7 Important Takeaways From 'The New Yorker''s Report On Trump's Alleged Affair With Playmate Karen McDougal

The press is often called “the fourth branch of the US government” and, in the past couple of years, that analogy has proven to carry a lot of weight. However, just as the government is sometimes found to be corrupt, the media can distort and hide information from the American people. On Friday, The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow published a story detailing the nine-month affair between President Donald Trump and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The most troubling aspect of this story isn’t the existence of the affair itself. (Although Trump was married, the affair was apparently consensual.) Rather, the most troubling aspect of this story is the extent to which American Media Inc. (A.M.I.) went to hide it from the American people.

 

There's a lot to unpack, but here's some highlights that you need to know about:

1. McDougal wrote down everything.

Ronan Farrow, the author of the piece, explains that John Crawford, a friend of McDougal’s, provided The New Yorker with an eight-page document that was handwritten by McDougal. He says that when he showed McDougal the document, she “expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own.”

The document, written in a sloppy, loopy script, notes everything from the meals that Trump ate during their affairs (“he always ordered steak and mashed potatoes—he never drank”) to the people she encountered while she was with Trump (Drew Brees and Tiger Woods, to name a few).

2. Trump offered to pay McDougal for the affair, which occurred when Trump was already married to Melania

According to McDougal’s notes, Trump and McDougal met when Trump filmed an episode of his reality TV show “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion. Their first date was dinner in a private bungalow at Beverly Hills Hotel.

“I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” McDougal writes. “We talked for a couple hours – then, it was “ON”! We got naked + had sex.”

After they had sex, she notes that “he offered me money. I looked at him (+ felt sad) + said, ‘No thanks - I’m not ‘that girl.’ I slept w/you because I like you - NOT for money’ - He told me ‘you are special.’”

She says that after their first date, she “went to see him every time he was in LA (which was a lot).”

McDougal ended the relationship after nine months, apparently because she felt guilty about it and was concerned about what her mother thought. (It didn’t help, of course, that Trump referred to her mother as an “old hag” when McDougal voiced her concerns.)

3. Trump always hid his payments

McDougal notes that Trump always paid for her to visit him, but he always discreetly made his payments: “No paper trails for him,” McDougal wrote. “In fact, every time I flew to meet him, I booked/paid for flight + hotel + he reimbursed me.”

4. McDougal sold the rights to her story to American Media, Inc., who never published the story

McDougal, who says she is a Republican, was initially hesitant to share her story: “I didn’t want to influence anybody’s election. I didn’t want death threats on my head.”

However, when a former friend of McDougal’s posted details of the affair on social media, McDougal began to change her mind. “I didn’t want someone else telling stories and getting all the details wrong,” she said.

On November 4th, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Media, Inc. had paid McDougal $150,000 for rights to her story: “A contract reviewed by the Journal gave American Media exclusive rights to Ms. McDougal’s story forever, but didn’t obligate the company to publish it and allowed the company to transfer those rights.”

American Media, Inc. is a publishing company that owns magazines like The National Enquirer, which has published favorable information about Trump. Its owner is David Pecker, who has described himself as a personal friend of Trump. It's asserted in the piece that A.M.I. never published this story, but because they had exclusive rights to it, nobody else was able to talk about it. The New Yorker explains that “purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call ‘catch and kill.’”

Jerry George, a former senior editor for A.M.I., told The New Yorker “We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run...We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.”

5. A.M.I. made sure that McDougal never shared her story

Part of the deal was that McDougal would get to write a column on aging wellness, but A.M.I. has allegedly failed to publish the vast majority of the columns.

However, A.M.I. has been quick to ensure that McDougal holds up her end of the deal. The New Yorker states that in May, 2017, Jeffrey Toobin asked McDougal for comment about her relationships with A.M.I. and Trump as part of a profile he was writing on David Pecker. A.M.I. immediately forwarded McDougal an email with the response she was to give with the subject line “SEND THIS.”

After information was released that Trump had an affair with Stephanie Clifford (AKA adult film actress Stormy Daniels), A.M.I. grew even more stringent with its control over McDougal, supposedly worried that she would share her story thanks to Daniels’ influence. They were quick to suggest she undergo media training, and offered to let her host the Emmys for OK! Magazine and even put her on the cover of a magazine.

“They got worried that she was going to start talking again, and they came running to her,” McDougal’s friend John Crawford told The New Yorker.

6. The #MeToo movement inspired McDougal to speak out, despite her contract

“I know it’s a different circumstance,” she said, “but I just think I feel braver...Every girl who speaks is paving the way for another.”

7. The Trump Administration and A.M.I. deny this story

"This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal," a White House spokesperson said to the New Yorker.

It's disconcerting to know the extent to which important information can be hidden. It's important to be aware that information can be suppressed, and to do our best to seek out the truth.