The Women Trump Underestimated Are Coming Back to Bite Him
Men like Trump bet against women like Stormy Daniels all the time. But now those women, instead of staying silent as they always have, are being empowered to speak.
“I have to write about it,” I responded, feigning disappointment. The truth is I couldn’t wait. Watching a man with a long history of unbridled misogyny being dragged into the light by women he felt were disposable is justice porn for this feminist.
But there was simply no way CBS’ blockbuster 60 Minutes interview with the porn star who once engaged in mediocre sex with a future president could have lived up to the hype.
#StormyDanielsDay trended nationally on Twitter all day long. Everybody I know well enough to Gchat was preparing the metaphorical popcorn. This was after the weeks of intrigue-fluffing from Stormy Daniels’ camp, the steady drip of stories of a panicked White House from other outlets, the quixotic Donald Trump downfall fanfic that a certain sort of person has been writing in their mind since Nov. 9, 2016.
A contingent of the public wanted so desperately for this to be enormous that unless Daniels had rolled into the studio armed with the pee tape from the Russia dossier, they were going to be underwhelmed.
Much of Daniels’ sit-down with Anderson Cooper was a rehash of the recently unearthed 2011 InTouch interview that kicked off this strange period in American political history. She described meeting the then-reality TV host at a charity golf event in Lake Tahoe in 2006, shortly after Trump’s wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Barron (who bizarrely has the same name as a surname of an alter ego Donald Trump used for himself back in the 1990s, when he would talk to tabloid journalists on the phone pretending to be his own assistant).
Daniels says Trump showed her a Forbes magazine with his face on the cover, and then she spanked him with it. She detailed being physically threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot after giving the aforementioned InTouch interview. The piece discussed the $130,000 payment paid to Daniels days before the 2016 election, a payment that could constitute a violation of federal election law.
Most of what Daniels told Cooper wasn’t new. That Trump is a scumbag and a weird guy isn’t new information. That he and his team of daffy henchmen are inept and crook-adjacent isn’t new. But as Trump’s legal woes mount, it’s clear that his propensity to underestimate a certain type of woman is coming back to bite him in the ass.
When Daniels first met Trump at that fateful golf tournament in 2006, the future president told the adult film actress that “a lotta people must underestimate [her].” This was after they’d had sex, she said during the 60 Minutes interview. She reminded him of his daughter, Trump said.
Trump also underestimated Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who claims that she and Trump had a consensual, months-long affair around the same time Trump was cheating on his new wife with Daniels. (Side note: What sort of black market horse Viagra was Donald Trump taking between 2005 and 2007?) McDougal is suing Trump for the right to speak about their alleged affair. Appearing on Anderson Cooper 360º last week, she said she had no idea he had “other women” at the time. Trump also apparently told McDougal that she reminded him of his daughter.
And Trump seems to have underestimated Summer Zervos, the former Apprentice contestant suing Trump for defamation in New York state court. In 2016, Zervos claimed Trump had made an aggressive sexual pass at her years back, that he dangled professional advancement in the context of sex. Trump called her a liar and expected her to go away. Last week, a New York judge ruled that Zervos’ case can proceed to discovery.
Trump underestimates women a lot. It’s served him just fine until this point. He won the presidency even after the Access Hollywood tape featuring his comments on grabbing women by the pussy surfaced. He’s still standing after 19 women accused him of sexual misconduct.
But election night might have been Trump’s apogee, setting in motion a series of events that point toward his undoing. Without Trump’s election, would there have been a Women’s March? Without the power of women’s anger made visible, would the Harvey Weinstein story have ignited the #MeToo movement or quietly faded away in the entertainment section?
Stormy Daniels insisted to Anderson Cooper that she was not a victim of Trump’s, that everything she did with her former paramour was consensual. There’s no reason to doubt Daniels’ assessment of her own lived experience. But it’s also foolish to dismiss #MeToo as a force that led to the current cultural space. If not for #MeToo, would people like Daniels and McDougal have come forward with their stories? If they had, would anybody have cared after it blinked past our Twitter feeds?
Men like Trump bet against women like Stormy Daniels all the time—workers in the sex industry, young women, poor women, women on the margins. But now those women are more empowered to speak than ever, and more people care than ever. Trump’s karmic reaping was sown long ago.