Dissecting Stormy Daniels’ ‘60 Minutes’ Interview

Stephanie Clifford, an adult porn star known as Stormy Daniels, told Anderson Cooper in a widely watched “60 Minutes” interview Sunday new details about her alleged consensual sexual acts performed with President Donald Trump more than a decade ago. The media responded differently to the new information and lingering questions from the much-anticipated interview.

Clifford said she had unprotected sex with Trump in 2006, a few months after Melania Trump gave birth, and she accepted a $130,000 payment from Trump attorney Michael Cohen in October 2016, signing a nondisclosure agreement. Initially, Clifford denied both the affair and receiving “hush money.”

The White House denies the affair. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got mad at reporters’ asking multiple questions about the affair on Tuesday, saying, “I don’t think it’s silent when the president has addressed this, we’ve addressed it extensively, there’s nothing else to add … We addressed it extensively and there’s nothing new to add to this conversation.”

Overview of the Interview

Cooper started the interview questioning Clifford’s desire to speak when she could be fined $1 million for violating the non-disclosure agreement. She acknowledged the risk, but said she wanted to set the record straight.

“I was perfectly fine saying nothing at all, but I’m not OK with being made out to be a liar, or people thinking that I did this for money,” she said. “Yes, I’m getting more job offers now, but tell me one person who would turn down a job offer making more than they’ve been making, doing the same thing that they’ve always done?”

Clifford described the night she said she had sex with Trump, but did not specify when during the golf tournament it occured. She declined to say whether she possessed or had turned over videos, text messages or other items regarding Trump.

She confirmed that she took hush money and that she originally lied when she denied it. In return for signing the non-disclosure agreement 11 days before the 2016 election, Cohen would pay her $130,000 from a Delaware-based limited liability corporation, according to the “60 Minutes” report. Cohen said the money was his own.

The hush money could violate campaign finances laws and is currently the subject of complaints by watchdog groups affiliated with the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission.

What’s New?

While the interview mostly discussed previously known information, Clifford made a new claim about a threat from an unidentified man outside a fitness center in 2011 who told her, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,” before adding about her daughter: “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”

CNN rounded up a list of five new details from the interview. In addition to the new, alleged threat, Clifford said she was never paid by the media for the Trump story, which got renewed interest from a gossip site. She also said that she was pressured into hiding the affair and that she “didn’t want to have sex that night,” CNN added.

On the Fox newscast “Outnumbered Overtime,” Judge Andrew Napolitano told host Harris Faulkner on Monday that he believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating if Russia colluded with the Trump campaign, will investigate Clifford’s alleged affair.

Vox’s Dylan Matthews summed up the importance of the interview by reminding everyone that bullying — not consensual sex — is the main issue here.

“I don’t care if Trump had consensual sex with a woman other than his wife; that’s a matter for him and Melania to handle privately,” he wrote. “What I do care about is that the president is a bully who attempts to silence through money and intimidation anyone (but particularly women) who stands between him and what he wants.”

Matthews highlighted a portion of Cooper’s interview with Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who called the affair “thuggish behavior from people in power.”

The Media Responds

The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg praised Cooper for professionally handling the interview’s explicit nature and Clifford’s career as a porn star.

“But as a cultural milestone, the most radical thing Cooper did was refuse to treat Clifford as if she was irresponsible or immoral, or as if she were less than credible simply because of what she does for a living,” Rosenberg wrote. “The discussion of whether her story is credible was confined to facts that are relevant to that question.”

Jake Tapper from CNN tweeted a Bible passage as a refresher course on not throwing stones in response to a Trump-supporting pastor’s tweet that said, “The funny thing is @realDonaldTrump is still the President and she’s still a hooker. #StormyDanielsDay.”

Some questioned if the interview deserved the prominent media spotlight it received.

“At this point, what value does that story really have?” Don Irvine, the chairman of Accuracy in Media, said in a WJLA article. “I don’t think we’re learning anything new.”

Fox News host Howard Kurtz noted on Sunday the contrast between the amount of coverage of the scandal between Fox and CNN and MSNBC. Contributor Leslie Marshall responded by saying there are other issues “that are just as serious” and worthy of air time, and that “other networks are going to go for what their audience wants, and they certainly want ratings.”

Viewership for the interview brought in the best ratings for “60 Minutes” in a decade, with more than 22 million viewers, according to the same WJLA article that contained the Irvine interview.

An opinion piece from The Hill by Brett Budowsky echoed criticism of the media coverage on the “sleazy spectacle.”

“President Trump deserves intense scrutiny on major issues affecting the security and health of the nation, but even he does not deserve this,” Budowsky wrote. “These are serious times that demand serious journalists doing serious work on serious matters.”

Cooper defended his work in an online “60 Minutes Overtime” interview.

“If Stormy Daniels’ story is true that a thug came up to her in a parking lot in Las Vegas in 2011 — this is long before Donald Trump was a presidential candidate — I mean, if somebody is using intimidation tactics, physical intimidation tactics, it’s probably not the first time they’ve done it,” he said.

Trump has thus far stayed silent on Twitter specifically stating anything about the porn star and the alleged affair. Unless Trump responds or Clifford gets out of the non-disclosure agreement, the alleged affair will remain shrouded in mystery.

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