Donald Trump is the country’s first National Enquirer president (he is), but Gary Hart is remembered as the National Enquirer’s first presidential scalp, even though the facts, as usual, are a little more complicated than that. Trump had a longstanding personal friendship with David Pecker, the CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company, which paid a former Playboy model for her story about an alleged affair with Trump – and then buried it. The technique helped keep the story, which was eventually reported in the Wall Street Journal, quiet until days before the 2016 presidential election. Journalist Ronan Farrow wrote in his 2019 book “Catch and Kill” that the Enquirer’s editor kept a secret safe of Trump documents. It did no such thing for Hart, who in 1987 was on a path to the Democratic presidential nomination. (Also briefly running that year: Joe Biden, who dropped out amid allegations that he plagiarized portions of a speech from a British politician. And it was the first year Trump publicly considered running for President, with a trip to New Hampshire. But those are other stories.) Anyway, it was in 1987, three years before Trump’s first divorce became front-page tabloid news, and the National Enquirer was just dipping its toes into political scandal. Hart basically dared the press to catch him in the act of infidelity. Then the Miami Herald wrote about Hart’s relationship with a young woman, Donna Rice, which led to some uncomfortable questions for the candidate. The Enquirer, as it does, took up the challenge and obtained images of Hart and Rice on a Florida yacht called “Monkey Business.” At least that’s the way the scandal lives on in our memories. It was a bit more complicated than that, and there’s even been some reporting that Hart was essentially set up by Republican strategist Lee Atwater, the infamous political trickster who was also behind the Willie Horton ad that may have contributed to Michael Dukakis’s eventual failure in 1988. Atwater, who died in 1990, had a deathbed conversion and regretted some of his previous actions. Miami Herald reporters got onto the story after receiving an anonymous phone call that Hart was having an affair. They set up shop outside his Capitol Hill townhouse and just so happened to see Hart and Rice, although her identity was not then known. Hart’s challenge to the press – “Follow me around, I don’t care” – came in a May 3, 1987, story in The New York Times Magazine by E.J. Dionne, who had pressed him on rumors about his womanizing. Hart suspended his campaign on May 7. Candidates pretty much never come back from suspending their campaigns. On May 10th, The Herald published a play-by-play of how it unfolded – and their decision to run the story. (That effort was also the subject of the 2018 movie The Front Runner.) And then the Enquirer published its infamous photo of Hart and Rice on “Monkey Business” on May 24, weeks later. The timeline doesn’t really seem to matter as much. While Hart’s implosion doomed his career, four years later, Bill Clinton survived his own sex scandal and became President, twice. And decades later, Trump was elected despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, which he has vehemently denied – as well as being caught on video describing his ability to get away with grabbing women. The Hart saga was a precursor to all that. “The Gary Hart story busted down the privacy wall, just … smithereens, just knocked it down and said, ‘We’re gonna know everything about everyone,’ because it sold more papers,” says the journalist Ken Auletta in CNN Films’ documentary about the Enquirer. Yet the Enquirer was not targeting Hart because he was a Democrat. This was long before Pecker took over and began killing stories for politicians like Trump and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “We didn’t say, ‘Oh, he’s a Democrat. He’s a Republican. We’re not gonna get this one. We’ll leave him alone.’ Believe me, if we had had George Bush doing blow, we would’ve done it,” says Valerie Virga, a former Enquirer photo editor, in CNN Films’ documentary. But the tabloid has had more luck tailing Democrats. Just look at its work uncovering John Edwards’ affair and secret child with a videographer in the runup to the 2008 campaign, years before Trump came back on the presidential stage.