Daniels, who also goes by the name Stephanie Clifford, only occasionally speaks to the media, making her wide-ranging, 40-minute conversation with the Dutch program “RTL Late Night with Twan Huys” unusual. The interview contained Daniels’s first extended response to former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s plea deal last month and a series of candid reflections on how sudden political celebrity changed her life.
“People show up, and even if it’s for the right reasons, still a big group of people, even [if] they’re fans, can be quite dangerous,” Daniels said. “I travel with bodyguards and just having them around sort of deters people from trying anything.”
Daniels said she “got kind of cocky” a few months ago and tried to go to a concert without security, a decision she later regretted.
“In between bands, the lights come up and all it took was one person saying, ‘Hey, can I get a picture?’ And then it just became a frenzy and it was all positive — no one was being negative — but they just started grabbing at me and it became really dangerous really quickly. So now I’m a lot more careful about my surroundings. You don’t realize the toll that it can take on you mentally and physically after months and months of always looking over your shoulder,” Daniels said.
Daniels, 39, has become a hero to Trump opponents as she sues to void a 2016 nondisclosure agreement that bars her from speaking about their alleged affair from 2006. After she said she was threatened to keep silent about their relationship, Trump accused her on Twitter of being a “con job.” She is suing him separately for defamation.
Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels and is fighting the lawsuits.
Since Daniels’s story broke in January, she has received a wealth of media coverage describing her as the leader of the anti-Trump resistance and a hero for women in the #MeToo era. (Her other recent interview, published Aug. 28 in Vogue, took place before the Cohen plea.)
But Daniels said that despite laudatory headlines and grateful fans, she does not see her actions as a “feminist crusade.”
“I don’t really consider myself to be a super feminist,” Daniels said.
“I’m just human and I was just trying to do the right thing. I support women. I think we should be treated equal, all of that stuff. But I didn’t set out trying to change the view of women,” she said.
The decision to enter the public arena was partly a response to feeling threatened by Trump and his associates, Daniels said.
“I really just got tired of being bullied and came forward not thinking of how grandiose this was going to become. . . . Then I started to feel sort of in danger and there’s that whole thing about hiding in plain sight. If I’m public, they can’t really do anything to me because everyone would know that it was them,” she said.
The interview aired a few days before Sept. 10, when Daniels’s nondisclosure agreement case is scheduled to receive a status hearing in federal court in Los Angeles. The case has been delayed because of the federal investigation into Cohen, who pleaded guilty on Aug. 21 to eight charges, including tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws.
In court, Cohen made the extraordinary statement that Trump directed him to pay off women to keep stories about alleged affairs out of the media before the 2016 election, which added credence to Daniels’s account.
“Now which one of us looks like a total liar?” she said. “Michael Cohen just confessed last week that I’ve been telling the truth all along.”
Daniels said she was in Italy when she heard the news of Cohen’s plea. She said one of her bodyguards immediately called her to say, “Everyone knows you’re not a liar.”
“He was in tears and I was in tears,” she said.
“I didn’t think it would hit me as hard as it did, but I broke down into sobs. I didn’t realize how much it had affected me over the last several months. It’s been eight, nine months of every single day, people saying, ‘You’re lying, you made it up, you just wanted to have sex with him and he turned you down so you made this up,’ or ‘You’re in love with Donald’ — just the most ridiculous things you could imagine.”
She described that day and her May 6 appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” as emotional peaks of the past year. At the same time, she said, the stress of her public role contributed to her husband’s decision to file for divorce in July.
“He didn’t sign up for that, and I totally understand where he’s coming from. It’s really terrible. We’ve been together for almost 10 years,” she said.
Cohen’s plea also produced a “new rash of hate” against her online, she said.
“I may never have a normal life again,” she said. “Some days I break down and say, ‘I wish this had never happened, it’s absolutely not worth it. But I’ve slowly realized and sort of made peace with it and I’m going to say a good 85-90 percent of the time now, I think it was totally worth it.”
Daniels, who has a 7-year-old daughter, described her desire as a mother to see Trump forced out of office.
“One of the really difficult things that people say to me on social media or whatever — is that I need to shut up and go home and take care of my daughter,” she said.
“That’s very hurtful . . . the bigger picture for that is, yeah, I might have given her a normal, happy, traditional home life for the next year or two, but what if things continue with Trump in the White House as they are and he does something really stupid and pushes that red button?”