Another woman who says she had an affair with Donald Trump before he was president doesn't want to be silenced — and she's taking her fight to court. As of Tuesday, former Karen McDougal is suing for the right to talk about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006. She claims a legal agreement she made in 2016 with American Media Inc., which owns The National Enquirer, isn't valid because the media company misled her.
McDougal's accusations first made headlines in February, when Ronan Farrow published her story in The New Yorker. McDougal says she was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc. ahead of the 2016 election to keep quiet about the alleged affair, which President Trump has denied.
The New York Times reports that American Media Inc. warned McDougal after she spoke to Farrow that “any further disclosures would breach Karen’s contract” and “cause considerable monetary damages.” Her lawyer, Peter K. Stris, accused the media company of “a multifaceted effort to silence Karen McDougal" in an email to The Times.
Earlier this month, adult film star Stormy Daniels sued Trump over a similar non-disclosure agreement that prevented her from talking publicly about their alleged affair. Daniels and McDougal both say they had affairs with Trump in 2006, and he's denied both allegations.
McDougal's lawsuit centers around the argument that she was deceived about what the 2016 agreement meant. Her lawsuit claims "she was tricked into signing it while being misled as to its contents," including by her own lawyer (she has since hired a new lawyer). The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleges Michael Cohen was involved in her talks with American Media Inc. without her knowledge.
Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, is also at the center of Daniels' lawsuit. He has admitted to paying Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket in 2016 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. Daniels' current lawsuit, also filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, claims her non-disclosure agreement is invalid because Trump never signed it.
Daniels' lawsuit also claims Cohen "aggressively sought to silence" her about the alleged affair, and asserts that Trump must have known. "It strains credulity to conclude that Mr. Cohen is acting on his own accord and without the express approval and knowledge of his client Mr. Trump," her lawsuit reads.
Like Daniels' suit, McDougal's claims she was unfairly silenced and aims to dissolve a clause in her agreement that requires her to resolve disputes in private arbitration rather than court. Her lawyer told The Times:
“The lawsuit filed today aims to restore her right to her own voice. We intend to invalidate the so-called contract that American Media Inc. imposed on Karen so she can move forward with the private life she deserves.”
A major difference between the two women's lawsuits, however, is who they're suing. While Daniels sued Trump himself, McDougal is going to battle with American Media Inc. The media company is known for buying — and subsequently burying — stories about people it wants to protect. American Media Inc. CEO, David Pecker, has called Trump "a personal friend."
In an interview published in The New Yorker in December, Pecker admitted that he stopped McDougal from speaking publicly about the alleged affair. "Once she’s part of the company, then on the outside she can’t be bashing Trump and American Media," Pecker told The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin. When Toobin pointed out that "bashing Trump was not the same as bashing American Media," Pecker responded: "To me it is."
Now, the Los Angeles Superior Court will decide whether or not McDougal's deal with American Media Inc. stands. If it rules in her favor, the nation could be hearing a lot more about her alleged affair with the president.