White House chief of staff John Kelly on Friday told senior staff to push yet another account of the events leading up to former staff secretary Rob Porter’s ouster amid abuse allegations, though staffers found his story at odds with the facts, the Washington Post reported.
The Washington Post reported, citing two unnamed senior officials, that Kelly told senior staff to communicate that he acted to oust Porter within 40 minutes after he learned that the allegations against Porter were credible.
“He told the staff he took immediate and direct action,” one official told the Washington Post, but said that after the meeting, staff members expressed disbelief at Kelly’s account.
The officials also told the Washington Post that Kelly instructed staffers to communicate that he cares about domestic violence.
The White House declined to comment to the Washington Post.
After the Daily Mail on Tuesday reported that both of Porter’s ex-wives, Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness, alleged that Porter was abusive, Kelly defended Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor.”
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
The Washington Post and Axios reported that Kelly urged Porter to stay in his job, and indicated that he believed Porter’s vehement denial of both women’s accounts.
A day later, after the Daily Mail published a photo of Holderness with a black eye she said Porter gave her, Porter resigned. In a new statement, Kelly claimed he was “shocked by the new allegations,” but continued to defend Porter.
“I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation,” he said.