Monday I wrote about Jane Mayer’s story in the New Yorker which claimed that Fox News’ Ken LaCorte had spiked a story about Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election telling the reporter who wrote it, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” You can probably imagine how that thrilled a lot of Fox News haters who always love to have their prior assumptions about the network confirmed.
But as I pointed out Monday, the splashy part of Mayer’s New Yorker story wasn’t new. The bit about Fox News spiking a story about Stormy Daniels had been reported a year earlier by CNN. And Ken LaCorte had already a) admitted he killed the story and b) explained why he did so, also about a year ago. Today, Mediaite published LaCorte’s direct response to Mayer’s story and it is enlightening. First, here’s why the story wasn’t published:
On October 18, I got my first look at the Stormy Daniels story written by Fox reporter Diana Falzone, who primarily covered celebrity news for print and video. It wasn’t a detailed investigative piece as the media has portrayed this week, but a 9-paragraph story that sorely needed backup.
It included: a two-word confirmation – “it’s true” – from an unnamed Daniels “spokesperson,” an anonymous quote from a friend who said she’d dropped off Daniels to meet Trump at a hotel, and quotes from The Dirty owner, who said that he had spoken to Daniels in 2011 and she had confirmed the affair.
It lacked: any mention of payments, a hush money contract or any corroborating evidence beyond the two secondhand accounts…
The story wasn’t close to being publishable, and my decision to hold it was a no-brainer. I didn’t do it to help Trump and never said nor implied otherwise. It was such an easy call that I never even informed my direct boss or anyone in management about it.
There were three other news outlets, the Daily Beast, Slate, and Good Morning America, who were chasing the story at the same time. None of them published it and for similar reasons. Daniels refused to go on the record for any of her claims. LaCorte points out that at the time Daniels was talking to all these reporters, she was awaiting a payout from Trump. She was probably using the threat of a story to pressure Trump into paying up. He eventually did and one week before the election, Daniels stopped talking. It was Stormy who killed the story.
The other revealing part of LaCorte’s account is that he’d been in contact with Jane Mayer, author of the New Yorker piece, yet she never gave him a chance to comment about the damning quote he allegedly made. In fact, he only found out about it because he got a call from a fact-checker.
A week before publication, I received a few phone calls from a New Yorker fact checker confirming my quotes. Her last one was a surprise, asking me to confirm or deny what they heard from a secondhand source, alleging I had told our reporter it was “good reporting” but we shelved it because of Rupert Murdoch’s politics. I neither said nor even thought that because neither of those things was true.
I sent Mayer an email with some explanation and an offer to talk, and she responded: “sorry but I didn’t know fact-checkers called, I was hoping to call you first. we just added this to the story today. I’ll call in a bit. up to my eyeballs right this moment.” She never did.
I find it odd that she spoke to multiple others about the event, but didn’t have a single question for me, the person who unilaterally made the decision. She had time to interview and substantively quote The Dirty’s owner, however. In fairness, she did include a link to the year-old Mediaite story and reprinted 10 words from me.
In her 11,635 word piece, she didn’t find room to mention the paucity of evidence we had, the conflicting statements nor the other outlets which responded exactly as we did.
In other words, Mayer offered a slanted, rehash story punctuated by a quote LaCorte denied uttering and never directly talked with him about the quote or anything else, despite having already been in contact with him. LaCorte’s piece concludes, “in its zeal to hang Fox News for journalistic malfeasance, the media tossed journalistic standards in the trash can and gave readers the 100% wrong impression of Fox and the Stormy Daniels story.”
It’s worth noting that Mayer’s story was specifically cited by DNC Chair Tom Perez when he announced that Fox News would not be allowed to host any Democratic debates in 2020. “This New Yorker report was about interference at the highest levels of Fox News in the news side,” Perez said. Will the DNC Chair reconsider his decision in light of the fact that Mayer’s central, splashy claim has been openly denied by the person who made the decision? And by the way, LaCorte has left Fox News so he’s not saying this to protect his job. Will the fact that other outlets tried and failed to get this story before the election matter to Tom Perez? Or is this just a convenient excuse to seal an ideological bubble around Democratic candidates?