Former playmate challenges dodgy confidentiality agreement, seeking to speak out about Trump
Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate who alleges an affair with President Trump, filed a complaint for declaratory relief in California on Tuesday. She wants the court to find that her contract with tabloid giant American Media, Inc.—the company bought rights to her story so it could suppress it and she got $150,000 and a promise to boost her career in exchange—is void by reason of fraud and illegality. And she has a decent case.
McDougal claims that she understood the contract to guarantee a certain level of exposure via regular columns and covers, for example. While AMI hasn’t refuted reports (and there are many) that characterize their representations to McDougal as promises, the company is refusing to hold up its end of the bargain.
A.M.I.’s general counsel ... promis[ed] to boost McDougal’s career and offer[ed] to employ a publicist to help her handle interviews. E-mails show that, a year into the contract, the company suggested it might collaborate with McDougal on a skin-care line and a documentary devoted to a medical cause that she cares about, neither of which has come about. The initial contract also called for A.M.I. to publish regular columns by McDougal on aging and wellness, and to “prominently feature” her on two magazine covers. She has appeared on one cover and is in discussions about another, but in the past seventeen months the company has published only a fraction of the almost one hundred promised columns. “They blew her off for a long time,” [McDougal friend John] Crawford said. A.M.I. said that McDougal had not delivered the promised columns.
The only subsequent discussions about AMI’s promises to elevate McDougal took place after journalists began seeking her out.
A.M.I. responded quickly, however, when journalists tried to interview McDougal. In May, 2017, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, who was writing a profile of [AMI chair and Trump friend] David Pecker, asked McDougal for comment about her relationships with A.M.I. and Trump. [Chief content officer Dylan] Howard, of A.M.I., working with a publicist retained by the company, forwarded McDougal a draft response with the subject line “SEND THIS.” In August, 2017, Pecker flew McDougal to New York and the two had lunch, during which he thanked her for her loyalty. A few days later, Howard followed up by e-mail, summarizing the plans that had been discussed, including the possibility of McDougal hosting A.M.I.’s coverage of awards shows such as the Golden Globes, Grammys, and Oscars. None of that work materialized. (A.M.I. said that those conversations related to future contracts, not her current one.)