It’s time to revive the debate over whether we have to take the National Enquirer seriously because of that one time they were right about John Edwards’s affair. The Wall Street Journal reports that the tabloid paid a former Playboy model $150,000 for the rights to the story of her affair with Donald Trump a decade ago, when he was married to Melania. Why are we only learning of this alleged affair on a Friday night, three days before the election? Because unbeknownst to the model, the pro-Trump National Enquirer wasn’t paying to run the story, they were paying to kill it.
Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, has told friends that she had a consensual romantic relationship with Trump starting in 2006, according to the Journal. Friends say it lasted ten months to a year, and the mogul took McDougal and a friend to the 2006 Miss Universe pageant, seating them in the front row.
In August, the Enquirer reportedly pulled what’s known as a “catch and kill” on the story. McDougal thought the story would be published, but the tabloid was actually paying to make sure the story wouldn’t get out. Per the Journal:
A contract reviewed by the Journal gave American Media exclusive rights to Ms. McDougal’s story forever, but didn’t obligate the company to publish it and allowed the company to transfer those rights. It barred her from telling her story elsewhere. The company said it also would give her monthly columns to write and would put her on magazine covers.
Unsurprisingly, McDougal has not responded to requests for comment. American Media Inc., which owns the Enquirer, insisted that she was only paid for her columns and magazine covers, and exclusive rights to any affairs she might have had with married men (not Trump specifically). “AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” the publisher said in a statement.
Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks responded, “We have no knowledge of any of this.” She said claims that Donald cheated on Melania with McDougal are “totally untrue.”
It may seem crazy for a magazine to pay $150,000 not to run a story, but the report makes sense in the context of Trump’s relationship with the Enquirer. American Media chair and CEO David J. Pecker has been friends with Trump for many years. The tabloid endorsed Trump, published a series of columns he penned early in his campaign, and ran many reports attacking his rivals. A year ago, New York’s Gabriel Sherman reported that the Trump campaign was the source for the Ben Carson cover story “Bungling Surgeon Ben Carson Left Sponge in Patient’s Brain!” The tabloid reported that Ted Cruz may have had multiple affairs, and that his father was involved in the JFK assassination. A year before Hillary Clinton’s bout of pneumonia, the Enquirer ran a series of cover stories alleging that she “is engaging in a massive coverup about her health.” This is the current cover:
And we thought Trump’s claims of media bias were overblown.