The president and also the king that gossip have a relationship that’s paid off for castle both. Never much more so than once Trump virtually lost the election.
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When the Access Hollywood ice cream of Donald Trump arised in the home stretch of the 2016 election, that should have been a gift indigenous the tabloid gods for TMZ.
Instead, the celebrity gossip website entered overdrive to aid Trump.
Within a week of the tape’s explosion, TMZ ran “exclusive” ~ “exclusive” providing Trump cover. There to be a story that Bill Clinton do “disparaging remarks” around women when he played golf with Trump—as Trump asserted Clinton did once the ice dropped. An additional story claimed NBC executives “had a plan to time the release” of the tape to sink Trump. There was likewise an item indigenous a former Miss teenager USA saying she never had a bad experience through Trump after he was accused of leering at nude girl backstage.
It shouldn’t have actually been a surprise: It was the an outcome of a cozy relationship between TMZ founder and boss Harvey Levin and Trump, who called each various other throughout the campaign, 7 sources called The everyday Beast.
“Leading as much as the choice there were countless phone calls in between Harvey and Trump. Harvey remained in close call with the trump team frequently,” said a former TMZ optimal executive who, choose others, speak under the problem of anonymity for fear of retribution native Levin.
“There to be a suggest Harvey would make hoax in the newsroom that he would be push secretary or in the Cabinet however we obtained the impression he to be only half joking,” another former staffer, that had everyday dealings v Levin, said.
Unusually, Levin obtained personally affiliated in the story of one of the countless women who accused trump of sexual assault, according to two TMZ sources.
After Jessica Leeds accused trump of groping her on an airplane in the so late 1970s, Levin personally referred to as airlines to determine what happened.
“I remember as soon as that woman began making allegations versus Trump, Harvey made that a mission for days to discredit her,” a previous staffer said. “In that circumstances he dubbed airlines to ask what type of armrests lock were using at that time together this woman had said she was attacked by trumped on a plane after he lifted the armrest up. Harvey personally referred to as airlines.
“Harvey was convinced that once this incident developed armrests didn’t lift up. He want to uncover a means to say she’s a liar.”
TMZ’s head of legal affairs, Jason Beckerman, confirmed the account the Levin’s an individual involvement to The everyday Beast, but stressed that was all a part of TMZ’s newsgathering.
“We heard about that story and we put the accusations to the test,” Beckerman said. “She
Indeed, TMZ published a story sustaining Leeds’ claims about the armrests.
But two days after adult film star Jessica Drake accused trump of sexually assaulting her, TMZ composed she “might’ve pulled turn off the can be fried publicity stunt—announcing an virtual sex shop 1 day prior to accusing The Donald.”
“There was certainly an air in the newsroom that Harvey wanted to discredit this people,” claimed the previous staffer.
More 보다 a dozen former and current TMZ employees described the site’s pro-Trump transformation during the choice under Levin, which lock say destroyed newsroom morale and led to the leave of several vital staffers. The handling of a tip about another purportedly toxic tape, on height of the Access Hollywood footage, would further demoralize staffers.
Mr. Levin nearly Goes come Washington
Levin, a 67-year-old previous television reporter and practicing attorney in Los Angeles, has long organized an interest in political scandal. As far back as 2007, he started fantasizing around taking his win formula of transforming gossip right into news to Washington, D.C. Warner Bros. Registered the domain surname TMZDC.com in December 2006 and the firm kept the deal with until it expired in 2015, domain registration records show.
One that those headhunted to be part of Levin’s D.C. Procedure in 2007 to be filmmaker and also journalist Patrick Gavin, who directed the 2015 documentary Nerd Prom: inside Washington’s Wildest Week.
“D.C. Gossip has always been boring and also safe since people live there and don’t want to burn bridges. Politico falls victim come that,” Gavin, a former Politico reporter, told The day-to-day Beast. “Early on in the Obama administration D.C. Was coming to be a cooler scene.”
Gavin said Levin took him to lunch at Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington and also detailed his fantasy political reporting operation.
“Harvey wanted to break the mold,” Gavin said. “He was yes, really keen on act that. The is yes, really savvy and also ambitious and also thirsty. Over there is a reason D.C. Gossip sucks. There space very couple of towns wherein there are more news outlets 보다 sources.
“I recall him speak there room 20 stories in D.C. The everyone to know that are scandalous and also salacious yet no one has the balls come publish them. The told me, ‘I wanna it is in the location that posting those stories.’”
But as Gavin noted, “There is a factor those story don’t gain published—it calls for a particular fuck friend attitude.
“From Trump’s view you could certainly understand why he’d want to it is in close to the nation’s top gossip site.”
And he to be close.
The 2 men have actually known every other because at least Trump’s Apprentice era, and Levin quickly came to be a “number-one trumped fan,” according to one more close trump associate, as result of Levin’s attraction come power, flamboyance, celebrity, and wealth.
Even prior to Trump’s politics ascendancy, TMZ landing “exclusives” through him, consisting of in 2009 when Trump told the news site that rapper Kanye West’s habits toward Taylor Swift was “disgusting.” trump even advocated a boycott of West.
“They had this friendship for years,” an additional former TMZ staffer said. “Trump would certainly come on TMZ Live in 2014. Harvey and also Trump have had a connection for many years that flourished closer together the choice approached. Ns wonder how much the it to be Trump exploiting Harvey.”
Fast front to the 2016 election and also Levin had developed an “incredibly close” relationship with Trump, an additional former an elderly TMZ staffer said.
“He to be excited at the possibility of Trump coming to be president. He want Trump come win due to the fact that he want to know someone in the White House,” the former staffer said.
Entertainment market sources acquainted with Levin’s thinking claimed he expressed part reservations around Trump’s plot privately among liberal friends. However to their horror, friend noticed that throughout the campaign, the TMZ head ongoing to foster his relationship with Trump.
“Harvey has lost a the majority of friends due to the fact that of this,” one entertainment executive told The day-to-day Beast.
TMZ goes #MAGA
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Levin and TMZ likewise maintained relationships with an elderly people in Trumpworld, with Levin frequently going out of his way to shoot the breeze with an elderly officials. Additional points of call for Levin included veteran aide expect Hicks and Trump’s longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff, 3 2016 project sources said.
Levin also was tight with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, multiple previous TMZ staffers said.
“Cohen aided Harvey with his TV show and they bonded end both being a lawyer. They spoke routinely,” a source said.
As because that Levin and also Trump, they gained tighter ~ Trump ended up being the Republican nominee, follow to an additional former TMZ employee.
“What occurred a lot of the time in the second half of 2016 was everything went politics and an extremely pro-Trump… they would carry out stories about voter fraud which wasn’t a typical TMZ story,” the previous staffer said.
“The slant the the whole website and also its by-product, the TMZ TV show, became an extremely political an extremely quickly and it no something anybody appeared happy with besides Harvey,” said a former TMZ journalist. “It felt prefer it to be a propaganda device especially a month or two prior to the election.”
Multiple former TMZ staffers said they became alarmed as soon as the website and also TMZ’s Fox TV display went from spanning celebrities and scandal to spanning Trump in a favorable manner.
“TMZ to be the Kardashians, Britney Spears, and also Justin Bieber—and virtually overnight that became about the election and supporting Trump,” a former staffer said. “There were so numerous stories the site did the were so crazy the it to be so the end of the limit of points TMZ would typically do.
“Every lead story we did was about politics and pro-Trump. It took on a fully different energy. That is not a conservative workplace. Some world left after the election. The place simply became really dark.”
Tale that the tape
As the Access Hollywood autumn spread, the TMZ pointer line received an email from a lawyer in Los Angeles claiming to have another bombshell ice of trumped in one elevator in trump card Tower, seven sources acquainted with the matter told The daily Beast. (The day-to-day Beast has uncovered no proof the the tape exists after interviews with much more than a dozen former and current TMZ staffers and others with expertise of the situation. However the actions the Levin take it next, these resources felt, spoke volumes about his partnership with Trump.)
Former staffers recall that Levin took an unusual personal interest in follow the tape guideline because, lock believe, it had actually to execute with his friend.
On Oct. 13, Melissa K. Dagodag contacted TMZ declare she stood for a customer with the purported trumped tape, sources said.
“This attorney wasn’t a significant player, i beg your pardon made united state think it to be weird. She wasn’t Keith Davidson,” a former TMZ staffer said, introduce to the attorney who at the exact same time stood for Stormy Daniels and also worked v Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to get $130,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair v Trump.
It continues to be unclear who Dagodag was representing when she contacted TMZ and Dagodag did no respond come multiple messages left by The everyday Beast or to visits at her Beverly Hills office and also Santa Monica residence from a reporter.
Mike Walters, then Levin’s top lieutenant who ran the operations newsdesk, instantly spoke with Dagodag that exact same day, follow to a previous top-level TMZ staffer who provided The everyday Beast with a hour-by-hour account of just how the issue played out. Walters climate passed the pointer to Levin who took a private contact in his office before looping in Beckerman, the source said.
“It got compartmentalized,” a former staffer said, who prefer others The day-to-day Beast speak with, emphasized Trump’s connection with Levin as the key factor in his straight involvement. “Only Harvey encountered it. It to be a small weird. That was out of character.”
“For Harvey to meet with someone it’s yes, really big. Harvey took us out that it very quickly. To be eliminated from it prefer that was an extremely weird,” the former TMZ optimal staffer said.
Levin relocated quickly and also alerted TMZ’s parental company, Warner Bros. And also its parent company, Time Warner, seeking legitimate guidance and also financial approval to buy the tape. Resources say even Time Warner Chairman Jeff Bewkes, was told about the purported tape and also approved a far-ranging financial lot to purchase it.
“It was on,” claimed a source close come the sensitive discussions. “It is not every job Jeff is saying below is a fuck fill of money to buy a ice of Donald trump in an elevator. There was a reason for that.”
“Since once does Harvey Levin speak to up the food chain about a tape the he hasn’t watched from a source that he has actually never met? It was truly bizarre,” said an investigative reporter indigenous a major media outlet who chased the tape story for months.
Levin i ordered it to meet Dagodag that same night to view the tape along with Beckerman.
For the an initial time Beckerman has gone top top the document to confirm the account noted by multiple sources to The everyday Beast.
“Harvey and also I go to satisfy this human being late at night and also we got part of the way there and also the resource called and said the human who has actually the tape no going to show. Us were told the evening we could set up a meeting for the following day,” that said.
“The next morning the resource said the tape was no longer for sale and also it was insinuated the it had actually been purchase by who else. Climate the resource went fully dark,” Beckerman called The day-to-day Beast.
However, contradicting Beckerman’s account, 2 sources claimed Levin called staffers the next day the Dagodag had actually failed to present at the meeting and that castle “needed to drop it,” an interpretation the tape.
“He told united state he had made a speak to to Trump’s camp alerting them to the tip and also they had actually said there are no cameras in the elevators in ~ Trump Tower,” the source said. The is uncertain if Levin’s claimed call come Trump’s campaign was prior to or after Dagodag no show.
“When i look earlier now this is perhaps something really large that went under here. If something was surprise or killed there was a reason,” claimed the former high-ranking TMZ staffer.
“There to be an uncomfortable feel in the newsroom. His unapologetic views of Trump were gross,” said among Levin’s most trusted former staffers.
They no the just ones suspicious.
Clinton project officials come to believe that Levin favored Trump and also was dragging his feet on finding story that may hurt the climate Republican presidential candidate. Their fears to be modest contrasted to their views the Trump’s relationship with American Media, Inc., owner the the national Enquirer. But they still witnessed TMZ as playing a favorable duty to the opposition.
As for the elevator video, 2 high-level Clinton campaign officials said The daily Beast the they did no have any memory of trying to find such a tape. Both of the officials had heard about its claimed existence. Yet they didn’t take it seriously—in part because they to be chasing rumored Apprentice outtakes already—and no inquire around it aggressively.
“I had heard rumors the that. But I did not recognize of any type of serious ‘this is who has actually it’ conversation,” claimed one official. “And ns wouldn’t speak we had actually a serious method of do the efforts to uncover it. It was something i heard a lot from reporters.”
Beckerman claimed TMZ never had any kind of contact v the Clinton camp that affiliated opposition research. “We never had an open dialogue come our knowledge with anyone connected to Hillary’s campaign,” he said.
In the end, Levin’s search of the tape and also his pro-Trump coverage, “contributed to the downfall of the relationship between Mike
Walters would depart TMZ in mid-December 2016 and also go on come launch a rival celebrity gossip website TheBlast.com taking v him some of TMZ’s peak talent and also giving his former employer a operation for its money.
A girlfriend in the highest Place
Levin’s relationship with trump card paid turn off after the election when he scored one of Trump’s very first TV interviews for a special that aired Nov. 18, 2016, ~ above Fox News Channel called, OBJECTified: Donald Trump.
“The morning after Trump won the election we were shooting TMZ Live and Trump dubbed Harvey on his cell,” the former top-level TMZ staffer said. Beckerman claimed Levin might not recall if he had actually received a phone speak to from the president-elect.
In march 2017, Levin met with Trump in the Oval Office for an hour in a conference that to be left turn off the president’s windy schedule. The White house would later on say the pair disputed “future opportunities,” while The new York Times reported that Levin had actually asked Trump because that his aid in snagging Tom Brady together a guest top top OBJECTified.
A resource told The everyday Beast the was no the only favor Levin called in to Trump.
“That is as soon as he put a speak to to Netanyahu to acquire him to which Harvey’s show,” the top-level TMZ staffer said, referring to the Israeli element minister who went top top to show up on the season premiere of OBJECTified in October 2017.
Beckerman refuse Trump played any duty in helping to gain the Israeli afternoon on Levin’s show. “Harvey never ever told Trump about trying to gain Netanyahu together he assumed he would shut the down. Trump had zero understanding of that.”
After Trump was in office, Levin benefited v a collection of “exclusives” that he released on TMZ.
When Kathy Griffin controversially tweeted a photo of she holding a bloody mask supposed to look choose a beheaded trump card a story soon after appeared on TMZ sourced to a “Trump family source” and also reported the his 11-year-old boy “Barron was in front of the TV watching a present when the news come on and also he observed the bloody, add image. We’re told the panicked and screamed, ‘Mommy, Mommy!’”
As Think Progress provided last year, an ext Trump “scoops” followed, including one story about Ivanka Trump gift accosted through a passenger top top a JetBlue flight. Last month, the site called Kellyanne Conway a “D.C. Rockstar” during a “TMZ Live” segment. In an additional segment, a TMZ reporter request her just how she continues to be so beautiful and also what she thinks of being parodied on Saturday Night Live.
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In one of their casual chats not long prior to Trump to be elected, he had actually joked with Levin the he to be a “killer” and also street-smart, and would execute well in the nastiness and also the pace of the American political arena—though “not as an excellent as Trump,” according to two world with knowledge of your conversations.
“Trump obtained out of it what he wanted. TMZ is a an effective place. It has an incredibly huge following once you integrate the website through the TV audience and I think Trump and also his team wanted to take advantage of it and also they did,” said among Levin’s previous top generals.
Multiple resources close come Trump stated that the pair have spoken a handful of times since Trump entered the White House. If the sources recall a heat relationship through Levin, they stated that Levin does not climb to the level that unofficial trumped adviser favor Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, or Rupert Murdoch.
“Harvey likes an effective people and having an effective friends. Ns think that likes emotion important. Ns think the made him feel an excellent that a presidential candidate was talk to the on the phone. At the end of the job a many it came down to the reality he want a powerful ally.”
As Patrick Gavin observed, Harvey’s require for TMZDC and a specialized Washington bureau never diminished.
“I don’t think he’s ever before given up on it. He retained the domain name for the longest time. The just had actually to be patient and also wait 10 year to score the ideal D.C. Source.”
—with extr reporting by Asawin Suebsaeng and also Sam Stein in Washington, D.C.; Maxwell Tani in brand-new York; and also Oliver Jones in Los Angeles