Here’s How and Why People like Me Jumped to the Wrong Conclusion About the Broidy/Bechard Scandal


Of all the many loathsome elements of President Donald Trump’s personality, the one that infuriates people like me the most is his abject disregard for the truth. He lies constantly and, even when it is proven that he has lied, he never even takes any responsibility for it, all while insisting that reporters, who make what are usually honest mistakes, be held to full account even after they have admitted having gotten something wrong.

In that context, it is paramount that I proactively admit that I was one of those who made a speculative allegation against Trump which now, given more evidence, appears to have been false. I am referring to the theory, first outlined by law professor Paul Campos in New York Magazine, that Trump impregnated former Playboy playmate Shera Bechard while president, and then arranged for former GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy to take the fall for that and the ensuing abortion, all while using Trump’s then personal attorney Michael Cohen to pay her $1.6 million.

I interviewed Campos for my podcast and was immediately convinced that there was a very good chance his view of what really happened was accurate, or, at the very least, that the narrative we were being told didn’t make any sense. At one point, it even appeared to me, Campos, and celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, that the whole story was finally about to blow up into a massive bombshell.

But then, almost immediately, it started to become clear that there was a problem. Avenatti had dramatically scheduled a deposition with Bechard, but suddenly, without fanfare, it got cancelled. Avenatti, who had been in fairly close contact with Campos, stopped returning his text messages and almost never spoke about the story again publicly.

Knowing that Avenatti had access to information in Bechard’s lawsuit against Broidy (because, strangely, he was named as a co-defendant), I told Campos that this was a very bad sign for his theory. After all, unless Avenatti, who had publicly hinted he believed in the theory several times, suddenly had reason to doubt it, he would have been all over this budding Trump scandal like a hungry pit-bull going after fresh meat.

I personally started to turn against the “Trump version” of events under the premise that if was true, especially with Cohen seemingly flipping on Trump, the floodgates of evidence should have been opened in favor of it, but instead, it was suddenly the opposite. Unfortunately, two developments delayed me coming to the ultimate conclusion that Trump did not impregnate Bechard.

The first was the revelation, behind the scenes, that Bechard had left a voicemail message for someone after the Campos theory became public, which sure seemed to substantiate the idea that she had a much bigger story to share than the one which the mainstream news media was telling. Here is a partial transcript of that audio which Campos received from the person to whom Bechard sent it:

“They think that I’m going to like, uh, reveal this freaking bombshell of a story and it’s like I’m not, I wish I could but I can’t and obviously if that fatass Elliott didn’t um . . . if I wasn’t stuck with this agreement then I could you know but especially what I had to do in order to get it like come on like that if you ask me it wasn’t enough like I’m giving birth a month from now exactly to this day yesterday.”

Campos, me, and every woman to whom I sent that transcript, thought it was extremely compatible with the Trump theory. That, plus a lengthy text session with Broidy that I was sent by an amateur investigator, which also seemed consistent with something very different being the true narrative, definitely had me more hesitant to accept the conventional wisdom of the Broidy scandal than I should have been.

The second thing which delayed me accepting that the mainstream media was correct was the incredibly pathetic nature of their attempts to attack the Campos theory. It always seemed to me that, if the Campos theory was wrong, it should be easily destroyed with a howitzer (like just a damn photo of Broidy and Bechard together!), but, instead, the mainstream media kept firing at it with water pistols.

When Bechard’s lawsuit was finally unsealed last Friday, however, it became obvious that the details she provided made it nearly impossible for Broidy (who comes across as perhaps a worse person than even Trump) not to have been the man to impregnate her after a lengthy affair. After I told him that I was going to write a mea culpa of sorts, Campos sent me this statement essentially waving the white flag on the whole matter:

“The Elliott Broidy-Shera Bechard saga featured a striking number of coincidences, suggesting that Broidy may in fact have been paying off Bechard to cover up an affair between her and Donald Trump.  Subsequent litigation has revealed that this was not the case. Bechard’s allegations against Broidy in her suit to recover the remainder of the money Broidy promised to pay her paint a picture of a remarkable level of personal and financial corruption. It remains a mystery why Broidy would expose himself to such legal allegations, by refusing to make the payments he promised Bechard.

It’s also troubling, to say the least, that ten months ago Broidy, then a vice chair of the Republican National Committee, promised to pay Donald Trump’s personal attorney $250,000 for producing the form contract Broidy and Bechard signed, and then got a private Oval Office meeting with Trump that very same week.

The tangled relationship between Elliott Broidy and the Trump administration certainly merits continued investigation.”

There are at least three key elements of this story, which, in retrospect, we misinterpreted…

The $1.6 million that Broidy paid Bechard seemed to be way too much given his low profile. However now, in light of his alleged influence peddling with the Trump administration, for which he is currently under federal investigation, that number adds up. He was trying to protect his viability within GOP and Trump circles (though this still doesn’t explain why he appeared to be so eager to admit to the media that it was all true).

Michael Cohen, who used the exact same template, including the same alias, for the Broidy NDA as he did for Trump’s deal with Stormy Daniels, is apparently an even worse attorney than I thought was possible for a man hired by the president of the United States. Perhaps them both being on the same GOP fundraising board was how Broidy, bizarrely, decided to hire Cohen.

Bechard, who seemed to be way out of the “league” of an old, non-celebrity, whom she herself called a “fatass,” may have, years remove from her Playmate days, fallen on hard enough times that she was forced to rely on a rich guy like Broidy. This made a relationship which initially appeared to make absolutely no sense, suddenly fall into the realm of plausibility.

The bottom line of this saga is that I was wrong and I feel very badly about this unfortunate reality. However, the puzzle presented by the peculiar facts of this story is so convoluted that I am not remotely ashamed for having failed to properly solve it.

John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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