This week, a senior staffer in the White House, Rob Porter, was accused by two of his ex-wives of domestic violence, and the overall response from both the administration and some news media has essentially been one giant shrug. But the White House’s response to these domestic violence allegations is appalling and it’s totally acceptable — encouraged, even — if you’re angry or sad about it. It’s like they’re trying to wear us all down with one triggering, despicable scandal after the next. We don’t know about you, but reading the news has become an activity we have to emotionally prepare for lest we get punched right in the face, just like coming home to an actual abuser.
If even as fellow survivors of abuse, racism, and misogyny, we’re having trouble mustering up the energy to tweet the headlines and think about the implications of the news, how can any other person without those experiences be talked into caring enough to stop D.C. in its tracks for a moment and ask those in power to be held accountable?
We’re tired, and we know we’re supposed to be #resisting.
What’s so twisted is that this latest allegation against a staffer seems to be bouncing off the administration as if they were rubber, even though Trump’s most trusted staff were complicit in Porter getting a job despite the violent allegations. (HelloGiggles request for comment from the White House was not immediately returned.)
It’s not as if they didn’t know about the allegations when they hired him — they’ve reportedly known for months. In any other world, everyone who had anything to do with Porter stepping foot past a White House gate would be forced to face the music. But, Porter had one of the “most important, but low-profile, jobs in the Trump administration,” according to Vox. According to CNN, he helped draft the State of the Union address and had been asking Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly for a more “elevated” position within the White House when it came to deciding policy.
There was one little snag, though: Porter’s been having trouble getting a security clearance. When his ex-wives told the FBI about the abuse and the temporary restraining orders they took out to protect themselves, the agency slowed down his background check.
Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, wrote a blog post about the abuse last year and talked to the Daily Mail this week, if you want to read her account. Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first ex-wife, spoke to the Intercept about their equally violent relationship. It is her bruised face that you might have seen circulating Twitter in the wake of the reports. Porter has denied all of their allegations, though he resigned from his position this week.
But not before the White House released a statement from Kelly, which was drafted by Hope Hicks, (who is also reportedly romantically involved with Porter) standing by their staffer. Initially, the official line was:
Early on Thursday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Porter had the president’s support. Mid-afternoon, Raj Shah, filling in for Sanders at a press briefing, dribbled that back and said that Kelly was “shocked” to have learned about Porter’s alleged behavior. Of course, Porter has not been convicted or charged with anything, but a lot of people think he should not have gotten this job if the allegations were out there.
The White House is walking back its statements now because it feels like this is a scandal that won’t go away, which is not what Trump likes. Yet, it really looks like the White House did everything in their power to either intentionally mislead the public or they actually didn’t think that intimate partner violence allegations from two ex-wives were that big of a deal. Maybe they thought that no one would find out? Really, we can’t assume to understand what it was thinking on this.
Federal law enforcement did hesitate to clear this guy. However, even something there is a little off, since it didn’t give Porter his security clearance, but did allow him to maintain his position within the government. That means that there were a lot of people who weren’t fazed by the allegations or thought they didn’t matter or were trying to find a workaround to let this man keep his job. That doesn’t mean that the allegations didn’t have any merit (actual emergency restraining orders were issued, remember). Shah couldn’t even say that the White House fired Porter on Thursday. He resigned. As if the Trump administration was scared to stand up to an alleged abuser and own up to their part in covering up his past behavior.
The Trump administration didn’t invent misogyny, just like it didn’t invent racism or stupidity. But it shouldn’t take images of black eyes for the White House to consider allegations like these seriously. The mere mention of this kind of violence should have disqualified a person from getting to write the State of the Union or advising the president in any way (at least until a follow up investigation was underway).
It looks like there might be a few more days of this news cycle before everyone seems to forget about Rob Porter and he ends up a talking head on some cable news channel, just like voters forgot about the sexual assault allegations against Trump or that his campaign manager hit a reporter or that, you know, the instances of dangerous behavior are too many to enumerate. Like a toxic romantic partner, we can’t expect the Trump administration or the organizations that support it to all of a sudden wake up one day and stop being so abusive and allow predators be in charge of our most important institutions.
But we can demand more from the media and our elected officials to make it more like that. While we all muster up the energy to keep requiring that sort of mentality in our government, let’s all remember to practice self care and remind ourselves that we’re not crazy or overreacting about the White House’s response to Rob Porter. This isn’t normal.