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'Checkbook Journalism — Not a Thing!' MSNBC Panel Criticizes Trump Trial Witness for Trying to 'Normalize' Paying for Stories

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hosted a lively panel Monday night about Trump trial witness David Pecker’s use of the term, “checkbook journalism.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hosted a dynamic discussion Monday evening regarding the term David Pecker used, “checkbook journalism.”

Pecker, the ex-publisher of The National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids, was the initial witness in Trump’s business fraud trial. Prosecutors claim that Trump concealed a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep their relationship a secret so he wouldn’t appear negatively before the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors also allege that Trump and Pecker plotted to “catch-and-kill” unfavorable stories about the GOP nominee — this meant that Pecker paid sources substantial amounts of money for exclusive rights to scandalous stories, then concealed the information to avoid hurting Trump in the election.

While testifying on Monday, Pecker elaborated:

On the celebrity side of the magazine industry, at least on the tabloid side, we used “checkbook journalism,” and we paid for stories. So I give a number to the editors, that they could not spend more than $10,000 to investigate or produce, or publish a story. So anything over $10,000 that they would spend on a story, that would have to be vetted and brought up to me if they were going to spend more for approval.

MSNBC’s Alex Wagner embraced Pecker’s use of the term for compensating sources for stories.

“None of this is ordinary. No part of what we’re witnessing is normal. Firstly, for all journalism students, checkbook journalism — not a thing! It does not exist!”

According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, “checkbook journalism” is viewed as “unethical” and “poses a threat to the integrity of journalism and democracy.”

The prosecutor in the Trump case explained in court that Pecker paid $30,000 to a Manhattan doorman — significantly more than his usual $10,000 limit — to obtain exclusive rights to information about a “Trump love child,” then suppressed the story from being published, thereby influencing the 2016 election.

Rachel Maddow stated, “What the prosecutor outlined today and what the witness helped them demonstrate today, is that the practices described in this alleged criminal conspiracy were by no means normal, not even for tabloid checkbook journalism that pays for stories.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all 34 felony charges against him.

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