This Barrier-Breaking Porn Star May Prove Trump's Biggest Nightmare

This Barrier-Breaking Porn Star May Prove Trump's Biggest Nightmare

Why you should care

Because a scandal can end a (normal) politician’s career.

Out of nowhere, it seemed that porn star Stormy Daniels, of all people, had a chance to take down a Republican politician known for his stubbornness, womanizing and strong stances against illegal immigration. But this was not President Donald Trump, nor was the year 2018. This was the 2010 Louisiana U.S. Senate election.

The incumbent senator, David Vitter, had a couple of years earlier been embroiled in scandal when he was revealed as a regular client of a Washington prostitution service. The only penance Vitter had paid was an embarrassing public apology — referring vaguely to “a very serious sin” — but no political opponents were stepping up, especially in a year when the hugely unpopular President Barack Obama would drag down any Louisiana Democrat. Enter adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

With her image plastered on every cable news channel, and with searches for her name on the website Pornhub up 80,000 percent, there’s undoubtedly no losing for Daniels.

A handful of local political science students reportedly launched a grass-roots “DraftStormy” campaign, unbeknownst to Daniels. It’s been claimed that they were looking for any porn star to run, in order to draw greater attention to Vitter’s sex scandal. But Daniels wasn’t a throwaway choice — the DraftStormy website praised the porn star for “breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings her entire life.”

Then 30, Daniels was not only starring in but also writing and directing adult films, and had recently made a cameo appearance in the Steve Carell comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The Baton Rouge native was a Southerner through and through — she had even chosen her stage name “Daniels” after seeing Jack Daniel’s advertised as a “Southern favorite.” (“Stormy” came from the daughter of the bassist for heavy metal band Mötley Crüe; Daniels’ given name is Stephanie Clifford.) She was the perfect candidate.

The DraftStormy campaign (hashtags weren’t really a thing yet) gathered momentum. Flattered by the attention, Daniels launched a listening tour of Louisiana to meet with voters, registered an exploratory committee and teamed up with Democratic political operative Brian Welsh. (Daniels later announced that she’s a Republican.) In Daniels’ appearances on cable news and as she was ogled by excitable local reporters, her spunk and wit shone through. “If you get any closer, you’re going to have to start tipping me,” she quipped at a crowd of photographers in a New Orleans po’boy shop in 2009. She dangled a campaign slogan of “Screwing People Honestly.” But it wasn’t to be.

A few months after the fun all started, she was arrested for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for hitting her then husband after an argument; just two days earlier, adviser Welsh’s car had exploded in what he suggested might have been foul play (nobody was injured, nor was any investigation conclusive). Daniels eventually announced that she would not run, decrying the political establishment and the high cost of running for office.

Daniels’ new turn at political fame is a sex scandal of her own, an alleged affair with Trump in 2006. It was a year after Trump married now–first lady Melania and a few weeks after their son, Barron, was born. Or, on the Stormy Daniels timeline, just after The 40-Year-Old Virgin appearance but before the Louisiana flirtation. In fact, Mother Jones recently reported that Trump was on a list of donors whom Daniels was thinking of tapping to fund the Senate bid.

This time around, she’s even happier to play to the camera, sharpened by over 15 years in the adult film industry as well as her previous stint in the mainstream limelight. While many of her acting awards came before her political experiment, Daniels has since won multiple directorial awards and been inducted into both the Adult Video News and X-Rated Critics Organization halls of fame. In an interview with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in January, she confidently maneuvers around the terms of the nondisclosure agreement between her and Trump’s personal lawyer and even upstages Kimmel. “Have you ever made love to someone whose name rhymes with Lonald Lump?” teases Kimmel. “I’ll call you whatever you want me to call you, baby,” retorts Daniels. She unleashes her tongue on unwitting Twitter trolls too — so much so that it seems many haters deleted their tweets after being on the receiving end of her burns.

What will come of the current saga? “We’ve already shown in the ’90s that adultery is not an impeachable offense,” says Allan MacDonell, former editor of Hustler magazine. Even a porn star encounter is not necessarily a political career-killer. MacDonell points out that sexting scandals with two separate porn stars bruised disgraced former politician Anthony Weiner, but it took contact with a minor to finally end his career. “Having an affair with Stormy Daniels is not outside the parameters of basic behavior among males in the political class, evidently,” says MacDonell. While voters might not blink twice, Trump or someone close to him likely broke election law with a $130,000 pre-election payoff to Daniels to keep quiet — and a court saga is only beginning.

With her image plastered on every cable news channel, and with searches for her name on the website Pornhub up 80,000 percent, there’s undoubtedly no losing for Daniels. She offered to give the $130,000 back if she can speak freely, and she’s set to appear on CBS’ 60 Minutes, perhaps as soon as next week. A lucrative book deal is all but certain. Back in 2009, Daniels said she wasn’t sure about taking a “pay cut” to be a $174,000-per-year U.S. senator. A much sweeter political payday awaits.

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