White House Chief of Staff John Kelly changed his tune in response to revelations that Staff Secretary Rob Porter had been accused by two of his ex-wives of domestic violence—but his initial reaction, defending him, mirrors a trend throughout President Donald Trump‘s administration.
After the news broke that Porter’s ex-wife, Jennie Willoughby, came out and accused him of domestic violence, Kelly called the staff secretary a “man of true integrity and honor” and said that he was “proud to serve alongside him.”
However, after another ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, came forward with more allegations of abuse—including graphic photos of her with a black eye—Porter resigned, leading to Kelly releasing another statement that was starkly different than the last one.
“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter,” Kelly said in a statement. “There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.”
Porter has denied the allegations, calling them “simply false.”
The New York Times reports that the White House knew of the allegations against Porter and they contributed to a delay in him receiving a security clearance.
However, Kelly’s first response to the allegations against Porter were similar to those of other men accused of harassment or abuse in the president’s circle.
Last year, Trump vigorously defended Judge Roy Moore, the failed Alabama Senate candidate who was accused by several women of sexual misconduct—including one woman who said he sexually assaulted her when she was 14 years old and another who said he attempted to rape her when she was 16 years old.
In response to the mounting allegations, Trump said “you have to listen to him also” and seemed to suggest having a Democrat in the Senate was a worse outcome than electing an accused child molester.
The immediate pivot to defense has also been seen in the administration’s responses to the numerous women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct in the past. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has repeatedly said the administration’s position on the women’s claims are that they are lying.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with assaulting a Breitbart reporter. Trump then claimed—incorrectly—that the reporter had changed her story while defending his campaign manager.
The president also once suggested a woman that accused him of assault wasn’t attractive enough for him to have done it.