With President Trump under fire for his insensitive comments in the wake of the wife beating and abuse scandal that has embroiled his now-former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, Jennie Willoughby, one of Porter’s ex-wives and victims, has written a powerful article in Time Magazine describing her reactions to Trump’s tone-deaf remarks in support of her ex-husband.
Willoughby begins her article by painting the picture of her watching live TV with a friend while the President starts discussing Porter and his scandal.
“On Friday, a friend and I watched as the President of the United States sat in the Oval Office and praised the work of my ex-husband, Rob Porter, and wished him future success. I can’t say I was surprised. But when Donald Trump repeated twice that Rob declared his innocence, I was floored. What was his intent in emphasizing that point? My friend turned to me and said, “The President of the United States just called you a liar.”
“Yes. And so he did.”
She then recounts how Trump doubled down on his incredibly offensive comments with a tweet the next morning.
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. The words “mere allegation” and “falsely accused” 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.”
She goes on to attribute the administration’s defense of Porter to the cognitive dissonance that comes from discovering a “devastating” truth about someone they “valued and respected.” In the end, denial is an easier response than devastation, so they took the simpler path.
Willoughby then discusses her own reaction to Trump’s accusation of her implied false witness against her former spouse.
“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.”
While the President may be so deeply wedded to falsehoods that he doesn’t even recognize the truth when he sees it now, at least Willoughby knows that the truth doesn’t need acknowledgment from anyone to remain certain. She goes on to explain the “societal blind spot” that prevents our culture from acknowledging “the reality of abuse,” based on “the residual, puritan, collective agreement that abuse is uncomfortable to talk about.”
Discussing her own instinctive reflex to question the accuser in reported abuse incidents, Willoughby bemoans the fact that societal conditioning overcomes the truth that she knows in her heart:
“Abuse is scary and demoralizing and degrading. It chisels away at your self-esteem and self-worth until you are unsure whether your version of reality is valid or not.”
She urges everyone to take women’s accusations at face value, since:
“If someone finds the strength and courage to come forward, he or she is to be believed. Because that declaration only came after an uphill battle toward rebirth.”
Willoughby sets out three essential truths about abuse:
“Where there is anger, there is underlying pain.”
“Where there is denial, there is underlying fear.”
“Where there is abuse, there is cover-up.”
Moreover, while she can offer compassion for her ex-husband in recognizing that he requires help and treatment, she cannot tolerate abuse or the choice of the President and his Chief of Staff, Porter’s direct boss John Kelly, to support their former employee.
Willoughby concludes her article with a defiant statement of solidarity with others who have faced or continue to experience abuse.
“In light of the President’s and the White House’s continued dismissal of me and Colbie, I want to assure you my truth has not been diminished. I own my story and now that I have been compelled to share it, I’m not willing to cover it up for anyone. And for any men, women, or children currently in situations of abuse, please know:
It is real.
You are not crazy.
You are not alone.
I believe you.”
It is amazing that someone who has gone through as much as Jennie Willoughby has can not only respond to the denigration doled out towards her by the President of the United States, but do so in such an articulate and compassionate manner. Her example serves to only further demonstrate how low our standards for presidential behavior have sunk.