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Stormy Daniels makes Donald Trump sound a lot like Harvey Weinstein

She says he used a job prospect to keep her interested, and threats and intimidation to keep her quiet.

Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump, pictured during her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper.
Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump, pictured during her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper.
CBS via Getty Images

Stormy Daniels is adamant that hers is not a story of sexual assault.

“This is not a ‘Me Too,’” she told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes Sunday night. “I was not a victim. I’ve never said I was a victim. I think trying to use me to — to further someone else’s agenda does horrible damage to people who are true victims.”

It’s true that Daniels has never claimed to be a victim of sexual misconduct. And on Sunday, she described her sexual encounter with Trump — she says there was only one, though the two stayed in touch afterward — as completely consensual. But what she described, both in that initial encounter and in a later meeting that didn’t end in sex, is still deeply disturbing.

Only Daniels can decide whether she feels personally violated by Trump’s behavior. But other Americans are certainly entitled to their opinions of Trump, and in Daniels’s telling, he’s a powerful man who tried to use promises of career advancement as a tool to convince a woman to sleep with him, then threatened and intimidated her to keep her quiet.

It’s long been possible to draw parallels between Trump and producer Harvey Weinstein, but in the wake of Daniels’s 60 Minutes interview and other recent revelations, those parallels look even clearer. And while Daniels said she does not feel she is part of the #MeToo narrative, Trump seems more part of it than ever.

Stormy Daniels blames herself

Shortly after she met Trump at a 2006 golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Daniels told Cooper Sunday night, she joined him in his hotel suite for dinner. He told her she was smart and beautiful (and that she reminded him of his daughter) and asked if she would consider being on The Apprentice.

“Did you think he was serious, or did you think he was kind of dangling to get you to want to be involved with him?” Cooper asked.

Daniels’s reply: “Both.”

The two ended up having sex that night, though Daniels says she didn’t want to and wasn’t attracted to Trump. Her full exchange with Cooper is worth reading:

COOPER: And you had sex with him.

DANIELS: Yes.

COOPER: You were 27, he was 60. Were you physically attracted to him?

DANIELS: No.

COOPER: Not at all?

DANIELS: No.

COOPER: Did you want to have sex with him?

DANIELS: No. But I didn’t — I didn’t say no. I’m not a victim, I’m not —

COOPER: It was entirely consensual.

DANIELS: Oh, yes, yes.

Then she described blaming herself for what happened; she felt, she said, that “I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone’s room alone, and I just heard the voice in my head, ‘Well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.’”

It’s her right to decide for herself how to feel about her experiences. Still, it’s a depressing indictment of American society that she felt that simply going to a powerful man’s hotel suite meant she had to have sex with him if he wanted to. As Jamil Smith of Rolling Stone put it on Twitter, “Trump may not have raped Stormy Daniels, but that is rape culture.”

According to Daniels, Trump didn’t use a condom when they had sex. Karen McDougal, a fitness expert and former Playboy model who also says she had an affair with Trump, told Cooper on Thursday in a separate interview that she had sex with Trump at the same golf tournament where he allegedly met Daniels. McDougal said Trump did not use condoms with her, either.

The women’s accounts suggest a lack of concern from Trump both for his own sexual health and for theirs — and as E.J. Dickson of Men’s Health pointed out, Daniels’s sexual health was an important part of her job as a porn actress. If her account is accurate, then by putting her body at risk, he was risking her livelihood too.

What happened next is a clear abuse of power

Daniels’s account of the night with Trump is disturbing, but in some ways, her description of what happened afterward might be even more revealing. According to Daniels, dangling the prospect of an Apprentice slot became something of a pattern for Trump, a way of keeping her interested in him. At the same time, she said, she hoped he might actually put her on the show.

When Trump asked her to meet him at his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007 to discuss a development relating to her possible appearance on the show, she agreed. McDougal and former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos have both said Trump invited them to the Beverly Hills bungalow at around the same time.

At the bungalow, Daniels and Trump watched a documentary about shark attacks (Daniels has talked before about Trump’s antipathy for sharks, telling In Touch that he once said, “I hope all sharks die”). Trump, Daniels says, made it clear that he wanted to have sex, touching her and talking about “how great it was the last time.” But she wanted to talk business. When she asked about the Apprentice development, she says, he told her, “I’m almost there. I’ll have an answer for you next week.”

She says she told him to call her the next week, and left. The next month, he called to tell her he couldn’t get her on the show.

The pattern — the offers of work, the business meetings that took place in hotel rooms and segued into sexual advances — has a lot in common with many women’s accounts of their experiences with Harvey Weinstein.

What Daniels says came next is reminiscent of women’s reports about Weinstein too — she says she was intimidated into signing a nondisclosure agreement, and that a man accosted her outside a fitness class and threatened her in front of her baby daughter, telling her to “leave Trump alone.”

While the details differ, Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker has described a similar pattern by Weinstein and his associates, one of ensuring women’s silence through settlements and through spies who attempted to gain compromising information about the women. Weinstein and Trump even had some friends in common — the staff of the National Enquirer, who allegedly helped to “catch and kill” McDougal’s story about Trump and helped dig up dirt on one of Weinstein’s accusers, actress Rose McGowan.

While Daniels is clear that her encounter with Trump was consensual, others have described encounters that were not. Zervos, in particular, describes a very similar meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel — except that at this meeting, she says, Trump touched her breast and pressed his genitals against her without her consent. Daniels’s account, with its strikingly similar details, lends credibility to hers.

According to Daniels, Trump used offers of TV appearances to talk her into sex, during which he disregarded her safety, then had her threatened and intimidated to keep her from telling anyone about it. As Vox’s Dylan Matthews has written, what she is describing is a clear abuse of power.

Exposing and stopping such abuses of power has been a key goal of the #MeToo movement. In some cases, it has worked, at least in part — Harvey Weinstein is no longer in charge of a production company. But Trump has managed, thus far, to evade the effects of the movement. Even though Daniels isn’t accusing him of sexual misconduct, her story offers yet more evidence that Trump’s #MeToo moment may be long overdue.

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