White House staff secretary Rob Porter recently stepped down from his position amid allegations of domestic abuse. While he wasn’t a well-known figure, he played a highly influential role in President Donald Trump’s White House simply because he spent every day by the president’s side and also reportedly dates communications director Hope Hicks.
His departure and subsequent reaction highlighted how Republicans have a long and troublesome history of supporting alleged abusers and assailants. Even if, on occasion, they are forced to part ways with those accused, the GOP officials — and the White House — never do much to address the real issue.
The Harvard University graduate was accused of verbal and physical assault by his two ex-wives. His first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, alleged he punched her in 2005 and also shared a photo that showed her with a black eye. His second ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, had to obtain a protective order against Porter because she said he would “not leave their apartment.”
The Trump administration was apparently aware of the protective order. However, not only did Porter get the job, White House officials also expressed shock at the accusations against him.
Here is how White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who reportedly knew about the restraining order, reacted to the former aide’s resignation.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him,” he said. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
That’s rich, coming from a man who once lamented the fact women were no longer treated as “sacred” and “looked upon with great honor.”
“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter,” Kelly said in his second statement once the black eye picture was made public. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.”
Porter had also worked for three Republican lawmakers in the past — Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch from Utah and Rob Portman from Ohio. Perhaps, it was the former staffer’s professional history with Hatch that implored the senator to stick his neck way out for him.
“It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man,” Hatch said. “Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.”
Given the ongoing conversation around abuse ignited by the powerful #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, these tragic statements should inspire disgust and condemnation. However, all they did was expose the lengths most Republicans would go to protect alleged wife-beaters.
After all, Porter is not the first person in the Trump administration accused of such a crime.
Former White House chief strategist and notorious white nationalist, Steve Bannon, was also accused of beating his wife 22 years ago.
He reportedly faced charges of misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness in early January 1996, after he allegedly grabbed his then-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, by the “throat and arm,” and smashed her phone when she tried to call 911.
The police report stated the incident took place in the couple’s Southern California home on the New Year’s Day. They were arguing over their finances when the former Breitbart chief allegedly walked to his car. Piccard followed him and spat at him. In turn, he responded by “reaching up to her from the driver's seat of his car and grabbed her left wrist. He pulled her down, as if he was trying to pull [her] into the car, over the door.”
Piccard was able to remove herself from Bannon’s grip, but it was not the first time he had allegedly attacked her. Piccard told the authorities he was occasionally physically abusive toward her early in their relationship.
The court dropped the charges after Piccard failed to testify against Bannon, though she filed for divorce in January 1997.
Bannon’s departure from the White House had nothing to do with these accusations.
Shortly after taking office, Trump picked seemingly like-minded fast food CEO, Andrew Puzder, to run the Department of Labor, sparking severe backlash from unions and labor groups who highlighted the allegations of wage theft, sexual harassment and other workplace violations against the nominee.
However, the outcry against his nomination became even stronger after an old taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which featured Puzder’s ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, accusing him of spousal abuse, went viral.
Although Fierstein recanted the abuse allegations, her vivid recollection of the torment she endured was difficult to simply sweep under the rug.
“The most frightening thing was leaving because once I made that break and once I made it public, and remember my ex-husband was a public figure and everyone knew him and knew what he was doing, and once I made that public, he vowed revenge,” Fierstein said nearly 28 years ago. “He said, ‘I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.’”
Amid all of this scandal, the Trump administration tried to shift the narrative as it became more apparent that the nomination was going to fall through. However, instead of addressing the domestic abuse problem like it should have, the White House decided to go with the “he’s too soft on immigration” excuse as the main driving force behind Puzder’s inevitable nomination withdrawal.
In 2016, Trump’s former campaign manager and Bannon’s predecessor, Corey Lewandowski, was also caught in controversy after former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields alleged he assaulted her at a campaign event, leaving bruises.
At the time, both Lewandowski and Trump denied the claims and called Fields “delusional.” She shortly thereafter resigned from Breitbart after the right-wing news outlet backed Trump instead of its own reporter. Three other Breitbart reporters followed her lead and also resigned, including editor-at-large Ben Shapiro.
Fields had physical evidence, video footage showing Lewandowski roughly grabbing her arm and pulling her away from Trump, and a witness — Ben Terris of The Washington Post — yet both Breitbart and Trump’s team vehemently rejected accusations of wrongdoing.
Later that year, Lewandowski drew criticism for grabbing a protester by the collar.
Trump campaign parted ways with Lewandowski a few months down the road, Donald Trump Jr. describing the split as “amicable.”
Moreover, Trump supporter Joy Villa, a singer, also filed a complaint against Trump’s former campaign manager for allegedly sexually assaulting her. She claimed Lewandowski hit her twice on her rear during a post-Thanksgiving soiree at the Trump International Hotel, in Washington, D.C. She said she called Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department after her friends urged her to come forward, even though she was reluctant due to apprehension about backlash.
Villa was reportedly in tears when she was interviewed by the police after her allegations.
Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore, had been accused of having sexual relationships with several teenage girls — one of whom was reportedly just 14 years old at the time. However, despite the allegation, Trump made it clear he would rather have an accused pedophile and child molester in the Senate than a “liberal person.”
Speaking to reporters before his first Thanksgiving as the commander-in-chief, Trump appeared to defend the Republican.
“Look, he denies it,” Trump said of Moore during the White House tradition of pardoning a turkey. “He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. And look, you have to look at him also.”
So, just because Moore refuted the claims, did it automatically mean he was innocent?
Not only did the president support Moore, he also had most Republican leaders on his side.
However, thanks to African-American voters, the alleged abuser lost and Doug Jones became the first Democrat in a decade to win a Senate seat in deeply conservative Alabama.
On the eve of special election to fill Montana’s lone House seat, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte reportedly lost his cool and viciously body slammed a reporter, throwing him to the ground and punching him.
The incident took place at the candidate’s Bozeman, Montana, headquarters after Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs asked him about the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, which estimated that 23 million people would lose health coverage under the American Health Care Act.
However, instead of addressing the concerns of millions of middle and lower-income Americans, the millionaire Republican proceeded to assault the journalist and go on a deranged rant about being “sick and tired” of media.
Sadly, even after the audio recording of the encounter went viral and witnesses confirmed Jacobs’ story, Gianforte still managed to win the election with the GOP’s blessings. What’s more, the National Republican Congressional Committee recently chose the congressman to be the keynote speaker for a communications workshop called “Hire for culture, train for skill.”
President Donald Trump
It would be unfair to end this list without mentioning the commander-in-chief, who managed to grab a seat in the Oval Office despite being caught bragging about grabbing women “by the p****.”
At least 21 women have accused the former reality TV star of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault and rape.
Here are some of the Trump accusers whom the founder of Think Progress, Judd Legum, once listed on Twitter:
3. Ninni Laaksonen, former Miss Finland. “Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt” in July 2006.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 9, 2017
4. Jessica Drake. Said Trump grabbed and kissed her without consent, then offered her 10K for sex in 2006.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 9, 2017
5. Karena Virginia. Says she was groped by Trump at the U.S. Open in 1998.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 9, 2017
6. Cathy Heller. Says Trump grabbed her and attempted to kiss her at Mar-a-lago in 1997.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 9, 2017
7. Summer Zervos. Apprentice contestant says Trump started kissing her and grabbing her breasts, began "thrusting his genitals." 2007.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 9, 2017
8. Kristin Anderson. Said Trump reached under her skirt and grabbed her vagina through her underwear in the early 1990s.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 9, 2017
9. Jessica Leeds. Said Trump lifted up the armrest, grabbed her breasts and reached his hand up her skirt in the early 1980s.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 9, 2017
Moreover, Trump’s first ex-wife, Ivana, also accused the real estate mogul of abuse in her 1990 divorce deposition.
According to the 1993 book “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” on one occasion in 1989, Trump held down his then-wife and ripped out handfuls of her hair.
“Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than 16 months. Ivana is terrified … It is a violent assault,” the book read. “According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘He raped me.’”
However, Trump later denied the allegations and Ivana issued a clarification.
“[O]n one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage,” she said. “As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”