Ever since the Wall Street Journal dropped their story that Donald Trump allegedly paid hush money to an adult film star to keep quiet about their relationship, the president's administration has been reeling from... well, mostly, from Trump's "shithole"comments. Predictably, there's been no fallout or backlash yet over the report, though the actress in question, Stephanie Clifford, denies that she either had a sexual relationship with Trump or was paid to deny having a sexual relationship with him.
While the Jourmal has the honor of officially breaking the story, we've learned that several other outlets—Slate, Good Morning America, and The Daily Beast—had been in contact with Clifford before the election when she suddenly stopped communicating. But on Tuesday, we learned that one news organization in particular got much farther in their reporting before abruptly scrapping the story: Fox News. CNN spoke to four people at Fox, and, according to them, reporter Diana Falzone filed a story in October 2016 that claimed Trump and Clifford had a sexual relationship during the president's marriage to his current wife. Per CNN:
Falzone had an on-the-record statement from Clifford's manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, confirming that her client had engaged in a sexual relationship with Trump, three of these people said, and Falzone had even seen emails about a settlement.
But the story never saw the light of the day, to the frustration of Falzone, two of the people said.
"She had the story and Fox killed it," one of the people familiar with the matter told CNN.
While the president often claims that CNN completely fabricates its stories about him, Noah Kotch, the editor-in-chief at Fox, gave a statement to CNN confirming that they had a story on Clifford and chose not to run it because they couldn't verify it. However, unlike Slate or ABC, Fox News didn't independently acknowledge that when the Journal first published their story; they only did so after CNN got an inside scoop.
If you're conspiratorially-minded, it's not hard to assume that Fox News higher-ups chose to kill the story because they were pulling hard for Trump to win. And some might find the network's excuse—that they hold their stories to a rigorous standard of journalistic excellence—a little hard to swallow. But this is only a story about a presidential candidate cheating on his pregnant wife with a porn star and then paying her over $100,000 to keep it quiet, with nothing backing it up except her manager's on-the-record comments.
Update 1/17/18: A representative for Fox News sent along this statement from Noah Kotch, Editor-in-Chief and VP of Fox News Digital:
"Like many other outlets, we were working to report the story of Stephanie Clifford’s account in October 2016 about then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump and a possible payment by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. In doing our due diligence, we were unable to verify all of the facts and publish a story."