Stormy Daniels' lawyer succeeded in hyping his client's "60 Minutes" appearance into the must-watch TV episode of the season—the show’s biggest ratings in a decade.
But there was substantial pushback yesterday against the former porn actress, and against her attorney Michael Avenatti for overselling the interview.
We all knew what Daniels was going to say in advance, that she had a one-time, consensual sexual encounter with Donald Trump back in 2006.
(We didn't know she would say she wasn't attracted to him and didn't want to sleep with him. I took some flak for describing her as a no-nonsense businesswoman, but was trying to convey her lack of warmth, unlike Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model also interviewed by Anderson Cooper, who kept saying she'd been in love with Trump.)
But on every other point, Stormy was cloudy when it came to providing evidence.
Most symbolic, perhaps, was Daniels refusing to comment on any photographic or text evidence she might have, after Avenatti had tweeted a picture of a CD to build suspense for the interview.
Daniels also spoke to CBS about a physical threat, but a key element was missing.
She said a man confronted her in a parking lot in 2011—as she was preparing to tell her tale to a magazine—and "leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.'"
Pretty chilling stuff. But Daniels says she can't identify the man, and that she never went to the police. So it's impossible for others to verify her account.
The same goes for Daniels' contention that she was pressured into releasing statements, as recently as January, denying any affair with Trump.
"As a matter of fact," she told Cooper, "the exact sentence used was, 'They can make your life hell in many different ways.'"
And who is "they"?
"I'm not exactly sure who they were," Daniels acknowledged. "I believe it to be Michael Cohen."
But that's speculation—and brought a strongly worded denial from the president's personal lawyer, along with a cease-and-desist letter sent to Daniels.
And by the way, while Cohen admits his $130,000 payment to her in late 2016 was meant to buy her silence, Daniels said on CBS that she wanted the deal because she didn't want the story to come out and hurt her family.
The bottom line is that Stormy Daniels didn't really advance the story. It's embarrassing for Trump and his family, but so far not especially damaging.
At the White House, deputy press secretary Raj Shah seemed determined to give the shortest possible answers and not mention Stormy's name. He said Trump has "clearly and consistently denied these underlying claims, and the only person who's been inconsistent is the person making the claims."
What Bill Clinton did was far worse, because he was president at the time and sullied the White House, while Trump was a celebrity businessman with almost no involvement in politics.
Another key difference: While some vilified Monica Lewinsky, there was public sympathy for her as a young White House intern dealing with predatory behavior by her boss. With a porn actress and a Playboy model who used their sexuality professionally, not so much.