- Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, issued two dramatically different statements regarding allegations that his former chief of staff abused both of his ex-wives.
- The women publicly accused Rob Porter of engaging in a pattern of violence over a period of years.
- Hatch first called the allegations “politically motivated,” but then said he was “heartbroken” by the news.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah performed a remarkable about-face on Wednesday after the second major news outlet in a row published allegations of spousal abuse against Rob Porter, Hatch’s former chief of staff.
Porter’s two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, both accused him of physically and mentally abusing them for years.
Porter resigned from his current role as President Donald Trump’s White House staff secretary on Wednesday.
The Daily Mail first reported the allegations on Tuesday, obtaining an emergency protective order granted to Willoughby that declared “reasonably grounds exist to believe that [Porter] has committed family abuse and there is probably danger of a further such offense.”
When the Daily Mail approached Hatch for comment on the Porter allegations, Hatch berated the outlet for publishing the claims and praised Porter as “kind and considerate” and “principled.”
“It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man,” Hatch said. “Shame on any publication that would print this – and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.”
But The Intercept followed up on the Daily Mail’s story on Wednesday, publishing photos Holderness took of black eye after Porter allegedly punched her on vacation in 2005.
The outlet also reported that Holderness and Willoughby informed the FBI of their allegations during Porter’s background check conducted when he joined the White House.
Hatch then issued a remarkably different response.
“I am heartbroken by today’s allegations. In every interaction I’ve had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor,” Hatch said. “I do not know the details of Rob’s personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable.”
Later on Wednesday, Hatch told NBC News’ Frank Thorp that he spoke with Porter at the White House and encouraged him not to resign. He added that Porter hadn’t made a final decision.
“He should fight his way through this, and he’s got a lot to give to the administration and to all of us,” Hatch said. “I know Rob, he’s a very fine fellow and very good man, and it’s been a tremendous embarrassment to him. But he’s going to hang in there I think.”