Well I, for one, am absolutely shocked at the scurrilous claim that this White House circled the wagons around someone credibly accused of abusing women.
This administration has such respect for women. Reverence, even. Why, one could even argue that President Trump himself is largely responsible for the #MeToo movement.
But wayward critics are slamming our president and his staffers for their handling of allegations that former White House staff secretary Rob Porter abused two former wives.
Porter resigned on Thursday after the women came forward to publicly describe what they said were repeated instances of physical and verbal abuse. But now everybody is picking on Chief of Staff John Kelly for not cutting Porter loose sooner. They’re mad that Kelly and others in the White House knew about the allegations against the staff secretary months ago. And that rather than canning him, Kelly urged Porter to stick around.
When the allegations first burst into public view last week, Kelly stood by his man, calling him “a man of true integrity and honor . . . a friend, a confidant, and a trusted professional.”
After pictures of one wife’s black eye emerged, Kelly issued a statement saying that, though he was steadfast in his assessment of Porter’s unassailable character, he was “shocked” by the allegations, and condemned domestic violence.
So why are the haters piling on poor Kelly and others in the White House? I mean, how could they possibly have known that the allegations against Porter were cause for concern before that photo emerged? Oh sure, the FBI told them so, months ago. The agency found the abuse claims so credible that it held up Porter’s security clearance. But who trusts the FBI anymore?
And Porter had such a pedigree: Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar, nice family. He sure didn’t look like an abuser. He is so tall and white and handsome and such a joy to work with, nobody would ever suspect he could be abusive. I mean, you can tell just by the way some people look that they’re persons of poor character — like the mostly black and brown folks who qualified for DACA but didn’t apply because, as Kelly said last week, they were just too lazy to get off their couches.
Anyway, all the FBI had to go on where Porter was concerned were startlingly similar claims from two women. And everybody knows women can be vindictive and unreliable. A friend of Porter’s, reportedly trying to discourage one of his former wives from damaging him, told that woman’s current husband that women were lying about Porter because they are “crazy” and “jealous.” And Porter himself — Harvard! Oxford! — said his former wives were in cahoots to spread vile lies, so what are you gonna do?
Trust him with an immensely sensitive job, of course. And boy, did he do it well. The president is really going to miss him. On Friday, Trump said he was “very sad” for the man accused of punching a woman in the face. Porter, the president said, is also feeling “very sad” right now and having “a tough time.” Trump praised his stellar work and wished him well.
And people say this president lacks compassion! Trump can relate to Porter because he, too, has been victimized by women spreading vile lies. For example, in a divorce filing, his first wife, Ivana, accused him of pulling out her hair in chunks because he was angry his own head was hurting from scalp reduction surgery. She also accused him of raping her, but later said she didn’t mean raping raping. So clearly he did nothing wrong.
And after a tape emerged in which Trump crudely boasted of forcing himself on women and grabbing their private parts, more than a dozen women came forward to say he had groped and forcibly kissed them in just the ways he had described. The official White House position is that every last one of these women is lying. And anyway, is that tape of comments Trump acknowledged and apologized for even real? Also, he loves and respects his super-attractive daughter, so Q.E.D.
So why are we still talking about this? On Friday, Debra Robbin executive director of Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts coalition against domestic and sexual violence, told me the White House response to the Porter tragedy “sends a message to victims that you need to think twice about coming forward to allege assault, that you may not be believed.”
“And it sends a very dangerous message to those who perpetrate violence,” she went on, “that it doesn’t really matter, that it’s not about your character or integrity, and it’s superfluous to the important work you might be doing.”
But Porter said he didn’t do it. That might not be good enough for Robbin, but it was good enough for Trump and Kelly and a bunch of other people in the White House. Just like Trump denying the allegations against him was plenty good enough for millions of voters.
Besides, if people actually believed these men were abusers and stuck by them anyway, that would mean they see women as worthless. And that’s impossible. Right?Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.