Karen McDougal: The former Playboy model involved in Donald Trump hush money case with Stormy Daniels
Karen McDougal claims she had a 10-month affair with Donald Trump in the early 2000s after meeting him at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
Stormy Daniels is the woman at the heart of Donald Trump‘s criminal charges. But she isn’t the only woman involved in the case of alleged hush money payments by the former president.
Background court documents unveiled in New York on Tuesday mention another payment made to “Woman 1”.
The description of events suggests that woman is Karen McDougal – a former Playboy model who, like Ms Daniels, claims she had an affair with the former president.
Small town girl from Michigan to Playboy Mansion
On her website, Karen McDougal, 52, describes herself as a “small town girl from Michigan”.
She was born in Indiana but moved there as a child.
After studying at Ferris State University she moved to Detroit to teach pre-kindergarten, later planning to open her own learning centre.
But as a regular gym-goer, a friend suggested she enter a swimwear competition at a local nightclub.
She got to the national finals where in the early 1990s she met a Playboy photographer who asked her to try out for the magazine.
After joining Playboy and appearing on the front cover in 1998 she was awarded Playmate of the Year and later Playmate of the 90s – coming second to Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.
She got other contracts as a fitness model, becoming the first woman to appear on the cover of Men’s Fitness in 1990, as well as appearing in TV adverts and a minor role in Charlie’s Angels.
Trump ‘immediately took a liking’
In June 2006 she was back at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles where Donald Trump was filming a one-off episode of The Apprentice, according to The New Yorker.
Hugh Hefner threw him a party with models past and present and Mr Trump was introduced to Ms McDougal.
In an account of their “10-month affair” a friend of hers shared with The New Yorker, she claims the former president “immediately took a liking to me”.
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“Kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc,” she wrote.
“It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow he was all over you – I think you could be his next wife’.”
At that time, Mr Trump was two years into his marriage with his now-wife Melania and they had a young son Barron.
Mr Trump has always denied an affair with both Ms McDougal and Ms Daniels.
National Enquirer story which never ran
Ten years later in 2016 when Mr Trump was first running for president, Ms McDougal agreed to a $150,000 (£120,000) deal to share her story with the National Enquirer.
The deal with the tabloid was exclusive and banned her from talking about it publicly – but it was never published.
This was thought to be a ‘catch and kill’ operation, when a publication buys exclusive rights to a story with no intention of running it to be able to suppress it.
In 2021 the US Federal Election Commission ruled the Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc violated election laws by paying Ms McDougal, as burying a negative story about Mr Trump during the campaign was the equivalent of a campaign contribution.
It was fined $187,000.
In charging documents, prosecutors say that Mr Trump didn’t want ‘Woman 1’s’ story to become public because he was “concerned about the effect it could have on his candidacy”.
They add that his former lawyer Michael Cohen agreed with the then-chief executive of American Media Inc David Pecker that Mr Trump would reimburse Mr Pecker for the Election Commission fine.
Ultimately Mr Pecker, a friend of Mr Trump’s, decided not to accept a repayment.
But amid the Electoral Commission investigation, American Media Inc acknowledged its payments to Ms McDougal were done specifically to assist Mr Trump’s election bid and were made “in concert” with his campaign.
‘Good times in New York’
Now Ms McDougal describes herself as a “spokesperson/fitness mag cover girl/host”.
Her Instagram bio says she is a “BIISurvivor” (breast implant illness survivor). She had hers removed in 2017 after developing thyroid, adrenal and allergy problems.
She travelled to New York a week before the trial, posting on her Instagram: “Good times in New York”, but has not appeared in public.
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