Although Stormy Daniels allegedly spanked Donald Trump (with a magazine bearing his own grinning mug, no less) a dozen years ago, the real ass-whupping arrived on Sunday night.
Daniels, the adult film star whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, braved the threat of a $20 million lawsuit to appear on 60 Minutes and discuss her alleged affair with the president. (Interestingly, that figure works out to roughly one dollar per every 1.05 viewers, notching 60 Minutes up to its highest ratings since Obama’s post-election interview in 2008.) The segment revealed Daniels to be every bit as savvy as she’s appeared since news broke in January that she’d accepted $130,000 in hush money during the 2016 election–and continued to be news far longer than average in Trump-adjusted terms.
Much like B Rabbit’s final rap battle in the film 8 Mile, Daniels took away all the ammunition her opponents might use against her by addressing it point by point. Yes, she is capitalizing off this moment somewhat. But a.) who in her position wouldn’t, and b.) it’s not a position she ever asked to be in. She also made a point to separate herself from the #MeToo movement—a movement that does encompass several Trump accusers—and underscored that the alleged affair was consensual. When she mentioned that Trump raised the prospect of her appearing on Celebrity Apprentice before they allegedly slept together, interviewer Anderson Cooper asked whether Daniels thought he actually wanted her for the show or if he was instead just using the offer as sexual leverage. With zero hesitation, she answered: “Both.”
One question many people have been asking about Daniels since she first came into the public eye is why she’s lied about the alleged affair before. Back in January, she even signed a statement claiming, “I am not denying this affair because I was paid ‘hush money’ as has been reported in overseas-owned tabloids. I am denying this affair because it never happened.”
Most headlines stemming from the 60 Minutes interview focus on part of Daniels’s explanation for why she has wavered on this point. As she tells Cooper, after making a deal in May 2011 to sell her story for $15,000 to the magazine In Touch—the story was later allegedly canceled after intervention from Cohen—someone threatened Daniels in front of her young daughter. “Beautiful little girl,” she claims the anonymous goon said. “Be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
As easy as it may be to buy that an affiliate of Trump’s shadiest lawyer would threaten Daniels with warmed-over mafia clichés that have long since descended into parody, it will be near-impossible to prove. One thing that emerged from the interview that seems beyond the shadow of a doubt, though, is Daniels’ credible account of Trump as Bumbling Seduction Dork.
As any sentient organism might observe on any day of the week, Donald Trump’s ego is galactic-sized. Just this morning, he tweeted a plug for a janky-looking book written about his election victory, with the dubious claim that “everybody is talking about” it. The thing about Trump’s ego, though, is that it hinges on his self-conception as the ultimate alpha male. Who cares that he’s constantly whining about how unfairly he’s treated, takes vacations every weekend, and is prone to cancelling foreign trips to countries where he’ll be protested? In his own mind, Trump is like if Rambo, Casanova, and David Beckham formed one guy and that guy had access to the nuclear codes. The portion of Stormy Daniels’s 60 Minutes interview in which she describes the alleged affair itself punctures that image at every turn, and leaves Trump without a fig leaf to hide behind. Even worse, she serves her story with a snarky smile, relishing each detail as they make Trump look ever smaller and more pathetic. It’s basically every straight man’s worst fear of how a woman he once dated might describe him to her friends—only in this instance, she described it to 24 million people on national television.
Here are the most devastating moments that surely led to some Sunday night screaming in the West Wing.
The Incompetent Seduction Begins
Trump and Daniels met at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2006, after which he invited her to have dinner in his hotel suite. According to Daniels’s interview, he started their conversation by talking all about himself and asking whether she’d seen the magazine whose cover bore his mug that month. Self-absorption is the status quo for Trump, so no surprise there. It’s what happened next that’s interesting.
“Does this normally work for you?” Daniels claims she asked, clearly unimpressed. Even worse, Trump apparently did not understand what she meant by calling out his misguided approach.
This interaction then allegedly segued into the most salacious section of the interview, which was previously reported—that Daniels then said, “Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it,” and Trump relented.
Trump’s Troubling Ivanka Fixation
Amazingly, Trump’s boast on The View that if Ivanka weren’t his daughter, perhaps he’d be dating her is only one of many creepy admissions on the topic. The 60 Minutes interview adds another to the canon, with Daniels claiming that Trump told her, mid-seduction: “You’re special. You remind me of my daughter.”
The Bed Perch
Upon leaving Trump’s bathroom, Daniels found her host presenting himself—”perched”—on the edge of his bed. She demonstrated to Cooper how Trump had arranged himself, arms splayed out on either side in a faux-casual lounge mode that recalls his infamous robe photo. All in all, Trump’s woo-pitching attempts sound like entry-level pickup artist technique.
“Bad Things Happen”
Trump likely considers himself irresistible to women. While Daniels did ultimately decide to give Trump a try, to hear her tell it, the pleasure was all his. It seems from the interview that the encounter was more a situation where Daniels realized sex was expected, and she made the mental calculus that she was okay with it happening. “I realized what I’d gotten myself into,” she said to Cooper, smiling. “I was like, ‘Uhhh, here we go.’ . . . You put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen. You deserve this.”
Lest there be any confusion about the nature of the perfunctory sex reported to take place that night, Cooper follows up with some clarifying questions. “You were 27 and he was 60. Were you attracted to him?” he asks. The answer is a point-blank “No.” Ouch.
Continuing the nightmare scenario for any man as terrified of being humiliated by a woman as Trump seems to be, Daniels admitted that when Trump called her in the months that followed, she would sometimes be around company and would put Trump on speakerphone. Daniels is savvy enough not to elaborate on this point, but obviously the only reason to do so would be so she and her friends could later mock Trump together as a group activity.
No Second Chances
It turns out Daniels was right to be skeptical about Trump’s offer to put her on Celebrity Apprentice. When he eventually told her, a year after their original encounter, that he wanted to discuss such an opportunity, she approached it like a business deal. Daniels reportedly met Trump at his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, where instead of talking business, he wanted them to watch Shark Week together. According to Daniels’s account, when Trump eventually came on to her, she asked about the Apprentice development he’d mentioned on the phone. Trump said he was close to a deal and would know more next month. Daniels then responded that he should call her the following month, grabbed her purse, and left—a mic drop finale to their entire affair.
Of course, the following month Trump informed her that she would not be on the show after all. Neither probably predicted how much of a powerhouse ratings combo they’d eventually prove to be on television.