A woman who says that she and President Trump had an affair over a decade ago offered new details about the alleged relationship and an effort to buy her public silence.
A Friday report published by The New Yorker describes how a tabloid publisher may have moved to “catch and kill” the story and pay off the woman, Karen McDougal, as Mr. Trump’s candidacy gained momentum.
Ms. McDougal, a former Playboy model, wrote an eight-page note, obtained by The New Yorker, describing the relationship, which allegedly began in 2006, while Mr. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania Trump, and lasted about nine months. Ms. McDougal said she regretted signing a contract with American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer, for the rights to her story.
“I feel let down,” Ms. McDougal told The New Yorker. “I’m the one who took it, so it’s my fault, too. But I didn’t understand the full parameters of it.”
The publisher’s $150,000 payment to Ms. McDougal was reported by The Wall Street Journal just days before the 2016 election, but the Friday report sheds new light on the deal-making process, which Ms. McDougal and those close to her described as exploitative.
Former American Media employees told The New Yorker that the company’s chairman and chief executive, David Pecker, who is close with Mr. Trump, routinely bought stories with no intention of running them, sometimes using the pieces as leverage.
The company denied the practice in a statement, referring to the author of the New Yorker piece by name.
“The New Yorker and Ronan Farrow’s suggestion that AMI engages in any practice that would allow it to hold influence over the President of the United States is laughable,” it said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ms. McDougal, a Republican, told The New Yorker that she was at first reluctant to share her story with the tabloid, but that she decided to proceed in 2016 after a former friend began posting about the alleged affair on social media.
Through a series of contacts, Ms. McDougal reached American Media, which at first expressed little interest in her story, according to The New Yorker. But after Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, the publisher increased its offer and encouraged Ms. McDougal to act quickly.
She signed the agreement on Aug. 5, 2016, giving the publisher exclusive rights to her account of any relationship with any “then-married man,” with nearly half of the payment going to three men who had helped arrange the deal, according to The New Yorker.
“I knew that I couldn’t talk about any alleged affair with any married man, but I didn’t really understand the whole content of what I gave up,” she told The New Yorker.
The affair began after Ms. McDougal and Mr. Trump met at a party at the Playboy Mansion in June 2006, the magazine reported. The pair began talking by phone and soon met for a private dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
“I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” Ms. McDougal wrote in the note about the encounter. “We talked for a couple hours – then, it was ‘ON’! We got naked + had sex.”
The relationship allegedly continued until April 2007, when Ms. McDougal called it off, partly out of guilt and partly because of racially insensitive and disrespectful comments Mr. Trump had made.
The president’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, told The New York Times this week that he had used $130,000 of his own money to facilitate a payment to another woman, Stephanie Clifford, a pornographic film actress known by the stage name Stormy Daniels. In 2011, she relayed her account of an affair with Mr. Trump to a different tabloid, “In Touch,” which published excerpts from the interview in January.
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