A clearly-labeled Op/Ed from the editorial board of the Providence Journal sees much prurience but little benefit to the public interest in the media reportage of the Donald Trump – Stormy Daniels affair.
Humans being human, people have a certain amount of interest in a porn star’s tawdry tale of having sex with Donald Trump more than a decade ago.
Still, the obsessive media attention given the story — capped by an appearance by the pornographer on “60 Minutes” last week — does suggest our culture is continuing its slide into the sewer. The reality TV show that our society has become is now officially beyond parody.
When left to his own devices, President Trump seems perfectly capable of making himself unpopular. But those obsessed with damaging him in any way possible often seem to end up, paradoxically, damaging themselves more.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper, for example, took on the role of interviewing Stormy Daniels, nee Stephanie Clifford, star of countless graphic sex videos, last weekend on “60 Minutes.” The interview delivered boffo ratings: More than 22 million people tuned in, making for the venerable Sunday evening news magazine’s highest ratings in a decade.
Ms. Daniels was there, of course, to discuss her alleged affair 12 years ago with President Donald Trump, who was then a reality television star. Did the tryst actually happen? He says no but the porn star may be more believable. Mr. Trump, after all, does not have a particularly sterling reputation in the personal relationship department. And we do know that right before the 2016 election, Mr. Trump’s lawyer made a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Daniels. (She says this was hush money.)
But it may be worth recalling that, for years, Ms. Daniels denied that any affair took place; and that there seems to be no corroborating evidence that the event occurred as described. “60 Minutes” evidently did little to nothing to verify Ms. Daniels’ claims. It simply let her make her accusations.
Mr. Cooper wore a suit and tie, sat up straight and kept a straight face, looking like an anchorman. But in his questions, he came across as a cut-rate Jerry Springer:
• “You told Donald Trump to turn around and take off his pants … and did he?”
• “You were 27, he was 60. Were you physically attracted to him?”
• “Did you want to have sex with him?”
• “You work in an industry where condom use is — is an issue. Did — did he use a condom?”
It is difficult to make a case such questions served a serious public interest. Rather, they seemed a form of voyeurism and prurience. Such questions may be ratings gold, but they are unlikely to enhance Mr. Cooper’s reputation.
Nor do they do seem prone to badly damage Mr. Trump’s political prospects. Mr. Trump, after all, was elected in 2016 by voters who had already been inundated with media coverage of the unsavory aspects of his character. (Who can forget the “Access Hollywood” tape?)
In a focus group convened by CNN after the “60 Minutes” interview, women voters who supported Mr. Trump were distinctly unruffled. “I know that when I voted for him, I wasn’t voting for a choir boy,” one woman said. Another thought the media’s obsession with the story would boomerang. “The people — we, the people — are ready to define the narrative, and it’s not about tawdry sexual peccadilloes.”
It is sad, to be sure, that many Americans no longer believe that sterling character is an important attribute in someone wielding great power. But that train left the station decades ago.
Mr. Trump’s own words and actions as president are far more likely to stir strong opposition to him than the Stormy Daniels episode.