As the adult film star who says she had an affair with President Trump in 2006 dominated headlines yet again, Trump's entourage quickly went to work discrediting her claims. The president has denied the extramarital affair, but one Trump adviser's joke about Stormy Daniels is part of a pattern where allies in his inner circle claim that women speaking ill of the president are nothing more than attention seekers.
Stephen Moore, who was a senior economic adviser on Trump's campaign, suggested that Daniels just wanted attention in a Tuesday night interview with CNN. Republican strategist Kevin Madden had commented that "the fact that we’re even having this conversation should probably register on the Richter scale, that we’re discussing a sitting president being sued by a porn star." That's when Moore quipped: "Kevin, are you saying that a porn star would actually try to draw attention to herself? Shocking!"
Daniels sued Trump on Tuesday over a nondisclosure agreement that she says swore her to silence about any relationship they may have had. She now claims the agreement was invalid because Trump never signed it, although Daniels' lawsuit suggests the agreement referred to Trump under the alias David Dennison. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 before the election to keep her quiet about the alleged affair. Cohen said he made the payment, but insisted the cash came out of his pocket — not the president's.
Moore's comment about Daniels wasn't received well in the moment. CNN's Don Lemon asked, “That’s your only response, Stephen, is that a porn star is trying to [get] attention? A porn star with a very lengthy complaint from California. I mean, it’s $130,000 payout confirmed from the president’s personal attorney."
Taking a lead from Trump himself, Moore doubled down. "Look, I don’t have any idea what went on, my only point is that are we really, I mean, a porn star?” He went on to say the issue had been "litigated during the campaign" when Americans voted for Trump despite multiple women accusing him of sexual harassment and assault (Trump has called the women "liars").
Trump and the people who surround him often discredit his accusers by claiming the women are after fame. After three women went on the Today show in December to reiterate their claims that Trump touched them without consent, the White House said in a statement: "The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them." Using the phrase "publicity tour" to describe women speaking out about alleged sexual misconduct gives the impression that the accusers are only after attention.
Summer Zevos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, sued Trump over his portrayal of her accusations as an attention seeking ploy. After Zevos accused Trump of past inappropriate sexual behavior in 2016, Trump said her claims were "all made up." The Trump campaign also released a statement from Zevos' cousin saying: "I think Summer wishes she could still be on reality TV, and in an effort to get that back she’s saying all of these negative things about Mr. Trump."
Last month, White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway mimicked that rhetoric by saying Trump's accusers have "had their day" because they appeared on TV.
Accusing women who claim Trump acted inappropriately of seeking attention goes a step beyond denial; it takes a stab at their character. Women don't come forward about sexual assault and harassment for myriad reasons, one being a fear of retaliation. Trump's team has made retaliation a go-to response when women speak negatively of the president.