A former Playboy model reached a settlement Wednesday of her Los Angeles lawsuit seeking to nullify a 2016 agreement she claimed was preventing her from discussing an alleged affair she had with Donald Trump before his presidency.
Karen McDougal contended in her lawsuit that she was misled into signing the 2016 agreement with American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer. AMI is controlled by David Pecker, a friend and supporter of Trump.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit claimed that AMI paid McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story for the purpose of keeping it out of the public eye — a practice known as “catch and kill” — to protect Trump. AMI denied any wrongdoing, saying McDougal was never prevented from telling her story, and insisting the company was meeting terms of the agreement by publishing 20 of her health and fitness columns.
An AMI representative said Wednesday the company “is pleased that we reached an amicable resolution with Karen today that provides both sides what they wanted as a result.”
According to the company, the agreement calls for AMI to retain a financial stake in any re-sale of McDougal’s story. The New York Times reported that the stake will be up to $75,000.
Under the settlement, McDougal will appear on the September cover of Men’s Journal, which will also feature an article about her, according to AMI. The company will also publish five more of McDougal’s health columns.
McDougal said she was “pleased to have reached a settlement with AMI on my own terms, which restores to me the rights to my life story and frees me from this contract that I was misled into signing nearly two years ago. My goal from the beginning was to restore my rights and not to achieve any financial gain, and this settlement does exactly that.”
Still unclear is whether McDougal actually plans to sell the rights to her story about the alleged affair, which Trump denies.
According to her lawsuit, McDougal had a 10-month relationship with Trump in 2006-07 — in roughly the same time frame that another woman, adult film actress Stormy Daniels, claims she had affair with Trump.
In February, AMI officials told The New York Times that they initially chose not to print McDougal’s story when they first learned of her allegations because the company could not verify important details.
But the lawsuit claimed that when McDougal began considering an interview with ABC News, AMI returned to her with the $150,000 payment for the purpose of buying her story, “but it would not publish the story” because of Pecker’s relationship with Trump, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged that McDougal was “duped” by her then-lawyer, Keith Davidson, into signing the agreement.
The suit contended that AMI amended the agreement in late 2016 allowing McDougal to respond to “legitimate press inquiries” about her relationship with Trump, but that maneuver turned out to be another effort to “suppress” her story. AMI instead hired a public-relations firm to assist McDougal with media inquiries.
“In the year-plus that has followed, however, AMI has told Ms. McDougal to say nothing about the relationship to reporters that contact her, and instead to forward misleading emails to AMI ghostwrites,” according to the lawsuit. “AMI has simultaneously provided those same reporters false and misleading information both on-the-record and on-background. And each time that Ms. McDougal has taken steps to set the record straight, AMI has responded with threats and intimidation.”
The suit also alleged that Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was secretly involved in negotiating the McDougal deal between AMI and Davidson. Cohen is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation that led to a recent raid of his New York office. The New York Times reported that among the material seized in the raid was information about the McDougal case, as well as Stormy Daniels’ non-disclosure agreement, which Cohen negotiated.