Now that Sen. Orrin Hatch has announced his retirement, it appears that his handlers have taken the muzzle off.
Hatch made headlines this past week after he cavalierly dismissed reports of spousal abuse by his former chief of staff, Rob Porter.
Porter resigned as staff secretary to President Trump after information about his alleged physical and mental abuse of two ex-wives became public.
Not just a White House staff secretary, Porter was Hatch’s former chief of staff as well as former counsel to Sen. Mike Lee. He previously taught at Brigham Young University and served a Mormon mission in London.
Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, Porter’s ex-wives, both told the FBI about Porter’s alleged abuse during a background check. Holderness gave the FBI a picture of herself with a large black eye. Trump’s White House knew of the allegations, and hired him anyway.
In other words, the White House did not care that a top official had been accused of similar abuse by two ex-spouses.
That is a shocking disgrace.
What’s even more shocking is Hatch’s comments regarding this week’s revelation. Granted, there is no proof that Hatch or Lee knew of the abuse allegations during the time Porter worked for them. But Hatch’s comments this past week belie his innocence.
When first asked, Hatch said, “Shame on any publication that would print this. … I know Rob. I’ve known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal advisor. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter.”
Don’t ever underestimate what it takes for a woman to speak up.
White House officials continued to extol Porter’s virtues and defend him as an upright and model citizen.
That is the problem.
Hatch said, “If I could find more people like him I would hire them, I think that’s how good he is. And he’s basically a good person.”
Good people don’t hit their wives. Instead of encouraging Porter to remain, Hatch should have called for his resignation immediately.
It wasn’t until Hatch saw the pictures of Holderness’s black eye, and realized the tide was turning against Porter quickly, that he released a more appropriate statement. “Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable. I am praying for Rob and those involved.”
Hatch is praying for Porter. Not Willoughby or Holderness. Porter.
Equally as shameful was the additional revelation that both Willoughby and Porter, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had spoken to their bishops about Porter’s alleged abuse. And still, Porter’s professional success continued.
In fact, Willoughby’s bishop reminded her of Porter’s career, and said, “Keep in mind, Rob has career ambitions.”
The LDS Church has issued a statement that the church does not tolerate abuse. Except it did, in this case.
Mormon bishops are not trained counselors. Few, if any, have the skills or education to know what to do when a church member reports domestic violence. Even worse, the nature of men-only church classes and leadership positions makes it more likely that the bishop will side with the husband.
The church leaves women alone, and without any support.
This past week has been yet another unfortunate reminder that we, as a nation, continue to marginalize sexual assault. Instead of offering protection, our institutions from government to schools to churches justify, minimize, and dismiss assault allegations.
Our government should not protect such men. And our churches should not counsel forgiveness without accountability.
It is no wonder that domestic violence is a problem in Utah. Utah’s leaders should stop hiding it and start protecting women.