According to Michael Cohen, Trump secured Jerry Falwell Jr.’e endorsement with a good old fashioned catch and kill operation:
In his book released today, Michael Cohen, the former fixer for U.S. President Donald Trump, ties for the first time the 2016 presidential endorsement of Trump by American evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr to Cohen’s own role in helping to keep racy “personal” photographs of the Falwells from becoming public.
As Reuters reported last year, the Falwells enlisted Cohen to keep “a bunch of photographs, personal photographs” from becoming public, Cohen said in a recording, made surreptitiously by comedian Tom Arnold. “I actually have one of the photos,” he said, without going into specifics. “It’s terrible.”
In “Disloyal: The Memoir,” Cohen describes thinking that his involvement in the Falwell photo matter would be a “catch and kill” — the practice of American tabloids to obtain and then suppress unfavorable stories about celebrities — “but in this case it was just going to be kill.”
He later writes: “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”
Cohen has said that he helped persuade Falwell to endorse Trump just before Republican voters gathered in Iowa in February 2016 to nominate a presidential candidate. Falwell not only publicly vouched for Trump’s Christian virtues but also barnstormed with the candidate. His backing of Trump — a twice-divorced candidate who had talked about grabbing women’s genitals and engaged in extramarital affairs — was one of the major surprises of the 2016 campaign.
It’s the timing of the endorsement that makes this plausible to me. Not because for eminently obvious reasons I think that Falwell gave the slightest shit about Trump lacking any redeeming moral values, but to back him when Republican elites still generally thought that Trump would be stopped is something else. (It’s essentially impossible to measure but it’s also possible that Falwell’s campaigning among the heavily evangelical Iowa electorate; if Trump had finished behind Rubio and well behind Cruz there’s at least some possibility that the rest of the race would have played out differently.) But Trump was able to compel his fellow degenerate to get what he needed so it’s moot.