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McDougal: I felt a sense of loyalty to Trump

Karen McDougal explains how her story about her alleged affair with now-President Donald Trump, which the White House denies, came out to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Posted: Mar 25, 2018 8:46 AM
Updated: Mar 25, 2018 8:46 AM

A former Playboy model who alleges that she had an affair more than a decade ago with President Donald Trump apologized to Trump's wife, first lady Melania Trump, in an interview Thursday evening. Melania now shares the dubious distinction of being a publicly scorned first lady with one other woman: her husband's 2016 rival for the presidency and sworn enemy, former first lady Hillary Clinton.

Karen McDougal told Anderson Cooper in an exclusive interview on CNN on Thursday night that she'd had a sexual relationship with Donald Trump a decade ago, while Trump was married, and that she was "sorry" for what she had done to Trump's wife, Melania. "What can you say except, I'm sorry?" she said, adding, teary-eyed, "I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me."

The White House has denied the affair allegations, which became public in a Wall Street Journal article before the presidential election; it detailed how the parent company of The National Enquirer had paid for McDougal's story and never published it.

McDougal's apology, coupled with other, very public allegations from adult film star Stormy Daniels -- that she, too, had an affair with Trump -- have thrust the Trumps' marriage into the spotlight in a way we have not seen since the 1990s, when Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky dominated the headlines.

To be sure, many first ladies have had to endure their husband's infidelity, although they were carried out well below the radar. But that was before cable news and social media.

The stories of rampant cheating by Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and others are so legendary that in a 1997 letter Monica Lewinsky sent to Bill Clinton pleading with him to see her, she even referred to Roosevelt's longtime mistress Lucy Mercer. "Oh, and Handsome [Lewinsky's nickname for the president], remember FDR would never have turned down a visit with Lucy Mercer!"

Mercer, not Roosevelt's wife Eleanor, was by his side when he died in Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1945. And Jackie Kennedy knew her husband saw other women, but at the time there was a gentlemen's agreement in the press never to reveal it.

Jackie suffered bouts of depression over her husband's philandering and once, when she was giving a reporter friend of hers from Paris Match a tour of the White House, she spotted a woman, whom she suspected was having an affair with her husband, sitting in his trusted secretary Evelyn Lincoln's office. Jackie turned to her friend and said, in French, "This is the girl who supposedly is sleeping with my husband."

But it was not until Hillary Clinton that a first lady would be forced to directly confront such embarrassing and hurtful public allegations of her husband's betrayal. This national -- global, really -- exposure went well beyond the the years of training Clinton possessed as first lady of Arkansas when her husband was governor.

But it is all new for Melania, who does not like the spotlight.

Bill Clinton's proclivities were no secret and were well-known in his inner circle and probably by his wife long before he won the presidency. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary's close friend and adviser Susan Thomases issued a similar warning to the one a friend of JFK's delivered to him 36 years earlier. Thomases said: "You're stupid enough to blow this whole Presidential thing over your d--k. And if that turns out to be true, buddy, I'm going home, and I'm taking people with me."

But Clinton's past came back to haunt him in the White House. As I detailed in a 2016 book I wrote about first ladies, one overnight White House guest of the Clintons remembered hearing the phone ring in the hallway of the second floor residence around midnight. The president picked it up, and after a moment, slumped over and yelled, "Oh s--t," and slammed the phone down. Clinton straightened himself up and continued entertaining his guests well into the early morning hours, as though nothing had happened.

The next morning the house guests -- there were always house guests during the Clinton years -- got up and went to the sunny Solarium, with its floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Washington Monument and the Mall, to have a quiet breakfast. The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were laid out on a table and right away they could see what had upset the president: Paula Jones had just filed a formal lawsuit accusing the president of making an unwanted sexual advance toward her when he was Arkansas governor and she worked in his office.

Unlike Jackie, Hillary Clinton had no choice but to address her husband's philandering in a very public way. Like Pat Nixon during Watergate, Hillary Clinton stopped reading the newspapers at the height of the barrage and blamed others, in this case Republicans, for trying to bring down her husband.

"She worked out a resolution that worked for her," Thomases said. "It was important for her to keep their marriage together." Shirley Sagawa, who at different times served as Hillary Clinton's domestic policy adviser and deputy chief of staff when she was first lady, said that Monica Lewinsky was a "terrible distraction" and that members of Hillary's inner circle were all "very angry at the time....It was a very complicated time and she handled it all with such grace."

Inside the walls of the residence, there was deep pain. Hillary had been through this before, even carefully choreographing camera angles during her first "60 Minutes" interview in 1992, when she sat beside her husband, who was asked difficult questions about an alleged 12-year affair he had with Gennifer Flowers.

The biggest headline of the interview was not anything he said, however; it was when she broke from the script and said, "I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette." She had known about his cheating and she wasn't about to let it stand in the way of their chance to win the presidency.

But like the Roosevelts before them, the political partnership and deep mutual affection kept the Clintons together. The same was true for the Kennedys. A week after their 10th wedding anniversary, Jackie wrote a letter to their friend Charley Bartlett, who had fixed them up. She told him she knew Jack would have been happy without being married but, without Jack, her life would have "all been a wasteland, and I would have known it every step of the way."

It remains to be seen if the bond between the Trumps is as strong.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333626

Reported Deaths: 3843
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin700691145
Ramsey29459521
Dakota23564198
Anoka23541236
Washington14864125
Stearns14564125
St. Louis9549121
Scott896460
Wright847548
Olmsted714637
Sherburne618746
Clay529960
Carver509715
Kandiyohi440828
Rice432338
Blue Earth431217
Crow Wing383339
Otter Tail338925
Chisago334516
Benton322753
Nobles316032
Winona297832
Douglas283040
Mower274823
Polk271527
Morrison246731
McLeod233721
Lyon232812
Beltrami230718
Goodhue222932
Becker221521
Steele21038
Itasca206324
Isanti203917
Carlton201417
Todd190314
Nicollet172126
Mille Lacs164632
Freeborn16227
Le Sueur157012
Brown156115
Cass153511
Pine14498
Meeker144812
Waseca143411
Roseau13035
Martin124721
Hubbard119729
Wabasha11301
Redwood104620
Chippewa9808
Renville95530
Cottonwood9454
Dodge9311
Watonwan8944
Wadena8637
Sibley8404
Rock8249
Houston8004
Aitkin79930
Fillmore7690
Pipestone76518
Pennington7058
Yellow Medicine69612
Kanabec68614
Swift63610
Murray6124
Faribault6093
Pope5721
Clearwater55410
Marshall5459
Stevens5403
Jackson5321
Lake4518
Koochiching4216
Wilkin4175
Lac qui Parle4124
Lincoln3811
Unassigned38159
Norman3718
Big Stone3392
Mahnomen3225
Grant2986
Kittson2518
Red Lake2303
Traverse1531
Lake of the Woods1071
Cook800

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 237371

Reported Deaths: 2571
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk34873347
Linn14787169
Scott1184692
Black Hawk11288147
Woodbury10763137
Johnson985939
Dubuque947999
Story701924
Pottawattamie682474
Dallas661260
Sioux383829
Webster378339
Cerro Gordo373252
Marshall360950
Clinton345645
Buena Vista316614
Muscatine305172
Des Moines300623
Warren294115
Plymouth287044
Wapello265072
Jones237118
Jasper231546
Lee228719
Marion211922
Carroll204325
Bremer202713
Henry19367
Crawford183116
Benton175423
Tama157442
Jackson151117
Washington150216
Delaware147621
Dickinson145812
Boone144912
Mahaska133928
Wright13107
Clay12505
Buchanan123410
Hardin122812
Hamilton119514
Page11925
Kossuth11768
Clayton115510
Cedar114614
Harrison113432
Floyd111921
Mills11129
Calhoun10987
Fayette109812
Lyon10769
Butler10748
Winneshiek105513
Poweshiek103714
Iowa101414
Cherokee9674
Winnebago96325
Chickasaw9195
Hancock9138
Sac9068
Louisa90122
Grundy89514
Allamakee88413
Cass84725
Union8437
Mitchell8429
Appanoose81613
Humboldt8125
Shelby80511
Emmet79026
Guthrie78315
Franklin76421
Jefferson7635
Madison7265
Unassigned7090
Palo Alto6744
Keokuk6567
Pocahontas6024
Howard5859
Ida54915
Osceola5461
Greene5422
Montgomery51411
Clarke5064
Davis4839
Taylor4833
Monona4567
Adair4539
Monroe45113
Worth3881
Fremont3823
Van Buren3815
Decatur3410
Lucas3416
Audubon3112
Wayne3087
Ringgold2432
Adams1812
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