President Donald Trump and the White House have been accused by an army of critics this week of badly fumbling their latest #MeToo moment when White House staff secretary Rob Porter was forced to resign amidst allegations that he had badly abused his two former wives. Instead of offering support or sympathy for the women involved, Trump chose to support Porter in comments to reporters, and then followed that up with a tweet Friday insinuating that Porter has been falsely accused, adding “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” In a powerful editorial for Time magazine on Sunday, however, Porter’s ex-wife, Jennie Willoughby, has fired back at the president, saying “President Trump will not diminish my truth.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that an April 2017 blog post about domestic abuse entitled “Why I Stayed, ” written by Willoughby, was, in fact, about presidential aide Rob Porter. It later became clear that the White House and Chief of Staff John Kelly had known about Porter’s history for over a year since a restraining order against him had been the reason he had been unable to receive a security clearance. In the ensuing scandal, Porter was forced to resign.
Many women had hoped that, under the circumstances, President Trump would use this opportunity to acknowledge the #MeToo movement and signal some support for the millions of women in this country who have had to endure abusive relationships. Instead, according to an NBC News report, Trump chose to side with the alleged abuser, talking about what a “good job” Porter had done at the White House and what a “tough time” it must be for him.
“We hope he has a wonderful career. Very sad when we heard about it. He’s very sad. He also, as you probably know, he says he’s innocent.”
The next day, Trump tweeted what appeared to be a negation of the entire #MeToo movement altogether.
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
On Sunday, though, Jennie Willoughby shot back, saying that she believed the president was calling herself and Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, liars.
“Everyone wants to talk about how Trump implied I am a not to be believed. As if Trump is the model of kindness and forgiveness. As if he readily acknowledges his own shortcomings and shows empathy and concern for others. I forgive him. Thankfully, my strength and worth are not dependent on outside belief — the truth exists whether the President accepts it or not.”
She goes on to say that she still feels compassion for her ex-husband but refuses to tolerate abuse at this point in her life. She believes that it is our collective “ignorant denial” that leads us to be “subconsciously trained to question a victim of abuse.” Willoughby says that even she, a victim herself, was lead by societal conditioning to question other victims of the #MeToo wave that has swept across America since this past summer, taking down powerful men in the entertainment and media industries but leaving the White House largely untouched until now.
According to an article in the Washington Post, Willoughby’s words and experiences have given a shot in the arm to the #MeToo movement, inspiring more women to come out and share their stories.
Willoughby has also received an abundance of support from sympathetic Twitter users.
Jennie Willoughby, ex-wife of Rob Porter, on being called a liar by the President of the United States:— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) February 11, 2018
"The truth exists whether the President accepts it or not."https://t.co/1KYmVW1ZDY
This CNN interview with Jennie Willoughby (abused ex-wife of Rob Porter) is devastating. Shame on people who don't believe women.— Tom Matzzie (@tommatzzie) February 9, 2018
If General Kelly wants to know what honor and integrity is (something he seems to have lost his way on) he should watch the interview @andersoncooper did with Jennie Willoughby. She is a brave person with tremendous integrity and compassion. Wow. @AC360— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) February 9, 2018