A powerful piece by Dahlia Lithwick in Slate illustrates,
Three women, two of them ex-spouses, had accused Porter of abuse. They told their preachers. They told their friends. They told their family. They told law enforcement. One went to court. And still, Porter was hired for a White House job and allowed to see sensitive material without security clearance (e-mail server anyone?). Still, he was defended as a man of honor by Chief of Staff John Kelly and Sen. Orrin Hatch, the women’s accounts dismissed as lies. Only when a newspaper put the story together with photos of the women did the story take hold. And even then Kelly and Hatch rose in Porter’s defense.
What is “enough” for a woman to be believed over a man? Lithwick writes:
This questions of “enough” was coincidentally also the subject of a powerful piece from Catharine MacKinnon in the New York Times last Sunday, about why the #MeToo movement is accomplishing what decades of formal legal reforms could not achieve.
MacKinnon wrote that “it typically took three to four women testifying that they had been violated by the same man in the same way to even begin to make a dent in his denial. That made a woman, for credibility purposes, one-fourth of a person.” To Republican leadership, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby and the third, as-yet-unnamed victim of Rob Porter still seem to amount to maybe 75 percent of a person. Maybe the photo of the actual black eye is the other 25 percent.
There are many ways to disappear a woman complaining about predation and abuse. You can insult and demean them, as Hatch initially did. You can tell them that action is not worth the cost, as Willoughby recalls officials in the Mormon church telling her—“Keep in mind, Rob has career ambitions,” one of them apparently said after hearing her story. Or you can ignore them, as Kelly, McGahn, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the White House have done. You can ignore them by refusing to call them by their names, refusing to credit their stories, and by changing the subject to the injuries and suffering of the poor man who has been accused and also the suffering of the poor men who befriended him.
…. Please stop asking why women don’t come forward. These women did. They believed that once the police, the FBI, the White House, and John Kelly knew what they knew, Porter would stop ascending in their ranks. They were wrong.
Rob Porter’s father wrote eloquently about the presidency and “a tone from the top.” The tone from the top of the Trump administration has unerringly been that women are to be cherished and protected right up until the moment they stop being docile and decorative, and then they are to be dismissed and humiliated. Rob Porter’s defenders knew everything they needed to know. They did nothing because he was visible to them and his accusers were nothing. But the tone comes from the top, and nobody should be even a bit surprised.
Trump himself put it succinctly and coarsely, with tape rolling:
And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
Latest tidbit: Kelly’s statement defending Porter reportedly was crafted by another Trump confidante whom Porter has apparently been seeing, White House communications director Hope Hicks.