Former Playboy model Karen McDougal gave her first televised interview Thursday about the affair she says she had with Donald Trump, speaking emotionally about a romantic relationship she says lasted for 10 months shortly after the birth of Trump’s youngest child.
The interview marked a remarkable moment both for the president, whose romantic past has begun to draw more scrutiny as McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels have sought to free themselves from confidentiality agreements signed before the election, and the media, for whom the intensely personal interview was a prime-time event on CNN.
In the more than hour-long interview with host Anderson Cooper, McDougal spoke about a relationship she says she had with Trump in 2006 and 2007, choking up as she recounted the guilt she felt for being a party to the affair, reflecting about the connection she developed in hotel rooms and restaurants with the “sweet” man she said she fell in love with and unflinchingly recounting the affair’s most intimate details.
“When I look back where I was back then, I know it’s wrong,” McDougal said, choking back tears. “I’m really sorry for that.”
The affair began around June 2006, McDougal said, which would have been just a few months after the birth of Trump’s youngest son, Barron.
In her telling, the two met during a filming for “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion, where McDougal, who was Playmate of the Year in 1998, was working.
“He said hello and then throughout the night it was kind of obvious that there was an attraction,” McDougal said.
She said Trump asked her for her phone number, and by the time of his next visit to Los Angeles, around his June 12 birthday, they had been speaking on the phone.
That night, they had a “date,” she said, for dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Trump’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, picked her up and drove her to a rear entrance at the hotel, she said.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Are we going to a room because I thought we were having dinner,’ ” McDougal said. The two did have dinner — in a private bungalow that she said Trump liked to stay in at the hotel.
“Then as the night ended,” she told Cooper, “we were intimate.”
The night ended, she said, with a faux-pas made by Trump. McDougal said he tried to hand her cash — an experience she had never had before and one that left her crying in the car ride home.
“The look on my face must have been so sad,” she said. “I looked at him and said, ‘That’s not me. I’m not that kind of girl.’”
The experience made her feel “terrible” about herself, she said.
“I cried a lot,” she said. “I got over it, but it did hurt.”
Still the relationship between the two continued, McDougal said. For the 10 months that they were together, McDougal said, they saw each other a minimum of five times a month.
Earlier this week, McDougal filed a lawsuit against American Media Inc. (AMI), the publisher of the National Enquirer, which bought the rights to her story three months before the 2016 election but did not publish it. The suit claims that her former attorney, Keith Davidson, worked secretly with AMI and Trump attorney Michael Cohen as “part of a broad effort to silence and intimidate” her.
The complaint also alleges, without providing specifics, that Davidson had helped “catch and kill” other stories that would have been damaging to Trump.
Hours before the CNN interview, Davidson demanded that McDougal stop accusing him of mishandling her case and said he was poised to defend himself publicly.
In a letter to her new attorney, Peter Stris, Davidson said, “The complaint and various media appearances portray an incomplete and misleading depiction of the facts, circumstances and communications related to my prior representation of Karen.” Any further disclosures, Davidson said, “will be deemed to be a complete express waiver of the attorney-client privilege.”
Stris responded Thursday in writing: “We disagree with multiple statements in your letter, but are writing to acknowledge that we have received it. We hope that you will comply with your ethical responsibilities.”
AMI has denied any wrongdoing and has said the contract with McDougal is valid.
McDougal is asking the court to declare her contract with AMI void, saying her story about Trump “is core political speech entitled to the highest protection under the law.”
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, comes two weeks after Daniels sued Trump to invalidate her own confidentiality agreement. Daniels’ deal was with Cohen, who has said he “facilitated” a payment of $130,000, using his own money. Cohen has sought to keep Daniels quiet through private arbitration, alleging in a court filing that she could owe as much as $20 million for violating the agreement.
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