The story relies heavily on the firsthand account of Karen McDougal, a former Playmate of the Year, who recounts her consensual affair with the current president before he was elected. The White House called the report “fake news,” its default response to unflattering stories. Farrow obtained an eight-page, handwritten note from McDougal’s friend detailing their relationship. McDougal confirmed that it is her handwriting in the letter.
The media industry has been abuzz with speculation about the target of Farrow’s latest investigation ever since word broke on the Drudge Report this month that he was readying another deep dive into sexual misconduct among the powerful. Farrow, along with New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, helped uncover Harvey Weinstein’s alleged decades of harassment and sexual abuse.
The story may attract attention not for the revelation that President Trump was involved in an affair before he was elected to the office, but for its presentation of details of how he kept such relationships quiet and how he attempted to buy the silence of the women with whom he interacted. Central to these efforts were the close relationship that Trump maintained with American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer. The gossip publication paid McDougal $150,000 for the exclusive rights to the story of her affair with Trump, but killed the piece. It also contracted her to write a fitness column. And the piece claims the company has approached McDougal about extending her agreement after news broke that Stormy Daniels had been paid not to discuss her own alleged affair with the president.
“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.”
In a statement on Friday, American Media, Inc., dismissed that portion of the report. “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,” reads the statement.
During the affair, Trump also took pains to avoid leaving a paper trail. When he would travel with McDougal, he would have her book and pay for her own flights before reimbursing her.
Trump was obsessed with his accomplishments, sending McDougal favorable articles about his businesses and showering her with merchandise from his golf courses, according to Farrow’s article. The nine-month affair with McDougal ended in April 2007. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, during the time.
Trump’s alleged infidelities have been public knowledge for years, and his tight relationship with AMI and its chief David Pecker have also been the subject of articles, but Farrow’s story implies that the Enquirer functioned as a veritable protection racket for the president. Jerry George, a former AMI senior editor, told the New Yorker that the company never published anything about Trump without his approval.
Pecker also maintained a close relationship with Weinstein, and offered to buy rights to the story of one of his accusers as a possible means of silencing her, according to a report in the New York Times.