Even taking a strong position against domestic violence proves too challenging for this White House.
Mike Pence has been forced to condemn domestic violence in the wake of the scandal surrounding Rob Porter, the senior White House staffer resigned this week after accusations by multiple women of domestic abuse became public.
Pence’s message runs counter to Trump’s effusive praise for Porter, wishing Porter well and expressing sadness at his resignation.
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Pence said “there is no tolerance in this White House” for domestic abuse.
EXCLUSIVE: Vice President Mike Pence tells @LesterHoltNBC that the White House has “no tolerance” for domestic abuse.
NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) February 9, 2018
That was not the message communicated by Trump when he summoned reporters to the Oval Office and repeatedly insisted Porter a “good job” and that reporters should remember Porter has said he is innocent.
Trump never mentioned the women Porter is accused of abusing, including one ex-wife who took photos of a black eye, but he did wish Porter “a wonderful career” after he left the administration in disgrace.
The NBC interview showcased Pence in his familiar position of being conveniently out of the loop within the Trump administration. Asked about reports that Trump chief of staff John Kelly may have known about the abuse months ago but failed to act on it, Pence replied, “The time that he resigned is when I first became aware of the allegations of domestic abuse.”
When Pence was asked about the Porter scandal earlier this week, he said he had only just learned about the story and tried to avoid addressing it.
“Well comment on any issues affecting White House staff when we get back to Washington,” he said. One reporter asked why Pence “often seem[s] a little bit out of the loop of some of this major news.”
“You know, its a great honor for me to serve as vice president, Pence responded.
It is the same sort of self-serving language Pence employed when Trump campaign connections to Russia operatives were verified, and Pence then insisted it had all taken place before he joined the ticket.
Pence also claimed he didn’t know about Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s work with foreign governments and connections to Russia, disclosures which led to his firing and which play a role in his recent plea deal.
The Trump administration can’t keep its story straight, offering fundamentally different messages on sexual assault within hours of each other. Trump hailed the perpetrator and ignored the victims. Pence criticized domestic violence and claimed the White House doesn’t tolerate it, some of the most senior people in the administration having knowledge of the allegations for a year.
It is not a bold position to condemn domestic violence. Or it shouldn’t be. But clearly, Pence’s comments contradicting the support from the man at the top, show how he’s once again trying to save his own skin.