Rob Porter's ex-wife fires back at Kellyanne Conway over whether abuse victims are strong

  • The first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter shot back in a Washington Post op-ed against comments White House counselor Kellyanne Conway made about abuse victims.
  • Colbie Holderness, who says Porter gave her a black eye while they were married, said that Porter’s alleged abuse “chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth.”
  • Jennie Willoughby, Porter’s other ex-wife, has also spoken out about her experience with Porter, accusing him of domestic abuse. Porter has denied the allegations.

The first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter shot back against a top Trump administration official who suggested that women in abusive relationships aren’t strong. Porter has denied the allegations, and resigned last week after his two ex-wives accused him of domestic abuse.

On Sunday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway went on CNN to defend the administration’s response to the abuse allegations against Porter.

“I was horrified and I was also very shocked,” Conway said of how she reacted after seeing photographic evidence of Porter’s physical abuse against one of his former wives. “As many people have noted, this is not the Rob Porter we worked with in the White House.”

When she was asked whether she is worried about White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is reportedly dating Porter, Conway said she has “rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”

She then clarified that “many women get abused” and that “there’s no question that there are no demographic or geographic bounds.”

But Holderness took issue with the implications of some of Conway’s comments, saying in a Washington Post op-ed published Monday that her statement about Hicks “implies that those who have been in abuse relationships are not strong. I beg to differ.”

“Telling others about the abuse takes strength,” Holderness said. “Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation.”

Holderness’ comments come as Porter’s other ex-wife, Jennie Willoughby, has also spoken out against her relationship with Porter. In an appearance on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” last week, Willoughby said she doesn’t think Porter has changed, and that she’s worried about Hicks.

“It definitely worries me because if I’m being frank with you, if [Porter] hasn’t already been abusive with Hope, he will,” Willoughby said.

The White House has come under fire for initially defending Porter against the allegations. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised Porter last week and said President Donald Trump and chief of staff John Kelly had “full confidence in his abilities and his performance.”

They then walked back their initial dismissal of the allegations after the Daily Mail published photos of black eyes that Holderness said Porter gave her while they were married.

“I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better dealing with this over the last few days,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah conceded last Thursday.

Trump has largely defended Porter, although Shah told reporters that Trump was “saddened” by the allegations. In a tweet Saturday, Trump suggested that the allegations against Porter may not be completely true.

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Trump said. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

Conway said Trump was referring to allegations in general, not specifically Porter’s case.

She also said she believes Porter’s ex-wives’ accounts.

“I have no reason not to believe the women,” Conway said, “and a week ago I had no reason to believe that that had ever happened.”

Holderness wrote in the op-ed that “recognising and surviving in an abusive relationship takes strength.”

“The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant,” she continued. “Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.”

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