UPDATE: On March 30, 2023, The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and other reliable sources reported a Manhattan grand jury indicted former U.S. President Donald Trump on charges related to hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had an affair.
Ever since sometime stripper and pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels went public with allegations that she had engaged in an extramarital tryst with former U.S. President Donald Trump long before he was elected to office, the fallout from that allegation has continued to have repercussions for all parties involved.
In 2018, a legal battle ensued over the validity of a non-disclosure agreement Daniels had signed and what a lawsuit she filed described as an attempt by Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, to intimidate her into keeping silent. Cohen later admitted that in 2016 he had personally paid $130,000 in hush money to Daniels on Trump's behalf. Trump denied knowledge of such a payment and continued to maintain that the affair never happened. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office launched an investigation.
Things came to a head in March 2023, when Daniels met with prosecutors, a New York grand jury took testimony from Cohen, and Trump himself was invited to testify. With rumors of an impending indictment swirling, Trump stated publicly on March 18, 2023, that he expected to be arrested the following week.
Through all of this, social media platforms were abuzz with rumors and gossip related to the affair. Below, we've compiled a list of the viral claims fact-checked by Snopes, in no particular order.
As the scandal heated up after Stormy Daniels went public about the affair in March 2018, a photograph purportedly showing Daniels, Trump, and Melania making their way through a crowd of paparazzi together started circulating online. The photo was sometimes accompanied by the claim that the three were good friends.
However, the picture had been digitally manipulated to insert Daniels in place of Trump's daughter Ivanka, who appeared in the original. (You can read the full fact check here.)
In May 2018, a clickbait article went viral that implied the Trumps' marriage was on the brink of divorce due to the alleged affair. "Donald does his best to play nice with his wife when the cameras are rolling, but everyone knows that his marriage is on the rocks and that their marriage essentially enslaves Melania," the article declared.
In reality, it was not a legitimate report, but simply a loose aggregation of gossip and bits of trivia related to the scandal. It was published by a site with a long history of engaging in such deception. (You can read the full fact check here.)
Shortly after the Stormy Daniels story broke in 2018, Snopes investigated reports that Trump had told both Daniels and Karen McDougal (a model and Playboy Playmate who also alleged she had an affair with Trump) that they reminded her of his daughter, Ivanka. We found that both women had indeed attributed such comments to Trump in press interviews.
That said, in the absence of documentary evidence such as audio or video recordings of those private conversations, we have no way of confirming that Trump made these remarks. (You can read the full fact check here.)
After In Touch belatedly published (in 2018) a 2011 interview in which Daniels described her alleged hookup with Trump in lurid detail, a so-called "excerpt" made the rounds in which she also supposedly described the pizza he ordered for them to eat together.
"He calls up room service and goes 'I want a pizza and I want the toppings on the pizza to be littler pizzas. Like the size of pepperonis but they're actually full pizzas, just little.'"
Fun though that "excerpt" may have been, upon investigation it turned out to be pure satire. There was no mention of "pizza with littler pizzas on top" in the actual interview. (You can read the full fact check here.)
With celebrity comes not only viral gossip, but online death hoaxes, as well. In June 2019, we debunked a hoax claiming that Daniels had committed suicide after writing a note in which she made a "stunning admission."
Given that she is still alive and well as of this writing (in March 2023), those claims were, and are, clearly false.
What is no longer with us is the execrable political clickbait website that published the hoax, may it rest in peace. (You can read the full fact check here.)
"Strange" coincidences are the lifeblood of conspiracy theories, thus the virality of a claim that emerged in late 2018 to the effect that Stormy Daniels and mail-bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc had both worked at the same strip club, and thus must have colluded in a double-pronged, false-flag attack to stoke outrage against Trump.
While it's true that Daniels and Sayoc both worked at the Ultra Gentleman's Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, it's not true that they worked there during the same period of time, or that they knew each other. (You can read the full fact check here.)
It goes without saying that presidential peccadillos are fodder for comedy, and the Stormy Daniels affair was no exception. In January 2018, an online article appeared under the headline "'Trump Was Merely Sharing The Gospel With That Porn Star,' Explains Jim Bakker."
Bakker being a noteworthy pro-Trump televangelist, some who encountered the headline on social media were no doubt tempted to believe it. Alas, it was a work of fiction from the satirical website Babylon Bee. (You can read the full fact check here.)
After the FBI raided the office of Trump's attorney Michael Cohen in 2019 in connection with the Stormy Daniels hush money case, it was perhaps inevitable that it would be compared to then-President Bill Clinton's monetary settlement with Paula Jones over a sexual harassment case filed in the 1990s. "Why did the FBI raid the office of Trump's lawyer but not Bill Clinton's?" some people asked.
It's a "whataboutism" that compares apples to oranges, Snopes' analysis found. Clinton's payment was the settlement of a civil lawsuit that did not involve any criminal matter or criminal wrongdoing; Trump's alleged payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels was possibly an illegal act, hence the raid on his lawyer's office. (You can read the full fact check here.)
No sooner had Trump predicted his own arrest after he heard of his potential indictment than a false report of said arrest went viral on social media.
A photograph purporting to show Trump being escorted out of Mar-a-Lago by police surfaced on Twitter on March 18, 2023. A number of clues gave it away as being fake, however, not least the fact that no reliable news sources reported that said arrest had actually taken place. In reality, the image was generated using artificial intelligence (AI). (You can read the full fact check here.)