Has there ever been a more tragically named media mogul than David Pecker, the fallen chieftain of the National Enquirer, the sleazy dealmaker for Donald Trump turned snitch on the stand? 

Just think of the abuse a young Pecker must have endured in middle school. The slings and arrows, the cruel insults, the forced jocularity. And the opportunity for revenge once he wielded a million-readership tabloid magazine with the ethics of Joseph Goebbels. 

I’m just kidding. I have no idea if being made fun of as a kid led David Pecker to traffic in inventing stories that ran as fact, to quash factual stories to help Donald Trump win an election and, most incredibly, to shamelessly confess all of it on the stand last week.

But honestly, a motive would help.  

Because we still don’t know why David Pecker risked his career, his company and ultimately any shred of public regard to help Donald Trump. The “catch and kill” scheme hatched in August 2015, which led Pecker to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the rights to and then kill stories that would harm Trump — a one night stand with Stormy Daniel, and a year-long affair with Karen McDougal — is still a mystery.

Pecker said on the stand at last week’s trial that he regarded Trump as a “mentor.” This he said while sitting a few feet away from the man his testimony was meant to convict. Perhaps he looked forward to going to the White House as an honored guest. (“Me! David Pecker! At the White House!”)

We do know that the National Enquirer was publishing trash, week after week. Peddling stories to the American public that Pecker knew, and that his editor Dylan Howard, and a deputy editor Lachlan Cartwright, among others, knew were false. 

I also knew they were false, at the time. Because I’m not an idiot. I vividly remember seeing a National Enquirer cover story while standing in line at the supermarket in the campaign run-up to the 2016 election: “HILLARY: 6 MONTHS TO LIVE! Cruel Bill Forces Her To Stay On Campaign Trail.”

“These covers came with doctored images of Clinton looking frail,” wrote Cartwright in a confessional New York Times magazine piece recently.

He explained what he called “a drumbeat of fictitious health crises” about the then-Democratic candidate: 

“With the help of so-called medical experts — typically publicity-hungry pundits who understood what we wanted to hear — and the assistance of a talented art department, we tried to kill her off in print almost weekly. She would appear with her eyes made baggy and the colors in the images desaturated.”

I remember seeing this and thinking to myself: Why doesn’t Clinton sue? These were so obviously invented. I thought these stories were libel (user warning: not a lawyer.) But I don’t recall her ever responding to these lies, including a literally insane cover accusing her of having a lesbian love affair with her deputy Huma Abedin, which Cartwright gamely admits now was totally absurd. (“Hillary & Huma GOING TO JAIL!” was the cover line, with bullet points claiming, among other things, a “Secret hospitalization & truth about GAY AFFAIR!” )

We tried to kill her off in print almost weekly.

former National Enquirer editor Lachlan Cartwright, about Hillary Clinton

Remember, that at one time the Enquirer was up for a Pulitzer Prize, for uncovering presidential candidate John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter, which Edwards lied about, repeatedly, before withdrawing from the race.  

Is the story of David Pecker and the National Enquirer an extreme example of media in our time? Or an anomalous story of greed and corruption and some other hero-worship thing I still cannot put my finger on? 

It might not matter. Because the American public will not pay close enough attention to any of this to discern the difference between the Enquirer and The Daily Beast, where Cartwright went to work later, or the Daily Mail or the New York Post or the News of the World. 

They just know it’s in print. 

I’m bemused and disgusted to know that I apparently work in the same profession as that guy. David Pecker.