With her image in tatters and her supporters dwindling, first daughter Ivanka Trump—ahem, “a source close to Ivanka Trump”—has brought out the big guns: Us Weekly.
This week’s cover story, opaquely bylined by “Us Weekly Staff,” is a fawning puff piece about how, despite slim evidence she’s accomplished anything on her allegedly more liberal agenda, the first daughter is trying to influence her father. “Why I disagree with my Dad,” the cover line declares. So brave.
The piece itself reads like an editorial blowjob buffered by anonymous sources that paint Ivanka as a fierce, independent adviser to her father and a doting but hot mom to her three children. Among other things, the piece claims that it was her husband, Jared, who convinced Donald Trump to remain in NAFTA, that the pair are tireless advocates of LGBTQ rights (the White House has yet to acknowledge that June is Pride Month), and that, according to “a source close to Ivanka,” Ivanka is very, very, very sad that President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement. She tried so hard! She even set up meetings!
This source, who knows a suspicious amount about Ivanka Trump’s inner thoughts, goes on to point out emphatically that there’s nobody the president listens to more than Ivanka, the president’s “beloved daughter.” (Poor Tiffany!) “Ivanka is the best woman for the job,” the piece adds. Well then. That settles it.
The piece was widely mocked online for its over-the-top gushing over the first daughter. But its starry-eyed treatment of Ivanka has become par for the course for the celebrity gossip magazine, which just this April was sold by longtime owner Wenner to American Media, Incorporated. And that exchange of ownership looks to be behind the magazine’s change of tune on the Trump family.
The transition from Wenner to AMI was, to put it mildly, rough on the existing Us Weekly staff. But according to a former Us Weekly staffer who spoke with The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity, it was a “crummy” place to work even before the takeover. During the 2016 election, the source says staffers were encouraged by leadership to write more stories about the Trump family, because Trump stories sold magazines. Staffers would do as they were told, according to the former employee, but remove their bylines from stories, publishing under “Us Weekly Staff” in much the same fashion as today’s Ivanka cover.
Early in 2017, AMI formally began the process of purchasing Us Weekly. All staffers were allegedly told they had to re-interview for their own jobs. According to the former Us Weekly staffer, “The staffers who were offered jobs seemed more crushed than those who were laid off.” Laid-off staffers were required to continue reporting to work until the magazine’s sale to AMI was final, or risk losing their severance packages, according to the New York Post. At the end of the transition from hell, almost the entirety of the top of the masthead was sent packing, and AMI installed James Heidenry as UW’s new editor in chief. Heidenry also edits Star and OK! Magazine, two other properties owned by AMI.
When reached for comment, Heidenry responded, “No one influences the editorial decisions of Us Weekly other than myself and our editorial team. Ivanka is a subject that is of great interest to our readers. Not only was this story very topical but it was the effort of multiple staffers which is why no byline appears, a practice that is not new to Us Weekly.”
While Heidenry has no history of personally aligning with the Trumps, Us Weekly parent company AMI’s close ties with Donald Trump are well known. Trump is friends with David Pecker, the company’s CEO. It’s been reported that Pecker has traveled between New York City and Florida on Trump’s private jet.
Given his cozy relationship with the CEO of its parent company, it should shock nobody that The National Enquirer, another AMI property, was one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders during the 2016 election. In March of that year, the supermarket tabloid ran a story alleging that then-Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was engaging in extramarital affairs. While nobody established with certainty that Trump planted that story (and he denied any connection), New York Magazine reported that his campaign was responsible for another Enquirer story about a primary rival. That story, published in late 2015, alleged that Ben Carson once left a sponge in a patient’s brain during surgery. (The Trump camp denied any connection.) The Enquirer, of course, was the first major U.S. publication to endorse Donald Trump for president.
Pecker’s personal political views, so evident in the Enquirer, seem to have seeped into the pages of his newest acquisition. Since Us Weekly’s sale to AMI was finalized on April 25 of this year, the magazine has run four stories on Ivanka Trump, all of them neutral-to-glowing. One is an excerpt from her widely-panned book, Women Who Work. Prior to April 25, Ivanka found herself Us Weekly fodder much more frequently, and was often portrayed in a critical light. “Ivanka Trump Slammed for Insensitive Gala Post Amid Protests Aganist Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban,” read one headline from Jan. 29. Another story highlighted how much Ivanka and Jared’s neighbors find their presence annoying. A third mocked the now-famous outfit Jared wore while meeting with troops in Iraq. A fourth story made fun of Ivanka’s word salad about not knowing the meaning of “complicit.” But there’s been nothing like that since April 25.
Us Weekly coverage of other Trump family members has gotten rosier since AMI’s acquisition as well. Every story on Melania has been neutral to positive. While footage of Melania twice slapping Donald’s hand away during their foreign trip went viral around the rest of the web, Us Weekly stayed silent. The magazine wasn’t silent, however, when Kathy Griffin posed for a tasteless photograph wherein she held a rubber replica of President Trump’s severed head. They ran nine stories on that.
The Daily Beast has reached out to several current staffers at Us Weekly, but none agreed to speak on or off the record because employees had to sign strict non-disclosure agreements when the magazine was acquired by AMI. According a person familiar with the matter, the AMI NDA was much more “intense” than anything former parent company Wenner had them sign, and that current staffers are “on lockdown.”
Heidenry denies this. “The notion that any staffer is on ‘lockdown’ is ridiculous,” he tells The Daily Beast. “All AMI staff, like those at any company that deals with sensitive information and takes that responsibility seriously, are required to sign an NDA.”
In the meantime, America can rest assured that Ivanka Trump is trying. If not to change her father’s mind, to save her deteriorating brand. Maybe next time she should try harder to make it less obvious.