The publisher of The National Enquirer reportedly paid a former Trump building doorman to keep him quiet about a rumor regarding Donald Trump’s sex life.
The New Yorker and the Associated Press published stories saying that National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., paid $30,000 in late 2015 to Dino Sajudin, a former doorman at a Trump building to prevent him from publicizing a rumor that Donald Trump fathered a child out of wedlock. Sajudin told the tabloid he had heard Trump fathered a child with a Trump employee in the late 1980s, according to the reports.
In a practice called “catch and kill,” the publication bought the exclusive rights to Sajudin’s story and then buried it as a favor to Trump, the reports said.
Ronan Farrow, the author of the New Yorker story, told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday that the order to stop the reporting came from David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer and Trump’s friend.
“This is about the most powerful people in the country having the ability to silence and change the news narrative at will,” Farrow said. “I think the public should know that.”
The story also mentioned Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen; Farrow reported that he spoke to two former AMI employees who “said they believed that Cohen was in close contact with A.M.I. executives while the company’s reporters were looking into Sajudin’s story.”
“AMI categorically denies that Donald Trump or Michael Cohen had anything to do with its decision not to pursue a story about a ‘love child’ that it determined was not credible,” AMI said in a statement Thursday. “The suggestion that David Pecker has ever used company funds to ‘shut down’ this or any investigation is not true. In addition, AMI and Mr. Pecker emphatically deny any suggestion that there might have been be any “partnership” created which might influence any business ties in regard to AMI. These claims are reckless, unsubstantiated, and false.”
AMI also reportedly paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 in August 2016 for her story about a nine-month affair with Trump. The deal also reportedly included a deal to publish regular columns by McDougal on aging and fitness. The National Enquirer never ran her story either and only ran a small portion of the columns that were agreed to. AMI has said that McDougall did not produce the columns, according to the New Yorker. Trump has denied having an affair with McDougal.
“This establishes a pattern now,” said Farrow.
The New Yorker reported that soon after it contacted AMI for comment on the story, the company’s celebrity gossip website, Radar Online, published its own story about the scandal and the payment to Sajudin. Radar’s story said that The Enquirer decided not to publish because it determined the rumor of the affair was untrue. It said it then released Sajudin from the terms of the contract that stopped him from talking with other media outlets.
The Radar story also quoted Enquirer editor and AMI executive Dylan Howard, who, according to Farrow, met with journalists and an attorney from the Associated Press last summer as the AP was investigating the matter.
“When we realized we would be unable to publish, and other media outlets approached the source about his tale, we released Sajudin from the exclusivity clause that had accompanied his $30,000 payment, freeing him to tell his story to whomever he wanted,” Howard told Radar.
In a statement of his own, Howard said it is “a disconcerting view of the level of hysteria and partisanship in American politics that not reporting a story that multiple media outlets have now also confirmed to be untrue has become headline news.”
“Paying for information has long been a practice of The National Enquirer and to suggest that it has only paid for, and not run, stories about any particular person is absurd. Fortunately, the First Amendment does not play politics,” Howard said. “The fact that no other news organization has subsequently been able to validate the story after AMI released the subject from his exclusivity clause confirms the basis for our editorial decision. For a fuller and more accurate portrayal of the facts, please read the full story on RadarOnline.”
But The New Yorker and the Associated Press both talked to staffers of The National Enquirer who said they were told not to pursue the story even after Sajudin gave them the tip. The New Yorker and the AP said they were not able to confirm the facts behind the rumor, and that members of the family involved in the story denied it to the two outlets. Neither named the woman or the child.
Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has separately said he paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, a porn actress who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, to remain silent about her alleged affair with Trump. Federal authorities are apparently investigating that payment, having executed search warrants this week for evidence about that payment. Trump has denied having an affair with Clifford.
AMI and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. CNN was not able to reach Sajudin.