Stormy Daniel's ongoing legal battle to be able to publicly discuss her alleged affair with the president appears to be inspiring more women to reclaim their voices after being silenced by affiliates of President Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, filed a lawsuit against American Media Inc. seeking to be released from a 2016 agreement which keeps her from speaking about her alleged affair with Trump. American Media Inc. owns the The National Enquirer, and its president, David Pecker, is friends with Trump, as the New York Times and others have noted.
Back in November 2016, the Wall Street Journal published a story claiming that American Media Inc. neglected to publish McDougal’s story about her alleged affair from 2006 to 2007 with Trump in a manipulative move known as “catch and kill,” in which rights to a story are bought and then never published in an attempt to silence. McDougal's contract with American Media Inc. essentially mandates McDougal’s silence, but promised her two years’ worth of fitness columns and magazine covers.
“The lawsuit filed today aims to restore her right to her own voice,” Peter Stris, McDougal’s new lawyer, told the New York Times. “We intend to invalidate the so-called contract that American Media Inc. imposed on Karen so she can move forward with the private life she deserves.”
The lawsuit claims that Michael Cohen — who reportedly paid Stephanie Clifford (whose stage name is Stormy Daniels) $130,000 — orchestrated McDougal's talks with American Media Inc., and also claims that the company and McDougal's lawyer misinformed her about the deal.
According to the complaint, McDougal and Trump allegedly had a 10-month “romantic relationship.” The complaint explains:
“Ms. McDougal’s agreement has been amended to permit her to respond to 'legitimate press inquiries' about her relationship with Mr. Trump. Yet every time prominent reporters contact Ms. McDougal, AMI tells her exactly what she must say—nothing. They threaten her with financial ruin if she does not remain 'loyal.' AMI, meanwhile, feeds those same reporters false information about Ms. McDougal, her relationship with Mr. Trump, and its own machinations to bind her to silence. “
American Media Inc. has released a statement (via CNN) saying that McDougal “has been free to respond to press inquiries about her relationship with President Trump since 2016.” The company also said that the contract she signed gave the media company "the editorial discretion to publish her life story, and she promised to write health and fitness columns and appear on the cover of two magazines."
Yet according to McDougal's complaint, “AMI has continued to intimidate Ms. McDougal and threaten her with financial ruin if she tells her story to the American public—even as AMI itself has readily shared its own false account of both the relationship and its cover up.”
This complaint is tangential to a separate report related to a sexual harassment allegation from former “Apprentice” contestant, Summer Zervos. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a judge said a defamation lawsuit against Trump may proceed. Zervos reported the lawsuit after Trump publicly said that she made up the claim. New York Supreme Court Judge Jennifer G. Schecter cited the precedent that led to former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
When the first wave of #MeToo allegations began, many asked why Trump appeared immune to allegations against him; yet now it seems that those concerns were unwarranted. As Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., once said, “If for some reason [Robert] Mueller does not get him, Stormy will.”