Something was glaringly absent from President Donald Trump's first public remarks about the resignation of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who stepped down Wednesday after multiple reporters published photos and detailed allegations that Porter abused his two ex-wives.
Several critics pointed out that the president, speaking from the Oval Office on Friday, focused on Porter exclusively while failing to mention the female victims who say they suffered from his abuse. With emphasis added, the president said:
Well, we wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well. It's a obviously tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he's also very sad. Now he also, as you probably know, he says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent, so you'll have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job while he was at the White House.
President Trump on Rob Porter: "But, it was very sad when we heard about it. And certainly, he's also very sad. Now he also, as you probably know, he says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent." pic.twitter.com/mheejlotl1
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 9, 2018
Noting that the president "tends to rally around the person being accused," CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash slammed Trump for his statement.
"The fact that he did not mention one word, one syllable about these two women...the ex-wives, who are talking in great detail about abuse—physical, verbal abuse—is outrageous," Bash declared.
"It is tone deaf to the times. It is tone deaf to the situation," Bash continued, "which is a person who has been in the closest proximity possible to this man alleged to have done some pretty horrible things—and we've seen the pictures, but more importantly we have heard from [both women] about the details of the allegations of physical abuse."
A chorus of critics turned to Twitter to denounce Trump for his remarks:
Again a man’s denial carries more weight to Trump than photographic evidence, three women’s words, and the FBI https://t.co/R7IJMHsIGk
— erin ryan (@morninggloria) February 9, 2018
Look no further than Trump not even acknowledging abuse victims while speaking glowingly of an abuser...to know why #METOO exists and isn't going away.
— Richelle Carey (@RichelleCarey) February 9, 2018
But the crucial part: we knew this about Donald Trump & we elected him anyway, which means that by some measure, women do not exist in our national equation as full human beings. Trump's answer to the old question-are women people?-has always been clear, yet he is our president.
— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) February 9, 2018
Others pointed to past examples of Trump taking the side of the alleged male abuser over female victims, including his responses to women who have accused the president of "groping, fondling, forcibly kissing, humiliating, and harassing" them:
Donald Trump’s logic behind wishing Rob Porter well is sickening, and simple.
Donald Trump doesn’t see violence against women as disqualifying.
Because then Donald Trump would be disqualified.https://t.co/Rwu85jIHnP
— Jess Phoenix (@jessphoenix2018) February 9, 2018
– Porter: "Hope he has a wonderful career... says he's innocent"
– Lewandowski: "How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?"
– Roy Moore: "He totally denies it"
– Roger Ailes: "He helped those women"
– Bill O'Reilly: "I don't think Bill did anything wrong"
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) February 9, 2018
Donald Trump has defended friends, staff and surrogates despite accusations of domestic violence or assault against women: Rob Porter, Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowski, Andrew Puzder, Steve Wynn, Mike Tyson, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore...
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) February 9, 2018