- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 5, 2016

The National Enquirer’s parent company paid a former Playboy centerfold $150,000 for the rights to an alleged affair she had with Donald Trump but never published her account, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Karen McDougal, Playboy’s 1998 Playmate of the Year, had a consensual romantic relationship with Mr. Trump for several months beginning in 2006 while he was married to his third and current wife, Melania, the Journal reported, citing several of the model’s friends who spoke on condition of anonymity.

American Media Inc. paid Ms. McDougal $150,000 in August 2016 for the exclusive rights to to “any romantic, personal and/or physical relationship McDougal has ever had with any then-married man,” according to a contract seen by the Journal.

As multiple women began to lob accusations against Mr. Trump in recent months, however, AMI kept the alleged affair under wraps by shelving its scoop, the Journal reported.

The National Enquirer and its CEO, David J. Pecker, have maintained a lengthy friendship with Mr. Trump, and denied purposely quashing its potentially explosive exclusive.

“AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” the company said in a statement to the Journal.

Instead, rather, AMI said it paid the model $150,000 for two years’ worth of fitness columns, magazine covers and the exclusive rights to any affair she had with the aforementioned but unnamed then-married man, according to the Journal.

Three months later, Ms. McDougal has yet to appear in any issues of the Enquirer, the Journal noted.

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, said allegations of a past affair between the candidate and the former centerfold are “absolutely, unequivocally” untrue, the Journal reported.

Ms. McDougal didn’t return the Journal’s calls for comment prior to publication of Friday’s article. According to the newspaper, the contract she signed with AMI entitles the publisher to at least $150,000 in damages if she discloses her story elsewhere or gives interviews about the alleged affair.

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