As the controversy surrounding former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter continues, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to NBC News’ Lester Holt about the story today, and said largely the right things. Pence said he was “appalled” when he learned of the allegations this week, before adding that the White House has “no tolerance” for domestic abuse and there’s “no place in America” for the crime.
This afternoon in the Oval Office, Donald Trump also addressed the controversy publicly for the first time, though the president’s comments struck a slightly different tone.
“Well, we wish [Porter] 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 obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job while he was in the White House. And we hope that he has a wonderful career – 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.”
That’s not an excerpt of his response; it was the entirety of his response.
I thought it was at least possible Trump would condemn violence against women, even briefly, if for no other reason than to acknowledge the political circumstances surrounding his White House.
But he didn’t. The president seems to think the important elements of the Porter story are the facts that his former staff secretary “worked very hard,” did “a very good job,” and is “very sad.”
As for Porter’s denial of wrongdoing, it’s true, as Trump mentioned, that his former aide “says he’s innocent.” It’s also true that this is a story in which multiple women have made credible claims, with photographs, with their names on the record.
The president didn’t mention them.
* Postscript: The HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel had a good piece this afternoon noting, “Trump’s reaction is consistent with the way he and his supporters have handled other sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men.”