When CBS aired its “60 Minutes” interview with adult-film star Stormy Daniels, roughly 22 million Americans tuned in.
They heard Daniels say that she once spanked President Trump with a magazine that had his face on the cover. Then, they had unprotected sex, Daniels – whose real name is Stephanie Clifford – said.
Some of the president’s most dedicated supporters are deeply religious conservatives who would probably be shunned by their communities if they spoke or acted as Trump has. He once called one of his political opponents “a pussy” at a campaign rally. In a 2005 recording, Trump said that he likes to grab women by their genitalia, using the same vulgar word. He curses publicly, even when children are around, and has crudely bragged about the size of his hands.
When more than a dozen women accused him of groping or kissing them without their permission, Trump called them all liars and critiqued one woman’s appearance. The list goes on, as Trump has broken almost every rule of political etiquette.
Now, Trump is accused of having extramarital affairs with Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal that started nearly 12 years ago, soon after his wife gave birth to his youngest son. Both women say they were paid tens of thousands of dollars to keep quiet during the campaign.
Still, 61 percent of Republicans consider the president a good role model for children, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week. He has retained the wide support of members of his party at rates that are much higher than Bill Clinton experienced in 1998 when his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky became public.
How do conservatives view the way the president has lived his life? The Washington Post dispatched six reporters across the country to find out how some view Trump.
Sarah Wiseman is a 45-year-old Republican mother of two living in northern Indiana. She works as a manufacturing systems engineer, and Wiseman originally supported Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in the 2016 election. She reluctantly voted for Trump. Wiseman sometimes hears him on the radio when her 15-year-old son is in the car, uttering words that they avoid in their home.
Wiseman said it’s “unfortunate” that she has to explain why the president is “calling people names or cursing.”
“We want to teach our children: Respect yourself, respect other people,” said Wiseman, a local leader for the Boy Scouts of America. “But there comes a point where you kind of like have to, unfortunately, say, ‘Well, he’s the president. This is his job, this is his personal life.’ Kinda got to separate the two.”
If the principal of her son’s school or another leader in her community acted this way, Wiseman could take action, she said. But presidency is so far removed from her world that she doesn’t believe there’s anything she can do until the next election.
— Reporting by Victoria St. Martin
Beth Eads, a 49-year-old nurse, teaches her two home-schooled daughters to pray for the president and respect him. In their home, he is addressed as “President Trump,” “Mr. Trump” or “Donald Trump” — never just “Trump,” which Eads considers disrespectful.
“I will not put myself in a situation where someone can question my integrity. Donald Trump has not done that,” said Eads, who follows the rule in her own life. “He has never put boundaries around himself. He has been around women by himself, touched women — and so when things are being questioned, people can’t say, ‘No, he would never do that.’ There is always a question.”
Eads doesn’t know if she believes the various accusations against the president. She worries that scandals involving Trump have diverted attention from much more important issues, especially lowering the cost of medical care and creating a legal pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally, ending the deportations that are ripping families apart.
— Reporting by Bob Smietana
Taylor Richards, 20, is a gun-owning, rugby-playing junior psychology major at Ohio University in Athens, where she is the secretary of the College Republicans and doesn’t watch television news.
She’s waiting to see how the events unfold — while noting that Clinton was impeached for not being truthful about his affair.
“It’s not like I’m gung-ho about him — I just really hate Hillary Clinton. He was the lesser of two evils,” said Richards, whose favorite candidates were Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former surgeon Ben Carson.
Richards considers herself a “conservatarian” — a mix of conservative and Libertarian operating under the motto of “Leave me alone.” On a campus filled with liberals, she said that many of her classmates cannot understand why a young woman would support Trump. She thinks that their concerns are often overblown and that many of her generation’s feminists are “man-hating victim-card people.”
“Can you please tell me how you have lost rights as a woman now?” she said. “Please. I haven’t lost my rights. My life is still the same.”
Attending the Republican Party of San Diego County’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner in downtown San Diego on Saturday night, Delores Chavez Harmes sat down for an interview and turned on her own recorder.
“So there was something that happened 12 years ago, and I don’t understand why this is such an important issue, to tell you the truth,” she said, referring to Daniels’s allegations. “But it seems to be an important issue for The Washington Post.”
Eager to defend and praise him, she said that Trump has proved himself as “a great role model” on the world stage by being firm, articulate and strategic. But she would like to see him send fewer tweets and use more care in picking his words.
“But I think the words and the language are far less important than some of the acts that other presidents have taken,” Chavez said. “So when you look at this as a whole, I don’t think he’s worse than anyone else.”
Chavez argues that Bill Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky was “a heinous crime” because it took place in the Oval Office. She doesn’t care if Trump had affairs, as long as they occurred before he took office, and she’s not bothered by the comments he made during an “Access Hollywood” interview in 2005 that were caught on a hot mic.
“Was this proper for Trump to say? Absolutely not,” she said. “Is it how respectful men talk? Yeah. My dad would talk that way, and he was very respectful to women. My husband might talk that way with his fraternity brothers. . . . I can’t think of a more respectful man to women than my husband.”