Saturday 15 December 2018

How porn star Stormy Daniels' story will cost President Trump votes

President Donald Trump. Photo: AP
President Donald Trump. Photo: AP

Rob Crilly

Like so much of the hoopla that surrounds the 45th president of the United States, whether delivered by supporters, detractors or the man himself, the substance fell short of the hyperbole.

The much-anticipated interview with Stormy Daniels broadcast on Sunday night revealed little we did not already know about the porn star and the man who would become president.

But that was not the point. The point was not the story so much as the time and the place where she told it - and the fact that she was saying it at all.

That will be enough to cause a major headache for Mr Trump's lawyers, sidestepping all their expertise in drawing up non-disclosure agreements, and is guaranteed to send the president into a furious rage.

Much of the '60 Minutes' interview, though filled with embarrassing titbits, was familiar enough.

If you have been following the story you will know the sordid details by now. You will know that Mr Trump began his seduction by showing off a magazine that featured him on its cover and which was then used by Daniels to spank his bottom.

You will know he told the porn star that she reminded him of his daughter. You will know how she once found him absorbed in 'Shark Week' documentaries.

And you will even know- God help us all - that he didn't use a condom during sex.

Many of the details were revealed by Daniels in a 2011 interview that pre-dated a gag agreement.

So what damage could it have done the president?

His supporters will simply shrug it all off as the same old, same old.

That is not the whole story. The interview was broadcast in prime time, following a hard-fought college basketball game that ran into overtime.

There will be many in the audience who are not the sort of Washington-obsessed political junkies who have followed every twist of this tale. They will have been hearing some details of Daniels's alleged encounter for the first time.

Moreover, this was the 39-year-old actress telling her story on TV for the first time.

Forget an earlier awkward appearance on a talk show when she was reduced to a mute set-up woman for the host's punchlines when the NDA meant she could say nothing of substance.

Finally given her voice, Daniels made for a compelling interviewee. Bright, engaging and articulate, she came across not so much as a porn star but a woman with an important story to tell. A credible witness, you might say.

Therein lies the rub.

We have already seen in another seamier side of American life what happens when women rip up their NDAs and speak out.

No one is saying that Mr Trump's actions are comparable with those of Harvey Weinstein. Daniels herself took pains to say that she was not a victim and that the sex was consensual throughout.

But how many more women have stories of similar encounters with Mr Trump? How many more times did he have unprotected sex? How many more women signed NDAs? How many more will come forward?

His supporters will say none of it matters. Throughout his campaign and his presidency, Mr Trump has appeared immune from scandals.

That may not last forever. Polls show his problem with women voters is getting worse and that he is now losing a core component of his base.

The most recent Pew Research Centre data suggest that support among white evangelical women has fallen about 13 percentage points, standing now at 60pc.

So although Sunday's interview may not have contained the sort of headline grabbing revelations hyped by the anti-Trump American news machine, that it happened at all will send Mr Trump's team into a defensive crouch.

In Daniels, they have met an impressive opponent whose eloquent delivery made a convincing case, while also knowing which buttons to press.

Her most cutting lines - the ones that will send America's alpha male-in-chief into a rage - were nothing to do with spanking, condoms or threats, it was when she said simply that she did not find Mr Trump attractive. Not at all.

© Daily Telegraph London

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