President Donald Trump is fond of superlatives and hyperbole, particularly in regard to his view of himself. During his campaign, he took every opportunity he could to remind people that “no one respects women more than Donald Trump” (yes, often referring to himself in the third person). Now, old Grab-Em-By-The-Pussy has affirmed his support for women by openly siding with Rob Porter, a White House aide alleged to have physically and emotionally abused two of his former wives and a former ex-girlfriend, the supporting evidence for which includes a photograph of one of the women with a black eye. On February 11, shortly after Porter resigned, Trump tweeted:
People’s 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?
Let’s just take a look at what he characterises as a “mere allegation” here. Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, alleges that Porter’s physical abuse began on their honeymoon in 2003 but that, until a vacation to Florence in 2005, he had always been careful not to “leave marks”. Photographs of the black eye Porter allegedly inflicted on Holderness during that holiday have been made public.
Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, filed for an emergency protective order against him in 2010. In April 2017, months before #MeToo and #TimesUp became the kind of global phenomenons that arouse suspicion in men like Trump (because of course men who call movements like this a “witch hunt” think that every allegation is part of a widespread collusion to destroy men’s lives), Willoughby wrote a blog post describing the abuse she suffered during her marriage.
She wrote, “The first time he called me a ‘f–ing bitch’ was on our honeymoon. (I found out years later he had kicked his first wife on theirs.)…He belittled my intelligence and destroyed my confidence. … In my home, the abuse was insidious. The threats were personal. The terror was real.”
In addition to Willoughby creating a police record of her complaints against Porter, both women spoke to their families, community members and even the FBI. Despite this – and despite the fact it has since become clear the White House knew of the allegations against Porter long before they made international headlines – he continued to ascend the political ranks of the Republican party.
As Dahlia Lithwick wrote for Slate, “Taken together, all the grown-ups in the room protected, privileged, and covered for Rob Porter despite everything they knew about his pattern of abuse, because his career was important to them.”
Trump has been named as a sexual predator by more than 20 women including his former wife Ivana (she alleged he had raped her during their marriage, but later walked back her comments during their divorce proceedings after signing a gag order that prevents her from speaking about her marriage to Trump) but not a single one of these allegations prevented him from becoming the President of the United States. But sure, men’s lives and careers are being destroyed by a “mere allegation”.
After Porter’s resignation, Trump told reporters, “He says he’s innocent. And I think you have to remember that…We absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job while he was at the White House.”
In Trump’s world, it seems that someone’s word is good enough for him as long as it also happens to align with his own personal values of racism, misogyny and power. As numerous people have pointed out, such “respect” for denial wasn’t the case back in 1989 when Trump spent thousands of dollars taking out full page ads that called for the death penalty to be applied to a group of five boys of colour who had been wrongly convicted of raping and beating a jogger in Central Park. Even after the Central Park Five were exonerated years later, Trump refused to back down from his condemnation. In an op-ed for the Daily News in 2014, Trump wrote, “These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”
According to Trump, 14 and 15 year old boys from marginalised backgrounds are invariably guilty of something so the full force of the law must be used against them. Yet white collar men supporting his own ambitions are constantly deserving of the benefit of the doubt. Police reports from years ago, statements to the FBI, photographic evidence – none of this matters because the guy said he didn’t do it. So we need to just remember that before we rush to ruin his life, okay?
Rob Porter joins the growing list of powerful white men whose innocence Trump is willing to tout based on nothing but the fact that he likes them. But I don’t think Donald Trump cares in the slightest whether or not the men he surrounds himself with are guilty of criminal activity, particularly not the kind that happens behind closed doors and against the women he has always seen as possessions rather than people.
In the US, nearly three women are murdered every day by current or former partners. Almost five million women in the US are victimised by intimate partner violence every year. A woman is beaten every nine seconds in the US. And, because I know the President cares so much about job creation, 8,000,000 days of paid work are lost by American women every year because of domestic violence perpetrators, which equates to over 32,000 full time jobs.
No one has more respect for women than Donald Trump. And he wishes nothing but the best for the accused wife beater who did a very good job at the White House.