Two months ago, Eddie Murphy and the National Enquirer were no pals: He was accusing the tabloid of damaging his reputation. Today, the film comic is helping the gossip paper pay its attorney's fees.

This turn-about comes as the 36-year-old actor yesterday dropped a $5 million lawsuit against the tab. And, complying with an Enquirer demand, Murphy also agreed to reimburse the publication for its costs associated with the court action. (The amount was not disclosed.) He previously settled another $5 million suit against Enquirer competitor, the Globe.

Steve Coz, the editor of the Enquirer, called Murphy's retreat a "warning." "If you're going to go after the Enquirer, you'd better be damned sure of your facts," Coz said from his Lantana, Florida, office Thursday.

Murphy filed a flurry of suits in May following tabloid coverage of his celebrated (or, notorious) late-night drive with a West Hollywood transsexual. In the May 2 incident, police stopped the Toyota Land Cruiser Murphy was motoring and arrested his passenger, Atisone Seiuli, a 21-year-old transsexual wanted on a prostitution charge. Murphy was accused of no wrongdoing. (For the record, Murphy said he was merely playing "good Samaritan," and giving Seiuli a ride home.)

The Beverly Hills Cop star accused the Enquirer and Globe of knowingly printing false stories about his sex life in the wake of the incident. Headlines like, "Eddie Murphy's Secret Life--His Transvestite Hooker Tells All!" (in the Enquirer), caused him "severe emotional and physical distress" that required medical treatment, his lawsuits claimed.

Today, in a statement from Murphy's publicist, Arnold Robinson, the actor decided that "the National Enquirer did not publish its article about Mr. Murphy with malice or recklessly."

Responded Gerson Zweifach, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represented the Enquirer: "It was a good article. It was a bad lawsuit. And [Murphy] saw the light."

Indeed, the tabloid steadfastly stood by its story, which quoted transvestites and transsexuals on the subject of Mr. Murphy. And the movie funnyman is continuing to pursue cases against Holly Woodlawn, a transvestite actress, and Sylvia Roe, a transsexual, who were quoted in the May 11 Enquirer article.

He has also filed a separate lawsuit against Ioane Seiuli, a relative of his passenger that night in West Hollywood. Ioane Seiuli is accused by the actor of making slanderous comments in the New York Post and the Globe.

The Enquirer, meanwhile, is savoring its victory. Said Coz: "It's great to get a check from Eddie Murphy."

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