Dylan Howard leaves National Enquirer’s owner after slew of scandals

Dylan Howard, the National Enquirer editor who was caught in a hush-money scheme to silence women who claimed they had affairs with President Trump, has reportedly left the supermarket tabloid’s parent company, American Media Inc.

Howard — an 11-year veteran at American Media who in 2014 was promoted to chief content officer, the top editorial post in the company — left when his contract expired on March 31, according to Variety, which first reported the news.

In addition to silencing women’s allegations of affairs with Trump, Howard also was alleged in the Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize winning book “Catch and Kill” to have helped disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein dig up dirt on his accusers. Howard threatened, but never actually filed, a lawsuit after the book was published.

American Media, which also publishes US Weekly, Star magazine and a host of other celebrity-focused titles, declined to comment on Howard’s reported departure. Howard did not return e-mails and calls from Media Ink.

As Media Ink first reported, Howard was sidelined in early 2019 after he was accused by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos of trying to blackmail him. The Enquirer had obtained steamy selfies that Bezos had allegedly sent to his mistress Lauren Sanchez, prompting Bezos to announce he was divorcing his wife MacKenzie Bezos days before the tabloid published its story.

Howard was said to have threatened to publish the salacious photos of Bezos — including what Howard described in an e-mail to Bezos as “d–k pics”— unless Bezos released a statement saying the first explosive expose on his affair was not politically motivated.

Instead, Bezos posted a story on Medium deriding what he said was a blackmail attempt. After the Bezos controversy, Howard was removed from his role overseeing the tabloids and reassigned as a VP for TV and video projects.

At the time, American Media had already cooperated with a federal investigation into the so-called “catch and kill” stories that it purchased but never published in order to silence accusers of Trump who said they had flings with him years before he decided to run for president.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story that American Media paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed she had a yearlong fling with the married Trump. In a second instance, American Media was accused of being a conduit for hush money between porn star Stormy Daniels and Trump’s ex-fixer, Michael Cohen.

Trump has denied the affairs. Cohen is currently serving a three-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty for his role in arranging the 2016 payments to cover up what he called “my boss’ dirty deeds.”

In exchange for turning rat, American Media CEO David Pecker and Howard were granted immunity in the federal case in the US Southern District of New York. But one of the terms of the deal was that the company stay out of legal trouble for the next three years.

The Bezos and Karen McDougal controversies were said to be a major reason that Chatham Asset Management, which owns 80 percent of American Media, sought to sell the Enquirer to extinguish heat the secretive hedge fund was getting from its investors.

In April 2019, American Media said it had a deal to sell the Enquirer and several smaller supermarket tabloid titles to a new company headed by James Cohen, the CEO of magazine wholesaler Hudson News, for $100 million.

Cohen did not return calls and the company has declined comment on the long-stalled Enquirer deal which sources speculated is dead in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Even if completed at the original price, the $100 million in cash would not be enough to satisfy the debt load believed to be around $400 million. In an odd twist due to past financial upheavals, shareholders and debt holders are one and the same at the company.

American Media has been beset by financial woes for quite some time. On April 1, the company said it was slashing all company salaries by 23 percent as a response to the coronavirus. At the time, the company said there were no layoffs.

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