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Washington Monthly | When Fox News Spiked the Stormy Daniels Story, Was it a Campaign Contribution?

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Given that presidential elections take place in early November, it has become commonplace to expect an October surprise. We have already catalogued the following events that took place in October 2016:

  • October 7th – Wikileaks dump of Clinton emails hacked by the Russians
  • October 7th – Access Hollywood tape released
  • October 28th – FBI Director James Comey announced a review of additional emails related to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server

There can be no doubt that those events rocked the presidential campaign. But we now know of two other things that were happening behind closed doors at the Trump campaign: (1) Michael Cohen was arranging hush money payments to Stormy Daniels to stop her from going public about her affair with Trump, and (2) Fox News killed a story their reporter Diane Falzone had developed about the affair between Trump and Daniels. Jane Mayer reported that an editor told Falzone,“Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.”

The reason we haven’t heard directly from Falzone is because she signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Fox News.

On Monday morning, The New Yorker published a piece of reportage by Jane Mayer depicting the lengths to which Fox News, my former employer, has gone to gratify Donald Trump and his administration…

After the story’s publication, my phone lit up with text messages. After all, I was that reporter. But there isn’t much that I can say about the incident in Mayer’s story, because I am subject to an N.D.A. In March 2018, I settled a lawsuit that I brought against Fox News claiming gender and disability discrimination and retaliation. The settlement contained a non-disclosure clause. I was in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy and wanted to move on with my life.

Fox News refuses to release Falzone from her NDA and the editor has suggested that her story wasn’t publishable. On Monday night, Falzone’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, appeared on The Beat with Ari Melber and made an interesting offer.

She proposed that Congress should subpoena Falzone, including records of the story she had back in October 2016. Not only would a subpoena override an NDA, Smith seems pretty confident that her client had the story and that it was spiked to protect Trump.

When asked what that would add to the investigation, Smith says that it could help determine if Fox News was an arm of the Trump campaign and if spiking Falzone’s story was another illegal campaign contribution. In other words, simultaneous to Cohen making hush money payments, Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda arm was hushing a reporter who had the story. Does the latter not have some monetary value?

Smith is raising a question that is worth considering and goes to the heart of the one raised by Mayer: “Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?” If the answer to that question is “yes,” how much is an entire cable network worth to a presidential campaign?





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