A new report confirms Donald Trump‘s affair with a Playboy playmate named Karen McDougal, the excruciating details of that affair, and the machinations behind silencing the stories of Trump’s affairs in the press. Ronan Farrow’s latest bombshell in the New Yorker details Trump’s deals with David Pecker, the C.E.O. and Chairman of American Media, Inc.. A.M.I. publishes the National Enquirer, which employed a tactic to purchase unfavorable stories about Trump in order to bury them. McDougal’s on-the-record comments about her relationship with Trump was one of those “catch-and-kill” buried stories.
According to Farrow’s report, Karen McDougal and Donald Trump began their consensual affair in 2006, shortly after the birth of Trump’s son Barron. Trump reportedly offered McDougal money for sex, which she declined, but Farrow notes that McDougal’s descriptions of her experiences with Trump “share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them.” McDougal’s account of her affair highlights the payoffs and efforts Trump went through to conceal the affair with McDougal, as well as the numerous alleged affairs he carried out with other women. He would meet them at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and he never paid for flights or rooms—he reimbursed McDougal for each trip she took, even when she would attend public events he invited her to, so that there would be no paper trail.
Perhaps one of the more striking details of McDougal’s account is how close she was able to get to Trump’s family, at his request. Trump invited McDougal to many public events, including launches for his now defunct vodka brand and parties for The Apprentice, where McDougal took photos with Trump alone and with his family. He also brought her to his golf club in New Jersey and private residences, once showing McDougal to his wife Melania Trump‘s bedroom, and telling her that Melania “liked her space—to read or be alone.” It is conspicuous that Trump would parade McDougal around very publicly, only to deny ever having any sort of relationship with her at all.
In addition to McDougal’s story, Farrow’s report includes details from other women who claim to have had affairs with Trump, and many of them describe behavior that includes forcible touching, kissing, and sexual assault. For McDougal, the last straw came in April 2007, when she ended the affair after nine months. When Trump offended McDougal by calling her mother “an old hag” and referring to black men with racial epithets in McDougal’s company, she decided to put a stop to things. After initially fearing legal repercussions for speaking out with her story because of the contract she held with A.M.I., McDougal decided she wanted to come forward. “I know it’s a different circumstance, but I just think I feel braver,” she said to Farrow when citing the #MeToo movement as an inspiration for speaking up about Trump’s behavior and encouraging others to not stay silent.