Ex-Playboy model sues to void hush deal over alleged Trump tryst

Key Points
  • Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, is suing American Media Inc. over a non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016 regarding an alleged affair with President Trump.
  • The agreement was signed on Aug. 6, 2016, about three months before the 2016 presidential election.
  • McDougal's suit seeks to void the hush deal, arguing that she was misled when she signed it.
Karen McDougal, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1998.
Getty Images

A former Playboy model is suing the publisher of the National Enquirer to void a non-disclosure agreement she signed shortly before the 2016 election barring her from discussing an alleged affair with President Donald Trump.

The lawsuit, first reported by the New York Times, arrives in the same month that porn star Stormy Daniels filed her own suit to void a hush deal she signed before the election, also over an alleged tryst with Trump.

The ex-Playboy model, Karen McDougal, was allegedly paid $150,000 for her silence by American Media Inc., the publishing company that owns the National Enquirer. American Media's CEO, David Pecker, has a friendly relationship with Trump. The company regularly uses the practice of buying and suppressing stories to protect its allies, known as "catch and kill," according to a February report in The New Yorker that provided new details about McDougal's alleged relationship with Trump.

McDougal's lawsuit alleges that Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was involved with the deal, the Times reported. The filing also reportedly claims that McDougal was misled about the deal by the publishing company when she signed it.

The agreement was signed on Aug. 6, 2016, about three months before the 2016 presidential election.

The company, McDougal said in a statement, "lied to me, made empty promises, and repeatedly intimidated and manipulated me."

"I just want the opportunity to set the record straight and move on with my life, free from this company, its executives, and its lawyers," she said.

Trump has denied the affairs with both McDougal and Daniels.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed a lawsuit against Trump on March 6 to void the non-disclosure agreement she signed in October 2016, for which she received $130,000.

After the hush deal was revealed in news reports, Cohen sent the Times a letter saying he made the payment out of his own pocket using funds from a home equity line.

NBC News reported on Tuesday that Daniels answered questions about her alleged dalliance with Trump during a lie detector test she took in 2011 as part of a magazine profile. The examiner who monitored the test concluded that there was a probability above 99 percent that Daniels was truthful when she said she had unprotected sex with Trump in 2006, according to NBC.

Daniels' suit argues that the agreement was invalid because Trump never signed it himself; only Cohen and Daniels signed the October deal. Daniels and Trump were allegedly referred to under the respective pseudonyms "Peggy Peterson" and "David Dennison" in the document.

McDougal, however, seeks to void her non-disclosure deal over being misled about its contents, as well as the circumstances surrounding it.

Her suit alleges that the final draft of the hush deal included a $150,000 payment for the story of her alleged affair with Trump; a provision that she would appear on the cover of two fitness magazines; and a provision for her to write 104 weekly posts in online fitness magazines published by American Media Inc., as well as 24 monthly feature articles in print publications.

But the agreement didn't guarantee McDougal the articles she thought she had secured — it only gave American Media Inc. "the right to identify" her as the author of the articles, meaning they were not required to accept her columns.

American Media Inc. did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. In a statement to the New York Times, the company maintained that it has "a valid contract with Karen and we look forward to reaching an amicable resolution satisfactory to her and to AMI."

The filing also alleges that McDougal did not know that her own lawyer at the time, Keith Davidson, was in contact with Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer. McDougal says she found out about the involvement between Davidson and Trump by reading news reports after the fact.

Lawyers for Cohen did not immediately provide a comment to CNBC.

McDougal's suit seeks to void the agreement, to pay for her legal fees and for "all other relief the Court deems appropriate, proper, and just."

In a statement, McDougal's attorney, Peter Stris, said: "We are confident that the so-called contract will be invalidated, and are eager for Ms. McDougal to be able to move forward with her life with the privacy she deserves."

Download the complaint here.