Stormy Daniels’s story is straightforward. She met Donald Trump pre-politics at a Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006. Trump invited her to dinner, which, as it turns out, was in his hotel room. Things progressed. In 2011, also pre-politics, Daniels told her story to InTouch magazine, which sat on it — apparently because Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney at the time, threatened to sue.
As Election Day approached in 2016, Daniels was talking to various outlets about her alleged liaison with Trump. Someone at the National Enquirer got wind of it, and Cohen ended up paying Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet about her allegation. Cohen, speaking under oath in a federal court this year, says Trump knew about and directed the payment to Daniels. Her story was buried until earlier this year.
On Monday, a court threw out a lawsuit Daniels had filed in the wake of her story becoming public. She’d sued the now-president for defamation after he called her allegations of having been accosted by someone to stay quiet about the alleged Trump affair “a total con job.”
On Tuesday, Trump responded as one might expect.
Why might we expect that Trump would disparage Daniels’s appearance (beyond the weirdness of saying that an alleged former romantic partner looks like a farm animal)? He has done it so often before. He disparaged Carly Fiorina’s looks when he faced her in the Republican presidential primary. He disparaged the looks of one of the women who accused him of sexually assaulting her. He’s disparaged so many women over time that the first question he got in the first Republican primary debate centered on those comments. The question came from journalist Megyn Kelly; Trump then proceeded to repeatedly attack Kelly on Twitter.
Trump’s willingness to throw punches at his opponents is something that his supporters often cheer. A Republican base that spent the administration of Barack Obama watching conservative media chastise elected officials for not fighting the Democrats hard enough embraced a candidate who’d watched the same media and was willing to throw those punches, warranted or not. Pew Research Center polling earlier this year found that far more of those who like Trump like him because of his approach to the job and personality than because of his policies.
And, sure enough, some conservative media outlets and personalities praised Trump’s response to Daniels.
The Daily Caller, in a tweet, called the new nickname “devastating.” The site created a special graphic to share on social media.
Prominent Trump supporter and radio host Bill Mitchell offered his praise.
Mitchell also tweeted that he would “take brutal honestly in my President over charming lies any day.”
The Daily Caller apparently decided against another tweet, deleting an image of a Halloween horse mask.
Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush, was less enthusiastic, speaking on Fox News.
“This is where the president is his own worst enemy,” Fleischer said. “He doesn’t need to call anybody horseface. You just don’t do that when you’re the president. . . . The president can counterpunch so hard, he often hits himself.”
Fleischer compared the tweet to Trump’s infamous disparagement of MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski last year. Trump called her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and said she’d shown up at his Mar-a-Lago estate for a New Year’s Eve party “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” YouGov has been polling on all of Trump’s tweets; the Brzezinski series were two of the three worst-rated tweets of Trump’s presidency.
Bush’s former press secretary is not someone who necessarily reflects the attitudes of the Trump base, of course. There’s little to suggest that Trump’s willingness to refer to a woman who credibly alleges an extramarital affair as “Horseface” will cause concern among many of his ardent supporters.
It’s worth wondering, though, how an electorate that thinks Trump is biased against women in an election cycle that’s already lining up as being defined by women running for office and challenging the status quo — in part as a reaction to Trump’s presidency — will respond to Trump again disparaging a woman for her looks.