Are “Hush Money Payments to a Porn Star” Illegal? The Bizarre Reporting on the Stormy Daniels Affair

You may have read that President Trump has been indicted for a number of things, according to the New York Times: “Trump will face four criminal trials that touch on a range of subjects,” including “hush-money payments to a porn star.” Again and again, the paper of record, and media across the country, repeat this same charge.

Reading these articles, one could be forgiven for thinking that hush money payments are illegal, or that, specifically, hush money payments to a porn star are illegal; and one might be surprised, given all the hullabaloo, to learn that there is nothing at all illegal about making hush money payments to a porn star, or, generally, to anyone else. It’s called a “nondisclosure agreement,” and it happens all the time.

Under a nondisclosure arrangement, Donald Trump made payments to a woman with whom he is alleged to have been romantically involved (he denies it), under which she would stay mum about their relationship. This is completely legal.

One crime occurred when Trump failed to record these payments in his business records, which is a fairly minor infraction. And since there is at least some evidence that these payments were made with the intention of furthering his presidential campaign, the failure to report was also an election law violation, which is the more serious allegation.

The point is this: it matters not at all what Trump’s one-time paramour, Stormy Daniels, does for a living. Indeed, another alleged Trump-lover, a not-porn-star, received a similar bonus package, from the National Enquirer. But reporting the indictment with this sort of salacious language makes it more interesting, more seemingly damning. If Ms. Daniels were an attorney, the Timeswould not report that Trump was indicted for “hush money payments to an attorney.” If she were a dermatologist, there would be no headlines about “hush money payments to a skin doctor.” And, again, hush money payments, to a porn star, attorney, dermatologist or mohel, are not illegal. Her career is irrelevant to the case; but her career is titillating and prudishly uncomplimentary.

But isn’t it bad, anyway, this relationship with a porn star?

Supposedly progressive Trump-haters love to tsk about this, a man who slept with a porn star; how can we have such a man as president?

I’m no fan of Donald Trump! But let’s be fair here. If he slept with this particular woman, it was because he wanted to, and because she wanted to. This was a consensual act between two adults. Of course, he was married at the time, but we don’t know the politics of that particularly mysterious union, his wife has apparently made her peace with it, and she is the only one with a right to be angry or unforgiving. Stormy Daniels is actually a person, a law-abiding citizen, who doesn’t deserve to be reduced to a sensationalistic, dehumanized soundbite and treated as an untouchable. None of this has anything to do with Trump’s terrible presidency, and so it is none of our business, and reporting it this way is inaccurate and puritanical.

^^^

Image by mediamodifier / Pixabay. Article by Alon Preiss.

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