Jeena Sharma
Mar 26, 2018 @ 12:30 pm

Of all the scandals to have circled Donald Trump—Russia, nepotism, locker-room talk—the most threatening seems to be an alleged sexual affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, gave a hotly anticipated interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper this weekend, speaking bluntly about her alleged 2006 affair with the president. She described an incident in Trump’s hotel room, where she says he tried to impress her by showing him a magazine cover with his picture on it. She claims that she suggested it should be used to “spank you with,” before instructing Trump to drop his pants and gave him a “couple of swats.”

The tell-all, which was taped earlier this month, has put Trump’s camp especially on edge. The president’s lawyer, Michelle Cohen, claims that Trump has the right to at least $20 million in damages from Daniels for her breach of a $130,000 nondisclosure agreement she signed in 2016. Daniels, though, has claimed that the NDA is invalid because Trump did not sign it. (Trump denies the affair and any prior knowledge of the payout.)

Daniels also claims to have been physically threatened to keep quiet. “I was in a parking lot going to a fitness class with my infant daughter,” she told Cooper. “And a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’ And he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It would be a shame if something happened to her mom.’”

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Social media is swarming with petitions for Robert Mueller to make the alleged affair part of his Trump investigation. But others think that Daniels may not even need his help to take down Trump. “This business about Stormy is not going to go away,” Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters told MSNBC. “If for some reason Mueller does not get him, Stormy will.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has been at the center of a sex scandal. In the months leading up to the 2016 elections, 19 women made sexual misconduct allegations against Trump. Recently, former Playboy model Karen McDougal alleged to have had a consensual affair with the president in 2006, shortly before Daniels’s. McDougal, who says she was in love with Trump, claimed to have told the president she is “not that kind of girl” when she was offered a sum of money in exchange for her silence.

But Daniels presents Trump with a trickier challenge. The “solution” to the last most famous sex scandal involving a sitting president, that between Monica Lewinsky and then-President Bill Clinton in 1998, was simple: While Clinton’s reputation more or less survived, Lewinsky faced an onslaught of public slut-shaming that ended her political career before it really started, reducing to punchlines like “America’s blow-job queen.”

Gordon Rondelle/REX/Shutterstock

Daniels is impervious to that kind of character assassination, though. It’s nice to think that this may in part be because it is the #MeToo era of 2018, not 1998, and our society has progressed to a point where we no longer use women’s sexuality in shame tactics. And maybe there’s a small truth to that. But mainly, Daniels can’t be slut shamed because she is “that kind of girl,” and she’s not ashamed of it.

Daniels has built her career on the salacious materials that have been used to destroy other women. She’s immune to lewd character attacks, which is precisely what makes her a more terrifying threat than a Mueller probe or any other sex scandal. Daniels turns the “slut” narrative on its head. It can’t be used to discredit her; in the opposite, the nation is handing her the mic, keenly listening to what she has to say.

RELATED: Everything We Know About Stormy Daniels and Her Relationship with Donald Trump

“This not a #MeToo. I was not a victim,” she told CBS. And that may be why Trump, who’s becoming known for firing off tweets faster than you drunk text your ex, has restrained himself from speaking on the subject.

“There’s nothing that anyone can say that I haven’t heard,” Daniels told CNN. “So they say, ‘Hey, you’re a whore,’ I’m like, ‘That’s successful whore to you!’”

Her success should, and apparently does, scare Trump. If the president is proven guilty, among other wrongdoings, his guilt will represent a violation of the family values espoused by his voter base. Daniels, on the other hand, has built her career within the porn industry. She won’t be the scape goat so that Trump can emerge unscathed. She boldly embraces her choice to control her sexuality, upending cultural bias used to pillory women who speak up against powerful men. Hers is not the reputation at risk of being tarnished.

Daniels’s candor has rendered the moral outrage used to denounce and paint women like her as tramps obsolete. She is a force to be reckoned with and Cohen and Trump know it.

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