While Donald Trump comes across as the idiotic madman that he is in Bob Woodward’s explosive Trump White House biography, Fear, another bad man in Trump’s collection of bad men, Rob Porter, is spared.
The Daily Beast notes that, per a pre-publication copy of the book, the alleged serial domestic abuser and former White House official comes off “strikingly well” and the disturbing circumstances of his exit take up “little more than a footnote.”
In Fear, Woodward portrays Porter as a trusted Trump advisor who softens the president’s positions and works, along with economic adviser Gary Cohn, to “derail what they believed were Trump’s most impulsive and dangerous orders.” Porter and Cohn are suspected to be Woodward’s top sources, according to Trump officials and other allies who spoke to the Daily Beast. Neither Woodward nor Porter responded to the paper’s request for comment.
Porter resigned in February after his ex-wife Colbie Holderness alleged that he kicked and choked her on their honeymoon and punched her in the face on another vacation. She revealed photographs of a black eye. His second ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, also came forward and alleged physical and verbal abuse. She filed a restraining order against Porter in 2010. The FBI knew about the allegations prior to hiring Porter, but cleared him to work at the White House anyway.
“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” Porter said upon his resignation. “I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”
Even after the allegations surfaced in the media, the White House defended Porter. According to Axios, senior officials wanted Porter to “to stay and fight.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called Porter “someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character,” while Trump said that Porter “says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that.”
This is how Woodward describes the circumstances of Porter’s exit:
Porter left the White House on February 7 after two ex-wives went public with allegations that he had physically abused them,” Woodward writes. “One released a photo showing a black eye that she said Porter gave her. Each, one to the press and one in a blog post, gave graphic descriptions of domestic abuse. Porter quickly concluded it would be best for all—his former spouses, his family and closer friends, the White House and himself—to resign. He wanted to focus on repairing relationships and healing.”
The passage summarizes Porter’s alleged abuse in two sentences, then portrays Porter as a man who graciously bowed out to avoid creating conflict—as opposed to a man who had concealed a history of domestic violence and who worked with an administration that worked diligently to sanitize his alleged treatment of women. The White House continued to protect Porter after his departure.
It was a smooth exit, followed by a swift bit of image rehabilitation in Woodward’s book. Holderness, Porter’s first wife, wasn’t as lucky. “I had to take an extended leave from graduate school because I was depressed and unable to complete the work,” she wrote in the Washington Post earlier this year. “When I finally left Rob for good, my self-confidence was so destroyed that I was too scared to apply to any jobs other than that of server at a restaurant.”
Meanwhile, Porter was on track for the White House.