Trump accused of buying porn star’s silence
President Trump’s lawyer paid $130,000 to an adult-film star a month before the 2016 election to secure her silence about an alleged affair, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. Stephanie Clifford, 38, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, reportedly slept with Trump following a celebrity golf tournament in July 2006—a year after the real estate mogul married his third wife, Melania, and four months after the birth of their son, Barron. In October 2016, Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen arranged for the porn star to receive a six-figure sum as part of a nondisclosure agreement, said the Journal. Last week, Cohen released an email signed by “Stormy Daniels” stating that the hush-money rumors were “completely false.” But a Slate journalist subsequently reported that the porn actress spoke to him multiple times during the campaign and detailed a “yearlong” sexual relationship with Trump. In Touch magazine this week published its own interview with Clifford from 2011, in which she discusses the alleged affair.
Clifford was reportedly paid the hush money shortly after an Access Hollywood tape emerged of Trump boasting about groping women. Another porn star, Jessica Drake, one of more than a dozen women who came forward at the time to accuse Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior, subsequently signed a nondisclosure agreement, her publicist confirmed this week. In Michael Wolff’s new tell-all book, Fire and Fury, former Trump campaign chief executive Steve Bannon hints that a lawyer paid off dozens of other women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump. “What did we have, a hundred women?” said Bannon.
What the columnists said
The amazing thing about these revelations is that the country is neither shocked nor outraged, said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. “In any other administration, evidence that the president paid hush money to the star of Good Will Humping during the election would be a scandal.” But under Trump, the Stormy Daniels saga has elicited nothing more than a “collective shrug.”
That’s because this story “fits into much of what American voters already knew about Trump,” said Ryan Teague Beckwith in Time.com. He’s not ashamed of infidelity, having embarked on a very public affair with his future second wife while still married to his first. As for the much bigger hush money question, Trump long ago convinced Americans that he didn’t have any “values” whatsoever, thanks to his long history of lying, defrauding ordinary citizens, sexual harassment, and boasting in public about the size of his genitals.
Still, we’ve just set another depressing new precedent in the Trump era, said Tim Morris in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Liberals are now too “libertine” to speak out against any sexual incident unless it’s nonconsensual. And many conservative Christians who used to care deeply about sexual morality are quiet because of “political expediency,” knowing that Trump can deliver them conservative Supreme Court justices and pro–religious liberty policies. “That leaves a lonely space for people who think it’s wrong to assault women and also wrong to cheat on your new wife with porn stars.” ■