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Dylan Howard, the National Enquirer editor who was elevated to chief content officer at American Media Inc. following a U.S. Justice Department probe of the company in connection with the same secret payoffs scheme that put Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen behind bars, exited the company on Mar. 31. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that his contract was not renewed.
Neither Howard nor AMI immediately responded to a request for comment. Variety first reported his departure.
Howard’s tenure atop AMI’s tabloid empire (which included RadarOnline and Star) brought him to the white-hot center of not just Trump’s narrative but those of Harvey Weinstein and Jeff Bezos as well. His tactics landed headline-generating scoops while earning him a singularly notorious reputation in media as a henchman for the powerful. Ronan Farrow accused him of digging up dirt on Weinstein’s accusers and shredding documents incriminating Trump that the Enquirer had amassed but never printed. Later, Bezos made public Howard’s emails threatening to publish compromising pictures of the Amazon founder and girlfriend Lauren Sanchez unless Bezos’ Washington Post stood down on what Howard characterized as the paper’s critical coverage of Saudi Arabia’s business relationship with AMI.
After AMI entered a plea agreement with the Justice Department, Howard transitioned to the CCO position under company head David Pecker. In the new role, he oversaw start-up subsidiary Broad + Water Studios, which produced documentaries in keeping with the firm’s tabloid instincts. In November 2019, The Daily Beast reported that he’d proposed to secretly pay $1 million to R. Kelly to participate in a TV docuseries he was hoping to develop about the R&B singer’s underage rape allegations. The proposed arrangement would have involved the formation of a shell company to hide payment from AMI to Kelly. Howard acknowledged the overture to The Daily Beast but noted that it “went no further than general exploratory discussions between [Kelly’s camp] and myself and was never advanced internally at American Media.”
Howard also busied himself with multiple podcast series and co-authored quickie true-crime books (some based on each other) on favored tabloid topics, ranging from the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein to the death of Natalie Wood. Even after the Justice Department agreement, he was able to find AMI new partners for his projects in the likes of Endeavor’s nascent audio division and continue to foster existing relationships with such entities as the Reelz Channel and Discovery Communications. He was also able to convince a series of high-profile figures, from Megyn Kelly and Phil McGraw to Martin Sheen, to promote his work — even when not long before he’d subjected them to his adversarial reporting.
In 2017, the Associated Press reported that Howard was accused of sexually harassing employees at AMI’s Los Angeles offices earlier in the decade. The company claimed it had conducted an internal review at the time and didn’t find serious wrongdoing. He later departed AMI for 15 months to run Celebuzz, where he faced similar allegations. Howard then returned to AMI to oversee the Enquirer and all of AMI’s newsrooms out of its New York office. Pecker previously declined to respond to The Hollywood Reporter’s questions about the various harassment claims.
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