NEW YORK (AP) — The former Playboy model who took a $150,000 payoff to squelch her story of an affair with a pre-presidency Donald Trump sued Fox News on Thursday, claiming prominent host Tucker Carlson slandered her by saying that what happened “sounds like a classic case of extortion."
Karen McDougal's lawsuit, filed Thursday in New York, says the host and network were “grossly irresponsible."
“They accused McDougal of committing a felony under state and federal law" to an audience of roughly 3 million, “without justification or excuse,” McDougal's lawyer, Eric Bernstein wrote.
Fox News said it “will vigorously defend Tucker Carlson against these meritless claims.”
The suit came two days after CNN was hit with a lawsuit from U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, seeking $435.4 million in damages for what he called a “demonstrably false hit piece” about him published on Nov. 22. and discussed on-air. CNN declined to comment.
McDougal has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. He denied it.
As the Republican ran for office in 2016, National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc. paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story, which it never published. The company eventually acknowledged the purchase was a “catch-and-kill” maneuver to help the presidential prospects of Trump, a longtime friend of American Media CEO David Pecker.
Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations in connection with payments to silence McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels, who also alleges she had an affair with Trump that he denies. Cohen is serving three years in prison. AMI, in a deal to avoid federal prosecution, admitted last year to making the payment "in concert" with the Trump campaign.
Carlson was discussing the Cohen case on Dec. 10, 2018, when the host recounted what he called “undisputed” facts: that two women had “approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn't give them money.”
“Now, that sounds like a classic case of extortion,” Carlson added, going on to criticize federal prosecutors for concluding that the payments amounted to campaign contributions.
McDougal's lawsuit says Carlson's statements were “demonstrably false." As the suit notes, American Media's deal with prosecutors outlined how McDougal's lawyer approached a National Enquirer editor, not Trump, about buying her story, and the company then alerted Cohen.
The suit, filed in a state court, seeks unspecified damages. Lawyers for Fox asked later Thursday to transfer the case to federal court.
Nunes' lawsuit, meanwhile, concerns a CNN report that a Giuliani associate claims Nunes met in December 2018 in Vienna with Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine, to discuss “digging up dirt” on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. The story was based on the word of the now-indicted associate's lawyer.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Virginia, says Nunes has never met Shokin and didn't go to Vienna or anywhere else in Austria in 2018. The complaint accuses CNN of harboring anti-Republican bias and “eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony.”
CNN has said that Nunes rebuffed repeated requests for comment before publication.