Donald Trump kept his alleged affair with former Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal secret through a complex web of “clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs–sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously–out of the press,” according to Ronan Farrow’s latest bombshell report in The New Yorker.
The report, which was published early Friday morning, documents McDougal’s take on her alleged consensual affair with the president (who was married to his current wife Melania at the time) via an eight-page, handwritten document. Her allegations include that Trump offered to pay her for sex and put together a complicated system to cover up any paper trail connecting them.
McDougal’s story could have–and should have–come out months ago, before the 2016 presidential election in the National Enquirer. However, as the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported in November 2016, American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, secured an exclusive interview with McDougal, paying her $150,000 for the rights, and then never ran the story. Former AMIemployees told The New Yorker the tactic is known as a “catch and kill” where a paper catches a story, locks it up, and makes sure it never sees the light of day. Sometimes they even use the stories as leverage over the subject of the story. Why would the National Enquirer catch and kill a bombshell story like this one? Because the CEO and chairman of AMI, David Pecker, has described the president as “a personal friend.”
For her part, McDougal says she regrets making the deal with AMI, telling The New Yorker: “It took my rights away. At this point I feel I can’t talk about anything without getting into trouble, because I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about. I’m afraid to even mention his name.”
AMI responded that McDougal’s contract allowed her to “respond to legitimate press inquiries” regarding the alleged affair, and told The New Yorker that it didn’t print the story because it didn’t find it credible. When the story broke in 2016, Trump denied the affair and there’s no guarantee that if the National Enquirer ran the story before the election that it would have dissuaded voters.