The allegations that Donald Trump paid hush money to hide an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels took another twist on Tuesday night during an interview after the president's first State of the Union address.
Hours before she was set to appear on the Jimmy Kimmel late night TV show, the actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, issued a surprise statement in which she flatly denied the affair in 2006.
But on the show, Ms Clifford cast doubt on the authenticity of the statement, only to be contradicted by her attorney moments after the interview concluded.
"She was having fun on Kimmel and being her normal playful self," her attorney, Keith Davidson said in an email. "The signature is indeed hers as she signed the statement today in the presence of me and her manager, Gina Rodriguez. "
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that a Trump Organisation attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 just before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an affair she had with Mr Trump a decade earlier, soon after Melania Trump gave birth to the couple's only son, Barron.
Mr Cohen later produced an email in which Ms Clifford apparently denied a “sexual and/or romantic affair” and receipt of “hush money”.
The new statement, addressed to “whom it may concern” and released before her appearance on the show, said: “Over the past few weeks I have been asked countless times to comment on reports of an alleged sexual relationship I had with Donald Trump many, many, many years ago.
“The fact of the matter is that each party to this alleged affair denied its existence in 2006, 2011, 2016, 2017 and now again in 2018. I am not denying the affair because I was paid ‘hush money’ as has been reported in overseas owned tabloids. I am denying this affair because it never happened. I will have no further comment on this matter.”
On Tuesday night, Kimmel read the statement in its entirety and asked Ms Clifford whether she had authorised its release. He held up several autographed photos of Ms Clifford and compared the signatures to the one on the statement released on Tuesday.
“Did you sign this letter that was released today?” he asked.
“I don’t know, did I?” Ms Clifford said, refusing to answer directly.
“That doesn’t look my signature, does it?” she replied coyly when he asked again.
“It doesn’t look like your signature,” Kimmel agrees. “So you’re saying perhaps this letter was written and released without your approval?”
“Hm,” she said, laughing with the audience.
“Do you know where it came from? Do you have any idea?” Kimmel asked.
“I do not know where,” she said.
During her appearance on the show, Ms Clifford declined to discuss the alleged affair with Mr Trump despite the host's attempts using innuendo, carrots and puppets. She feigned disgust when Kimmel conjured an image of the president, lying in his bed at the White House, surrounded by McDonald's hamburger wrappers, watching her on TV.
“I don’t want to imagine him,” she said, drawing laughs and applause. - Guardian News and Media 2018