White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday said she isn’t worried about communications director Hope Hicks relationship with Rob Porter, the ousted top aide who has been accused of spousal abuse.
“I don’t worry about her in that respect,” Conway said on CNN’s State of the Union, adding that she has “no reason” to doubt Porter’s accusers. “I’m sorry for any suffering that this woman has endured. But in the case of Hope, I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”
Conway was responding directly to Jennie Willoughby, Porter’s second ex-wife, who told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week that “if [Porter] hasn’t already been abusive with Hope, he will.”
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Porter, who served as White House staff secretary, resigned last week as the allegations from two of his ex-wives, Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, began to surface. He has denied the allegations, saying they are part of a “coordinated smear campaign” against him.
The White House has come under fire for its handling of the situation. Before photos surfaced showing Holderness with a black eye, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor”—comments that Kelly stood by after the photos were published.
According to multiple reports, Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn were aware of the allegations as early as last year as part of the FBI’s routine background check on Porter for his security clearance. Conway said there was “no way for me to know” what Kelly and McGahn knew at those points in time.
“I think people should look at the result as to how this was handled,” Conway said. “The result is that one week ago, Rob Porter was a top aide to President Trump, and today he is out of the White House.”
Raj Shah, the principal deputy White House press secretary, acknowledged last week that the administration “could have done better” with how it handled the allegations against Porter.
But on Friday, President Donald Trump again came to Porter’s defense, saying he wishes him “well” without mentioning the women who allegedly suffered abuse from Porter. And on Saturday, the president said “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
When asked about Trump’s tendency in similar situations to side with the accused rather than the accuser, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that Trump is “shaped by a lot of false allegations against him in the past.” Both Short and Conway said that Trump still has confidence in Kelly.
Conway maintained that despite the allegations against Porter, Hicks carried out her White House duties like normal this past week.
“Many women get abused—no question. Let me agree with you on that. There’s a stigma and a silence surrounding all of these issues,” she added. “I hope those who are suffering silently come forward locally and come out. Because these are societal scourges that preceded this White House, that will follow this White House. Those who are in a position to do something about it ought to.”