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Porn Vaults, Hush Money, & Donald Trump: How Vocal Media Almost Became the National Enquirer

The story according to trusted sources.

By TrizenicPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 8 min read
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We never ride far, packed five in a car

Save money for the drinks

I'm about to buy the bar

—Puff Daddy f/Mase, “Been Around The World”

Rappers had flexed lyrically about buying bars on the spot, but Vocal Media CEO Jeremy Frommer was actually doing it—except with eBay stores. Frommer’s response to a seller that tested his patience conjured visions of tracksuit clad entrepreneurs dancing in a fisheye lens,

although this was probably faux pas circa 2012, by the time of the interaction. As Frommer describes it,

I immediately sent a message to the proprietor of the eBay store and waited for a response that never came...

...One night, tired of the silence, I bought every individual item in their store. Again this is rarely done on eBay, but is always a real attention grabber.

Frommer indeed possessed an affinity for grabbing attention: the 18 wheeler he sent preemptively to the seller’s warehouse helped coerce the completion of the sale; the compromising photos he acquired from it gave him leverage to barter with former Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, and, ultimately, almost put Frommer in a position to gain control of the National Enquirer.

The Story

Frommer published his own version of the story here on Vocal, which hinted conspicuously at the suppression of the real story, attributed by Frommer to an anonymous journalist:

I have not spoken to the journalist in months. He is a writer of the highest integrity, who spent months developing a story that one way or another was suppressed.

I have found the journalist that Frommer spoke of, and there’s a world of difference between their stories. So, with Frommer’s approval of the journalist’s integrity, and his explicit wish that the actual story be told,

...if there is the slightest possibility that there was real truth to the reporter's actual story, and it was suppressed, then the public should know.

I expect that the real story, told here, according to the journalist’s account, will also be published here on Vocal Media. Frommer prides himself on his alleged hatred of hypocrisy, so it would be unbecoming if he suppressed the story after condemning its suppression.

Murray Waas

As I tried to publish my story, however, Frommer stymied my efforts. He would not talk anymore to reporters, editors, or fact checkers.

—Murray Waas at murraywaas.crooksandliars.com

The aforementioned “writer of the highest integrity,” Murray Waas, notably received the most accurate appraisal that Frommer was able to make during the entirety of this story.

Waas, seemingly cool and unflinching under pressure, demystified what Frommer may have meant when he’d mentioned “a story that one way or another was suppressed.”

In some conversations, Frommer hinted about a possible libel suit if this story didn’t turn out the way he wanted. In other conversations and emails, he said, to help me with my story, he offered to “gift” me the Trump photographs. He told me that that might increase the value of the article—or that I might make tens of thousands of dollars by selling the pictures to Gawker or TMZ. I politely declined and said that the photos were not the story—only whether Donald Trump or people close to him were offering financial inducements to him to not make them public.

Jeremy Frommer

It’s not just enough for me to fly in first class. I have to know my friends are flying in coach.

—Jeremy Frommer, advising business students at his alma mater, University of Albany, SUNY.

According to Waas, the loot that Frommer acquired from the eBay store included “salacious” photos of Arnold Schwartzenegger, and—well, Frommer can describe it himself:

...original nudes of a young Madonna, actress/model Lauren Hutton, Governor Schwarzenegger, and these very candid photos of Donald Trump signing breasts at a Guccione hosted event.

Frommer’s porn vault was a collection that had belonged to Bob Guccione—or, by his full name, Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine.

But, more to the point, the Schwarzenegger and Trump photos were going to be Frommer’s ticket to the big time. Or, so he thought.

David Pecker

Please play the following clip to introduce David Pecker with the appropriate Kill Bill villain effect:

Thank you.

David Pecker was the former CEO of American Media Incorporated (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer. However, he’s mostly known as the king of “catch-and-kill”, a strategy of “catching” negative stories about political allies (including Schwartzenegger and Trump) by purchasing the evidence, or offering hush money, and “killing” the stories by simply refusing to report on the evidence he then possessed.

Pecker eventually flipped for the feds, accepting a plea deal to avoid campaign law violations:

According to the “non-prosecution” agreement signed by AMI, Pecker met with Cohen “and at least one other member of the [Trump] campaign” in August 2015.

—Miami Herald, Former ally David Pecker flips, and Trump probably flips out

Speaking of the year 2015, was it a coincidence that Frommer had also sought an audience with Pecker? Frommer admits to the occasion in his Vocal Media story, writing,

A few days after my confrontational call with Michael Cohen in the spring of 2015, where he threatened to “bury me,” I reached out to an old business relationship, David Pecker, the CEO of American Media...

...we had met years earlier when the Enquirer ran an article on the discovery of the Guccione Collection.

But Frommer’s story, here, (and we’ll get to Cohen later) characterizes his earlier meeting with Pecker much differently than the story that Waas’ sources told—and Frommer had conveniently left out what he’d done with the lewd Schwartzenegger photos. Waas writes that a senior AMI executive had told him, in an interview,

In 2013, just as Schwarzenegger was negotiating a new contract to return to working for AMI, Pecker and the National Enquirer again purchased salacious photographs of Schwarzenegger—new pictures—so the public would not see them. The seller had been Jeremy Frommer and Jerrick Media, who was now trying to profit from the photographs of Trump as well.

Rick Schwartz

I want you to know that, of all the girls he does this to, you are the one I really felt bad about. You deserve better.

—Rick Schwartz, “apologizing” for his involvement with Harvey Weinstein, according to accuser Zoe Brock.

Fun fact: Vocal Media’s parent company was Jerrick Media—the same Jerrick Media mentioned by Waas’ source at AMI—and only changed names to Creatd in September, 2020. Here’s how “Jerrick” breaks down:

  • JERemy Frommer
  • RICK Schwartz

Besides Schwartz’s involvement with Weinstein’s secrets, he also, according to Waas, tried to intimidate Waas into keeping Jerrick’s political affairs secret. Strange for a pair like Frommer and Schwartz to be so opposed to the concept of transparency:

Later during my reporting—over the course of which Frommer had sent me the photographs—his business partner, Rick Schwartz, demanded to read a copy of the article in advance, and insisted that I agree not to write about Frommer’s dealings with David Pecker. When I refused, and explained it would be unethical to do either of these things, Schwartz angrily emailed me: “Please arrange to get our photos back and remove Jeremy from the story’s narrative.”

Michael Cohen

Jeremy was starting up a new business. I thought he might have a good platform to them to explore...But I never followed up. It had nothing to do with me… I had made the introduction.

—Michael Cohen, as interviewed by Murray Waas.

When Frommer’s associate had contacted Trump’s office to “ask them about the origin of the photos,” as Frommer so innocently put it, the phone conversation caught Cohen’s attention.

Eventually speaking to Frommer directly, Cohen quickly devised a scheme to distract Frommer and buy Trump some time. Waas describes the scenario around the phone call:

Trump’s presidential campaign was then all of two weeks old, and Trump’s aides were already facing troubling questions about Trump’s divorce from his first wife, Ivana. During their divorce proceedings, allegations had surfaced in which Ivana charged that her husband had sexually assaulted her during their marriage.

Cohen referred Frommer to Pecker, and, according to Waas, this element of the story was confirmed by both sides:

At some point during their conversation, Frommer and Cohen concur, Cohen was the first to suggest that Frommer could call David Pecker. Cohen and Frommer both told me that was the case, and emails and text messages among the three men appear to confirm that that is the case.

Greedy

It’s baffling as to why Frommer would have trusted Pecker, knowing Pecker’s well established catch-and-kill function in the political arena, and that attempting to coerce Pecker would place him in an unfavorable position.

According to Waas, Frommer’s propositions were quite bold, including that he receive publicity from Trump himself:

According to contemporaneous records, Frommer first requested that Trump grant an exclusive interview to him for his company’s website. Not only did Frommer want to post an online transcript of the interview, Frommer also wanted to come to Trump Tower and conduct the interview face-to-face, and then post the video online. He also asked that Trump, his organization, and his presidential campaign publicize it.

Frommer apparently thought the Trump photos were worth even more, according to Waas:

At one point, he proposed to Pecker that Jerrick Media take over and run the online presence of the National Enquirer, a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, depending on the duration of the contract.

Not Into It

I love it when they try to get scandalous

Even though they know they really can't handle it

(They can't handle it?)

They can't handle it

Try and take me out to dinner, I'll cancel it

—Cassie, “Long Way 2 Go”

In the end, Frommer discovered that he indeed had a long way to go, as Cohen and Pecker—much like the artist, Cassie—already knew the game, and had been through it.

According to Waas, an executive at AMI described Frommer’s proposal as

...“unprofessional” and “amateurish.” Yet, they were told to pretend to consider it, or at least go through the motions of doing so, to placate Frommer: “David [Pecker] and Cohen said to play along. They said they felt like they were being shaken down…but they needed to buy time.”

Pecker courted Frommer and his ideas for several months, until October 1st of 2015, when Senior Vice President and General Counsel of AMI, Eric Klees, sent Frommer a message, canceling their plans. As Waas describes it,

On Oct. 1, however, Eric Klee, a Senior Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel of AMI delivered some bad news via email to Frommer: “Thank you for sending over your launch plan and instructions… We reviewed the information [and have]… decided not to move forward with Jerrick Media on this project.”

After Cohen and Pecker ghosted Frommer, he then decided to nobly post one of the Trump photos online, which, as you can probably tell by now, had zero effect.

On the bright side, Vocal Media remained an independent entity, having nothing to do with the scandalous National Enquirer. In my opinion, it just wasn’t right for Frommer, and definitely wasn’t right for Vocal’s creators.

Thank you for reading!

If you’d like to read another unusual (but less sensational) story of mine, check out:

fact or fiction
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About the Creator

Trizenic

Twitter: @Trizenic

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