White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told reporters on Friday that he had “absolutely nothing to even consider resigning over” when it comes to his handling of the scandal surrounding former White House Staff Secretary and accused domestic abuser Rob Porter. He conceded, however that the people at the White House “didn’t cover ourselves in glory.” This is the understatement of the century.
Porter, who was accused of physical and emotional abuse by his two ex-wives, resigned when these allegations were made public in February—but not before the White House publicly defended him.
This is how Kelly described the timeline of events today, from USA Today:
Kelly said he first heard “a serious accusation” about Porter early on Feb. 6, and that it involved “some level of emotional abuse,” not a physical attack. He said he asked Porter about the claim and “he denied it. He said it’s absolutely untrue.”
In a story that same day in The Daily Mail, which published allegations against Porter, Kelly called him “a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
Later in the day, the photo of the ex-wive’s black eye surfaced. Kelly said he asked Porter about that physical allegation that same night, and accepted Porter’s resignation, some two hours after the photo hit the Internet.
So in Kelly’s eyes, defending a man accused of emotional abuse is still okay! In response to this, Jennifer Willoughby, one of Porter’s ex-wives, issued a statement saying that his comments were “insulting to anyone suffering in an abusive situation now” and that “emotional and psychological abuse is abuse!”
But there’s also the fact that Kelly’s timeline conflicts with that of The Daily Mail, which first published the allegations against Porter on February 6:
In an article on Friday, the Mail systematically dismantled Kelly’s version of events, writing that, at 4:40 pm on February 6, its reporters spent “20 minutes in Sarah Sanders’ office and detailing Willoughby’s claims including physical and emotional abuse – and a restraining order she had obtained against Porter.” Kelly issued a statement of support to The Daily Mail calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honor” at 7:00 pm. At this point, the Mail wrote, it had already described Willoughby’s allegations of physical abuse “in exacting detail.”
The White House has bungled the response to the Porter scandal from the very beginning, so it’s no surprise to see Kelly again presenting a dubious story about his actions. After all, he’s always been full of shit.