The Louisiana-born porn actress known as Stormy Daniels has upended Washington this month with accounts of an alleged 2006 affair with President Trump, a tawdry but irresistible story involving hush money, shark week and spankings.
The White House has denied Trump’s involvement with Daniels, who has appeared in films such as “The Witches of Breastwick” and “Trailer Trash Nurses 6,” calling the news “old recycled reports ... strongly denied before the election.” The Trump camp no doubt trusts much of the public will shrug off this scandal, considering its players.
But I want to remind readers of an episode in Raleigh in which Daniels, whose offstage name is Stephanie Clifford, first waded into political news. On a night in 2010, I was dispatched to interview Daniels during her appearance at The Men’s Club on Yonkers Road, where, bathed in purple light and dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, she announced that she would drop her bid for national office – canceling what could have been the nation’s most arousing race.
In 25 years of newspaper life, I have interviewed only one pornographic actress, so I cannot speak to members of the profession in general. But I found Daniels to be honest, articulate and thoroughly engaging as a subject – and she was wearing clothes while we spoke. I would discourage any dismissal of Daniels’ words simply because of the way she makes a living.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
“You can be blond and sexy and ... not be an idiot,” she told me. “For some reason, our society equates sexuality with stupidity.”
In 2009, the curvaceous performer found herself drafted into challenging U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, then a Republican rising star whose family-values reputation suffered when his phone number turned up in the records of an escort service run by the “D.C. Madam.”
Daniels chafed at Vitter’s record of moral finger-pointing when he had an admitted history with prostitutes, some accounts of which included a fetish for wearing diapers, and she cast herself as a no-bull alternative.
“He’s like all politicians,” she told me. “He’s very self-centered. The whole diapers scandal, I’m the last person to judge someone’s sexual flavors. He wore a diaper. Big [expletive] deal. He didn’t hurt anyone. But he’s a hypocrite.”
Her campaign got dismissed as a gag, but she did campaign on a listening tour around Louisiana. She called for creative thinking and entrepreneurship and pledged to make a final decision on her candidacy on April 15 of 2010 – a night when she happened to be dancing in Raleigh.
To my surprise, I was the only reporter to hear what ended up being her concession speech, a decision she made out of distaste for the American political system.
“It’s expensive,” she told me. “I actually found that very sad. The cost of running for office keeps the best people from running. You need someone to represent the average person, and the average person can’t afford to run. You get this vicious cycle of Ivy Leaguers.”
Later, she issued this statement, referencing former Alaska Gov. and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin:
“Like Governor Palin,” she wrote, “I have become a target of the cynical stalwarts of the status quo. Simply because I did not fit in their mold of what an independent working woman should be, the media and political elite have sought to relegate my sense of civic responsibility to mere sideshow antics.”
Now reports have surfaced of her affair with Trump, in which a widely circulated 2011 interview with In Touch magazine describes them spending hours watching “Shark Week” together, and recently uncovered email correspondence offers details of the president being spanked with copies of Forbes magazine that bore his face.
It is difficult to imagine any other presidency surviving such news, but this is hardly the latest unprecedented turn in the contemporary White House.
But however you choose to absorb this story, don’t write off Stormy Daniels. In my experience, she speaks the naked truth.