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The report, written by Ronan Farrow—one of the reporters that helped uncover Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct—details Trump’s relationship with Playboy model Karen McDougal and the efforts he made to keep it out of the press.
Farrow said Trump began his affair with McDougal two years after marrying Melania. Their son, Barron, was just a few months old. It ended in April 2007. McDougal memorialized their relationship in a handwritten, eight-page document, which was given to Farrow by one of her friends.
That letter provides the crux of Farrow’s story. McDougal not only details the nature of their relationship but also describes the “hotel-room meetings, payoffs and complex legal agreements” Trump used to cover up the multiple affairs he had simultaneously.
He offered to pay off McDougal after their first sexual encounter. To try and keep his name out of it, McDougal would book her own flights, and Trump would reportedly later reimburse her. McDougal would travel to a hotel in Beverly Hills, the same suite where Stormy Daniels said she met with him.
Despite Trump’s blatant attempts to not leave a paper trail, he introduced McDougal to members of his family—including Melania—and kissed her on the mouth during public outings at Trump Tower. Folks on Twitter said the affairs were common knowledge within certain circles of the media.
This story of Playmate Karen McDougal was out before the election and The Enquirer buried it, but the real media knew. I remember seeing this image last year and even tweeted about it because it was funny seeing Clinton & Melania in the shot 😂 ‘Ronan Farrow’ #FridayFeeling pic.twitter.com/XeynKGEqKK— Truthtalker (@Brotatopics) February 16, 2018
FWIW Karen McDougal's representation reached out to me in the wake of Trump's election about doing some sort of interview with her but talks stalled when they demanded financial compensation. https://t.co/oPT8s9nuxo— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) February 16, 2018
During the debates McDougal tweeted out a little Trumpy message.— ☇RiotWomenn☇ (@riotwomennn) February 16, 2018
Here she is.
WSJ says while married to Melania, Trump had an affair w Playboy model Karen McDougal.
I added flag to keep Evangelicals happy pic.twitter.com/Tx1Iy56FIY
On Nov. 4, 2016—just four days before the election—the Wall Street Journal reported that American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story, which it then subsequently killed.
“Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call ‘catch and kill,’ Farrow writes. “This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the president as ‘a personal friend.’ As part of the agreement, A.M.I. consented to publish a regular aging-and-fitness column by McDougal.”
Readers on Twitter said Trump’s attempt to cover up his affairs shows he had something to hide. Because her description of his behavior mirrors that of accounts provided by women who say he sexually assaulted them, some say this story confirms that the other women weren’t lying.
Karen McDougal’s account of an affair with Trump that began several months after his son Barron was born shares many similarities with the stories of other women who have described consensual relationships or alleged sexual harassment by him. That includes offering money for sex: pic.twitter.com/GJj6HE2omU— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) February 16, 2018
Wow an affair with Karen McDougal when Melania just gave birth to Barron, soooo much for family values @GOP— Mira G (@TheLiberalPulse) February 16, 2018
Farrow said the publisher has reached out to McDougal to extend her contract, but she said she regrets signing it in the first place.
“It took my rights away,” McDougal told Farrow. “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.”
Trump’s personal lawyer negotiated a separate agreement just before the election, as well, with porn star Stormy Daniels, which barred her from discussing her own affair with Trump, according to the Wall Street Journal. The White House, however, said both accounts are just “fake news.”
Read the New Yorker report here.
Tess Cagle is a reporter who focuses on politics, lifestyle, and streaming entertainment. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper. She’s also a portrait, events, and live music photographer in Central Texas.