his successful publications; the less successful ideas stayed with the Enquirer, and as a result the Enquirer's sales never soared. During the 1930s and 1940s, it became a voice for isolationism and pro-fascist propaganda. The paper was indicted along with Griffin under the Smith Act for sedition by a grand jury in 1942 for subverting the morale of US troops via to Griffin's editorials against US military involvement in World War II. The charges were later dropped.

By 1952, the paper's circulation had fallen to 17,000 copies a week and it was purchased by Generoso Pope Jr., the son of Generoso Pope, the founder of Il Progresso, New York's Italian language daily newspaper. It has been alleged that Mafia boss Frank Costello provided Pope the money for the purchase in exchange for the Enquirer's promise to list lottery numbers and to refrain from all mention of Mafia activities.

In 1953, Pope revamped the format from a broadsheet to a sensationalist tabloid. The paper's editorial content became so salacious that Griffin was forced by the Mayor, Robert F. Wagner Jr., to resign from the city's Board of Higher Education in 1954. In 1957, Pope changed the name of the newspaper to The National Enquirer and changed its scope to national stories of sex and scandal. Pope worked tirelessly in the 1950s and 1960s to increase the circulation and broaden the tabloid's appeal. In the late 1950s and through most of the 1960s, the Enquirer was known for its gory and unsettling headlines and stories such as: "I Cut Out Her Heart and Stomped on It" (Sept. 8, 1963) and "Mom Boiled Her Baby and Ate Her" (1962). At this time the paper was sold on newsstands and in drugstores only. Pope stated he got the idea for the format and these gory stories from seeing people congregate around auto accidents. By 1966, circulation had risen to one million.

Pope pioneered the idea of selling magazines at supermarket checkouts. In order to get into the supermarkets, Pope completely changed the format of the paper in late 1967 by dropping all the gore and violence and instead focusing on more benign topics like celebrities, the occult and UFOs.

In 1971, Pope moved the headquarters from New York to Lantana, Florida. In 1999, it relocated south again, but this time only 15 miles to Boca Raton, Florida. In 1974, The National Enquirer began running Bill Hoest's Bumper Snickers, a cartoon series about cars and drivers, collected by Signet into a paperback reprint two years later.

During most of the 1970s and 1980s, The National Enquirer sponsored the placement of the largest decorated Christmas tree in the world at its Lantana, Florida headquarters in what became an annual tradition. A tree was shipped in mid-autumn from the Pacific Northwest by rail and off-loaded by crane onto the adjacent Enquirer property. Every night during the Christmas season, thousands of visitors would come to see the tree. This would grow into one of south Florida's most celebrated and spectacular events. Although tremendously expensive, this was Pope's "Pet Project" and his "Christmas present" to the local community. The tradition passed into history when he died in 1988.

By this time, The National Enquirer empire included Weekly World News, and Distribution Services, Inc. The surviving owners, including Pope's widow, Lois, sold the company to a partnership of Macfadden Publishing and Boston Ventures for $412 million. Soon after, the company bought the Enquirer's main competition, The Star, from Rupert Murdoch. The combined interests were controlled by a newly formed company, American Media Inc (AMI).

Sarah Palin story

The National Enquirer claimed to have an exclusive account of the pregnancy of Bristol Palin, the daughter of Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and former Republican nominee for Vice President:

...The Republican governor's announcement about her daughter's pregnancy came hours after The Enquirer informed her representatives and family members of Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol's child, that we were aware of the pregnancy and were going to break the news. In a preemptive strike Palin released the news, creating political shockwaves...

The National Enquirer was also preparing to publish a story (in the September 15, 2008 issue) alleging that Palin had an affair with her husband's business partner, Brad Hanson.

Answering John McCain's threat of a lawsuit, a spokesman for the paper, in a statement to The Huffington Post, declared:

The National Enquirer's coverage of a vicious war within Sarah Palin's extended family includes several newsworthy revelations, including the resulting incredible charge of an affair plus details of family strife when the Governor's daughter revealed her pregnancy. Following our John Edwards' exclusives, our political reporting has obviously proven to be more detail-oriented than the McCain campaign's vetting process. Despite the McCain camp's attempts to control press coverage they find unfavorable, The Enquirer will continue to pursue news on both sides of the political spectrum.

John Edwards story

In August 2008, in an interview with ABC News, former Presidential candidate John Edwards admitted having an extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter but denied fathering her child. Edwards had earlier made false denials of the affair which was first reported on in the Enquirer. In October 2007, the Enquirer ran a story about the 2006 affair with Hunter, a filmmaker hired by the Edwards political team, although Edwards dismissed the story as "completely untrue, ridiculous" and "false." In July 2008, the Enquirer ran an article claiming to have caught the former North Carolina Senator visiting Hunter, and their alleged illegitimate child at a hotel in Los Angeles. The article did not include any corroborating photos. Fox News interviewed an unnamed security guard who claimed to have witnessed a confrontation between Edwards and the Enquirer staff members.

In 2010 there was some speculation that the Enquirer might receive a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of Edwards. President of the United States Donald Trump said that the Enquirer should be "respected" for its investigation, and questioned why the tabloid was not given the award. The San Francisco Examiner wrote, "It galls most mainstream newspaper editors that a tawdry tabloid could be considered for their most vaunted prize. It's like nominating a porn flick for an Oscar."

Anthrax attack

A photo editor, Bob Stevens, of The National Enquirer's parent company, AMI, received a poisonous letter with anthrax spores, in Boca Raton, Florida, and was the first person to die as a result of the 2001 anthrax attacks after he opened the envelope. The entire AMI office complex in Boca Raton was closed, and remained fenced off for two years after the attack; AMI moved its headquarters to another building in Boca Raton.

During the same episode, another AMI staffer, Ernesto Blanco, was hospitalized with symptoms of exposure to anthrax bacteria. "The 73-year-old mailroom worker nearly died of inhalation anthrax, but has since recovered," the New York Post reported Nov. 9, 2001, in an article titled: "AMERICAN Media head honcho David Pecker is off his Cipro."

Murder of Ennis Cosby

Columnist Mike Walker, in an interview with the UK newspaper Metro, said, "The OJ Simpson trial – The New York Times referred to us as the bible of the case – The Hugh Rodham/Clinton pardon scandal, Jesse Jackson's love child and, of course, we solved the murder of Bill Cosby's son. The LA police chief had to get up at a press conference and say: 'We have just arrested a suspect for the murder of Ennis Cosby going on information we are very confident about and this is in great part due to help from The National Enquirer.' I was on the phone in a heartbeat to my editor to find out how we got them to say that. Turns out it was 'either say it or we will not lead you to where the gun is hidden in the woods wrapped in the famous knitted cap'."

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump

The Enquirer enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump for the 2016 presidential election and published numerous stories promoting his candidacy and denigrating his opponents.

During the Republican presidential primaries in March 2016, the Enquirer ran a story alleging that "political operatives" were investigating whether candidate Ted Cruz, a U.S. Senator from Texas, engaged in extramarital affairs. Cruz denied it and said that his political opponent Donald Trump had used connections to get the story published in the Enquirer. Trump denied involvement.

The Enquirer ran another story in April 2016, suggesting that Cruz's father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, knew alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and worked with Oswald in New Orleans a few months before the assassination. Donald Trump publicly discussed this Enquirer story on May 3, 2016 saying to Brian Kilmeade of Fox News that "His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being — you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous". On May 4, 2016 (a few hours after Cruz lost the Indiana primary and withdrew his candidacy) Trump stated that he did not actually believe the story ("Of course I don’t believe that") but wanted to "let the people read it." Kilmeade has since expressed regret for not following up on Trump's May 3 comment during that interview. Rafael Cruz responded in an interview with WorldNetDaily that, "These accusations are totally unfounded and without merit". On July 22, 2016, Trump again mentioned the magazine in connection with Cruz's father, saying "…I know nothing about his father. I know nothing about Lee Harvey Oswald. But there was a picture on the front page of the National Enquirer that does have credibility."

The Enquirer refused to publish a story from Karen McDougal about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006 and, in 2016 as his presidential campaign advanced, paid McDougal $150,000 for, among other items, "exclusive life rights to any relationship she has had with a then-married man." The Wall Street Journal alleged that the Enquirer had paid McDougal hush money and was using the purchase and refusal to publish the story to protect Trump, an allegation the Enquirer denied.

Notable stories and lawsuits

In 1981, actress Carol Burnett won a judgment against the Enquirer after it claimed she had been seen drunk in public at a restaurant with Henry Kissinger in attendance. The fact that both of her parents suffered from alcoholism made this a particularly sensitive issue to Burnett. The former longtime chief editor Iain Calder in his book The Untold Story, asserted that afterwards, while under his leadership, the Enquirer worked hard to check the reliability of its facts and its sources.

For a time the Enquirer sought recognition for journalistic research and news scoops. In the 1990s, salacious details of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair were first made public by the Enquirer. The Enquirer additionally scooped other media outlets during the O. J. Simpson murder trial: when a distinctive footprint from a Bruno Magli shoe was found at the crime scene, Simpson vehemently denied owning such a shoe. The Enquirer, however, published two photos showing Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes. In 2001, the Enquirer uncovered that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had an illegitimate child.

Controversy over false content arose again for the Enquirer when a 2002 article alleged that male members of the family of kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart were involved in what the article termed a "gay sex ring." Subsequently, two reporters from the Salt Lake Tribune were fired after it was learned that they had been paid $20,000 for the story, which they had fabricated. The Enquirer threatened to sue the Salt Lake Tribune for making false and defamatory statements about the publication after an editorial had disclaimed the Tribune's involvement. The salacious details of the Smart story were retracted by the Enquirer, and a rare apology was issued to the Smart family. One of the fired reporters acknowledged that his behavior was unethical, but expressed surprise that the story had been taken seriously, stating, "When I dealt with the Enquirer, I never dreamed that I was accepting money for 'information'."

The Enquirer settled a libel lawsuit with the wife of Gary Condit out of court in 2003 and lost a suit brought by actress Kate Hudson in 2006.

In 2006, the Enquirer was the first newspaper to reveal that O. J. Simpson had written a book, If I Did It. The story was immediately denied by Simpson's lawyer, but was confirmed by release of the book one month later.

In early March 2007, the paper blocked access to its website for British and Irish readers because a story about the actress Cameron Diaz that they had published in 2005 and for which she received an apology had appeared on the site. The apology concerned a story it had run in 2005 entitled "Cameron Caught Cheating" which turned out to be false – an accompanying picture was just an innocent goodbye hug to a friend, not evidence of an affair. Although only 279 British web addresses had looked at the story, it was deemed to have therefore been published in the United Kingdom. British libel laws are more plaintiff-friendly and it is not necessary to prove actual malice for the plaintiff to win. As of March 2014 visitors from the UK, New Zealand and Ireland were still unable to view the website, instead being presented with a page reading 'The content of this website is not available in your area.' The magazine continues to be sold in Irish supermarkets.

Also in March 2007, Tucker Chapman, son of Duane "Dog" Chapman, sold a tape to the Enquirer of his father disparaging his black girlfriend with the use of the word "nigger" in which the Enquirer paid Tucker an undisclosed amount. The A&E Network canceled Chapman's show, Dog the Bounty Hunter, pending an investigation. On February 21, 2008, A&E Network stated they would resume production of Dog the Bounty Hunter, and on May 14, 2008, announced it would return to TV on June 25, 2008.

In 2003, the Enquirer published a story claiming that Rush Limbaugh was addicted to painkillers. Law enforcement authorities in Florida later confirmed that Limbaugh was under investigation, and Limbaugh later admitted the addiction and checked himself into a drug rehabilitation facility.

In 2008, the Enquirer reported the marital troubles of Mel Gibson and Billy Joel, both of whom announced their divorces several months later.

In January 2009, the Enquirer ran a story claiming that pop star Michael Jackson was gravely ill and had "six months to live." Just under six months later, in June 2009, Jackson went into cardiac arrest and died in Los Angeles. In September 2009, the Enquirer broke the story of Jackson's final resting place, Forest Lawn. Two months later, just before Tiger Woods' auto accident near his Florida home, the Enquirer was the first to allege that he was having an extramarital affair. Shortly after this report, several other women came forward in other publications alleging affairs with Woods, who eventually admitted to having been unfaithful to his wife, Elin Woods.

On January 19, 2010, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced that the Enquirer is eligible for consideration for the Pulitzer Prize in the categories of Investigative Journalism and National News Reporting. This change is primarily due to the Enquirer's breaking the story of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

In February 2011 the Enquirer published a story claiming that Steve Jobs had only six weeks to live because of cancer. Jobs died October 5 of that year, more than 7 months after the reports.

In February 2012, the Enquirer published a photo of Whitney Houston in an open casket on its front page. The previous week, it had posted an article showing her having collapsed from a cocaine and alcohol binge during her world tour and claiming that she only had five years to live, two days after she was found dead in her room.

Editorial changes

In 1999 AMI was bought by a group fronted by publishing executive David J. Pecker. Funding was diverted from the Enquirer, once considered to be the company's principal publication, to The Star. Editor Steve Coz, who guided the paper through the Simpson case, was fired and replaced by David Perel, who had been the Editor in charge of breaking numerous stories on the Simpson coverage.

The Enquirer's circulation for a time fell below 1 million (from over 6 million at its height). AMI brought in around 20 British journalists in early 2005, headed by editor, Paul Field, a former executive at the British tabloid The Sun, and relocated the editorial offices to New York for an April 2005 relaunch. The move failed horribly and Field and virtually all the British journalists were fired after just a year. The company reappointed David Perel and announced the Enquirer offices would return to Boca Raton, Florida in May 2006. Circulation numbers then climbed to over 1 million readers again, and according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations remain over 1 million today. Perel later moved on to oversee the relaunch of the gossip website Radar Online, and was replaced as editor-in-chief by Tony Frost. In 2014, the Enquirer moved back to New York and Frost was replaced by Dylan Howard.

Television spin-off

On August 30, 1999, a television spin-off of the supermarket tabloid was entitled National Enquirer TV and was produced by MGM Television. The series was renamed National Enquirer's Uncovered in season 2 and was cancelled on July 6, 2001.

"Enquiring minds want to know" catchphrase

During the 1980s, the tabloid's slogan in radio and TV ads was "Enquiring minds want to know." Someone wanting the truth about an issue appends the slogan to their demand as a catchphrase. In the song "Midnight Star" from his album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D, "Weird Al" Yankovic uses the phrase during the song's outro. In 1987, the publisher of the National Enquirer trademarked the phrase, which uses the alternative (and more commonly British) spelling of "inquiring".


The origin and history of the newspaper and Generoso Pope Jr.'s life are the main subjects of a 2014 documentary, directed by Ric Burns and called Enquiring Minds: The Untold Story of the Man Behind the National Enquirer.


National Enquirer Wikipedia

Similar Topics