Karen McDougal, the model whose story of an affair with Donald Trump was “caught and killed” during the 2016 election by the National Enquirer, is now suing Fox News for defamation after host Tucker Carlson claimed she was blackmailing the president
McDougal says she met Trump in 2006 at the Playboy mansion while he was filming an episode of Celebrity Apprentice. She says they had an affair for ten months before she broke it off. During the election, the National Enquirer, which was published at the time by Donald Trump’s close friend David Pecker, paid $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story, then didn’t publish her account, a practice known as “catch and kill” meant to keep stories out the news cycle. McDougal wasn’t allowed to talk about the affair until 2018 when she reached a settlement with the Enquirer.
However, after the Washington Post broke the story about the Enquirer’s attempts to bury McDougal’s story, Fox New’s Tucker Carlson accused McDougal of extorting Trump in exchange for silence, claiming in a December 2018 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight that she had “approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money.” He also referred to the Enquirers payment as “ransom.”
In a suit against the network, which does not include Carlson, McDougal’s attorneys say “A reasonable person watching the show would have thought that Ms. McDougal was a criminal.” Yet in secret recordings released in July 2018, revealed that it was actually Donald Trump who asked his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, about the purchase of McDougal’s story, indicating that if anyone was holding the story hostage, it was Pecker, Trump, and the Enquirer.
Defamation cases are historically hard to win, and Fox News, which describes Carlson as a “sworn enemy of lying” on the network website, said in a statement that the company will “vigorously defend Tucker Carlson against these meritless claims.”