Kirsten Powers has no patience for the White House chief of staff's misogynistic dismissal of Rob Porter's abuse victims.
White House chief of staff John Kelly finally admitted Friday that he mishandled the Rob Porter domestic violence scandal. But even with his admission, he is still downplaying his complicity — and as CNN analyst Kirsten Powers pointedly noted, Kelly still has much to answer for.
Appearing on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Powers pointed out how, despite his admission of wrongdoing, Kelly had perpetuated dangerous myths about domestic abusers that lead people to doubt women when they come forward with accusations of abuse.
“What he’s saying is just adding more questions, I think, than answering anything,” Powers told CNN host Anderson Cooper. “And so, even the way he is talking about it, he said, when he met with reporters, that he had never seen Rob Porter be abusive in any way, he was a total gentleman. I mean, that is just so beside the point. And it’s unbelievable that, after everything we have been through with the Me Too movement, that he would saying something like that.”
Powers, a former Fox News employee who went public with allegations of sexual harassment against disgraced ex-Fox host Bill O’Reilly, also noted how high the standard of proof was for Kelly when it came to believing women — and how low the bar was set when it came to letting abusers off the hook.
“The idea that because this person wasn’t abusive to his boss, you know, doesn’t mean that he is not abusive in his private life ― and they’ve been presented with very credible information,” she went on. “So what it says is that he really, really wanted to just ignore these women and believe what the man said.”
She continued: “It really did take having a photo, and this sort of public shaming, in order for him to believe it, but I think the message he’s still sending and also talking about sort of, it was only ― I thought it was only emotional abuse. Well, you know, emotional abuse is actually really serious, and often can be as bad as physical abuse.”
Powers laid bare the problem. Kelly refused to think badly of a powerful and charismatic man, or to believe the women who warned him about Porter’s true character. Instead, he continued to insist Porter was “a man of true integrity” even after the women came forward.
Even after being shown incontrovertible photographic proof of the bruises and beatings, Kelly still tried to minimize the horror the women went through.
While Kelly is by no means alone in perpetuating this culture of toxic masculinity at the White House, he was always supposed to be the person in charge of discipline and order. Instead, he covered for an alleged serial abuser, and now he refuses to take real responsibility for his actions.
If Kelly has any shred of the integrity he was once broadly touted for, he should resign. His moral authority is already over.