Rob Porter’s First Ex-Wife Criticizes Kellyanne Conway for Defending Hope Hicks

Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Colbie Holderness, the first ex-wife of former White House aide Rob Porter, has penned an op-ed in the Washington Post criticizing presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway for her remarks defending fellow aide Hope Hicks.

Conway appeared Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper to address questions surrounding Porter’s departure, which came last week after accusations that he had abused his two ex-wives.

Tapper asked about Porter’s reported relationship with Hicks, and concerns expressed by Jennie Willoughby, Porter’s second ex-wife, that Porter would abuse Hicks, too. Conway said that she did not worry about Hicks because she is “strong.”

In response, Holderness took Conway to task in the Post:

Borrowing Conway’s words, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that Hicks is a strong woman. But her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong.

I beg to differ.

Being strong — with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts — does not inoculate a person against abuse. It doesn’t prevent her from entering into a relationship with an abuser. Abuse often doesn’t manifest itself early on — only later, when you’re in deep and behind closed doors.

Holderness — who appears in widely-circulated photographs with a black eye, allegedly the result of abuse by Porter in the early 2000s — also asserts: “I’m not a partisan. I’m not an activist — far from it, in fact.”

Regardless, Holderness appears to have quoted Conway out of context. Conway did acknowledge that strong women can be abused, as the full transcript from CNN proves (emphasis added):

Tapper: I do want to ask you about White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who apparently is dating Robert Porter. Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, said she is worried about Hope Hicks. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Willoughby: It worries me for a lot of reasons. I mean, it definitely worries me, because, if I’m being frank with you, if he has not already been abusive with Hope, he will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Tapper: Are you worried at all about Hope Hicks?

Conway: Well, I’m very close to Hope Hicks. And I don’t worry about her in that — in that respect. I’m sorry for any suffering that this woman has endured. But in the case of Hope, I have rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent — excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts. I didn’t have the presence of mind and the professional capabilities at her age that I see in her every single day.

Tapper: She’s definitely strong, but strong women get abused too. It’s just not weak women.

Conway: Oh, many women get abused, no question. And let me agree with you on that. There’s a stigma of silence surrounding all of these issues, again, whether it’s drug abuse, child abuse, certainly intimate partner and spousal abuse. There’s no question that it knows no demographic or geographic bounds.

Tapper: Right.

Conway: No question, Jake. So, let’s put that there. But in the case of Hope, Hope — Hope carried on this week. She was at work every single day. She is doing her job as beautifully as she always does it. You saw the president’s very strong statements in support of Hope.

Tapper: Yes, absolutely.

Conway: That she’s fantastic. And we all feel that way about Hope, and that she — respectfully, she has got a great support system around her. And she’s got a beautiful family, wonderful friends, colleagues, and a boss who respects and relies upon her tremendously.

Tapper: Well, we care about her too.

Conway: But I hope those who are suffering silently…

Tapper: Yes.

Conway: … come forward locally and — and — and come out, because, again, these are societal scourges that preceded this White House, that will follow this White House. But those who are in a position to do something about it ought to, and not just, you know, once or twice a month in — in some scintillating story.

The controversy over how the White House handled accusations against Porter has continued into a second week.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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