When talking about Donald Trump's alleged affairs with women from the adult-entertainment industry, it's probably best to ask, "Which one?"
The $130,000 pre-election payment to Stormy Daniels is already the subject of an ongoing controversy, but a few days before the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal published a separate article about a Playboy centerfold named Karen McDougal. As the story goes, the company that owns the National Enquirer paid McDougal $150,000 for her story about her affair with Trump, received the exclusive rights, and then didn't publish it.
There was, naturally, ample speculation about whether the tabloid's parent company, American Media Inc., did this as a "catch and kill" favor to help the Republican candidate -- buying the story so no one would see it. The company's CEO, David Pecker, is a Trump friend and supporter.
Now, however, the controversy is back in the news, with new details about how Trump and his allies concealed the alleged affair through secret meetings, payoffs, and legal arrangements.
Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year, documented her alleged nine-month affair with Trump in an eight-page handwritten note shared with The New Yorker.McDougal, 46, claims Trump once offered to pay her after they had sex in a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where many of their purported liaisons took place. She alleges Trump tried to avoid creating a record that might expose their relationship by having her pay for her own flights and then reimbursing her.
According to McDougal's account, she had a consensual sexual relationship with Trump in 2006, roughly two years after he married Melania Trump, his third and current wife. McDougal said the relationship ended in April 2007, about a year after Trump's youngest son was born.
Asked about the story, a White House spokesperson said, "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal."
That's an interesting choice of words.
Ordinarily, a White House spokesperson would say, "He never had a relationship with McDougal." Given Trump's unfortunate track record, this latest statement had a qualifier, "The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal."
Well, sure, but the president says a lot of things, many of which turn out to be completely untrue.
As is usually the case, Trump's personal history isn't especially interesting. His adulterous affairs are not new. The fact that he pursued women, while married, who worked in adult entertainment is probably a matter best left to Trump, his family, and his conscience.
What does interest me, however, in Ronan Farrow's New Yorker piece is the process Trump World had in place: "[McDougal's] account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs -- sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously -- out of the press."
And to me, that's the important part. When we have a president, accused of a variety of serious misdeeds, who has a history of using "clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements," it matters more than his sordid romances.