In a span of 72 hours beginning Thursday night, two women who claim to have had extramarital affairs with President Trump more than a decade ago will tell their stories on TV for the first time. Although porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal will appear on different networks, they will be talking to the same journalist: Anderson Cooper.
Cooper's double scoop might be traced to the night of Oct. 9, 2016, when his persistent questioning during a presidential debate led Trump to deny having ever kissed or groped a woman without consent, contrary to the boasts immortalized on a recording published two days earlier by The Washington Post.
Four women who stepped forward to counter Trump a short time later cited Cooper's exchange with the future president as a trigger.
Howard Bragman, founder of the Los Angeles public-relations firm Fifteen Minutes, called the debate a “seminal moment” that probably left an impression on other women with stories to tell.
“How could it not?” said Bragman, who has represented Stevie Wonder, Mischa Barton and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
Even Trump's own wife, Melania Trump, when she spoke publicly for the first time after the tape's release, chose to do so in an interview with Cooper on CNN.
“I was surprised because that is not the man that I know,” she said, describing her reaction to hearing Trump's “grab them by the p---y” remark.
Cooper, it seems, has a knack for getting women to talk about their experiences with Trump. CNN will air Cooper's interview with McDougal at 8 p.m. Thursday, and CBS will broadcast his taped sit-down with Daniels on Sunday on “60 Minutes.”
Cooper declined to be interviewed for this article, and representatives for Daniels and McDougal would not say why their clients selected him. But other publicists offered some theories.
“If you're putting a client with a journalist, credibility and chemistry are key,” said Cindi Berger, who has represented Mariah Carey, Billy Crystal and Sean “Puffy” Combs as co-chief executive of the public-relations firm PMK-BNC.
Berger described Cooper as “even-keeled” and said “his demeanor, his professionalism” are appealing qualities.
Although his style is not flashy, Cooper has managed to cross over into the entertainment realm, sometimes hosting shows with Kelly Ripa or going on tour with Bravo's Andy Cohen.
“He does rank high in both credibility and celebrity, which makes him a good choice for anybody who wants to reach a lot of people,” said Fred Cook, chairman of the public-relations firm Golin and director of the University of Southern California's Center for Public Relations. “He seems to be able to relate to lots of different kinds of people in serious ways and also very human ways, which is a special quality.”
In his interviews with Daniels and McDougal, Cooper presumably will ask highly personal questions. He might be better equipped than many other journalists to do so in a sensitive way because his own personal life has sometimes become tabloid fodder. Just last week, the Daily Mail touted its “exclusive” report that Cooper had separated from his longtime boyfriend.
“Stormy Daniels certainly is a unique individual, so she's going to want to talk to somebody she thinks won't be judging her the whole time,” said Cook. “He's got a lot of life experience that makes him a more open-minded person than some other people that you could consider in that role.”