On Wednesday, a report alleged that The National Enquirer paid $30,000 to a former doorman for President Donald Trump, in an effort to conceal an embarrassing story about him. The publisher of The National Enquirer, American Media Inc. (AMI), denies Trump had anything to do with the story being spiked. This is not the first time the tabloid has been accused of this sort of thing, however. To the contrary, The National Enquirer has allegedly been protecting Trump from awkward stories for years, and if true, this would be just the latest example.
On Thursday, one day after the initial report of a payoff was published by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker, the former doorman, Dino Sajudin, spoke out publicly. He claimed that while working at Trump World Tower, he was made aware that Trump had allegedly secretly fathered a child with his former housekeeper, and that he was thus forbidden from criticizing her. The Trump Organization has reportedly described Sujadin's claims as "completely false." Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
Here's what Sajudin said, per a statement via CNN.
Today I awoke to learn that a confidential agreement that I had with AMI (The National Enquirer) with regard to a story about President Trump was leaked to the press. ... I can confirm that while working at Trump World Tower I was instructed not to criticize President Trump's former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child.
As The New York Daily News detailed, Sujadin's ex-wife has cast doubt on his story, describing him as a "pathological liar." Here's how AMI responded to the reports, in a statement released on Thursday:
AMI categorically denies that Donald Trump or Michael Cohen had anything to do with its decision not to pursue a story about a "love child" that it determined was not credible. The suggestion that David Pecker has ever used company funds to "shut down" this or any investigation is not true. In addition, AMI and Mr. Pecker emphatically deny any suggestion that there might have been be any "partnership" created which might influence any business ties in regard to AMI. These claims are reckless, unsubstantiated, and false.
No media outlet has yet been able to confirm the rumor that Trump fathered a child with his former housekeeper, beyond Sajudin's own claims. Reports in recent months, however, have lodged similar accusations about The National Enquirer's unique relationship with Trump.
In February, Farrow similarly reported that former Playboy model Karen McDougal signed a $150,000 deal with AMI on Aug. 5, 2016 for exclusive rights to her story of an extramarital affair with Trump. The story never ran, however, in what media observers have characterized as an act of "catch and kill," the practice of securing the rights to a story in order to bury it.
The White House says that Trump denies the alleged affair with McDougal never took place, and AMI denied the allegations, stating that it does not pay sources in order to kill stories.
The practice of "catch and kill" has reportedly been employed by The National Enquirer in Trump's defense thanks to his longstanding relationship with David Pecker, the CEO of AMI. Some former Trump associates are also now employed by AMI, including former Trump Entertainment Resorts Executive Vice President David Hughes, and Justin McConney, a former Trump campaign social media strategist.
Trump and Pecker have reportedly known each other for decades, and that's represented in the tabloid's generally fawning coverage of the president; the tabloid regularly features blaring headlines that are extremely supportive of the president, suggesting that there's an FBI conspiracy to unseat him.
In fact, according to a report in The New York Times this week, Pecker met with Trump and his personal attorney Michael Cohen as early as February 2015, months prior to the announcement of his presidential run, to discuss how AMI could best support him, and how to spread negative stories about eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. According to the Times, AMI denied any anti-Clinton strategy meetings occurred between Pecker, Trump, and Cohen.
Killing damaging stories is not the only way in which AMI has allegedly aided the president. Nearly a year after the reported deals with McDougal and Sujadin, in June 2017, MSNBC co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough alleged that the White House threatened that unless they "begged" Trump, The National Enquirer would publish a story exposing details of their relationship to the world. Brzezinski and Scarborough ultimately refused, and the article ran.
In a statement, as CNN detailed, The National Enquirer denied that any threats were made, and denied any coordination on the story with the White House.
"At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story," the statement said. "We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions."
In short, this week's allegations of The National Enquirer coming to Trump's defense regarding critical coverage or embarrassing potential stories are not the first. It remains to be seen whether the White House will publicly address the story any further.