A few weeks ago Kevin Drum wrote “A 21st Century Citizen’s Guide to Producing Great Scandals.” He made an excellent point that is often lost on those of us who wonder why explosive stories about Donald Trump are hot one day and gone the next.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s worth noting that “scandal” narratives don’t live or die depending on how bad the scandal is. They thrive when they generate lots of news coverage. And the way to generate lots of news coverage is to generate lots of news.
As I’ve watched the Stormy Daniels story unfold over the last couple of months, I’ve gone back to that insight from Kevin several times. She and her lawyer are demonstrating his point to perfection.
The truth is that when this story resurfaced on January 12 in the Wall Street Journal (after being teased by the same publication back in November just two days before the 2016 election), I didn’t pay much attention to it. Donald Trump had spent years regaling Howard Stern with tales of his sexual exploits and we all know that he bragged about the freedom he felt to engage in sexual assault. So what was the big news of this story? That he had an affair with a porn star? Or that he paid for her silence? None of that told us anything we didn’t already know about him.
Yet here we are two months later and the scandal is still making headlines. I would suggest that is because Ms. Daniels and her lawyer have consistently pumped out new angles to generate coverage. The latest came today on “Morning Joe.”
JUST IN: Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti tells @Morning_Joe that his client has been "physically threatened."
"I think it will become apparent to people when they tune in to 60 minutes … the details related to the threat." pic.twitter.com/l3xGXjciS4
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 16, 2018
Notice that Avenatti says that Daniels has been “physical threatened,” but he stays silent when asked who threatened her. He simply suggests that everyone tune in to watch the 60 Minutes interview, which will air on March 25. That, my friends, is how you generate coverage: tease and promise more to come.
I’m not suggesting that this story isn’t newsworthy. But it is helpful to note what has kept it alive when so many others that actually seemed more significant have died after a day or two. Avenatti is giving a master class on how to create a great scandal.