“I’m done being bullied,” Stormy Daniels said during a Tuesday appearance on The View. The interview covered a broad range of subjects, from her credibility to her motivation for going public with her encounter with Donald Trump, why she remained silent, and the threats she said were made against her by an unidentified man to stay silent about the affair. (Daniels and her lawyer Michael Avenatti also shared a sketch of the man who allegedly threatened her.)
Daniels took questions from each of The View’s hosts, all of whom played their parts—the partisan, the journalist, the lawyer—with the standard predictability baked into the show’s daytime format. The most telling of the exchanges came from Meghan McCain, who recycled clichés about women, attention, and sex work, dressed up here as insightful observations from the self-described “progressive Republican.”
“It seems like a publicity stunt on some level,” McCain began, adding that Daniels’s appearance at lawyer Michael Cohen’s Monday court hearing was a “publicity stunt on some level.” “It seemed like you were trying to get attention,” McCain stated.
She continued, saying that Daniels’s legal entanglements with Trump were “beneficial” to her career, offering both fame and fortune. “It does seem like you’re benefitting a lot. You’ve gone on your ‘Make America Horny Again’ tour, I’m sure you’re making a lot of money, no disrespect...” McCain said. “I hadn’t heard your name until all of this happened and now you’re literally live on The View giving an entire interview to us.” Daniels’s lawsuit, against both Trump and Cohen, McCain said, “has been beneficial to your career.”
Daniels’s lawyer, Avenatti, corrected McCain’s assertation that Daniels’s appearance at court on Monday was nothing more than an unnecessary “publicity stunt,” lacking any legal purpose. Avenatti said that it was “not accurate” that Daniels had nothing to do with the case. “We did have standing in connection to that case,” Avenatti said, adding that the warrant issued in Cohen’s case “stemmed in significant part from what happened to my client.” “We had every right to be there,” Avanetti added, reminding McCain that the federal judge overseeing the hearing had granted him standing. He then turned the question over to Daniels.
Daniels answered McCain’s questions directly, indicating that she too didn’t like the name “Make America Horny Again,” calling it “cheesy.” Her answers to McCain’s claim that she was benefitting financially from coming forward and suing Trump were a direct rebuff of tired perceptions about the wrong kind of woman speaking about the wrong kinds of subjects in public.
“Yes, I’ve gotten more bookings than usual,” Daniels said, “but I’ve been doing the job that I’ve been doing for almost the last twenty years.” Yes, “there’s a lot of publicity,” she added, but “this isn’t what I want to be known for.” Daniels described the ordeal as “overwhelming, intimidating, and downright scary at times.”
She went on to say that while she was making more money, she was also spending more money: on bodyguards and a tutor for her daughter, expenses that, combined with her ongoing court costs, have outpaced her earnings. Joy Behar interjected: “You shouldn’t have to apologize to make a living.”
Daniels also explained that there is a “misconception that I was trying to get out of the adult business or that this is what I want to do instead,” reminding The View’s hosts and viewers that the particular rumor simply wasn’t true.
McCain responded, “I have respect for any woman who does well in any industry, it’s…whatever.” Still, she doubled down on her discomfort with the name “Make America Horny Again.” It was unclear what exactly McCain objected to in the name, other than a general sense that such a name was sordid, and that Daniels, by extension, was as well. (McCain at one point indicated her “progressive” point of view by indicating that she had interviewed sex workers prior to Daniels.)
McCain was eager to perform the punitive voice of condemnation—rhetorically transforming Daniels’s case into little more than the questionable decisions of a questionable kind of woman only interested in fame and fortune; she was also willing to cast doubt on Daniels’s allegation that she had been threatened by an anonymous Trump associate.
“Why didn’t you go to the police when you were threatened?” McCain asked, a question that feels somehow inescapable for women coming forward with assertations of violence. Daniels responded that in order to file a police report, she would have had to answer questions about Trump. “I didn’t want my life turned upside down,” Daniels said. McCain pressed the issue again, asking Daniels why she was just now making the threat public. “Honestly one of the main reasons I didn’t say anything is that I didn’t tell my husband at the time. So much time had passed, I was embarrassed,” Daniels said. “I didn’t want [my husband] to think I was a bad mom or [that I had] put our daughter in danger.”
In short, McCain performed her role on The View flawlessly. She stood in for the conservative skeptic, gesturing towards rationality and cool with sex work, all the while positing doubt with claims that Daniels “seemed” motivated by the wrong reasons. Daniels, she chastised, “seemed” fundamentally untrustworthy because women who act will the intent of fame and fortune are willing to say or do anything; to conjure up lies or tell fantastical stories.
Daniels’s story is, of course, anything but fantastical. That a wealthy and powerful man would pay for sex, demand silence, or intimidate a woman who possessed the capability to implicate him in a crime is a story as old as time. The history of American politics is littered with such stories. The narratives that preserve and protect such men, like the one presented by McCain, are similarly timeless.
Though Daniels corrected McCain, pushing back on the assumptions implicit in her line of questioning, the foundations that formed McCain’s inquiries were themselves loaded with history and overburdened by gender. McCain avoided the direct charge that Daniels’s work or sexual history made her inherently untrustworthy (Daniels directly addressed later in the interview after a question from another host), but she successfully conjured up the hackneyed phrases that often transform sex workers like Daniels into little more than motivated liars. McCain accused Daniels of a certain kind of disingenuousness, of playing a part. McCain seemed unaware that she was, too.