Andrew S. Ricci, Principal, Riccon Strategic Communications
Let’s face it: the President’s record with women has not been, to put it lightly, very good. He faced significant questions and accusers long before the infamous Access Hollywood tape came to light on October 7, 2016, just weeks before the presidential election. And since then, he’s had more accusers come forward, seen two of his staff members resign amid domestic abuse allegations, and had to face crisis after crisis resulting from his own alleged bad behavior. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of comments he’s made on women’s looks, their bodies, and a host of other areas.
The latest chapter in this seemingly neverending saga comes by way of Stormy Daniels, a porn star, screenwriter, and director. In January, the Wall Street Journal broke news that Ms. Daniels was paid $130,000 in October 2016 in exchange for her silence about an affair she alleges she had with the President in 2006. Had this story come out in the immediate wake of the Access Hollywood fiasco, it would have been devastating.
However, where others could be silenced or had their allegations denied until they receded from the public eye, it seems that in Stormy Daniels, President Trump has met his match.
Where Trump’s team was able to roundly deny the other cases, making it a case of their word versus his, in the Stormy Daniels saga, there exists a whole arsenal of smoking guns. In addition to the fact that Ms. Daniels told multiple witnesses about the affair shortly after it happened – and they have corroborated her story – she also gave an in-depth interview on the record to In Touch, which appeared after the Wall Street Journal broke the story. This interview happened before the hush money and corresponding non-disclosure agreements.
Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, who facilitated the hush money payment, confirmed the existence of the payment itself. The legal documents have been released as part of a lawsuit Ms. Daniels has filed to get a court to overturn the original agreement. And the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, let it slip that arbitration had taken place, which ultimately led to the release of a restraining order that Mr. Cohen had secretly obtained last week against Ms. Daniels.
Nothing to see here? I don’t think so. The Trump team seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to sweep something they allege never happened under the rug.
Oh, and Ms. Daniels says she has an archive of texts and photos. And she kept the gold dress that she wore to the illicit meeting and is going to get it tested for DNA. Uh-oh.
We are truly in uncharted waters here, and it’s hard to imagine any other administration weathering this, no pun intended, storm.
Further compounding the issue, Ms. Daniels, as a result of her occupation, cannot be shamed into silence. Where others have faced public pressure and thus eventually shied away from the limelight, she appears to be relishing this. It might be the best PR she’s ever had – and she’s won multiple industry awards and been nominated into several professional Halls of Fame!
Through all his many scandals, President Trump has masterfully used the media to gain an advantage. He’s developed a megaphone bigger than most and has used it as a cudgel to shout down opponents and beat them into submission, getting stories over with quickly and changing the conversation to something else.
That simply won’t work here. The megaphone, no matter how it is used, just adds fuel to the fire and enhances Stormy’s brand. As long as she’s profiting from the attention and affiliation – and she is surely profiting handsomely – she’s going to do everything she can to keep this in the public eye. She’s the ultimate example of a media-savvy businesswoman, and it seems that she may know the art of the deal better than her one-time paramour. That spells trouble, and it won’t be going away any time soon.