President Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs attracted fresh attention Friday amid new claims about a nine-month relationship with a former Playboy centerfold who was reportedly paid $150,000 by a tabloid publisher who never ran her story.
The alleged liaison with 1998 “Playmate of the Year” Karen McDougal was described in an article in the New Yorker. It is said to have included a July 2006 sexual encounter during a Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament where two adult film stars also claim Trump made sexual advances.
The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that McDougal was paid by American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, for the exclusive rights to her story. The New Yorker article contained new details about the alleged affair, as well as what it said were months-long negotiations with AMI during the 2016 campaign.
The White House declined to comment.
McDougal could not be reached Friday for comment.
Keith Davidson, the attorney who the magazine said orchestrated the payment during the 2016 campaign, also represents Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, one of the porn stars who also claims to have been with Trump at the golf tournament.
“While I understand the public interest in these issues, I am not at liberty to discuss private client information,” Davidson said in a written statement Friday.
The other porn actress, Jessica Drake, whose real name is Angela Patrice Heaslet, alleges that Trump touched her inappropriately. She is represented by attorney Gloria Allred.
Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said last week that he used his personal funds to “facilitate” a $130,000 payment to Daniels. He has not explained the payment, but the Wall Street Journal has reported that it was in exchange for her silence about the alleged relationship with Trump.
McDougal met Trump at a poolside party in June 2006 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, according to the New Yorker. Trump had married Melania Trump, his third wife, 17 months earlier. Their son, Barron, was 3 months old.
The details of McDougal’s alleged affair with Trump, contained in an eight-page letter obtained by the magazine, bear similarities to stories by other women who claim to have been intimate with Trump.
McDougal, Daniels and Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s reality TV show, all say they met with Trump in luxury hotel suites. Often, the setting described was the Beverly Hills Hotel — a famous pink stucco building that has long been a playground for Hollywood celebrities.
Their descriptions include being escorted by a security guard, sharing simple meals of steak or club sandwiches and the television playing in the background.
Two describe pet names they claim Trump gave them: Daniels was his “Honeybunch,” Zervos his “OC Angel,” referring to Orange County where she grew up. McDougal and Daniels both allege Trump talked about buying property for them.
McDougal and Daniels both describe consensual affairs. Zervos says Trump grabbed her against her will, and she has filed a defamation suit against him in New York State Court.
Maxine Page, who worked on and off at AMI as a reporter and editor from 2002 to 2012, described the practice of paying for stories and then quashing them as “catch and kill.” The goal was to protect celebrity friends of chief executive David Pecker from negative publicity, she said.
“It was common practice in the company,” Page said Friday in a telephone interview. “We’d be told we couldn’t write stories about ‘so-and-so’ because it was a friend of his.”
Another former senior editor, Jerry George, who said he left AMI in 2014 or 2015, said Pecker was eager to shield Trump from embarrassment and run flattering stories about the reality TV star. “There was a certain amount of hero worship involved on Pecker’s part,” George said.
Pecker could not be reached for comment.
The New Yorker story describes an event at the Playboy mansion where McDougal realized Trump was captivated by her. The party was a prize for winning contestants in an episode of Trump’s TV show, “The Apprentice” — during the first season to be filmed on the West Coast.
Two teams had been tasked with creating a line of swimsuits for fashion designer Trina Turk and then to model them in a runway show. For the winning team, the evening began, according to contestant Surya Yalamanchili, with a fireside chat with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and soon spilled into the expansive grounds. Trump showed up and looked over his group of seven female and two male contestants who were now chatting with Hefner’s playmates, Yalamanchili said.
“He was eyeing the women,” said another contestant, Derek Arteta, an entertainment lawyer. “That was the way he always was,” he said, recalling Trump on another occasion asking female contestants about their marital status.