In June of 2006, Donald Trump taped an episode of his reality-television show, “The Apprentice,” at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. After the show, Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, hosted a pool party for the show’s contestants with dozens of current and former Playmates attending, including Karen McDougal. Trump and McDougal allegedly began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to The New Yorker by John Crawford, a friend of McDougal.
According to McDougal, the relationship lasted for about 10 months. She says she broke it off in April 2007 because she felt guilty. She recalled traveling to meet Trump at his properties in New York, New Jersey and California and said she had sex with him “many dozens of times.” He allegedly once offered to pay her for sex. He referenced his wife on multiple occasions.
Trump had no leverage to implement a NDA over McDougal. As such, a different strategy was allegedly used.
On November 4, 2016, four days before the election, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, paid a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the exclusive rights to McDougal’s story. Now it was subject to confidentiality and non disclosure… by a third party.
AMI / The National Enquirer never published the story. According to The New Yorker, “Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” The C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, was a friend of Trump and known for this type of action.
McDougal ultimately had second thoughts, particularly when Trump began denying sexual impropriety. She regretted signing the contract. “It took my rights away,” McDougal said, “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.”
On March 20, 2018, McDougal filed a lawsuit against American Media Inc. “AMI lied to me, made empty promises and repeatedly intimidated and manipulated me,” McDougal said in a statement provided to USA TODAY. “I just want the opportunity to set the record straight and move on with my life, free from this company, its executives and its lawyers.”
In the suit, McDougal claimed:
Mr. Crawford introduced Ms. McDougal to attorney Keith Davidson, whom he met through a mutual friend. Ms. McDougal had no idea that Mr. Davidson had a close working relationship with Donald Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, with whom Mr. Davidson negotiated hush deals to cover up Mr. Trump’s sex scandals.
On June 13 and 14, 2016, Mr. Davidson met with Ms. McDougal in Arizona. He told her that the rights to publish the story of her relationship were worth millions. Mr. Davidson’s fee agreement granted him 45% of whatever Ms. McDougal received. Over dinner, including multiple bottles of wine, Mr. Davidson falsely told her this was standard in the industry. She signed.
By April 23, 2018, the lawsuit was dismissed. This was just in time for Team Trump and/or AMI to avoid discovery about what else was covered up and who else was involved.
According to the New York Times, “Under the terms of Wednesday’s settlement, A.M.I. has the right to up to $75,000 of the profits from any deal she makes in the next year for her story about the alleged affair. According to her lawyer, Peter K. Stris, Ms. McDougal can keep the $150,000 payment, and the publisher will retain the rights to photographs of her that it already has.” The Settlement Agreement is located to the right.
Non Disclosure Agreement / Non Disparage Agreement:
The subject contracts are attached to the Complaint.
The lawsuit was dismissed just in time to avoid discovery about what else was covered up and who else was involved. What else have AMI and Pecker covered up?