Lawyers for publishing giant American Media, Inc. — the parent company of mensfitness.com — say a former Playboy Playmate who alleges a story of an extramarital relationship with President Trump has always been free to tell her version of events.
Karen McDougal, who is a health and wellness columnist for various AMI titles and who appeared on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers, sued the company Tuesday, claiming it was refusing to let her speak. But AMI shot back Wednesday after McDougal’s attorney Peter Stris went on a media tour with appearances on Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, suggesting his client had been muzzled or silenced. “Mr. Stris states that Karen has been ‘terrified to speak about her story for a year.’ On November 29, 2016, after the publication of an article in the Wall Street Journal, American Media amended Karen’s contract to provide that she may respond to legitimate press inquiries concerning her relationship with President Donald Trump,” said a statement from AMI, provided to Men’s Fitness. The statement can be read in full here. “She spoke with the New Yorker as a result of this amendment, is speaking with CNN, and is free to continue to speak to the press.” AMI, the company that published The National ENQUIRER, Star, OK! and other titles, added: “Mr. Stris claims that American Media, Inc. would be able to ‘silence her’ in perpetuity. This is untrue. As previously stated, Karen has been free, has spoken freely, and remains free to speak regarding her story since the amendment made to her contract on 2016. The only thing she is limited from doing under her contract with American Media is selling her story rights to another publisher or media outlet. That is not ‘silencing’ Karen.” In one of his more sensational claims, Stris suggested there was a “coordinated campaign to convince Karen that she would be sued, or her reputation would be besmirched if she told her truth.” “This is not true. American Media has never threatened to sue Karen. To the contrary, without even contacting AMI to try to resolve any outstanding issues, Karen sued AMI,” explained the company. “When she requested professional public relations consulting to protect her public reputation, we provided Karen a consultant at our expense. It has been in American Media’s journalistic and business interests to protect Karen’s public reputation, because she writes for and appears in our publications.” Stris also alleged that McDougal “thought she was signing a legitimate modeling and writing contract.” In response to that, AMI declared: “American Media stands by the contract it signed with Karen to produce health and wellness content and appear in its magazines. To date, Karen has produced more than 20 columns, appeared on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers, and been scheduled to appear on the cover of Men’s Journal. We also have featured Karen’s photo shoot and exercise routines in our magazines … We have featured Karen in a positive light at all times. ” In an earlier statement, AMI said that its contract with McDougal was valid and that it looked forward “to reaching an amicable resolution.” That read: Karen McDougal has been free to respond to press inquiries about her relationship with President Trump since 2016. Thus, the suggestion that AMI “silenced” her is completely without merit. Rather, Karen signed a contract that gave AMI the editorial discretion to publish her life story, and she promised to write health and fitness columns and appear on the cover of two magazines.
To date, AMI has published 20 of Karen’s columns in print, all of which were syndicated on other entertainment properties, four stories on www.muscleandfitness.com, in addition to a behind-the-scenes video shoot, and a story on www.mensfitness.com which we are very proud of. In addition, Karen has appeared on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers, which was the highest selling issue for 2017. She was also slotted to appear on the cover of Men’s Journal, a magazine with a circulation of 1,250,000, but she has not responded to repeated requests to schedule that photo shoot and through her attorney she indicated she believed she was not being paid enough to do all the work she had been asked to do.
We have been very proud of Karen McDougal and our work with her. The relationship has produced good journalism and content for our publications. And until very recently, it was our understanding that Karen was satisfied with our editorial approach to her work with AMI’s publications. Her lawsuit is the first time AMI has learned of her desire to go a different direction. AMI has a valid contract with Ms. McDougal and we look forward to reaching an amicable resolution satisfactory to her and to AMI. McDougal is scheduled to appear on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Thursday night.