Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has sent letters of apology to Jennie Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, ex-wives of former former White House staff secretary Rob Porter. The letters, about a page-and-a-half long, provide Hatch’s explanation for having issued a supportive statement for Porter just as DailyMail.com began reporting on allegations that he’d abused Willoughby during their marriage. It laid out “in some detail what his motivation was for issuing his initial statement and then sort of his reconciliation with what was brought forward with mine and Colbie’s story in the Daily Mail,” said Willoughby in an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog.
Also included in the letter was a handwritten note from the senator conveying “a prayer for good wishes and blessings,” says Willoughby.
In light of DailyMail.com’s reporting about Porter — including the allegation that he’d at one point pulled Willoughby from the shower by her shoulders — Hatch’s initial statement sounded, in the most charitable of assessments, deaf to decency:
It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. 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.
I know Rob. I’ve known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal adviser. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.
As the story developed, Hatch’s statement looked more and more benighted. Pictures surfaced of another of Porter’s ex-wives, Holderness, with a bruised eye allegedly sustained from a Porter punch. “We were arguing and he punched me in the face,” Holderness told DailyMail.com of the alleged incident, which she said occurred while she and Porter were on vacation in Italy.
With more facts in hand, Hatch issued a second statement:
As it turned out, Hatch had provided the initial statement to the White House based on representations that didn’t tell the full story. “He had no idea about the accusations or about the details,” said a source familiar with the events. Yet later, Hatch said he’d urged Porter to “keep a stiff upper lip.”
The apology letter aligns with that version of events. “He went into a bit more detail that they had been contacted for a statement and were under the impression it was political enemies — it was a smear campaign of some kind,” says Willoughby. “I feel like it’s a sincere apology and having been in D.C. for upwards of 12-13 years, I feel like this is sufficient given what I know to be true,” says Willoughby.
Holderness has confirmed receiving an apology, as well.