I am a child of domestic violence.
As a boy, I couldn’t fall asleep until I heard my father return from his nocturnal ramblings. I’d listen hard, trying to gauge his mood from the tone of his voice, trying to determine if it was safe to close my eyes. Some nights, it was.
Other nights, it was not. On those nights, I came hurtling from my bed to thrust myself between my parents, trying to push him off of her.
So forgive me if I take the latest White House scandal personally. I don’t know any other way to take it.
As you’ve surely heard, last week, Rob Porter, staff secretary to the lumpy sack of moldy oranges that serves as president of the United States, resigned after a report by a British news site, DailyMail.com, that he allegedly abused his two ex-wives.
Porter has denied the accusations, but his claims of innocence are undercut more than a little by photos of his first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye, which she says he gave her in the early 2000s on a trip to Italy. The other ex-wife, Jennifer Willoughby, obtained an emergency temporary protective order against Porter in 2010. As reported by the Washington Post, the document finds that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that (Porter) has committed family abuse and there is probable danger of a further such offense.”
The White House was informed of these allegations multiple times, beginning in January 2017. It did nothing. Not until the story became an international outrage was Porter forced to resign. He was followed out the door by speechwriter David Sorensen, whose ex-wife said he threw her against a wall and ground out a cigarette on her hand. Sorensen, too, professes innocence.
On Saturday, the lumpy sack spoke out, tweeting that “peoples (sic) lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” The sack told reporters he wishes Porter well:
“It’s an obviously, tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career. … As you probably know, he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
One might ask where all this tender concern over the propriety of mere allegations was back when the lumpy sack was demanding the death penalty for five black and Latino boys falsely accused of rape. One might ask why the lumpy sack always sticks up for white conservatives – Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Corey Lewandowski, Roy Moore – credibly accused of abusing women (and, in Moore’s case, girls). One might even ask when we can expect the sack to offer a word of comfort to Porter’s ex-wives, whom he has ignored.
But those are social and political concerns and, again, this is personal.
You may not understand what that means if you have never tried to fulfill, with a boy’s scrawny arms, a man’s primal imperative to defend. Or if woman-in-peril movies do not, to this day, fill you with dread and make the walls close in. Or if you’ve never had to balance love for your father with contempt for him and all men who abuse women.
You may not understand it if you do not wish a front-row seat in a very hot place upon those who fail to take that abuse seriously. As in the lumpy sack and Chief of Staff John Kelly, who were planning to promote Porter despite what he allegedly did and despite the fact that the FBI denied him a security clearance.
For the record, the White House says it takes domestic violence “very seriously,” yadda, yadda, yadda. Take it for what it’s worth. It’s worth nothing to me, personally.
I had thought it impossible to have less respect for these people.
It turns out, I was wrong.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.