First Lady Melania Trump broke tradition and traveled to Marine One without husband Donald Trump on Friday amid new allegations that the president had an affair with former Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal.
It’s protocol for the first couple to walk across the White House South Lawn together before leaving for Marine One. Instead, as the Trumps headed for Parkland, Florida, on Friday to meet with victims of the mass shooting there, the first lady drove to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland separately ahead of her husband, CNN reported.
“With her schedule today it was easier to meet at the plane,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director told PEOPLE in a statement.
Grisham confirmed that Mrs. Trump will still accompany her husband when he visits with victims of the mass shooting.
In the account, McDougal claimed she had a nine-month long sexual relationship with Trump starting in 2006 after they met during a taping of The Apprentice at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The alleged affair began less than two years after Trump married Melania and a few months after the birth of his son, Barron, now 11.
White House reps did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, but told The New Yorker that Trump denies having had an affair with McDougal: “This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”
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This isn’t the first time the first lady has broken protocol in the wake of allegations of her husband’s infidelities. On Jan. 30, she drove separately from her husband to the U.S. Capitol to attend his State of the Union address. The White House said she traveled to the Capitol solo so she could attend a reception with guests joining her in the first lady’s box, CNN reported.
But the unusual move came shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen had arranged a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels a month before the 2016 election so she’d keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006.
In Touch magazine later published excerpts from a shelved 2011 interview with Daniels confirming and detailing her alleged sexual relationship with Trump.
On Tuesday, Cohen admitted to The New York Times that he paid Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket, calling it a “private transaction.”
The White House has denied the affair ever took place, telling the Wall Street Journal last month: “These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.”