Fox News had their hands on a major scoop in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign — Republican candidate Donald Trump had an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels after the birth of his youngest son, then paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about it. But instead of running the story and potentially destroying Trump’s campaign, Fox News chose to kill it.
Now, former editor Ken LaCorte is explaining why, saying it was a matter of practicing good journalism.
LaCorte, who left the network in November 2016, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Post, which like Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, explaining how the news organization came across the Stormy Daniels story in 2016. LaCorte explained that Daniels would not confirm the story to Fox News, and had previously sent a cease-and-desist letter to a celebrity gossip website that reported on the affair in 2011.
LaCorte argued that there wasn’t much to confirm the story independently, no mention of the hush money payments and an initial public denial from Stormy Daniels. He said this wasn’t enough to let it go to print.
“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,” LaCorte wrote.
But other reports contradict Ken LaCorte, saying that the decision to kill the story came from on high in order to protect Donald Trump from what could have ended his campaign. The New Yorker reported that LaCorte himself told reporter Diana Falzone that Rupert Murdoch didn’t want the story to run.
“Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go,” the New Yorker article quoted him as saying.
Falzone has also accused LaCorte and Fox News of making defamatory statements about her, and has asked the network to release her from a non-disclosure agreement so she can give her side of the story.
The expose on Fox News has led to a major pushback against the network, which has widespread criticism for its apparently politically motivated actions in killing the story. Others noted that the network has published similarly sourced stories that were critical of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, and that its network has continued to offer mostly positive coverage about Trump with very little that looks at him critically.