“I’m not saying he’s innocent, but I’m saying we don’t know,” Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) said Wednesday during an interview on upstate New York radio station WUTQ. “He could be the worst guy in the world, but now we’re getting into prosecution, as far as I know. I guess there was an issue about ― maybe the FBI knew about it ― but really, is this what we’re talking about at this point?”
She added: “Once they found out about it, they let the guy go. Why are we still talking about it?”
Porter resigned from the White House on Feb. 7 after both his ex-wives publicly accused him of physical, verbal and emotional abuse. He has denied the allegations.
Porter hasn’t been charged with any criminal offense. That, Tenney said repeatedly, means the accusations most likely are fake.
“There might be an element of truth to [the allegations], but why wasn’t this guy prosecuted before if these things were happening?” she asked.
“Has this guy committed a crime? Has anyone prosecuted him for his alleged abuse against the past wives?”
Once they found out about it, they let the guy go. Why are we still talking about it?Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY)
One of the radio hosts pointed out that because the abuse allegations affected Porter’s ability to get high-level security clearance, he was susceptible to blackmail. Tenney quickly dismissed that issue, saying domestic abuse is not a “crime of character.”
“Blackmail and domestic situations don’t really line up. They’re not crimes of character,” she said. “They’re character, but they’re not dishonesty. To me … just because somebody has been accused of these things ― and even if they’re true ― that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be dishonest and commit blackmail.”
Tenney blamed Republican Party reluctance to embrace Trump’s presidency as a reason he may have made a rushed decision to employ Porter.
“When you don’t have anyone supporting you that’s part of the structure, you’ve got to find people that aren’t always the best and you find that out later because you literally just need someone to do the job,” Tenney said.
“Obviously the issue of sexual assault or any of those things, anything like that is very serious, but we’re also getting into the minutiae of what’s going on with the White House,” Tenney said.
“There are so many things happening with this White House, people coming and going, and new people.”
Tenney cited her experience as a divorce lawyer in casting doubt on the accusations by both of Porter’s ex-wives.
“I’ve had divorce cases where terrible abuse is going on and the person doesn’t do anything about it, usually it’s the wife, sometimes it’s the husband,” she said. “But in cases like this, I’ve seen cases where somebody hurts themselves and they go in and blame their ex-husband. Or their ex-husband to be. The person wasn’t even there.”
Meredith Kelly, communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, criticized Tenney’s comments on Friday as “shameful and frankly disgusting.”
“Survivors of domestic abuse have a hard enough time coming forward without Members of Congress casting doubt on their stories,” Kelly said in a press release. “Tenney’s disturbing smear of two women confronting their abuser shows why she needs to be replaced.”