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Why Are We Only Learning About Stormy Daniels Now, Writes 'Post's' Farhi


Let's ask how a news story became a news story and why it wasn't one sooner. The story is President Trump's alleged affair in 2006 with an adult film actress. The Wall Street Journal reports that the president - or the president to be, we should say - paid Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, $130,000 not to tell her story before the 2016 election.

Daniels and the White House deny they had any relationship. It turns out that numerous news organizations pursued this story long before The Wall Street Journal reported. So why would it surface now? Paul Farhi has been covering this for The Washington Post. Good morning, Paul.

PAUL FARHI: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Just remind us, when did reporters first get word of this allegation so far as you know?

FARHI: Well, the earliest we know of is 2011. A magazine called In Touch interviewed Stormy Daniels. This had appeared on a couple of blogs at that point. But then the story disappears and doesn't resurface until about 2016. And when I say resurface, reporters were aware of Stormy Daniels, but they never published anything.

INSKEEP: Reporters from where?

FARHI: There were four news organizations. Slate, Fox News, ABC and The Daily Beast were all circling around this story. None quite had it, none quite nailed it down, but all we're trying to do so, and they never quite got there.

INSKEEP: You said none quite nailed it down. Are you saying - I mean, we're talking about news organizations. Fox has been very supportive of Trump. Some of the others have been more independent or even hostile. But none of them felt that they had enough to go with the story?

FARHI: Yeah. I mean, this is the blind man feeling the elephant. You know, they all felt one part of it but never quite put the whole picture together. Fox News never really had it. Their former head of digital news said that they had a source saying that it was true, but they didn't have Stormy herself. She was no commenting. Their sourcing was thin. Slate got very close, but she kind of bailed on them when she got - apparently got paid off to not talk.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, that raises another question then because The Wall Street Journal, the other day, went ahead and published a story about this - about the alleged $130,000 payment. But as I understand it, neither party to the alleged affair is admitting having done anything at the moment. So what made this a strong enough story, finally, for The Journal to publish?

FARHI: Well, first of all, we don't know the sources on that. The Journal cited three sources, I believe. But what's interesting about The Journal's reporting is that no one has really denied the fact that $130,000 changed hands from Trump through his lawyer to Stormy Daniels through her lawyer. The Journal further reported, yesterday, that Trump's campaign, or at least his lawyer, set up an LLC in Delaware to affect these payments.

INSKEEP: A limited liability company just to make the payment?

FARHI: That is correct. And that is what The Journal has reported. None of that has been denied. So we - there's certainly a lot of questions being raised by this.

INSKEEP: So what The Journal has is a trail of money, regardless of what the truth of the original acts might have been.

FARHI: Yes. Although, Stormy at various points has confirmed it and - has confirmed it, but news organizations have not been able to nail it down substantially.

INSKEEP: Paul, thanks very much.

FARHI: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Paul Farhi of The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.