National Enquirer Owner Asks Court to Toss Ex-Playboy Model's Trump-Related Lawsuit

Karen McDougal - 2010 Playboy's Super Saturday Night Party - Getty - H 2018
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The National Enquirer's parent company is asking the court to strike a complaint filed by an ex-Playboy model who claims to have had an affair with President Donald Trump more than a decade ago. 

Karen McDougal sued American Media Inc. in March, claiming the company paid her $150,000 in 2016 — and offered her a lucrative columnist contract — to keep quiet about her alleged 10-month affair under the guise of buying the rights to her story. She asked the court for a declaration that her agreement with AMI is void. 

AMI on Monday filed a motion to strike McDougal's complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute, arguing the First Amendment protects its newsgathering conduct and editorial discretion, and that she can't demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing on her claims. 

"The Agreement, among other provisions, gives AMI the right and discretion, but not the obligation, to publish articles by McDougal, and also gives AMI exclusive story rights to 'any relationship she has ever had with a then-married man,'" writes attorney Jean-Paul Jassy in the motion, noting that the contract was amended a few months later. "The Amendment stated that McDougal could freely respond to 'legitimate press inquiries' regarding her alleged affair with President Trump."

McDougal also claims that the publisher's ploy to buy the rights to her story and not run it amounted to an illegal corporate donation to Trump's campaign with the goal of influencing the outcome of the election.

AMI says there's no precedent for such an argument.

"If AMI had exercised its editorial discretion to publish McDougal's story, she would have no argument that such publication was an illegal in-kind campaign contribution," writes Jassy. "But editors also have a First Amendment right not to publish, and cannot be punished for exercising that right."

Read the full motion below.