When Jennie Willoughby went public with the physical and emotional abuse she allegedly suffered in her marriage to ex-White House aide Rob Porter, the former schoolteacher was catapulted into a media and political storm.
After a Feb. 6 Daily Mail article recounted abuse allegations against Porter by Willoughby and his first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, the 40-year-old resigned from his position as White House staff secretary. Willoughby did not hide from the ensuing public conversation. In cable interviews and her own writing, she tackled the messy emotional fallout of domestic violence, a candor that planted her on the front lines of the #MeToo movement and won her heartfelt supporters.
The publicity also attracted angry detractors — including figures at the top rung of the Trump administration.
On Saturday, President Trump sent out a tweet obliquely addressing the Porter scandal. Although Axios has reported that the president has privately said he believes Porter’s former wives, on Twitter the president cast skepticism on the current White House intrigue as well as the larger movement.
“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false,” he wrote. “Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
On Sunday, Willoughby directly addressed the president’s comments in an essay for Time magazine.
“Thankfully, my strength and worth are not dependent on outside belief — the truth exists whether the President accepts it or not,” Willoughby wrote.
Willoughby, who was married to Porter from 2009 to 2013, argued in her article that Trump’s reaction synced with a larger pattern related to abuse allegations made by women toward powerful men.
“There it is again,” she wrote. “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 added elsewhere in the article: “If the most powerful people in the nation do not believe my story of abuse in the face of overwhelming evidence, then what hope do others have of being heard?”
Willoughby said this is not related to politics, however. Trump, as well as White House figures such as John F. Kelly, initially supported Porter, meeting the allegations with a knee-jerk skepticism toward the accuser.
This is not connected to “power, or money, or an old boys’ club,” she wrote. “It is deeper than that. Rather than embarrass an abuser, society is subconsciously trained to question a victim of abuse. I would call it an ignorant denial based on the residual, puritan, collective agreement that abuse is uncomfortable to talk about.”
She closed the essay: “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.”
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