The National Enquirer apparently didn’t just endorse Donald Trump. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, it actually buried an affair the Republican presidential nominee had with a former Playboy centerfold model.
Based on newly uncovered documents, the tabloid publication paid $150,000 former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of an affair a decade ago with Donald Trump, but did not publish it.
The paper reached the agreement with McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, in August of this year. However, American Media Inc., the company that owns the Enquirer, has not published anything about the consensual affair which started in 2006, a year or so after Trump married his third and current wife, Melania.
The process of burying stories is known as ‘catch and kill’ in tabloid journalism.
In a written statement, American Media said the $150,000 was not for the purchase of McDougal’s story. Instead, it was for two years of her fitness columns and magazine covers along with exclusive life rights to any relationship she has had with a then-married man. “AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” according to the statement.
However, Ms. McDougal has not appeared in or written for any AMI publications since she signed the agreement, according to a person familiar with the matter.
People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that Ms. McDougal believed that her story would be published while others familiar with the matter claim that the Enquirer never intended on publishing it.
It is no secret that the Enquirer is particular to Mr. Trump when it comes to the presidential election. The Republican nominee and American Media’s chairman and CEO, David J. Pecker are longtime friends. Since last year, the Enquirer has supported Trump’s presidential campaign, not only endorsing him, but also publishing negative stories about some of his opponents.
In a statement, Pecker admitted that the two were friends and that he greatly admires the real estate mogul, but he also said that the Enquirer “set the agenda” on Trump’s affair with Marla Maples when he was married to his first wife, Ivana.
According to the Journal, Ms. McDougal told several of her friends that she had a relationship with the businessman turned politician in starting in 2006 and lasting into 2007. Another friend of the former model told the Journal that McDougal’s relationship with Trump lasted about a year.
In July, McDougal was in talks with producers at ABC News to tell her story, but she ultimately decided to make a deal with the Enquirer. She was represented by lawyer Keith Davidson, who admitted to the representation when asked by the Journal. “I did indeed represent Ms. McDougal and currently represent Ms. McDougal in her negotiations with American Media Inc. to provide services to them,” he said.
Davidson also represented Stephanie Clifford, a former adult actress who went by the name of Stormy Daniels. Clifford was in discussions with ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ to disclose her alleged past relationship with the GOP nominee. She cut off contact with the network before telling her story.
The agreement between McDougal and AMI does not mention Trump by name, but provides the publisher the rights to “any romantic, personal and/or physical relationship McDougal has ever had with any then-married man.” AMI is entitled to damages of at least $150,000 if she discloses her story.
According to a copy of Mr. Davidson’s retainer agreement, his work for Ms. McDougal was in connection with “claims against Donald Trump and/or assisting client in negotiating a confidentiality agreement and/or life rights related to interactions with Donald Trump and/or negotiating assignment of exclusive press opportunities regarding same.”
Neither Ms. McDougal nor Ms. Clifford responded to the Journal’s requests for comment.