STORMY DANIELS STANDS FIRM

Stormy Daniels has been called an ‘at­ten­tion whore, gold-dig­ger and liar’ since it was re­vealed that she was paid to stay silent over a night she claims to have spent with Don­ald Trump. The adult-film star ex­plains why, de­spite in­tim­i­da­tion, le­gal bat­tles

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - By Jane Mulk­er­rins

The adult-film star ex­plains why she won’t stay silent over a night she claims to have spent with Don­ald Trump

There are two types of peo­ple in the world, ac­cord­ing to Stormy Daniels. “There are the peo­ple who own their choices, and there are the peo­ple who try to blame some­one else.” She elu­ci­dates with a sce­nario. “You got re­ally drunk, went home with some­body from a bar. You wake up the next morn­ing, re­alise you cheated on your boyfriend and you’re ashamed. So you’re like, ‘He must have slipped some­thing in my drink’.” Then, she says, “There’s the other set, that are, like, ‘Oh f***. I did too many dol­lar shots and woke up with an ugly dude. My bad. Now, can I get out of here with­out wak­ing him up?’”

For the record, the 39-year-old adult-film ac­tor and di­rec­tor Daniels would like you to know that she’s one of those who “owns” her choices – for bet­ter or worse. The sce­nario she paints, how­ever, is purely fic­ti­tious. By con­trast, when, ac­cord­ing to her claims, she had sex in a Ne­vada ho­tel room with Don­ald Trump in 2006, there were no dol­lar shots – she didn’t even drink. “I re­gret­ted it, and if I could go back I would say no,” she ad­mits of the al­leged two-time tryst. “But it’s no one’s fault.”

Re­gret­ting an evening of bad sex (as she re­ports it was) is one thing. Be­ing forced to en­dure vi­cious smear cam­paigns, in­tim­i­da­tion, bul­ly­ing and death threats from the pub­lic, aimed at her and her 7-year-old daugh­ter – so se­vere that she has em­ployed two body­guards

– is quite an­other. And that’s what has Daniels re­ally riled. That, and be­ing la­belled, as she puts it, “an at­ten­tion whore, a gold-dig­ger and a liar”.

The al­leged en­counter be­tween Daniels, then 27, and Trump, who was at the time pre­sid­ing only over re­al­ity show The Ap­pren­tice, has be­come the sub­ject of the most in­flam­ma­tory non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment (NDA) in White House his­tory. Equally in­cen­di­ary was the “hush money” – US$130,000 ($194,000) – that Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Co­hen paid Daniels a week be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. But, be­yond on­line gos­sip, there the story might have ended.

Then, in Jan­uary this year, the Wall Street

Jour­nal pub­lished a story re­veal­ing the ex­is­tence of both the NDA and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pay­ment, which has led to a year of bit­ter claim and counter-claim be­tween the le­gal teams of Pres­i­dent Trump and Daniels, and be­tween Daniels and Trump them­selves on Twit­ter.

Pres­i­dent Trump main­tains he never slept with Daniels, though he does ad­mit re­pay­ing Co­hen the $130,000 – Co­hen has stated the pay­ment to Daniels was “at the di­rec­tion” of the then-can­di­date Trump (Co­hen is no longer Trump’s lawyer, hav­ing pleaded guilty to cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions and other crimes). But now that Trump’s new lawyers have an­nounced they will not en­force the NDA, nor con­test Daniels’ claim that it is in­valid, she is able to own her choices very pub­licly, with a hastily writ­ten mem­oir, Full Dis­clo­sure, which was pub­lished last month.

We meet in her ho­tel suite in mid­town Man­hat­tan, where she is holed up in the mid­dle of a na­tional and in­ter­na­tional book tour. It’s a mod­est place (there’s a fridge full of yo­ghurt in the ho­tel’s small lobby, in lieu of break­fast) and her suite is strewn with clothes, lap­tops, left­over

food car­tons from lunch – the de­tri­tus of life on the road. Un­like the pres­i­dent, Daniels has no strate­gists and no PR ma­chine in tow – this in­ter­view came about through per­sonal con­tacts, and of course she re­ceived no money for it.

Daniels emerges from the bed­room, bare­foot, in black skinny jeans and a grey marl sweater. She looks younger and pret­tier in per­son than on TV, with fan­tas­tic skin and dimples. The ca­su­al­ness of her out­fit does lit­tle to dis­tract from her enor­mous, triple-D breasts (which she calls Thun­der and Light­ning, as she re­veals in the book, along with the story of the sur­geon who told her, when she came round from the anaes­thetic, that he had “filled them up un­til I liked them”).

“I wanted to clear up the fact that I was not paid that night, that I did not go there think­ing that I was go­ing to have sex with a fa­mous per­son, that I did not black­mail or ex­tort the Pres­i­dent,” she says of the mo­ti­va­tion for the book. “I wanted peo­ple to know that I was thrilled to have the NDA. I was fine with say­ing noth­ing – that’s the classy thing to do. But I was not okay with ly­ing.”

On 30 Jan­uary this year, af­ter the Wall

Street Jour­nal rev­e­la­tion, Daniels signed a let­ter deny­ing the af­fair with Trump ever took place. But in the book she claims that her then-lawyer Keith David­son (whom she be­lieves was work­ing in col­lu­sion with Co­hen), her then-man­ager Gina Ro­driguez, and “a bearded man in a Gucci shirt” she didn’t know (who she later found out was Ro­driguez’ boyfriend), vis­ited her ho­tel room and en­cour­aged her to sign it. “I pan­icked,” she writes. “Even though I knew the state­ment was com­plete bull­shit, I picked up the pen and signed my name.”

A month later, the news broke that Co­hen was sell­ing the idea for a book about his role as a “fixer” for Trump, nam­ing Daniels in his pitch to pub­lish­ers, and thereby, her lawyers ar­gued, break­ing the NDA. Her new lawyer, Michael Ave­natti, then filed a civil suit to ar­gue that the NDA was in­valid, be­cause it did not bear Trump’s sig­na­ture. So in March, Daniels gave an in­ter­view to the jour­nal­ist An­der­son Cooper on

60 Min­utes, telling her side of the story for the first time.

“An­der­son Cooper in­ter­viewed me for al­most three hours and it got cut down to 14 min­utes,” she says to­day. “All it was was the sala­cious stuff, but none of the how or the why.” The book, she says, is her ef­fort to put “the sala­cious stuff” in con­text.

But, hav­ing al­ready en­dured nine months of in­tim­i­da­tion, trolling and abuse, did she not, I ask, worry that pub­lish­ing a book might pro­voke only more of the misog­y­nis­tic vit­riol that has char­ac­terised po­lit­i­cal dis­course in the Trump era?

“Yes, of course,” she says. “But peo­ple have al­ready been beat­ing on my door, try­ing to take pic­tures of my kid. [Her daugh­ter is in a se­cret lo­ca­tion with her fa­ther.] My hus­band and I have al­ready split up. [Her third hus­band, Glen­don Crain, the fa­ther of her daugh­ter, filed for di­vorce in July.] So the least I could do was ex­plain my­self.”

Daniels’ book, like her, is can­did, funny, mis­chievous, un­fil­tered (in con­ver­sa­tion al­most ev­ery sen­tence con­tains a “f***”) and un­apolo­getic – in many ways the per­fect mem­oir for 2018, a year in which the #MeToo and #be­lieve­her move­ments ex­ploded.

She is, how­ever, also a com­pli­cated and im­per­fect heroine for our time. She has pub­licly stated that she’s not a fem­i­nist. “Peo­ple would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re the best fe­male di­rec­tor in porn’,” she says, tuck­ing her feet un­derneath her on the chair and rolling her eyes. “I would rather be the third best di­rec­tor than the first best fe­male di­rec­tor.” That is, I point out, an en­tirely fem­i­nist stance. “I know that’s the ac­tual

I was fine with say­ing noth­ing — that’s the classy thing to do. But I was not okay with ly­ing.

Stormy Daniels

def­i­ni­tion, but it’s be­come some­thing else, this over-the-top and po­lit­i­cally cor­rect and ex­treme thing, and I want no part of it.”

Nor is she har­bour­ing any guilt for al­legedly hav­ing sex with Trump de­spite his be­ing mar­ried, to Me­la­nia, with an in­fant son at home. “I didn’t marry Me­la­nia, that’s not my prob­lem, that’s his prob­lem,” she says calmly. “I am sick of be­ing the one at fault for that.”

There is also, of course, the mat­ter of her pro­fes­sion – she’s been strip­ping since she was 17, and work­ing in pornog­ra­phy since her early 20s, as an ac­tor and di­rec­tor, and has won mul­ti­ple awards for both. But porn awards do not trans­late into pub­lic cred­i­bil­ity.

“Peo­ple think that it de­fines your char­ac­ter,” she says, thought­fully. “As if, be­cause I am a strip­per, I don’t know right from wrong. Or be­cause I’m com­fort­able with my body and I work in the adult-film busi­ness, that I don’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween the truth and a lie.

“I’m con­sid­ered to be less of a hu­man, so my rights don’t ap­ply,” she says.

It’s un­de­ni­able that had Daniels been a pri­mary school teacher, this story would have played out very dif­fer­ently. “In the me­dia, ev­ery­thing about me has to be pref­aced with ‘porn star’. I’m not an­gry, be­cause I made the choice to go into the busi­ness I am in and I’m proud of the work that I’ve done,” she says. “I’m not ashamed, but it’s frus­trat­ing that my story is viewed in a dif­fer­ent way … and I wish they would add ‘and di­rec­tor’.”

But if the bias against her in the me­dia has been more or less un­con­scious, in the po­lit­i­cal arena it has been de­lib­er­ate and bru­tal. In June, Rudy Gi­u­liani, the for­mer mayor of New York, and now one of Trump’s lawyers, pub­licly at­tacked her. “The busi­ness you were in en­ti­tles you to no de­gree of giv­ing your cred­i­bil­ity any weight,” he said, adding, “If you’re go­ing to sell your body for money, you just don’t have a rep­u­ta­tion … a woman who sells her body for sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, I don’t re­spect.”

“That’s hi­lar­i­ous,” Daniels scoffs, wav­ing a hand in the air in dis­missal when I men­tion it. “He’s just a tur­key. Does any­body re­ally lis­ten to him? I think I then called him a toad.”

Most re­cently, when her defama­tion case against Trump was re­jected last month, Trump him­self took to Twit­ter to call Daniels “horse­face”. “That’s the best he could do?” she asks, in­cred­u­lous. “I have eight horses [she is a for­mer com­pet­i­tive showjumper] and I think they’re beau­ti­ful, so thank you.”

Full Dis­clo­sure retells the al­leged en­counter with Trump af­ter a celebrity golf tour­na­ment in Lake Ta­hoe, in ex­cru­ci­at­ing de­tail, from Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion to join him for din­ner, to then di­rect­ing her to his suite, where he sud­denly ap­peared in py­ja­mas. In her ac­count she hits him on the bot­tom with a mag­a­zine to chas­tise him, or­der­ing him to put some clothes on. She then de­scribes some brief, dis­ap­point­ing, for­get­table sex.

Her ac­count does not sug­gest any em­bar­rass­ment on Trump’s part when chal­lenged over his Hugh-Hefner-cum-Har­vey-We­in­stein py­jama act. “No, he was not em­bar­rassed. He never apol­o­gised or showed any hu­mil­ity,” says Daniels. “He was just caught off guard and kind of im­pressed [that she told him off] but he did not be­come less ar­ro­gant.”

Her ac­count por­trays him mainly as a vain, in­se­cure, mono­logu­ing bore. “I found him misog­y­nis­tic and chau­vin­is­tic, for sure, but he didn’t do any­thing to me that I thought was nec­es­sar­ily of­fen­sive. It was more dis­mis­sive and con­de­scend­ing,” she says.

As to the ques­tion of why she went through with hav­ing sex with him, Daniels has said she doesn’t know. Per­haps the most pro­saic part of her ac­count of the night of­fers an an­swer that many women might re­late to: “As he was on top of me, I re­played the pre­vi­ous three hours to fig­ure out how I could have avoided this.”

Af­ter that night, Trump, she says, phoned her fre­quently, call­ing her “honey bunch”, ask­ing when he could see her again, and re­peat­ing a claim that he’d made to her in Lake Ta­hoe: that he would get her on Celebrity Ap­pren­tice.

In July 2007, she says, lured by his per­sis­tent prom­ise of a spot on his show, she went to his bun­ga­low at the Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel in LA. They watched Shark Week on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel, ate steak, and did not have sex, she re­ports, but Hil­lary Clin­ton called. Trump was, at the time, a donor to her cam­paign.

“Peo­ple think that it de­fines my life but in all hon­esty, it was 12 hours of it,” Daniels says of the al­leged af­fair. “It’s an­noy­ing, be­cause I’m so much more than that, and that’s all I’ll be known as.”

Born Stephanie Clif­ford in Ba­ton Rouge, Louisiana, she ex­pe­ri­enced a hard­scrab­ble child­hood, with a fa­ther who left for a job in Alaska when she was 4 years old and never re­ally came back, and a mother whose in­ter­est in her daugh­ter rapidly dwin­dled there­after.

Daniels de­scribes a house plagued by rats and cock­roaches. She isn’t be­ing self-pity­ing when she writes in Full Dis­clo­sure that “the deck has al­ways been stacked against me”. “I should be liv­ing in a trailer back in Louisiana, with six kids and no teeth,” she notes. In­stead, she be­came a keen horse­woman and an A-grade stu­dent, and writes that she had a place to study vet­eri­nary sci­ence at col­lege; she de­ferred af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school and worked in­stead as a strip­per.

There is an­other, har­row­ing as­pect to her child­hood that ar­guably has a bear­ing on the sit­u­a­tion Daniels finds her­self in to­day. In the book she writes of be­ing reg­u­larly sex­u­ally as­saulted by a neigh­bour when she was 9 years old – abuse that went on for two years. When, even­tu­ally, she told a school guid­ance coun­sel­lor, she was not be­lieved. “Why would you lie?” she was asked.

“Be­ing a rape sur­vivor does not de­fine me at all,” she writes. “If any­thing, what was in­grained into me was the ex­pec­ta­tion that I would not be be­lieved if I ever asked for help.” It doesn’t re­quire a great deal of em­pa­thy to un­der­stand why telling her story now, in her own words, and be­ing be­lieved, means so much to her.

None­the­less, it has come at a high price – the break­down of her mar­riage, fears for the safety of her daugh­ter, as well as her own, con­stant ha­rass­ment and hate mail. Does it feel worth it?

She pon­ders this for a mo­ment, lean­ing back in her chair. “Maybe there are some small things I’d do dif­fer­ently but over­all I did the right thing,” she says. “Be­cause I can look at my­self in the mir­ror.”

Her story is not los­ing mo­men­tum any time soon. In De­cem­ber, Co­hen will give a de­po­si­tion about the NDA and the $130,000, and be ques­tioned fur­ther by Daniels’ lawyer, Ave­natti.

With the re­sults of the most hotly con­tested US midterm elec­tions in mem­ory re­leased last week, I ask how she voted. She fid­dles with her phone. “I don’t even know if I’m a Repub­li­can or a Demo­crat any more,” she says. She didn’t vote at all in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. “I was raised by wolves, we didn’t vote much,” she says shrug­ging. Does she think Trump will get re-elected? “I’m not go­ing to an­swer that, be­cause I don’t want to chal­lenge the uni­verse.”

I press on. Does she think telling her story will af­fect his chances of re-elec­tion?

“Yes,” she says, firmly. “I think it’ll turn a lot of peo­ple off vot­ing for him. But I also think that it will make a lot of his sup­port­ers say: ‘He f***ed a hot blonde porn star. Yes! Let’s vote for him’.” She throws her arms in the air, in a mock show of tri­umph. “It’s go­ing to bal­ance it­self out,” she says, her voice drip­ping with dis­dain. “Peo­ple are so stupid.”

As he was on top of me, I re­played the pre­vi­ous three hours to fig­ure out how I could have avoided this.

Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels ar­rives for a New York court hear­ing re­gard­ing for­mer Trump lawyer Michael Co­hen in April.

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