by Emma Claire Geitner
Critics of President Trump hoped the Stormi Daniels 60 Minutes interview would be the last straw, finally rebuking his legitimacy and approval ratings to the point of no return. On the 435th day of the Trump Presidency, just shy of a week after the interview with Anderson Cooper aired on CNN, about 53.4% of Americans disapproved of the Trump Presidency while about 40.5% approved, constituting a rough idea of President Trump’s popularity. While the highly anticipated Stormi Daniels interview attracted 60 Minutes’ largest audience in decades, the ongoing popularity poll by FiveThirtyEight showed little to no fluctuation in the President’s approval ratings. The Stormi Daniels interview was a constant source of speculation regarding President Trump’s character, as well as her own, as snippets of the case reached the wider press. All of this was only confounded by the fact that the administration sought to have the episode completely curtailed. The conversation with Anderson Cooper aired as excitement reached a crescendo but a week later it seems, the storm has mostly blown over. Its aftermath is one that the Trump administration hopes to be of little consequence but has turned into a battle of the lawyers, with base threats and oddly a-legal jargon characterizing the continued discussions around the Stormi affair.
One of the major aspects of the pointed debate around Daniel’s credibility, which tangentially affects that of President Trump, is the question of her agenda. While both Daniels and her lawyer attempt to remain on top of the question, citing her own reputation as being slandered and her desire to control the conversation surrounding the affair as reasons for her decision to go public, hubris alone seems insufficient to share an affair that has the potential to invoke political ramifications and delegitimize an already teetering executive.
Daniels asserted, “I’m not a victim,” after stating her disdain that the “#MeToo” movement championed her for speaking out against President Trump, “This is not a 'Me Too.' I was not a victim. I've never said I was a victim. I think trying to use me to--to further someone else's agenda, does horrible damage to people who are true victims.” Her point is absolutely valid; false accusations of sexual assault damage true victims’ claims, but her account of the affair foregoes explicit consent; this alone seems reason to share her relationship, as it invokes concerns over President Trump’s character while also supporting the other women who have brought cases against the President to court. Daniels expresses that she was a complicit sexual partner, yet she, “honestly didn't say anything,” never orally confirming her agreement to become intimate; she felt that she, “had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and (she) just heard the voice in (her) head, "well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.”
Daniels’ interview shed light on the President’s character—his willingness to begin an affair weeks after his wife gave birth to a son, his ego that led him to initiate the relationship, and, perhaps most notably, his desire to silence and rebuke Daniels using alleged threatening tactics and monetary incentives to make her disappear. Regardless of Daniels’ wish not to involve herself in the #MeToo movement, she was bullied and harassed by someone in a position of power—President Trump used his involvement with The Apprentice to incentivize the affair—but the response following her interview has fallen short of the commotion and demands for accountability revealed after the publication of Ronan Farrow’s investigative pieces surrounding Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood’s “casting couch” culture and the subsequent flood of individuals coming forward to reveal their #MeToo experiences. Daniels has not received the same widespread support, but rather is facing fierce scrutiny. After a barrage of women have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct and after his business and building practices have been called into question, President Trump’s credibility is already low; Daniels’ interview only contributes to his character deficit, but it’s seen as nothing new, as not surprising. Perhaps her work as an adult film star taints her believability, or her unapologetic articulation hardens viewers to her story—it is truly yet another example of a strong woman facing consequences while her male counterpart is held to a lower standard. As President Trump’s low but constant percentage of popularity indicates, Daniels’ credibility was not sufficiently powerful to taint his legitimacy, despite his pattern of behavior. #MeToo has yet to transcend Hollywood and infiltrate the White House.