The Daniels versus Trump 60 Minutes Interview Leaves Us with a Political Concussion

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The line between politics and sport has now been blurred beyond recognition.

Kansas beat Duke in an overtime basketball game lead-up to the March Madness Final Four Tournament and CBS was the overall ratings winner for the night. No doubt a substantial percentage of the game’s massive audience rolled into the next big game on the network … the porn star Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes interview about her alleged affair with Donald Trump and related allegations of threats against her and her child. Add to the list of allegations, questions about federal election violations and other assorted Department of Justice charges.

Now it’s up to the media pundits and polls to decide who won the contest between Team Trump and Team Daniels (real name Stefanie Clifford) although it is unclear whether Daniels’ supporters might more accurately be described as anti-Team Trump (not everyone has unconditional love for a porn star reportedly having sex with a married man, regardless of his public reputation, regardless that he is the sitting POTUS).

Now what? How does the White House and the administration react, the Republican party? How does the President’s legal team react? His family? What does Team Daniels do? What does the Democratic Party do? What do the legion numbers of groups on both side of this contest do to support their positions, and what does this TV interview do to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation?

A crisis and litigation public relations counselor would have a tremendous amount to unpack after the 60 Minutes piece. Our process would involve interpreting line by line every aspect of the interview in relation to legal implications, media relations, political, business and even personal issues. There is a need for understanding and acting on implications for families, children, religious groups – immediate response needs and longer-term response and reputation mitigation.

Remember, this interview follows closely on the heels this past week that featured: a fired and instantly replaced national security advisor, a close call for funding the government, a national and international student’s gun control march, threatened Chinese tariff retaliation; and I can’t remember what else happened just this week.

Obviously, there were advanced leaks of the Daniels interview; teasers were released, both teams probably prepared for other scenarios not even touched upon by 60 Minutes, yet. There was a reference on the magazine show to the story continuing to advance and unfold and, naturally, there could eventually be a binding legal settlement between opposing parties that could end a lawsuit. That said, other investigative and prosecutorial players are now in the lineup and will box out to get more powerful positions in this convoluted game of who do you trust and why should we care?

The Daniels versus Trump 60 Minutes Interview Leaves Us with a Political ConcussionBoth teams need to have short answers to all crucial questions and play to their strongest arguments in order to:

  • Persuade their different target audiences that their teams should be believed or, at least, their problematic actions could be understood given human frailties. More apologies to come?
  • Convince stakeholders the other team has unscrupulous or nefarious reasons for acting the way they did.
  • Create more credibility by taking the high road, for example, Stormy Daniels could also file suit to protect freedom of speech and protect others from similar mistakes in judgement (she hasn’t said that yet, she did say she is doing the interview and filing suit to set the record straight and clear her reputation).
  • Play the, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue card,” as candidate Trump used as an illustration of his base’s loyalty. He could still believe his voters understand who he is and will forgive whatever he says or does. He might continue to assert he was not involved with Stormy Daniels, as his attorney has promised, or explain his client was somehow acting in a way that didn’t hurt his family (Daniels said in the 60 Minutes interview that Mr. Trump told her he didn’t share bedrooms with his wife).

Each side of this high-stakes game can provide proof supporting their respective positions about whether Stormy Daniels’ other claims are true or not. She claimed a mysterious man approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot and threatened her and her young daughter unless she dropped accusations against Donald Trump.

Continuing the blurred-line-between-politics-and-sports reference, we have all been subjected to a neck-wrenching month-of-March madness where Team Trump has pulled stars from its lineup and replaced them with others, either on his bench or recruited them from entirely different teams.

Some would say this continual shake-up of the roster is exactly what candidate Trump promised voters. A crisis manager on Team Trump following that game plan could support even more substitutions and look for new headlines to distract from the accusations by Stormy Daniels and at least two other female accusers.

Team Daniels supporters could point to just that kind of frenetic strategy as an indication of a pattern of foul play.

CBS News and Anderson Cooper’s producer team (including those who secured the former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s interview for CNN) have certainly been the media winners this month. Watch out for the other news outlets to have an even greater appetite, if that’s possible, for the next get. Something tells me there will be no shortage of material. If this was March madness, what happens next month and the month after that and the month after that? Shall we start a list and create the brackets?

About the Author: Scott Sobel is Senior Vice President, Crisis and Litigation Communications, at kglobal, a Washington, DC-based full-service communications firm that influences public policy, increases market share + builds awareness for our commercial and federal clients. He counsels some of the world’s best-known law firms, corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions and is also a former in-house corporate public relations practitioner; major market and TV network police and investigative journalist and a media psychologist.; [/author]

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