Last night, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump met with TMZ honcho Harvey Levin in the Oval Office last week for a pow wow that was kept off the president’s official schedule. But another intriguing part of the story is hinted at only if you scroll down 10 paragraphs:
Mr. Levin, whose White House visit was first described on Tuesday by the website Entitymag.com, is a lawyer who gained prominence as a commentator on the O.J. Simpson trial. He founded TMZ in 2005, building the Hollywood-focused operation into a powerful force in tabloid news, known for its scoops and its guerrilla interviews with celebrities at airports and other public places.
It’s unusual, of course, for the establishment media—of which the Times sits atop—to be scooped on a White House story by a website such as “Entitymag.com,” which probably would have liked the the Times to refer to it as ENTITY, as it calls itself. ENTITY, at least according to its masthead, employs only four full-time staffers, one of which is editor and social media director Taryn Hillin, an ex-Huffington Post and Fusion reporter who broke the story for ENTITY.
Hillin got the story, one assumes, via sources from another ex-employer of hers: TMZ, where she was a producer for two years, according to her Linkedin. Hillin’s history with TMZ runs even deeper, though. In May 2014, Hillin sued TMZ for gender discrimination, alleging that TMZ, and specifically executive producer Evan Rosenblum, created a hostile and abusive workplace for women. Hillin, who told me in an email that she worked on the story with another ex-TMZ producer named Ryan Naumann, would not comment on whether her litigation against the company is still ongoing.
Irrespective of her relationship with TMZ, Hillin’s story was a good one. Trump is already skirting presidential norms (i.e. regularly ditching his press pool), so it’s worth noting, though it’s far from a surprise, that he’s already attempting to hide Oval Office meetings from watchful eyes.
According to the Times, the two gathered together last Wednesday, March 1, the day after Trump’s celebrated speech before Congress. That was also the day in which the Trump administration, riding high off that speech, crashed back down to Earth after the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had had undisclosed meetings with Russian officials. Trump and Levin, though, appear to have met before that, with Trump still glowing. Per the Times:
Mr. Levin, 66, visited the day after Mr. Trump’s first formal address to Congress, and was given a warm White House welcome. He received a tour of the presidential residence, including a stop in the Lincoln Bedroom — photographs of which he proudly showed to friends after returning to Los Angeles, one of the people said.
But it’s the alleged nature of their conversation that may be most interesting. According to ENTITY, and confirmed by the Times, the two discussed how Trump might be able to help Levin secure guests for Objectified, a new series Levin is hosting on Fox News. That show is a spinoff of “Objectified: Donald Trump,” a special on the now-president also hosted by Levin on Fox that aired last November after the election.
Trump’s close relationship with Fox News is no secret, but the president carving an hour out of his workday to broker interview subjects for a show there is still altogether different from him being merely an obsessive watcher of the channel. Perhaps, in that brief glimmering moment in between his speech to Congress and the revelations about Sessions, he tricked himself into thinking that he didn’t have anything better to worry about.