The Boston Globe

Donald Trump was right about Stormy Daniels. She’s smart.

- Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her @ joan_vennochi.

According to Stormy Daniels, she was vying for an appearance on “The Apprentice” when she agreed to meet then-host Donald Trump in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2006. In the new documentar­y “Stormy,” she also said that in the run-up to the alleged sexual encounter that she contends took place that night, Trump told her, “You’re actually really smart.”

Trump denies any of it happened. But if the former president did utter such words, he was right. In a documentar­y released on Peacock just as Trump faces a criminal trial in connection with an alleged hush money payment to Daniels, the woman whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and whose stage name is often preceded by “porn star,” is a lot of things. She’s opportunis­tic and brave, self-loving and self-loathing, crude and vulnerable, weak and strong, a loving mom and one who also leaves her daughter at home to take her strip act on the road. Unfortunat­ely for Trump, Daniels also comes across as smart.

A judge has ruled that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen can testify in a trial, now scheduled for April 15, in which Trump faces charges that he falsified business records connected to a $130,000 payment to Daniels, allegedly made to keep her quiet. In a recent appearance on ABC’s “The View” to promote the documentar­y, Daniels said she is “absolutely ready” to testify, too. “I relish the day that I get to face him and speak my truth,” Daniels said. Should that happen, it’s not good news for Trump.

Daniels has been careful to say their alleged encounter was consensual. As she puts it in the documentar­y, “I didn’t want it, but I allowed it to happen.” But the details she has already spoken of and written about are re-explored in a way that continues to help her cause and hurt his.

Daniels’s “truth” about what she said happened with Trump became public in January 2018 when Trump was president and The Wall Street Journal reported that he arranged a payment to her, facilitate­d by Cohen, right before the 2016 presidenti­al election. At first, Cohen said he used his own money, with no direction from Trump. He later testified that Trump told him to do it for the purpose of influencin­g the election.

After pleading guilty to criminal charges over the payments, including campaign finance violations, Cohen served a threeyear prison sentence. Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers claim that any money Trump paid to Cohen was made for legitimate legal services. On that legal issue, it remains to be seen what, if anything, Daniels could bring to the case against Trump.

The other part of the “truth” offered by Daniels in this documentar­y is about how the world looks at a woman in her line of work, especially when she challenges a powerful man. “Stormy” documents the online vitriol directed at Daniels, highlighti­ng social media attacks in which she is called a slut, a whore, a liar, a gold digger, and worse. She also said that she gets constant death threats. It’s clear that because of her allegation­s about that longago encounter with Trump, she has encountere­d a fierce misogyny.

Yet one thing you can say about Trump is that when it comes to his female accusers, he’s an equal opportunit­y misogynist. He treats an adult film star like Daniels or a writer like E. Jean Carroll, with the same degree of contempt and scorn. But with Trump haters, there’s an extra level of delight in the tawdriness of the Daniels scenario. With a wife and new baby at home, Trump allegedly invited a 27-year-old porn star to his hotel room and when she showed up, he was ready to pounce in black silk pajamas.

In the telling of the story, Daniels makes him look ridiculous. Part of the ridiculous­ness of Trump’s situation also ties into her own humble roots and rough upbringing, involving a father who left when she was young and a neglectful mother. In a New York Times story that discusses Daniels as a “flawed feminist icon,” Ginia Bellafante writes, “You are unlikely to find yourself in a Lake Tahoe hotel room spanking a 60-year-old reality television personalit­y with a copy of Forbes, and talking about a career level up … when you come from a home with two loving, ever-present, say, middle-manager parents.”

Maybe, maybe not. There may very well be some offspring of more convention­ally respectabl­e parents who do end up in similar circumstan­ces. But whatever her family tree, or chosen work, Daniels had the strength, resilience, and courage to not let Trump control the story of her life. She also chose to monetize it. If you believe her account of their encounter, Trump saw from the start that Daniels had the brains of a smart business woman. According to Daniels, he chose to look past that and go straight for her body. In “Stormy,” you see why he may yet pay a price.

But whatever her family tree, or chosen work, Daniels had the strength, resilience, and courage to not let Trump control the story of her life.

 ?? PEACOCK ?? Stormy Daniels in the documentar­y “Stormy.”
PEACOCK Stormy Daniels in the documentar­y “Stormy.”

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