The former adult film star is the subject of a GoFundMe campaign for the demolition, but is she really the most deserving?
Long before he wreaked havoc across the United States and the world at large, Donald Trump inflicted his horrors on Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In that case it was a string of failed casinos financed with high-interest junk bonds that he was never going to be able to pay off. Their collapse and the tremendous ten-figure debt he took away from them in the early 1990s was, at the time, Donald Trump's most public and embarrassing scandal.
It's a record he has since broken on numerous occasions — losing reelection, allowing over 300,000 Americans to die of a virus that other countries successfully contained, being associated with Rudy Giuliani — but the scars of Trump's early failure still mark Atlantic City. Where they haven't been rebranded or demolished, his massive, shuttered buildings have stood disused and dilapidated.
For Donald Trump it may be enough to have his name scraped and scrubbed from these decrepit shells. But for the citizens of Atlantic City they stand as stark reminders of how one wealthy, arrogant man helped to topple the local economy.
The tower of the Trump Plaza Hotel has been a particular problem in recent years. In its disintegrating state it became a hazard to public safety, with chunks of its crumbling façade falling to the street below. There is a bright spot on the horizon, however.
Atlantic City's Revenge: Blowing Up Trump's Casino For Charity | The Beat With Ari Melber | MSNBC www.youtube.com
This year the city has finally begun demolition on this piece of Donald Trump's legacy, with a pyrotechnic finale scheduled for February. The opportunity to push the button imploding the hotel's stripped-bare tower is being offered in auction, with proceeds going to the Boys' and Girls' Club of Atlantic City.
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small has said that he hopes to raise "at least a million dollars," noting that he's "a pretty ambitious guy." Currently the bidding stands at around $60,000, but it will remain open until January 19th — one day before Trump will be forced to relinquish the presidency to Joe Biden. A live auction among the highest bidders will follow on the 29th.
But should the privilege of erasing this blight — and publicly humiliating Donald Trump — really belong to the wealthiest person with a grudge against the soon-to-be-former president? Surely there's someone with a more legitimate claim to that honor.
That's what former adult film star Zoe Britton thought when she heard about the auction last Thursday. Britton tweeted the suggestion to crowd-fund a bid for her friend Stephanie Clifford — AKA Stormy Daniels — to push the button that topples Trump Plaza Hotel. Daniels enthusiastically signed onto the idea, adding the detail that the button should be modeled after a toadstool — a reference to her infamous description of the president's genitals.
@ejeancarroll @realDonaldTrump This is hands down the best idea ever! I also want to commission the button to be shaped like a toadstool 🍄— Stormy Daniels (@Stormy Daniels)1608415328.0
The concept has since become a reality with a GoFundMe campaign that has so far raised a little over $1,700 to award the responsibility for that symbolic implosion to Stormy Daniels. But is she really the most worthy candidate?
For anyone who has somehow remained unaware of Daniels' history with Trump, the former adult film star had an (alleged) affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Back then he was merely the star of The Apprentice, and famous for being a rich assh**e and the basis for Biff Tannen's arc in Back to the Future Part II, and reportedly invited Daniels to dine with him when the two met at a charity golf tournament.
What (allegedly) followed from there was a whirlwind romance involving Shark Week, a periodical spanking, a promised role on Celebrity Apprentice, and a grudging resignation to physical intimacy. But the real drama is in the aftermath.
Several years after their (alleged) affair ended, Daniels reportedly shared details of her relationship with Donald Trump with a gossip magazine. Contrary to his enthusiastic attitude toward previous tabloid affairs, Donald Trump apparently didn't want his tryst with Daniels to be publicized. Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer at the time, intervened to squash the story — though rumors of the (alleged) affair were still published in Life & Style that October.
Not long after, Daniels reports that a man approached her in a parking lot with instructions to "leave Trump alone." Daniels had her young daughter with her at the time, and recalls the man saying "That's a beautiful little girl — it'd be a shame if something happened to her mom," before leaving them. That was in 2011, but the fallout was far from over.
EXCLUSIVE - Stormy Daniels Details Sex with Donald Trump www.youtube.com
In October of 2016 — shortly before the 2016 election, and around the time of the infamous Hollywood Access "grab 'em by the p***y" tape — Fox News reporter Diana Falzone allegedly wrote an article on the affair that the outlet chose to shelve. Secretly Michael Cohen had arranged to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her quiet — in violation of campaign finance law.
In January of 2018, rumors of the affair surfaced anyway. In the meantime, Donald Trump had become president. Stormy Daniels initially denied them — supposedly at the behest of her then-lawyer Keith Davidson, who may or may not have colluded with Michael Cohen to bury that story as well as the (alleged) Karen McDougal affair.
When Daniels eventually acknowledged the (alleged) affair and began sharing the sordid details, she became a target of Donald Trump's most ardent and unhinged supporters. She has received numerous death threats and was even arrested on flimsy charges by some politically-minded police in Ohio.
In short, Stormy Daniels' life was thrown into chaos by that brief, regrettable (alleged) affair with Donald Trump. And as a result of her coming forward, the scandal occupied America's attention for perhaps as long as any in Trump's tenure.
The legal issues that ensued eventually motivated Michael Cohen to renounce his longtime loyalty to Trump. He even went on to be a cooperating witness against Trump, offering congressional testimony that the president was a "con man" and a "racist" who had committed illegal acts of obstruction and self-dealing while in office.
In short, Stormy Daniels contributed perhaps as much as anyone in the last four years to the efforts to expose Donald Trump as the pathetic fraud that he is. And she has suffered for it.
On one hand, that seems like a strong case for letting Daniels push that momentous and possibly-toadstool-shaped button. But if she really wanted to, she could use some portion of the reported $800,000 advance on her memoir Full Disclosure to make a more serious bid.
On top of that, aren't their others who might be more deserving? Others who have done more to take Trump down, or who have suffered more as a result of his cruelty?
The honor could go to one of contractors Trump has put out of work, or one of the family's he tore apart at the border. It could go to any student who was bilked by Trump University, or any resident of Atlantic City who suffered the consequences of Donald Trump's financial recklessness.
A child crying as a border official searches her mother in TexasJohn Moore
It could go to E. Jean Caroll or any of the dozens of other women who've accused the president of sexual misconduct, or to Stacey Abrams, Gretchen Whitmer, or Martin Gugino. Or It could go to any of the loved ones of the 318,000 Americans who have died of COVID so far this year...
In the end, the people who deserve the honor of destroying one of Donald Trump's monuments to his own ego may outnumber even the numerous vanity projects on which he's plastered his name. But the best way to honor all of them is not through some symbolic bit of dramatic catharsis. It's by erasing the corrosive legacy Donald Trump has left on our government, our discourse, and our democratic institutions.
Unfortunately, that will take a lot more than the push of a button.
Trumps latest Twitter harassment is directed at a man who is genuinely heroic
You may have seen the footage of Martin Gugino—a 75-year-old peaceful protester—being shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo.
Or, if you prefer the perspective of President Trump and associated right-wing conspiracy theorists: an Antifa provocateur who was harassing the police and trying to sabotage their equipment before deliberately falling "harder than he was pushed," cracking his skull on the sidewalk, and (intentionally?!) bleeding from the ear.
Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after… https://t.co/aFgYc1MCfD— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1591706079.0
Setting aside the absurd notion that a man in his mid-70s—no matter how passionate and impressive a figure—would exaggerate his fall and risk permanent brain damage when a burly police officers 40 years his junior suddenly and forcefully shoves his chest, it's worth looking into who this man is. Is it possible that he is—as Donald Trump posed in a Tweet Tuesday morning—a member of "ANTIFA" (whom Trump has attempted to designate a "terrorist organization") sent to make the Buffalo police look bad? Or is Martin Gugino a gentle man of principle who was brutally assaulted and sent to the hospital in an incident that further exposed the hostility of police forces to the communities they "serve" and their pathological resistance to accountability? Spoiler alert: It's the second one.
Then again, I'm just a stranger on the Internet. Why would you believe me over the President of the United States parroting his favorite ass-kissing, propaganda network? Fortunately, you don't have to. In the difficult choice between a known liar who has never met Martin Gugino and a random stranger who has never met Martin Gugino, there exists a secret third option—people who actually know him:
Terrence Bisson, a mathematics professor at Canisius College, first met Gugino at a demonstration at Buffalo City Hall around 10 years ago. The two have since volunteered together at the Western New York Peace Center, where Gugino served as Treasurer and Bisson as chair on the Latin American Solidarity Committee—whose members are "committed to non-violent civil disobedience." Bisson describes Gugino as "funny and gentle" and says, "He'd never shout or oppose someone. He would ask questions if he thought something was not right."
While some observers have tried to find a provocation in the way Gugino stood in front of police, those individuals seem to have had an obstructed view of events (watching, as it turns out, from inside their own a**holes), and Bisson rejects the idea outright, saying that Gugino "is the last person you would want to push down; he's the kind of person who you would want to speak up."
Mark Colville, who founded the Amistad Catholic Worker house in New Haven Connecticut has likewise known Gugino for years and describes him as "shy and reserved," saying, "He likes his privacy. He doesn't make a spectacle of himself. He likes to show up and be present. He likes to be involved in these movements for justice. But he doesn't do it in a self-promoting kind of way."
Tom Casey, a Buffalo coordinator for Pax Christi—an international Catholic peace movement—dismissed the idea of Gugino as a provocateur, claiming, "I have never heard him use a vile or angry word against anybody and I spent a lot of time talking to him." Then again, this account is contradicted by Mary Anne Grady Flores, an anti-drone warfare activist who describes Gugino as "a gentle giant, who is so articulate, so thoughtful." Oh wait, not contradicted. The opposite of that.
Kinda surreal when the President starts accusing your 75 yr old friend of being an agent of ANTIFA. My friend Mart… https://t.co/NDVSwLXigv— keithgiles (@keithgiles)1591712208.0
In short, Martin Gugino, a retired computer programmer who has lived alone since the death of his mother, is a devout Catholic, a passionate peace activist, and probably not someone who conspires to be grievously injured on film or to "black out" police equipment with his cell phone—if that was even possible. You can disagree with his politics (especially if you suck, are racist, or love being ruled over by narcissistic billionaires), but you can't misrepresent him as something he's not.
He's not a provocateur, a terrorist, or even someone associated with the tactics or organizations indicated by the label Antifa. He was not—as Buffalo mayor Byron Brown has claimed—any more so than any passionate protester trying to agitate for meaningful reform. He did not provoke the police who shoved him, or "fall harder than he was pushed," nor did he "slip"—as one police union president claimed. He was peacefully participating in protests against police brutality following the horrific murder of George Floyd. He was standing in the way while Buffalo PD officers set out to clear Niagara Square, so he was pushed with enough force to send him sprawling against the sidewalk where he cracked his skull, bled from his ear, and was left lying motionless as police officers moved on.
Martin Gugino (right) at a protest following the killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice by police
The fact that 57 other police officers stepped down from their positions in protest of the idea that the officers responsible for that violence should be punished only reveals how entrenched and dangerous police unity is for communities who would seek to hold them accountable. And the fact that Donald Trump would magnify a conspiracy theory about Gugino serves as a reminder of how callous and instinctually authoritarian he is—with no regard for how this "shy and reserved" man who "likes his privacy" might be affected by the attention and no concern for the fact that his followers often follow up tweets like this with death threats.
When reached for comment by USA Today, Gugino responded to his assault at the hands of the police with a simple tweet: "No comment other than Black lives matter. Just out of the ICU. Should recover eventually. Thx."