The Slatest

Former Playboy Model Details Affair With Trump and Paid Cover-Up in New Yorker Story

Karen McDougal at Playboy's Super Saturday Night Party in 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Karen McDougal at Playboy’s Super Saturday Night Party on February 6, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Playboy

A former Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump starting in 2006 detailed for the New Yorker her experience with the future president and the system by which he and his friends kept his affairs quiet.

The model, Karen McDougal, described a legal agreement—one she willingly signed but claims she did not fully understand—that silenced her. She also spoke of the affair, which she said began just a few months after Trump’s son Barron was born, and recounted behavior similar to that of affairs he reportedly had with other women around the same time. The New Yorker report, by Ronan Farrow, cites dozens of pages of documents supporting her account.

McDougal met Trump in 2006 at a pool party at the Playboy Mansion, she said. A man described as her friend provided an eight-page letter she wrote, in which she described the affair that followed:

Trump and McDougal began talking frequently on the phone, and soon had what McDougal described as their first date: dinner in a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. McDougal wrote that Trump impressed her. “I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” she wrote. “We talked for a couple hours – then, it was “ON”! We got naked + had sex.” As McDougal was getting dressed to leave, Trump did something that surprised her. “He offered me money,” she wrote. “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.’ ”

Afterward, McDougal wrote, she “went to see him every time he was in LA (which was a lot).” Trump, she said, always stayed in the same bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel and ordered the same meal—steak and mashed potatoes—and never drank.

McDougal recalled that Trump would often send her articles about him or his daughter, as well as signed books and sun visors from his golf courses.

Adult film star Stormy Daniels, who has acknowledged having an affair with Trump beginning in 2006, recalled in an InTouch Weekly interview that Trump also offered her money after sex and that she too joined him at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, has said Trump assaulted her in 2007 at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

While McDougal said Trump made efforts to hide public evidence of their affair—his bodyguard would escort her to his hotel rooms; she would buy plane tickets herself and he would then reimburse her—he didn’t try to hide her from his family:

During Trump’s relationship with McDougal, she wrote, he introduced her to members of his family and took her to his private residences. At a January, 2007, launch party in Los Angeles for Trump’s now-defunct liquor brand, Trump Vodka, McDougal, who was photographed entering the event, recalled sitting at a table with Kim Kardashian, Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Trump, Jr.,’s wife, Vanessa, who was pregnant. At one point, Trump held a party for “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion, and McDougal worked as a costumed Playboy bunny. “We took pics together, alone + with his family,” McDougal wrote. She recalled that Trump said he had asked his son Eric “who he thought was the most beautiful girl here + Eric pointed me. Mr. T said ‘He has great taste’ + we laughed!”

Trump gave McDougal tours of Trump Tower and his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. In Trump Tower, McDougal wrote, Trump pointed out Melania’s separate bedroom. He “said she liked her space,” McDougal wrote, “to read or be alone.”

McDougal also spoke of offensive comments from Trump, including one instance in which he called her mother an “old hag” and another in which he said that one of her friends, who spoke of a relationship she had with a black man, liked “the big black dick.” McDougal said she ended the relationship in April 2007.

What followed years later, she said, demonstrated the mechanism by which affairs with Trump were kept quiet.

In November 2016, just before the election, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, paid $150,000 for rights to McDougal’s story. People who worked for the company told the New Yorker that the CEO and chairman of AMI, who was described as a personal friend of Trump’s, often bought stories to kill them, sometimes to protect the subject of the story and sometimes to hold the story as a sort of leverage over celebrities. “Someone in a high position that controls our country, if they can influence him,” McDougal said, “it’s a big deal.’” AMI told the New Yorker it didn’t run the story because it didn’t find it credible and that it had no leverage over Trump.

According to the New Yorker, McDougal was initially persuaded by a friend—the one who provided documents to the New Yorker—to sell her story in order to make money and also have some control over the story. She signed the story rights to AMI in August 2016, not long before Trump’s personal lawyer negotiated a nondisclosure agreement with Daniels. AMI promised to promote McDougal’s career with several business and visibility-boosting ideas. Those ideas did not translate into real opportunities. AMI also intervened in media requests sent to McDougal. AMI has “repeatedly approached” McDougal to try to extend her contract.

McDougal, who said she is a Republican, told the New Yorker she regrets signing the contract and that she didn’t understand its scope at the time. She said she decided to come forward despite fears of retaliation because of “changes in her life” and the ongoing public conversation about the sexual misconduct of powerful men.

Trump denies the affair.

Molly Olmstead is a Slate assistant social media editor.