Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Donald Trump before he was president, filed a defamation suit Thursday against Fox News. McDougal received $150,000 that Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, has said came from him. In December 2018, Fox host Tucker Carlson said on the air that McDougal "approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give" her money," according to the suit. "Now that sounds like a classic case of extortion." The filing says McDougal did not approach Trump for money, Variety reports. Instead, she says, her lawyer tried to sell her story to the National Enquirer in 2016, and the payment was for the rights to it. No story was published, and the National Enquirer's publisher has admitted the payments were an effort to protect Trump.
"The payment to McDougal had nothing to do with extortion," the suit says, adding that she made no threats against Trump. McDougal seeks damages for harm to her reputation. Fox said Thursday that it would “vigorously defend" itself; Carlson is not named as a defendant, per NBC. There was no comment from the White House, and Trump denies having an affair with McDougal. She says they began a 10-month affair in 2006. The suit says Carlson didn't name McDougal but displayed a photo of her when he made the accusation, per the Washington Post. A reasonable viewer, the suit says, would assume McDougal "is a criminal that engaged in illegal activity against the would-be President of the United States." (Court records show Trump knew of the payments.)