The Donald Trump-friendly National Enquirer paid a former Playboy Playmate $150,000 over the summer for the exclusive rights to her story of her alleged affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, while he was already married to Melania Trump, but never ran the story, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The report is based on documents outlining the transaction obtained by the Journal, as well as the accounts of the affair from the friends of the Playmate, Karen McDougal. The Trump campaign vigorously denied the affair, while the tabloid said the $150,000 was for McDougal to write a fitness column, appear on the magazine’s cover and recount her affairs with married men.
According to the Journal, McDougal had hired a lawyer named Keith Davidson as she sought to come forward with the allegations. A contract between the two said that he was representing her 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,” the Journal said.
McDougal was in talks with ABC News over the summer, but ultimately agreed in August to sell the story to the media company that owned the Enquirer, American Media, Inc., the Journal reported. The contract gave America Media, Inc., the exclusive rights to McDougal’s story but included no requirement that the company publish it, and also allowed for the company to transfer the rights elsewhere, according to the Journal’s review of the documents.
Davidson confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that he represented McDougal in the negotiations.
The story has not run, in a practice in tabloid journalism known as “catch and kill,” according to the Journal. American Media Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David J. Pecker pushed back on the claims that the Enquirer sought to kill the story by pointing to the reporting it did on Trump’s Marla Maples affair, which was a quarter century ago: “That in itself speaks volumes about our commitment to investigative reporting,” he told the Journal in a statement.
Pecker and Trump are longtime friends, the Journal noted.
According to the accounts of McDougal’s friends and colleagues given to the Journal, her consensual, romantic affair with Trump lasted 10 months or so, beginning in 2006 and into 2007, and included her attendance as his guest at 2006’s Miss Universe pageant.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Journal that the campaign had “no knowledge” of any deal and that McDougal’s allegations were “totally untrue.”