While “fake news” has dominated media coverage since Donald Trump’s shocking election last month, the liberal media promoted a baseless National Enquirer story last March that claimed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had had affairs with five different women.
The story, which followed similarly absurd Enquirer “bombshells” like the late Justice Scalia being murdered by a prostitute, received legitimizing coverage from a handful of liberal media organizations.
New York Magazine wasted no time in publishing an article originally titled “National Enquirer Says Ted Cruz Has Had 5 Affairs.”
“Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have been beefing back and forth about their wives this week, which makes for rather interesting timing for a salacious report in the National Enquirer,” NYMag’s Jen Kirby wrote. (The headline has since been updated to reflect Trump’s ties to the Enquirer.)
In a longform piece titled “How Much Should We Care About Ted Cruz’s Alleged Affairs?” Politico’s Jack Shafer noted that the Enquirer “has a pretty good track record catching cheating notables (Hart, Edwards, Tiger Woods, Jesse Jackson).”
“Maybe it has temporarily vagued-out the specifics of Cruz’s alleged affairs because it plans to drip-drip-drip the details into the public over the course of several issues to sell more copies,” Shafer reasoned.
Calling the Enquirer story “fascinating and flawed,” Mediaite columnist Lindsey Ellefson similarly noted that “there are are a host of stories that the weekly has gotten right,” later adding about the Enquirer, “if there’s one thing they do pretty well, it’s busting extra-marital philanderers.”
Days after the Enquirer’s story, the International Business Times helped push rumors along by running an entire story about “Ted Cruz’s Alleged Mistress.”
Gawker ran an article suggesting that “there may be other aspects” of Cruz’s evangelical faith in “which he has not been faithful,” before rehashing the Enquirer’s story and asking for “any information about Ted Cruz’s faithfulness.”
U.S. News & World Report deemed the Enquirer story a “bombshell report.”
BuzzFeed’s coverage of the fallout from the Enquirer’s story included a tweet from alt-right figure Mike Cernovich that promoted the baseless rumors as true. Cernovich would later lead the charge in promoting the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Writing about the Enquirer story for left-wing website Salon.com, Brendan Gauthier instructed Salon readers to “Remember, the Enquirer broke John Edwards’ campaign-ending affair in 2007.”
Today, liberal journalists claim to be waging a war on “fake news,” even as they struggle to define the term.