The National Enquirer magazine paid Donald Trump’s doorman $30,000 to prevent him publicly speaking about a rumour he fathered a love child, it has emerged.
The magazine’s publisher, whose chief executive David Pecker is a friend of Mr Trump, has repeatedly been accused of buying rights to unfavourable stories about the US president in order to bury them.
Radar Online, a sister publication of the National Enquirer, reported that the magazine had paid Dino Sajudin, who worked at one of Mr Trump’s New York buildings, for the story but did not publish anything.
Mr Sajudin told the magazine that he had heard a rumour that Mr Trump fathered an illegitimate child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations.
The contract subjected Mr Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone, according to US media.
Mr Sajudin said in a statement: “I can confirm that I was instructed not to criticise President Trump’s former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child.”
The woman at the centre of the story, who has not been publicly named, has denied the affair.
Dylan Howard, the Enquirer’s editor, said he made the payment to secure the Mr Sajudin because the tip, if true, would have sold “hundreds of thousands” of magazines.
Ultimately, he said the information “lacked any credibility” so he spiked the story.
However four Enquirer staffers who were involved in the episode have claimed they were ordered by top editors to stop pursuing the story.
Another former reporter expressed skepticism that the company would pay such a large figure for the tip and not publish a story.
US media has previously reported on a so-called “catch and kill” tactic at the magazine’s publisher, American Media Inc (AMI) whereby unfavourable stories were purchased and never published.
Last year the journalist Ronan Farrow claimed AMI colluded with Harvey Weinstein to silence his accusers by buying up exclusive rights to their stories and refusing to print them.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Enquirer published a string of allegations against Mr Trump’s rivals, such as stories claiming Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was a bisexual “secret sex freak” and was kept alive only by a “narcotics cocktail.”
AMI also bought the exclusive rights to a story from former playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Mr Trump, shortly before the 2016 election.
Ms McDougal said she was offered $150,000 for the information but the National Enquirer never published her story. Mr Trump has denied the affair occurred.
AMI has previously dismissed suggestions that it has acted on political motivations. “The suggestion that AMI holds any influence over the President of the United States, while flattering, is laughable,” the company said in a statement following media reports about Ms McDougal’s agreement.
This week the FBI raided the offices of Mr Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.
The federal agents are searching for communications between Mr Cohen, American Media’s chief executive and the Enquirer’s top editor, according to the New York Times.
In a statement, AMI said it “categorically denies that Donald Trump or Michael Cohen had anything to do with its decision not to pursue a story about a ‘love child’ that it determined was not credible”.
“The suggestion that David Pecker has ever used company funds to ‘shut down’ this or any investigation is not true,” it added.
The White House has not yet responded to requests for comment.