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The company behind the National Enquirer quashed a story about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump having an affair with a Playboy model, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said that the National Enquirer parent company, American Media, agreed to pay Karen McDougal $150,000 for a story regarding a decade-old relationship with Trump, who at the time was married to his current wife Melania, but never published the piece.
American Media denied paying McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, for the Trump story, but instead said it paid her for a series of fitness columns and magazine covers.
“AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” the company said in a statement.
Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment, but told the Journal that reports of Trump having an affair with McDougal were “totally untrue,” and that the campaign has “no knowledge of any of this.”
Citing unnamed sources, the Journal said that, while McDougal expected the story to run, American Media had no intention to publish it. A spokesperson for McDougal has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.
In a statement to the Journal, American Media CEO and Trump friend David J. Pecker defended the Enquirer’s coverage of Trump, saying the paper “set the agenda” on Trump’s extramarital relationship with Marla Maples.
“That in itself speaks volumes about our commitment to investigative reporting,” Pecker said.
According to the Journal, McDougal told friends that she was with Trump for nearly a year, starting in 2006 and extending into 2007.
The Journal said that American Media’s contract with McDougal included perpetual exclusive rights to the story, and while the company wasn’t obligated to run it, McDougal was prohibited from telling it elsewhere.
Trump has been accused of inappropriate behavior by numerous women. Trump has denied the allegations and threatened to sue his accusers after the presidential election.
On Saturday, an unnamed woman who had accused Trump of raping her when she was 13 years old dropped her lawsuit against the candidate. The anonymous accuser had been scheduled to give a press conference earlier in the week, but abandoned the plan at the last minute, after receiving what her attorney Lisa Bloom characterized as numerous threats.