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National Enquirer Heir Dishes Dirt on Tabloid Empire

Paul Pope: heir to tabloid journalism.
Imagine if your legacy was Gawker, TMZ, and all the gossip/celebrity/infotainment/light porn news so common on the web. Well, Paul Pope can claim a family heritage to that, thanks to his father, who helped invent tabloid journalism.

Pope, a Weston resident, has published a book tracing back the founding of his father's American Media Inc., which is headquartered in Boca Raton.

Pope's book, The Deeds of My Fathers, has more than a few stories worthy of AMI's National Enquirer. Pope claims his father and grandfather both worked in the CIA, used the help of a U.S. senator to help take the paper national, and started the whole thing off with Mafia seed money.

True? Is anything in the Enquirer true? Pope says the question doesn't sit with the kind

of journalism the paper has done.

"We fact-checked every story we ran and never published anything that was untrue," he says. "People started citing us as a source after Gary Hart. Since then, the Enquirer has been taken seriously."

His book begins with the story of his grandfather, Generoso Pope Jr., who bought a New York City newspaper that would become the National Enquirer. According to the book, Pope's grandfather borrowed $75,000 from Mafia boss Frank Costello to buy the paper.

The book also claims that Pope's grandfather and father were once in the CIA and used those connections to help the newspaper. "This reads like The Godfather crossed with Citizen Cane," Pope says. (Yes, Pope likes to speak in tabloid headlines.)

Pope's father, Gene Pope, came up with the idea of sensational tabloid news after walking past a car crash.

"It was a pretty horrific accident. I think there was a decapitation, and he noticed people were standing around watching," Paul Pope says. "He thought, 'Wow, I'm going to start running more crime and gore, because that's what people want.'"

But Gene Pope had a vision of selling the Enquirer in supermarkets, which refused to stock papers with that much blood on the cover. So the Enquirer toned down the gore and converted to a format of more celebrity news.

To help persuade supermarkets to finally accept the Enquirer, Pope says his father recruited the help of friend Sen. Hubert Humphrey to pressure the chains into complying.

When Gene Pope died in 1988, Paul Pope says he raised $400 million to buy the Enquirer. But he was outbid, and Pope says he spent years in a "deep depression" over losing his family's business.

He says he spent 14 years and about $1 million researching his book, which is ranked 15,783rd on Amazon.

Pope says he hasn't heard from the folks at AMI about what they think. "But I don't talk with them. I have no contact with them now," he says. "They're not doing so well and have other problems they're dealing with, so I'd suspect they don't care all that much about it. They're just trying to maintain their existence."

What's killing the Enquirer? TMZ, Gawker, and others who have figured out how to do Enquirer-style journalism on the web.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton

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