Politics

Self-professed ex-Trump mistress Karen McDougal sues Fox News for defamation after 'extortion' claim

Key Points
  • Karen McDougal, the Playboy model who has said she had an affair with President Donald Trump, has filed a lawsuit against Fox News Network for defamation.
  • Fox host Tucker Carlson said on air that two women had threatened to ruin Trump's career and humiliate his family if he did not give them money, the suit says. "That sounds like a classic case of extortion," Carlson said.
  • McDougal was paid $150,000 in 2016 by the Trump-friendly supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer after her lawyer tried to sell the story about the alleged affair with Trump to the newspaper.
  • Trump's then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen that same year paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence about what she has said was a sexual tryst with Trump years earlier.
Karen McDougal, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1998.
Getty Images

Karen McDougal — the Playboy model who has said she had an affair with President Donald Trump — has filed a lawsuit against the Fox News Network, alleging that Fox host Tucker Carlson defamed her by falsely claiming she extorted Trump by threatening to go public before the 2016 election about their past relationship.

McDougal's suit, filed Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, says that Carlson's statements last December on the Fox News Channel "were intentionally false and made with reckless disregard for the truth," and slandered her.

The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, notes that "two women approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn't give them money."

"Now that sounds like a classic case of extortion," Carlson added during the Dec. 10, 2018, broadcast of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the suit says.

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National Enquirer publisher given immunity over hush-money payment

While Carlson never mentioned McDougal by name, "it was obvious to a reasonable viewer who he was referring to particularly when Carlson put a picture of McDougal on the screen while reporting that she extorted Trump," the suit says.

The suit notes that McDougal "never approached Trump and threatened to ruin his career or humiliate his family if he did not give her money."

The network said in an emailed statement, "Fox News will vigorously defend Tucker Carlson against these meritless claims."

McDougal has said she had a 10-month affair with Trump that began in 2006, when he was married to first lady Melania Trump. The president has denied her claims.

McDougal was paid $150,000 in 2016 by the publisher of The National Enquirer after an attorney for her tried to sell the story about the affair to that Trump-friendly supermarket tabloid newspaper.

David Pecker, CEO of the paper's publisher, spoke with Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen "to inform him about the story" before the payment was made, the suit says.

"At Cohen's urging and subject to Cohen's promise that [the publisher] would be reimbursed, the editor began negotiating for the purchase price of the story," according to court papers.

Under the payment agreement, the publisher acquired McDougal's limited life story for her relationship with "any then married man" — but did not publish her account of the affair, the suit says.

The practice of buying the rights to a story with the intention of quashing it from becoming public was known as "catch and kill" at the Enquirer.

"Every individual involved in this transaction has never once mentioned, implied or otherwise indicated that McDougal extorted Trump," the suit says.

Cohen that same year paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence about what she has said was a sexual tryst with Trump years earlier.

That tryst allegedly occurred months after Melania Trump gave birth to her son with the president.

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels.

Both payments to the women came in the months before the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen has testified that he facilitated the payments at Trump's direction to avoid negative publicity harming his chances to win the race for the White House.

Cohen is serving a three-year federal prison term for crimes that include campaign finance violations related to the payments to McDougal and Daniels.