U.S. Congresswoman Claudia Tenney—a Republican representing New York’s 22nd congressional district—raised questions this week about the media’s continued interest in allegations of domestic abuse by former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
“Obviously the issue of sexual assault or any of those things, anything like that is very serious,” Tenney said a radio interview with Talk! on 100.7 FM in Upstate New York. “But we’re also getting into the minutiae of what’s going on with White House, there are so many things happening with this White House, people coming and going, and new people.”
As part of her answer about how the White House has handled the allegations and whether Chief of Staff John Kelly should resign, Tenney suggested that because the Republican Party was largely opposed to President Trump before he was elected, it was difficult to find the best staffers to work for him.
“When you don’t have anyone supporting that’s part of the structure, you’ve got to find people that aren’t the best, and you find that out later because you literally just need someone to do the job,” Tenney explained. “I’m not apologizing for them, but I do think, getting into this, is this the most critical part of running the most important government in the world where we have huge issues, and we have huge national security interests, I just find that we’re going to get into the minutiae of the timeline and whether they looked at it. I haven’t seen this yet. Did this guy commit a crime yet? Has anyone prosecuted him for his alleged abuse against the past wives?”
She later questioned: “Why wasn’t he prosecuted before if these things were happening?”
Tenney tiptoed around casting doubt on the allegations themselves, some of which are backed up by violent images from one of Porter’s former wives.
“I’m not saying he’s innocent, but I’m saying we don’t know, 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? Once they found out about it, they let the guy go,” the congresswoman continued. “Why are we still talking about it?”
Informed of the fact that the FBI was looking into the allegations as part of its background check of Porter, and that there was potential concern over the possibility of the staffer being blackmailed, Tenney shot down that possibility.
“Right, except blackmail and domestic situations don’t really line up, they’re not crimes of character,” she said. “They’re [crimes of] character but they’re not dishonesty—know this. 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. I don’t think it was a great hire if these are true, but again, are these true?”
Later in the interview, Tenney references divorce cases from when she was a lawyer in which “terrible abuse is going on and the person doesn’t do anything about it. Usually it’s the wife; sometimes it’s the husband. 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.”
Reached for comment about the interview, a spokesperson for Tenney told The Daily Beast: “In the interview the Congresswoman clearly stated that she believes everyone has the right to due process. Many details of this case are still unknown. The investigation into these very serious allegations should be left to the experts.”