The ex-wives of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter have responded to President Donald Trump’s apparent insinuation that they lied about being physically and verbally abused by Porter during their respective marriages with him. Porter resigned from The White House on Wednesday after his alleged abuse of Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness was publicized, even as Chief of Staff John Kelly hailed Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor” while Trump repeatedly emphasized that Porter had denounced his ex-wives’ claims as lies. In respective Op-Ed’s for TIME magazine and The Washington Post, Willoughby and Holderness both addressed Trump’s comments, as well as a tweet sent out by the president a few days after Porter’s resignation, in which he bemoaned how a “mere allegation” can destroy the careers of the “falsely accused.”
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
“There it is again,” wrote Willoughby in reference to the tweet. “The words ‘mere allegation’ and ‘falsely accused’ are meant to imply that I am a liar. That Colbie Holderness is a liar. That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted.”
Trump was hardly the first one to question whether or not she had abused, Willoughby added. Society itself, she explained, always questions the victim’s account ahead of the abuser’s — a phenomenon she chalked up to a subconscious desire to pretend that such terrible things don’t really happen. Victims, she said, can have their self-esteem so run into the ground by repeated abuse that even they are left unsure of whether what’s happening to them is real — or whether they’ve just gone “crazy.”
Writing for The Washington Post, Holderness noted that a recent ex-girlfriend of Porter’s had reached out to Willoughby and herself to share her own account of abuse at his hands. The ex-girlfriend asked the two of them: “Am I crazy?”
“Boy, I could identify with that question,” wrote Holderness.
Holderness also took exception with comments from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who claimed that she wasn’t concerned for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who is reportedly dating Porter, because she had “rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”
Abuse, Holderness said, happens to women regardless of their “strength,” “instincts,” or “smarts.” Enduring and surviving abuse, she added, takes incredible strength — not to mention coming forward when you know that the President of the United States, as well as his various lackeys, are going to respond by calling your credibility into question.
The scandal has been engulfing the White House for nearly a week now and on Tuesday CNN reported that Porter was up for a promotion, according to anonymous sources — despite White House officials having known about the abuse allegations from his ex-wives.